Oktava is well known audio company started in 1927 in Russia. Over the last 89 years they’ve managed to deliver not only a lot of quality microphones, but also some great solutions. One of them is a modular nature of MK012 model, which was originally introduced in 1963. Original name of this microphone was MK012 but Oktava changed it MC012 after they exported it to the west in 1992. In 2004 the name was changed again to MK012, and remained the same up to this day. The original design from 1963 remained unchanged for the 20 years. First change was introduced in 1983 and than again in 1992.
When it comes to built quality, there is really nothing you can complain about. Oktava microphones are very solid, they are built from one piece of metal so there’s nothing to damage, no plastic elements. Sadly I had a few chances to test it, when the microphones felt on the ground during different recording sessions. Few of them took places during rain or heavy snow and they are fine. I’m not saying that they are waterproof, but they can definitely survive a lot.
Every MK012 microphone is built from at least two metal parts : head amplifier and detachable capsule. As you probably know, when it comes to capsules there’s a lot to choose from. In addition to those two parts, you can insert a pad between the amplifier and capsule if you need to lower the input signal. Oktava offeres some different adapters too like, figure of 8 (two different ones) or XY adapter. Thanks to those parts you can build some different stereo configurations using two head amplifiers. I’ve recorded a comparison of all the stereo configurations I’ve managed to set in a blimp with my adapters. You can listen to those previews in the yt video below.
The M-S configuration is built from mid and side channels. Thanks to the modular character of this setup you are not limited to any patterns. You can build a set with omni or really narrow mid channel, and use completely different capsules to record the side channels. It always depends on your needs, but it’s good to have a variety of choices.
Oktava offers two different adapters to record in pattern of 8 configuration. First one is just an adapter without capsules. Thank’s to this solution you can use capsules with different polar patterns. The second one is a complete solution with capsules built in into adapter. The first one offers a variety of choices while being rather big and heavy. The second one is limited to built in capsules, but it’s lighter.
SWIVEL JOINT ADAPTER
Thanks to this adapter you can use your microphones to record in other stereo configurations like AB, XY or even ORTF. I’ve made some tests and so far it’s been working fine. All of them fit into Rode Blimp mkII.
When it comes to sound quality I think that Oktava made a really great job with MK012. The price/quality ratio is really good. I’ve been using those microphones for the last year almost all the time and I found that they are great all around microphones. If I had to choose they weak side it would be quiet sources. It’s not the best configuration for recording nature. You can do it, but there are not perfect because of noise floor. They are great for loud sources, and that’s their main role in recording studios (recording drums for example). I like the way they capture low end, and that mids are flat. Highs are bumped a little, but it’s not something that bothers me. Instead of writing about every detail I’ve decided to upload some samples. Also here’s a download link to sound effects recorded with MK012. Download it here.
Over the last 12 months of using my two Oktavas I’ve experienced some issues. None of them got fixed, because to be hones I’m not sure if there’s anything to fix. While recording in more wet conditions, where the humidity is higher one of my microphones tends to be much more noisy than the other. Sometimes noise transforms into clicks and pops or some weird synth like sounds. It happens only when the humidity is really high, like during heavy rain in the forest, or early morning when everything is covered in water. Right now I’m discussing this issue with Oktava support, so I’ll update this topic in the future with additional informations. I’ve asked few users about those problems, and some of them seems to confirm that it only happens when the humidity level is really high. I was recording whole winter in really low temperatures and everything was fine. It gets worse in hot and wet places.
As you probably noticed, there’s not much to complain about when it comes to MK012 model. They are great all around microphones, the modular construction makes them good starting kit for any field recordist, and the quality to price ratio is even better. I’m aware that it’s not as crisp and detailed as the sennheiser modular kits, but after you compare the prices, you shouldn’t be surprised. After more than a year of using those microphones I’m really satisfied with the results. They are not as good as other microphones when it comes to recording quiet sources, but they are not meant to be perfect in everything. Microphones for audio people are like lenses for photographers, and a pair of MK012 gives you a lot of possibilities in one light and affordable package. You can’t go wrong with it.