Warm Audio’s WA-19 microphone unveils a forgotten treasure that truly sparkles

With a Beatles connection, condenser-like clarity and a rugged exterior, the WA-19 is a worthy all-rounder for the studio and stage. But is this dynamic mic a step up from the trusty SM57?

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Warm Audio WA-19

Review Overview

Our rating

10

Our verdict

Brilliantly versatile
Impressive high frequency response
Exceptional off-axis rejection
High SPL capability
Vented for proximity effect reduction
Rugged build and construction
Retro chic

At this price? Nothing

£209 / $199 / €219, warmaudio.com

It seems like every piece of classic studio gear is available in some form or another these days. The clue’s often in the numbers — an ‘87’ here, a ‘73’ there — not to mention the virtual emulations of historic recording facilities, vintage hardware and iconic acoustic spaces.

When we heard about Warm Audio’s WA-19 dynamic microphone, we figured it would be a recreation of the legendary AKG D19c. While it’s surprising there hasn’t previously been a copy of this classic all-purpose dynamic mic from the 1960s, it’s no surprise that vintage specialist Warm Audio should be the brand to create it.

Long before the Shure SM57 earned its reputation as the go-to choice of cardioid dynamic mic for studio and live applications, the D19c could be found in the hands of everyone from maverick producer Joe Meek to the engineers at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, as well as in live and broadcast sessions. Most famously, the mic was used extensively on The Beatles’ recording sessions, notably on Ringo Starr’s drums, though as their engineer Ken Scott once recalled, “We used the D19 on everything… it was used on piano quite a bit.”

Available in nickel or black, the former (designated WA19N) more accurately evokes the look of the historic mic, while our review sample (a WA-19B in black) looks more modern. The mic is slim enough to be easily placed when close to individual drums for example, yet with its strong metal construction it feels reassuringly robust, weighing in at 200 grams.

The WA-19 on a stand
The WA-19 on a stand

The fixed cardioid response is more focused than many other mics with the same pattern due to excellent off-axis rejection, particularly in the lower frequencies. This is useful when recording loud bands in small spaces, reducing boomy bleed from bass cabs. It also makes the WA-19 a brilliant choice for under-snare placement to minimise spill from the kick drum.

Low frequencies can be further tamed with the variable acoustic high-pass filter ring, which cuts up to 10 dB at 50 Hz without any discernible phase shift, while ventilated slots along the body behind the capsule lessen the bass tip-up of the proximity effect, facilitating the accurate capture of sources at close range.

Loud volumes are no problem either, with a quoted maximum level of 145 decibels, so heavy rock guitarists and screaming metal vocalists are well catered-for.

As you may rightly assume, the WA-19 is an incredibly versatile microphone, one which can be used for the same jobs as the ubiquitous SM57. However, at roughly twice the price of the ‘57 does it justify the price tag?

The WA-19 with its stand clip and padded pouch
The WA-19 with its stand clip and padded pouch

The answer is a resounding “yes”. The WA19 has a sound characteristic unlike most other dynamic mics. With a superlative high frequency response, it expresses many of the characteristics of a small diaphragm condenser, such is the clarity and treble detail on offer.

For drums, the WA-19’s inherently snappy and sizzling response is superb, losing nothing of the zing from cymbals when used as an overhead (where you might otherwise select a condenser) and accentuating the crack of a close-mic snare drum without the need for much EQ sweetening. Toms are particularly well served as the mic is less prone to low-end ringing and boom than simpler mics without a high-pass-filter or the tuned-in proximity reduction.

While its sublime high-end is flattering to most sources, the WA-19 doesn’t quite reach the stratospheric heights of a condenser when ultra-bright extension is desired. Rather, its voicing favours applications where presence and brilliance is required to cut through busy mixes. This is made clear when used to record electric guitar. It can be used quite successfully positioned right up against the speaker grille sure enough, however judicious placing at a little distance away from the speaker yields superb results, capturing the full, direct tone of the guitar and amp without excessive room ambience. Experimenting with the variable high-pass filter pays dividends here, removing any low-mid muddiness to spotlight vivid musical communication and clarity.

Such is the level of articulation the WA-19 expresses, it effectively reproduces all the filigree detail and delicacy of acoustic instruments and voices. It even serves well enough as a vocal mic if options are limited.

The WA-19 on a snare
The WA-19 on a snare

Many potential users will, of course, be attracted to the mic because of its documented use on Beatles recordings. After all, Waves’ Abbey Road plugins recreate pretty much all the outboard effects and acoustic spaces of EMI’s studios in the 1960s and beyond.

With all that to hand, it’s an obvious move to try to capture some of that magic by recreating the simple yet effective two-mic set up used to record Ringo’s drum kit. Using an AKG D12 (the direct descendent of the D20 used on those sessions) on bass drum with the WA-19 placed above the kit at head height, a pretty convincing splashy 60s drum sound is achieved when squashed through a Fairchild 660 compressor plugin.

Warm Audio’s WA-19 is a cracking, versatile dynamic microphone with a sophisticated sound that sets it apart from the competition. While its vintage vibe and cool retro looks will appeal to classic gear nerds and 60s freaks, this is a brilliantly capable, meticulous recreation that is ideally suited to modern pop and rock recording.

In the studio or on stage, the WA19 is a class act, delivering pristine audio in a multitude of situations. Try it on drums and electric guitar — you won’t be disappointed.

Key features

  • Dynamic, cardioid design
  • Variable 50 Hz acoustic high-pass filter
  • XLR connector
  • Frequency response: 30 Hz – 18 kHz
  • Max SPL: 145 dB
  • Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Weight: 200 g
  • Colour: nickel or black
  • Comes with stand clip and padded pouch
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