Tierra Audio New Twenties condenser mic review: Evoking the smooth sounds and classic styling of times gone by
Transformer-obsessed Tierra Audio launches a new, old-looking microphone. Can it sound as good as it looks?
⊕ Funky, retro look
⊕ Quality construction, with 100% recyclable materials
⊕ Neat logo flags (‘ridges’) included
⊕ Useful popshield
⊖ Capsule very prone to capturing vibrations and rumble
⊖ Care needed when level-setting to achieve the desired amount of saturation
⊖ XLR cable might hang from from mic stand, under strain
Tierra Audio was founded in 2018, with all products designed and hand-built in Spain. The brand started out producing boutique, analogue outboard gear in bamboo cases, finding particular interest in colouring audio with transformers. Its Flavours Preamps range followed as a logical progression – some of these mic boosters feature genuine (not modelled) analogue transformers from revered manufacturers Lundahl and Carnhill.
The New Twenties microphone continues in a similar vein. Striking, retro styling conjures nostalgia, seemingly beckoning performers to either adopt a posh, received pronunciation radio voice, or emit a seductive blues vocal to lean into the saturation offered by the mic’s transformer. While other indie brands such as Ear Trumpet Labs have enjoyed critical acclaim in capturing acoustic instruments and voices with its vintage-looking microphones, Tierra’s configuration of retro aesthetic with transformer colouration is a rarer prospect.
The mic’s cardioid pattern capsule is a large-diaphragm, electret design, manufactured in the United States. Meanwhile, a Lundahl transformer provides the on-board saturation, coupled with a FET amplification stage. Acoustic isolation of the capsule is provided by a proprietary spring mount – an updated version of tried-and-tested vintage designs. In the spirit of simplicity, there are no switches on the mic body for either a high-pass filter or sensitivity pad, and the mic screws directly onto a stand via an integrated thread. Taking proximity effect and transformer drive into account, you’ll need to be relatively careful with placement and setting gain. Hit the sweet spot and you’ve got a winning sound without excessive boom; closer up, proximity builds and, if you drive the transformer a bit too hard, things might start to sound crunchy.
To assist with visual aesthetics and brand identity, two magnetic mic flags are included – Tierra calls these ‘ridges’ – in clear, recycled plastic and bamboo, which can be laser engraved or printed with an artist, broadcaster or sponsor logo. This element of customisation is neat and is surely set to be an increasingly popular trend. A removable pop shield is also provided – again, magnetic – giving decent plosive rejection with its three-layer mesh. The mic is plugged in using a short, braided XLR break-out cable. Once coupled with another XLR connector however, the cable tends to droop down from the mic stand; a velcro tie is ideally needed to avoid any swinging around or cable strain.
In session, on female vocals there’s a flattering low-mid push that adds to a feeling of intimacy. To counter this, highs are present yet pleasingly rounded, with the transformer also helping to smooth spiky transients. As you might expect, this contour results in a full-bodied, soulful tone that’s most flattering on a sole lead vocal rather than on multi-layered backing vocals, where more mid-range bite might be required. All in all, it feels good to take a break from the ultra-bright voicing of most condensers and listen to sounds that are satisfyingly rounded in tone, much like a ribbon design, but without being muffled or tinny. Usefully, Tierra has a whole host of recordings available on its product page that demonstrate this compelling vocal sound, in particular Paula Prieto’s cover of Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love.
Acoustic guitars come across natural and multi-dimensional, even with a single mic; here, the transformer saturation adds harmonic colour without the harshness associated with, for example, boosting a high shelf to help the instrument poke through the mix. Gauging the reaction of the wider audio community, it seems other reviewers are just as impressed by the New Twenties’ performance in this application, with Warren Huart from Produce Like a Pro describing the mic as a new go-to for acoustic guitars.
Given the mic’s bulky bottom end and relatively basic, ‘classic’ approach to vibration isolation, users need to be careful not to enthusiastically tap their feet or nudge the mic stand, since everything physically attached to the New Twenties becomes extremely prone to picking up vibrations. Well-known microphone YouTuber AudioHaze observes the same drawback in his review, describing the result as ‘Rumble City’, so there’s clearly further progress to be made here. Ultimately though, you just need to embrace the New Twenties’ quirks and individuality and learn to work with it in a way that works – retro design comes at a price then.
Tierra Audio has produced something that looks unique, but also has a sound that also deviates from the norm of the ‘over-hyped’ high frequencies of many-a condenser mic. Quality of components and a bold commitment to the environment are commendable, resulting in a stylish yet sturdy outcome. If the price tag is too rich, potential buyers might instead look at Roswell Pro Audio’s Mini K67X – a competing transformer-equipped condenser.
With the New Twenties you’re getting hand-built quality and strong visual aesthetics, with components that are far less ‘off the peg’ than other products. Tierra has blended innovation and the practices of yesteryear in an intriguing way, at a not-unreasonable price, considering the components involved. It’s not perfect, but we could learn to embrace its quirks.
- Price: £995 (street price)
- Cardioid condenser
- Large diaphragm electret capsule
- Built-in Lundahl transformer
- Stainless steel construction
- Lifetime warranty
- Phantom powered
- Comes with magnetic pop shield; two magnetic mic flags/ridges; ⅜ to ⅝ mic stand thread adapter
- Dimensions: 120 mm x 100 mm x 43 mm (with pop shield attached)
- Weight: 520g (with pop shield attached)
Find out more at terra.audio.
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