Warm Audio WA-8000 review: if the Sony C-800G had a kid, this would be it
The $10k C-800G vocal mic is king for pop, R’n’B and rap; Warm’s more affordable copy nearly captures the magic, and even outperforms some other studio classics.
+ It does a great impersonation of the Sony C-800G
+ Works on a wide variety of sources
+ Fantastic balance of transparency and polish
- Doesn't quite have the depth of Sony C-800G
- Multi-pin connector isn't as robust as we'd like
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Being a daily user of the Sony C-800G, I was thrilled to get the opportunity to review the WA-8000 and compare the two. Setting them up side by side in the main studio live room at Sensible Music, they look like parent and offspring.
The C-800G we’re using for comparison is 26 years old and lives in the studio. The mic was built in the 90s with no expense spared in its components or development and costs over £/$10,000 new. We use it for all kinds of performance capture. It sounds fantastic on every source but particularly sparkles with vocals, for which it was primarily designed. It’s the mic of choice for Mariah Carey, Luthor Vandross, Jay-Z, Eminem and more. The one at Sensible has starred on its share of hit records, too.
All it requires is an occasional service and valve replacement, about every seven years. In short, it’s robust, versatile, sounds gorgeous and is a constant pleasure to use. So, any mic maker coming for the C-800G crown had best bring their A-game. Thankfully, Warm Audio has done just that.
The WA-8000 is a fantastic, highly-spec’d rendition of a unique and beautiful microphone, and considering it costs a ninth of the Sony, it’s difficult to believe it could compare.
On first impressions, the differences are apparent. The WA-8000 is solid and lean in its construction right down to the power supply and cradle. Both mic and PSU weigh about a third of the Sony but are still rugged. The only quibble over build quality is the 7-pin cable that connects the mic to the power supply; it needs special care. However, once you kick on the power, Warm’s mic warms up a little quicker than the Sony.
The mic capsules (both K67-type) look almost identical. This faithfulness to the original is critical to the sound but is not the only factor. The most obvious physical difference is the protruding heat exchange system that keeps the mic’s valve temperature constant, reducing noise. The Sony uses a Peltier thermoelectric heat pump (to give its correct term), a solid-state refrigerator technology. This is much larger than Warm Audio’s finned heat sink.
Some may question the value of the heat pump/sink sticking out the back of the mic. Still, the Sony certainly has a distinct dynamic response that imparts depth and richness. It’s more like the way humans hear than a traditionally truthful microphonic representation.
Testing the two with an exacting source – a vocal – the difference is audible but surprisingly close. The microphones’ output levels are the same, requiring equal amounts of preamp gain. The Sony’s low-end sounds polished and tastefully produced. It can be a little over-responsive for rappers, but it’s still forgiving. This quality is what makes it such a popular mic for vocalists. Meanwhile, the Warm offers a closer representation of the source; it has a tighter, less plosive sound with a more linear response. It’s possible that with extended use, the mic might relax a little making it a closer sonic match to the Sony, but its reproduction remains impressive.
The mics are voiced very similarly, as you can see in a snapshot of spectrum analyser plots. However, the response over time at different frequencies is slightly different. The C-800G will cushion certain frequencies, so there’s less processing for you to do in the mix. The WA-8000 does something similar, but its transient response is quicker.
With vocals, the WA-8000 has a crisp, produced sound but lacks a bit of the C-800 G’s character and wisdom, but it’s still very encouraging.
Testing on a constant high-level signal – in this case, overdriven guitar chords from a Marshall stack – the Warm’s tighter sound is exceptional at close range. In contrast, the Sony seemed to capture more room ambience, suggesting a tighter cardioid polar pattern on the Warm.
On a Yamaha upright piano, placing the two mics in the same position, the detail and precision in the reproduction from the Warm is second to none. The Sony captures more of the delicate ambience.
Equally, the Sony has a very smooth response on percussive instruments, ironing out some of the punch from a drum kit. The Warm also does this to a certain degree while keeping a little more of the transients.
The WA-8000 stands up in terms of definition and accuracy. You could rely on it for clarity in close mic’ing situations. In omnidirectional mode, it also holds its own. It has more bravado than the Sony. The latter is better at capturing the three-dimensionality of a sound; with the C-800G, you can tell how far away from the mic your subject is. Though the WA-8000 is impressive, the sound is a little less spacious.
The Sony has a depth that accentuates and encourages its subject with a wizard-like dynamic response. The Warm emulates this exceptionally well, with precision, sensibility and control.
Undoubtedly, the WA-8000 represents extraordinary value for money, taking a modern and slick approach. It instils confidence to look at, and this is reaffirmed in use. We would highly recommend this to anyone serious about vocal and performance capture as a go-to mic.
Its talents aren’t limited to vocals, either. As a multi-purpose microphone, it’s exceptional. Whether you’re recording at home, in a project studio or even in a large room, it won’t disappoint. In our comparative listening tests, it beat a Neumann U87 and a U47 FET, both of which are significantly more expensive.
The Sony C-800G is the ultimate large-diaphragm condenser mic; you can use it on everything. The WA-8000 can do that, too. It’s not a perfect replica, but it does an excellent impersonation. And for less than a quarter the price of the Sony, you can get a pair, flight cases and all.
- Includes shockmount, PSU, 7-pin cable, custom hard case
- K-67-inspired brass capsule
- NOS 6AU6 vacuum tube
- Custom large-core Lundahl transformer
- Wima capacitors
- Cardioid and Omni polar patterns
- Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Maximum SPL: 131dB (Cardioid), 134dB (Omni)
- Weight: 13.3 lbs/6kg
- Mic dimensions: 7.5” x 2.5” / 19 cm x 6.4 cm