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Earthworks ETHOS Review: Broadcast Excellence

The world of broadcast microphones has its clear favorites. the Shure SM7B, for example, is so common that even non-audiophiles can spot it at a glance. Another is the classic Electro Voice RE-20 It’s a staple in radio studios around the world. It is precisely these microphones that Earthworks is targeting with its latest product, the ETHOS. Designed for broadcast quality voice recording, this great tool is perfect for everything from professional voiceovers to podcasts. It aims to become the next staple of the recording world. Does it have what it takes to achieve this lofty goal?

Take a closer look with us and find out.

specifications

  • Current price: $699 (Amazon)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 30kHz
  • Polar pattern: supercardioid
  • Diaphragm size: 14 mm
  • Sensitivity: 20mV/Pa (-34dBV/Pa)
  • Power Requirements: 24-48V phantom power, 10mA
  • Signal to noise ratio: 78 dB (A-weighted)
  • Acoustic peak input: 145 dB SPL
  • Output: XLR (pin 2+)
  • Output Impedance: 65Ω
  • Minimum output load: 600Ω
  • Self noise: 16 dB SPL (A-weighted)
  • Accessories included:
    • windshield
    • M2-R ball mount,
    • ?” thread adapter
  • Dimensions (LxD): 6.9″ x 2.25″
  • Color: stainless steel
  • Weight: 1 lb

Earthworks ETHOS – Design and features

The Earthworks ETHOS isn’t your average microphone, and that makes sense because Earthworks isn’t your average audio company. Earthworks has made a name for itself with precision. In fact, some of its industry-leading products are measurement microphones designed to capture detail with pinpoint accuracy. This means that the microphones have to be fast. They must be high definition. They have to be HD in a way; the audio equivalent of 4K. That’s why Earthworks microphones can be found on stages and in studios all over the world.

The ETHOS is their newest microphone and is designed to take on the heavyweights in the broadcast world. If you’ve been watching a clip from a podcast or radio talk show, you’ve surely seen its biggest competitors, the Shure SM7B and the Electro-Voice RE-20. The ETHOS was designed to achieve exactly the same space but in a unique way, playing to the strengths of the brand and winning the loyalty of professional broadcasters and recording artists. That also means it should be perfect for podcasters, content creators, voice actors and more – provided you’re at a level where such a prestigious mic makes sense.

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The ETHOS is the successor to the ICON Pro XLR I reviewed last summer. It shares much of the same DNA and shares the beautiful stainless steel finish. It is also based on the same guiding principle of speed. They are designed to capture the transients with the utmost clarity, allowing the microphone to sound more lifelike and realistic to the source.

Joey Sturgis tones describes her like this:

Transients are short bursts of energy that you hear at the beginning of a tone. The loudest transients are things like drumbeats, where the click of a bat on an eardrum sends a loud sound wave to the microphone. However, transients are everywhere – from the pick attack on your guitar strings to the consonants of your voice. Have you ever used a pop screen while recording? The primary goal of a pop filter is to capture plosives—loud bursts of air entering the microphone—similar to transients.

Transients are essential for articulation. We need them to understand the shape of a sound, and our ears interpret sounds differently depending on how the transient is formed. You can think of most transients in an “above average” or “below average” mentality.

Mastering these transients is key to making your voice sound lifelike—as well as any other source you might be recording. As one Earthworks team member told me, when you record yourself with most other microphones, you end up sounding slightly off your own ear. (I can attest to having tested dozens of mics at this point.) The ETHOS lets you sound like yourself but with the added depth and presence and tone that makes voice recordings sound professional.

Earthworks ETHOS – The Kingslayer of the Spoken Word?

ETHOS (left), Icon Pro XLR (right)

With that in mind, let’s get down to the actual sound of the microphone. Up until this test I had been using the Icon Pro XLR as my daily driver. Its realism and clarity simply trumped every other mic in my collection, including heavyweights like this Audio Technica AT4040 or Blue microphones Bluebird. One of the easiest demonstrations of this, unexpectedly, was the writing tests I recorded on my personal YouTube channel. endgame tech. Keyboard typing tests are usually viewed at best as rough examples of how a keyboard will sound in real life. Not with the Icon Pro XLR. What goes into this mic is exactly what comes out.

The ETHOS, on the other hand, takes the same principle and then tunes it to bring out the best in the human voice. In the graph below you can see exactly how the mic was tuned, with a slight presence boost between 100Hz and 900Hz and some gentle peaks and valleys between 2kHz and 20kHz. Of course they sound a bit fatter and crisper. However, this is not an exaggeration. It just puts you ahead and gives you a little more authority than the Icon Pro can offer.

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However, the key comparisons here are made to the broadcast mics I discussed at the beginning of this article. While these mics undoubtedly sound great (they’re classics for a reason), the ETHOS excels at using a condenser capsule instead of a dynamic capsule. Dynamic mics often impart a similar boost of presence, but frequency responses tend to be compressed, resulting in a grating vocal sound. Condenser microphones, on the other hand, capture a much wider frequency band and sound more natural and lifelike.

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In fact, this effect is easily observed in both Listen to the microphones and in their data sheets. The Shure SM7B has a frequency range of 50-20,000 Hz. The Electro-Voice RE-20 comes in at 45-18,000 Hz. The ETHOS, on the other hand, captures the entire path from 20 to 30,000 Hz. It’s this incredible sensitivity and flawless design that gives it such fantastic transients.

The tradeoff in opting for a condenser over dynamic is that they can also sound thinner, but that’s just not the case with the ETHOS. This mic has enough body to go toe-to-toe with either the SM7B or the RE-20. Also, you don’t have to eat the mic to reach that body. With a slight compressor, I was able to sit back comfortably in my chair and still be heard exactly how I wanted to be heard.

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Well, the ETHOS does pick up more outside noise. The off-axis rejection is pretty good, but like most condensers, room reflections will filter back into the mic, as will noise from your computer or keyboard. If you’re considering a $699 mic, there’s a good chance you have a treated recording room, but if not, this is definitely something to keep in mind. The microphone’s inherent noise is also very low, so your recordings come across clean and articulate.

It sounds like this:

The elephant in the room is obviously the prize. At MSRP, it’s well outside of what someone producing content as a hobby would consider reasonable. If you own a recording studio it might seem reasonable to spend $699 on a mic – at this level mics go a lot further than even that – but for the rest of us it’s a huge investment, especially when you think about it that the RE-20 is $449 new and the SM7B is $399.

But if you know these mics, you know it’s not just about that just the cost of the microphone. Each will requires a lot of amplification to get to a usable level that sounds good. That means buying expensive audio interface or spend another $150 for one CloudLifter Preamplifier to boost the signal. The ETHOS does not require such a device. In fact, it’s remarkably easy to drive, giving you one less thing to buy. The ETHOS also comes with a Triad-Orbit M2-R ball mount adapter, making adjusting the mic faster, easier and freer with the additional angle options it offers. That’s another $39.99 bought separately if you wanted it.

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Even taking that into account, you spend more here. There is no way around. You are paying for this extended frequency response range. You pay for the speed and clarity. You pay for the beautiful stainless steel case. You pay for this triad orbit adapter. And yes, you’re paying for Earthworks Audio’s pedigree itself. So there’s more on top of it, and you’ll have to consider whether that differentiation makes sense for you.

But aside from that, this is also a time-saver mic. Once the level is set I find I don’t have to go back and spend time processing the audio afterwards. If time is money, then ETHOS will probably save you something.

Should you buy the Earthworks ETHOS?

The Earthworks ETHOS is an excellent microphone. It feels every bit of its premium price tag and has the sound quality to match. It is also a professional tool and is best suited for people who use it to make money. You can use it for any type of content creation you can think of, but as the saying goes, spend to make money and this is a purchase best viewed as an investment. It’s not for new or even mid-level streamers unless they’re looking for a “forever” mic that will grow with them years into the future. It’s for people who are professionals and crave the natural sound and clarity that ETHOS can offer.

If that sounds like you, this is an excellent option and hands down the best spoken word condenser mic I’ve heard. Earthworks are masters of their trade and the ETHOS proves it.

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The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

https://www.mmorpg.com/hardware-reviews/earthworks-ethos-review-broadcast-excellence-2000124742 Earthworks ETHOS Review: Broadcast Excellence

Fry Electronics Team

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