SE Electronics SE2-A and Z3300-A

Although there’s no shortage of low-cost condenser microphones being manufactured in China, build quality and tone sometimes fall short for demanding users. SE Electronics’ Chinese-made line has been completely redesigned, however, and the company now pledges up-market quality and features.

The SE2-A ($399 retail) comes in a sharp-looking foam-lined, cherry-colored wood box along with a mic body, three capsules (cardioid, hypercardioid, omni), and a shockmount. The shockmount was quite a surprise. Unlike many shockmounts for inexpensive mics, this one is a classy unit. It’s really easy to insert or remove the mic, and the mount does a good job of isolating the microphone from stand-borne vibrations.

The SE2-A does well in all of the usual small-diaphragm condenser applications, such as acoustic guitar and drum overhead. With a cardioid capsule presence peak that starts at around 5kHz (and is centered at 9kHz), and low-frequency response below 200Hz down a dB or two, the tonal vibe of the SE2-A is somewhat bright, but the sound is detailed and clear without being harsh. It handles loud sources just fine, which is a good thing, as there’s no onboard pad. A nice surprise is the off-axis response. When the SE2-A is used close-in on hi-hats, bleed from the snare is never a huge problem. I really like this microphone.

The Z3300-A ($599 retail) came in a foam-lined, camera-style flight case, with a shockmount, and, what’s this? An extra elastic band for the shockmount? This is one of those “why doesn’t everyone do this” type of features. If you ever snap an elastic band at 3 am while working on a recording, you’ll certainly appreciate the spare.

The Z3300-A has a 100Hz low-cut filter, which is useful for taming low-frequency rumble. In combination with the shockmount, it did a good job of keeping one singer’s heavy toe-tapping out of the recording. The mic also has a 10dB pad, as well as a 3-position switch for selecting the polar pattern.

While the Z3300-A doesn’t have any overt “character,” neither does it have any objectionable sonic issues. The bi-directional pattern is evenly balanced from front to back, and side rejection is very good. Recording background vocals with two singers was no problem. Omni response is open and clear, and the cardioid pattern is relatively pleasing and unobtrusive. The Z3300-A records most everything quite well, and while the highs are present, they are not excessively bright. The Z3300-A compares very favorably with other mics that cost up to twice as much, and it’s certainly one of the better-sounding Chinese-built mics I’ve heard.