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This mic of the month is a very modern vintage classic: the Oktava MKL 5000. It was introduced in 2004 as Oktava's flagship; a multi-pattern tube microphone, switchable between cadioid, omni and figure-of-eight. Inside is a 6Ж1П russian military tube, which colors the sound of this microphone with rich harmonic distortion. The result is a huge sound, especially useful for pop and rock vocals, but it also delivers a great piano- or double-bass sound and is useful as an ambience microphone. It was sold with its own dedicated power supply and a connecting cable of only 2 metres, which is irritatingly short.

Not many of these were sold in the West, even though the US company Electro Harmonix sold it as well, branded as the Electro Harmonix EH TM (they did the same with the Oktava ML 52 ribbon mic, which sold as EH-R1). Probably the price was too steep; around $ 1650. The earlier introduced MK 219 cardioid condenser did conquer the Western market, but that was priced much more competitive.

Since 2012 Oktava has a new flagship: the MKL 111, which is even a bit more expensive, with a price of $ 2000. The MKL 5000 is phased out and the existing supply is sold for a lower price.

The Russian company, from Tula, about 200 kilometers south of Moscow, was founded in 1927 and produced most microphones for the USSR, since 1936, for Film, TV, Radio and live use.

The fact that around 2000 a tube microphone revival happened was largely due to the Russians; they were the only ones that had persisted in producing electronic tubes. A direct result of the Cold War; the Russians wanted reliable electronics that would not be destroyed by the micro-burst of an atomic bomb. For this purpose tubes were ideal, so production for the military was continued

When the Iron Curtain was lifted, these tubes found their way to the West, since their quality was good enough for use in tube microphones, several companies started up production of this type of microphone. It had been discontinued, both due to miniaturization of microphone models and due to the fact that the necessary tubes were no longer available, because factories had switched to making transistors instead.

Some of these MKL 5000s are regularly used in studios, and sometimes they surface on the second-hand market. Keep an eye out for them.

This is one of the types that feature in my book Witnesses of Words, which was recently released. More information about that can be found at

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