The Aputure Deity Boom is a medium-length condenser microphone that requires 48V phantom power. It comes with a foam windscreen and plastic clip in a hard shell plastic case lined with foam. This class of boom mic is designed for all-purpose field capture of dialog, interviews, and sound effects. They are also sometimes used in sound proof studios for narration. When used for video/film work, medium-length booms sound best when placed 12 to 24 inches overhead of the subject. They usually have good off-axis rejection of environmental noise, and have a fairly narrow directional pickup pattern. When recording inside, medium-length booms reject reverb from the subject in medium-sized spaces, like an office or living room. They have some trouble rejecting reverb in large spaces like sound stages, gymnasiums, and atriums. They also have trouble rejecting background noises in exteriors when they exceed two feet or more from the subject.
I tested the mic in a variety of situations, even directly comparing it to other microphones. I tested two male voices reading narration in a sound proof studio. Because boom mics are often used to record VOs, I thought that this test would allow me to hear the Aputure Deity’s native noise floor. I wanted to test it against a benchmark condensor microphone commonly used for narration. I also tested it against a shotgun mic costing twice as much as the Aputure Deity.
Next I tested the mic against the costlier boom in an office and outside in a parking lot. The interior was a typical acoutically-untreated room with background noise. The exterior test took place in a parking lot near downtown with HVAC compressors, slight traffic, and general noise. The microphones were placed side-by-side on a boom pole 12-18 inches above my head, which is typical for an interview. The recording levels were unchanged between the interior and exterior tests.
I used three mics in this test, the Aputure Deity boom, an Audio Technica AT4073a boom, and a Neumann U-87 condenser studio microphone. I placed each boom on a Magic clamp beside the Neumann U-87 (see photo). I recorded two professional male announcers that are adept at working close to the microphone. When using a boom to record narration this closely, any slight movement of the talent’s head can cause dramatic dropoff in signal. The U-87 is a little more forgiving because of the wider pickup pattern.
In audio file 01, Brad is reading an audiobook into the Aputure Deity boom. It’s a performance piece that has passages at different levels. Audio file 02 is that same passage in the Neumann U-87. The U-87 is known for its even and uncolored sound across the entire frequency range. So putting the Aputure Deity up against the king probably sounds unfair. But since I have been using U-87s for more than 30 years, I needed a reference point to start with. I found the Aputure Deity to be warm, almost overly so. I think it lacked high frequency and upper mid-range detail – compared to the U-87 – again, unfair. But by itself, it has a rich overall tone. If you compare it with the AT boom in file 03 (and the U-87 version in file 04), you’ll see that it still has a boomy bottom.
John is reading some training copy for warehouse employees in files 05 and 06. File 05 is on the Aputure Deity boom, with file 06 on the U-87. Again, I find the Deity a little boomy, but not as much as on Brad. John works the mic a little further back than Brad. Moving your talent back from the Aputure Deity boom will help reduce the fat bottom, but may also reduce the treble – use your ears and best judgement. For comparison, file 07 (AT boom) and 08 (U-87) have John reading some copy for an awards banquet presentation.
My gut feeling is that this mic is just okay for voice-over recording. If this is your only condenser mic, then by all means use it. It’s certainly better than a lav or camera mic. I would be careful of the low end when using this mic for VO. It may lure you into thinking your talent has a deep voice, but too much can muddy the recording and cause headaches later. Move your talent back another 4-6 inches to see if the sound evens out. I applied an 80Hz roll off on all these mics in the test – you might even try a 125Hz roll off when you use it in the studio. There is also more self-noise in the low end on this mic than my AT and Neumann.
In this test, I paired up the Aputure Deity boom with the AT boom. I placed both mics on a boom pole mounted on a C-stand. These were placed 12-18 inches over my head, typical for an interview. I oriented the side grills of each mic the same, and set identical recording levels for both mics.
For the interior test, I was in a 10 x 20 office area that was acoustically untreated. There was a small refrigerator running, HVAC fans, and general background noise. File 09 is the Aputure Deity boom, and file 10 is the AT boom. Note, I misidentified the AT boom model number in the recording (too many model numbers to remember!). If you listen to both files, you’ll hear that my voice is full sounding in both recordings. I think we still have a heavy bottom in the Aputure Deity mic, but it’s not as pronounced as it was in the studio. The mid-range sounds reduced, and the treble sounds fairly even. The AT boom has less bass frequency, has a pronounced mid-range, and an even treble range. (Note: I’ve noticed this mid-range bump in my AT mic since I purchased it. I have a matched Audio-Technica trio consisting of a supercardiod, medium, and long boom. They all have this bump – at least they’re consistent.)
Next, listen to the background noise in both mics (files 09 and 10). I think the Aperture mic does a better job of reducing the refrigerator noise than the AT. This may be due to the dip in the midrange on this mic. This, along with the combination of the fatter bottom, makes this mic sound closer. There is some self-noise in the Aputure, but it mostly gets drowned out.
For the exterior (files 11 and 12), I went out to our illustrious parking lot. It sits off the street about 30 feet. There are two HVAC compressors about 20 feet away. There is general noise in this former warehouse district. Our parking lot is surrounded by other buildings in a U-shape, most of which are one-story. At one point in the recording, a car comes into the lot. The levels and mic placement are identical to the inside recordings.
I honestly cannot tell a difference between the microphones that is worth mentioning. I think the general low-end atmospheric noise overrides the punchy bottom I was hearing in the other tests. Also, my voice is not the deepest, so this may be more evident with men with deeper voices. The treble may not be as bright as the AT, but it doesn’t stand out to me like the interior tests. Because the Aputure Deity rejected noise better on the interior test, I was surprised to hear little difference between it and the AT mic outside. The self-noise of the Deity pretty much gets drowned out with this much background noise.
My AT4073a boom mic costs almost twice as much as the Aputure Deity. I don’t think it sounds twice as good. I’ve always had a problem paying 100% more for something that’s only 10% better. The Deity’s price will undoubtedly clump it in with other similarly-priced and spec’d mics. But I think it sits above the ones that I have used in the sub-$400 USD price range. They have all suffered from sounding thin and noisy. Many use a button battery for power because they have an economical electret-type pickup. The Aputure Deity can use full 48V phantom power, which ultimately has a higher output resulting in less noise. I suspect that the designer of this mic was probably making up for the lower-cost parts by fattening up the bottom frequencies. But it seems to have worked in making it sound like a far more expensive microphone.
Ever since low-cost Chinese manufactured microphones flooded the market fifteen years ago, many stalwart microphones have been seriously challenged. It’s true that some of these challengers were poorly made, but the best ones were direct competitors with popular models. And when compared side-by-side, the sonic difference couldn’t always match the huge cost difference.
Now microphone designers are bypassing traditional factories and heading straight to China with their new models. Instead of head-to-head competition with famous models, these new designs are standing out on their own. While workmanship is still an issue in some cases, I’ve found most Chinese-made microphones perform way above their price level. How they hold up is another issue. The few Chinese-made mics that I’ve owned were pampered. I am not very rough on mics, so I’m not a good judge of how these would hold up to daily use.
The Aputure Deity boom is very heavy for a boom this size. I suspect the designer wants to make sure that it survives being knocked around. At this price level, most professional engineers would pass it up and purchase a mic that’s two to five times as much. This mic is targeted toward budget-concious video producers who may not always treat their audio gear with the same respect as audio pros. These same producers are also looking for performance above value. I feel like this mic achieves all those goals – and sounds great. In my world, I seek out microphones that combine character with consistency. This mic has character but lacks consistency for my professional taste, as noted in the studio/interior/exterior tests. However, this shouldn’t be a deal killer for the intended user, it clearly outperformed my expectations based on price alone. It also surprised me by how good it sounded in its intended environment – on the film set. I would rate the Aputure Deity as a great value for the performance vs. cost and recommend it to independent producers, videographers, and occasional sound recordists who don’t want to break the bank to get decent location sound.