In a world filled with both hardware and software either cloned from or inspired by classic equipment, Hammer Audio takes this concept to another stage with the HA-69; It looks like a relic from a bygone era. Inside the dull housing is a large, fully-equipped, tube-operated diaphragm condenser microphone.
Unlike a lot of equipment that has been copied or reimagined that includes telltale numbers like 76 or 87 to reveal their heritage, the 69 in the HA-69 does not seem to refer to a historical piece of equipment; It certainly has nothing to do with older Helios Type-69 consoles. You’ll have to reduce the number by 2 to get to the microphone that some believe provides inspiration. However, the HA-69 is not a clone of the legendary Neumann U 67. However, Hammer Audio states that the microphone “seeks to bring back the clear but warm and classic sound of German radio 1962-1973 from the period when tube development was near its peak”. Do whatever you like.
It’s a feature-packed mic—or rather, two feature-packed mics since the switchable B and C modes use independent internal analog circuits. The Hummer’s Voicing circuit acts as a wideband lever and can be switched into either mode, so four distinct color flavors are available via the switches on the microphone. And that’s before you hit the 80Hz/180Hz low cut options and the many polar patterns available.
Handcrafted in the UK, the circuits are point-to-point coiled and conventionally welded, while the inner valve (tube) is a new stock old CV4507, the military version of the Mullard EC70. These tubes are much stronger than standard tubes, with thicker glass to reduce mics and withstand shock, in case the mic gets knocked over. You might be thinking, “It’s so nice to have an original NOS tube from the ’60s, but what about when it fails?” Well, Hammer Audio has secured enough of them to provide replacements if needed. Along with the microphone, you also get its own power supply – which also has a tired look – attached to a shockproof and a special cable, all housed in a sturdy carrying case.
Before using the microphone, we were a little concerned that configuring two microphones into one for the HA-69 might be difficult when trying to improve the true character of the microphone. The company’s propaganda notes that mode B has a “nice warm tube sound with warm lows and detailed high-end” while mode C is more neutral. An antique versus a modern voice, if you will.
As it stands, there is no day and night difference between the two modes, and both express Valve’s unmistakable personality. Mode C is a tad more open through the treble, with a feel of more stretch in the upper frequencies. By contrast, B mode is more rounded, with an emphasis on the wide mid-range, while the true mode is more muted.
Either way, the midrange is great, with a quality of hearing that’s reserved for only the best mics. Singing takes on a creamy smoothness that you can only get from thermal devices. That, to us, translates as mentioned by Hammer Audio from warmth, rather than any hint of bulge or thickening of the bottom midsection. For this reason, we wouldn’t describe the HA-69 as having a particularly warm sound, however, it is useful to note that the microphone is by no means bright. There’s absolutely no noise in the higher frequencies, and as you’d hope with a mic of this caliber, there’s no audible ringing, nor the crisp treble that plagues low-quality mics.
If you really want to boost your source signal, go with the microphone audio circuit. It’s a kind of presence booster that helps get the instruments and sounds out of the mix. This circuit changes the character of the microphone more than switching between modes B and C, pumping a little bit of the midrange into the mix for a clearer voice representation.
Switching between modes and voice-expression circuits for quick comparisons is made easy with Hammer Audio’s own soft muting system, which prevents electrical and blast surges that could further damage equipment on the signal path. We still recommend muting the output from your microphone, just to be on the safe side and because it’s good practice to do so.
With all the color variants available in the microphone, there is a suggestion from Hammer Audio that no external equalizer is necessary. However, while this may be true to an extent, the HA-69 – especially in B mode – has just the right character that responds well to some super sweetener. The boost at 16kHz from a Pultec EQP-1A on an audio track has a great effect; It really opens up the sound by building on the microphone’s great mid-range.
It would be natural to assume that the most similar HA-69 classic microphone is the Neumann U 67. But a side-by-side comparison to our U 67 reveals that the two microphones are far apart. While HA-69 has a smooth and sweet nature, U 67 is much darker in tone with a firmer low end and a fuller middle low. In some ways, the HA-69’s soft, textured character is more reminiscent of the AKG ELA M 251 style microphone, like the Golden Age Premiere GA251.
While the Steampunk-inspired copper finish is clearly a distinct selling point, we have some serious reservations about it. We can totally see why someone would want to buy an artificially aged Fender Strat that looks like they’ve been living a busy working life since 1957. But the HA-69 looks as if it suffered from neglect; You might imagine the internal components are completely broken.
This is not – or should not be – what an antique microphone looks like. The vintage U 67 still looks authentic after decades of service.
On a professional level, we would hesitate to put the HA-69 in front of a world-class vocalist because its faded appearance calls for comment. And when the artist is about to perform, the last thing they need to think about is the source of the microphone they will be using. Hammer Audio should consider making the HA-69 available without “aging by the elements,” as an alternative option.
Far, we’re impressed with the performance and versatility of the HA-69. Its smooth, creamy vocal signature is great and the built-in chromatic modulation options give it an edge over standard one-handed mics. At £3,500, it’s a fraction of the price of the U 67 currently available from Neumann, yet you can buy two Golden Age Premiere GA251s for the money and still have a change to your old-fashioned pre-mic or triple SM57s.
- antique or modern tone (modes B and C)
- Switchable Volume (Medium Raise)
- Sweepable polar patterns on the PSU
- MOS Mullard valve (tube)
- 14dB switch board
- HPF at 80 Hz or 180 Hz
- Frequency response 20Hz-20KHz
- 3500 GBP
- Contact Hammer Audio