To say the entry-level large diaphragm condenser market is saturated is one of the audio world’s greatest understatements, perhaps more so than an IKEA desk saying “some assembly required”. The cost of entry has never been lower. You could pick up a brand new, no-name condenser on Ebay for as little as $20. I mean, you could, but should you? Definitely not, they’re really bad. Fortunately, the team at PreSonus have stepped up to the plate, putting their research and design nous into crafting an extremely capable, extremely cost effective microphone with the bedroom engineer in mind.
Getting straight into the action, I’ve pitted the PX-1 against my much-loved Røde NT1000. The Røde may be more than double the cost of the PreSonus, but the PX-1 deserves the chance to stand out from its more direct rivals such as the Røde NT1-A or the Audio-Technica AT2035.
Off the bat with a baritone vocalist and plugged into a Behringer X32 Rack with no EQ or compression, the PX-1 immediately impresses. The response is crisp and balanced across the board, which makes sense as the included frequency response graph is exceptionally flat. In fact, there’s barely a single bump or dip until you reach the inevitable hump at around 6kHz and 15kHz, but there’ll be more on that later on. Comparing it to the NT1000, there seems to be a lot more strength at around 500-1kHz, as well as a much smoother bass response. There is less at around 2kHz however, which contributes to the overall tone being less present and overbearing as the Røde.
After applying a high-pass filter at 120Hz and some light, slow compression, the PX-1 continues to hold its own. The silky smooth bass and low-mids especially jump out to me as being beyond its pay grade, and the NT1000 comes across as a tad honky and peaky by comparison. Where the PX-1 stumbles however, is in the same area that so many affordable large diaphragm condensers tend to falter, and that’s with sibilance. There seems to be something in the manufacturing process of mass-produced large diaphragm condenser capsules which brings out 6kHz above all else, resulting in especially harsh ‘S’ sounds which cut through any mix, but not always in the way we’d like. If you have access to a De-Esser plugin or are handy with dynamic EQ, this can be remedied without too much hassle, but generally these kind of microphones are aimed at fresher producers who just want to get a great sound without lots of fiddling. One could see this as a benefit however, as it may drive those future engineers to learn more about valuable post-production skills to get the most out of their equipment.
Going on to what is most likely the PX-1’s second most common instrument, the acoustic guitar, the PX-1 bares its limitations once more. In making their microphone have such a flat response, PreSonus have ensured that it will cover a wide range of voices and instruments. However with the guitar, such a voicing can result in the low end quickly becoming overpowering, unless aimed closer to the neck of the instrument. Across different positions on the guitar, the PX-1 becomes noticeably more boomy and unwieldy, even with high-pass filters engaged, and compression only seems to further compound the issue. The high end does still sound lovely and smooth, with a roll off at around 12kHz providing complimentary warmth to the 6kHz clarity, but the dip near 2kHz has the added effect of accentuating the 500-1kHz range a little more than one would normally want in an acoustic guitar recording.
All-in-all, the PreSonus PX-1 is definitely a good microphone for the money. Its sound quality and the things it does well easily make up for its hallmarks of affordability. With a decent leather case and hard-mount, all it really needs is a pop filter and you ready to record great vocals.
Hits and Misses
Clean, balanced sound
Great for easy vocal recording
Prone to sibilance issues
Jack of all trades, master of none