The Violet Design ‘Black Knight’ is an attractive looking microphone with an unusual swivel head allowing you to fine tune the position of the capsule without having the fuss of adjusting the mic stand’s boom arm. A very nice idea which proved to be really useful when recording.
The capsule is a large dual diaphragm electrostatic type (also known as a condenser or capacitive capsule as the diaphragm acts as one plate of a capacitor, and the vibrations produce changes in the distance between the plates so producing an output voltage which is related to the incoming sound pressure). A high quality 6-micron Mylar film active diaphragm is sputtered with Violet Design’s special formula of gold mixture, and tensioned on a precision brass backplate. This is claimed to produce a faster transient impulse response, minimum sound coloration, better low frequency response, and allows the capsule to handle louder sound pressure levels.
As I’ve found with other Violet microphones, the cardioid polar pattern has quite a wide front lobe and this makes for more open sound than some other cardioid pattern microphones I’ve used.
The preamp is solid state comprising of a fully discrete class-A transformerless circuit, which specs in at a self noise of only 6.5dB-A. As we’ll see later in the review this very low noise is realised in the studio. The user manual shows a frequency response chart which is very flat with just a very mild boost around 3kHz.
Powering is standard 48V and the Black Knight review model came with the optional elastic shockmount which was easy to apply to the microphone and worked well when recording in the studio.
We had the opportunity to track some male blues vocals in a friend’s studio and I have to say that the Black Knight really hit the mark straight away and was preferred to the usual first choice Neumann U87, having a lot more in your face grit which really suited the singer’s vocal style. Recording female vocals and later during my own testing we found the Black Knight a bit ‘flat’ sounding. Violet Design’s don’t seem to go in for the higher levels of presence boost which a lot of another manufactures favour. In addition I found proximity effects to be extremely low, so we have a very flat response microphone on paper and in practice.
As an aside, the studio had set up a wonderful, old world, echo chamber using a very ambient spare room. The Black Knight was the only microphone (from their considerable collection) which was quiet enough to be used in this application.
I spend some more time with the microphone recording acoustic guitar. There was plenty of detail available and the very low self noise was wonderful. I decided that EQ was necessary to bring out a bit more air to the recording and this was easily applied without making the recording sound artificial.
So we have an interesting proposition. A budget priced high quality microphone from a boutique manufacturer, beautifully manufactured and presented in a solid violet coloured wooden case with foam lining.
Best features : Great on male vocals, very low self noise, low cost, great swivel head
Weakest points : needed help from EQ on a number of source types
Rating : 7/10
Transducer type electrostatic
Operating principle pressure gradient
Diaphragm’s active diameter 27 mm
Frequency range 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Polar pattern unidirectional – cardioidOutput impedance 50 ohms
Rated load impedance 1000 ohms
Suggested load impedance >500 ohms
Sensitivity at 1000 Hz into 1000 ohms load 33 mV/Pa
S/N Ratio CCIR 468-3 weighted 76.5 dB
S/N Ratio DIN/IEC 651 A-weighted 87.5 dB-A
Equivalent noise level DIN/IEC A-weighted 6.5 dB-A
Maximum SPL for 0.5% THD at 1000 ohm load 134 dB
Dynamic range of the internal preamplifier 128 dB
Phantom powering voltage +48 V (+/-4 V)
Current consumption <2 mA
Output connector 3-pin XLR male, gold plated contacts
Dimensions 208×44 mm
Weight 450 g