While the Audix company has a history that goes back to 1984, I started to become aware of them only around the turn of the millennium, initially as a supplier of drum mic kits. Then I encountered the Audix D4 mic more and more as a kick drum mic and I was more and more impressed. My early impressions of Audix mics were of compact and rugged pieces of kit. These felt solid and road worthy, and the small size meant easy and discreet positioning. I love me an SM57 on a snare drum right up until the drummer starts whacking the mic instead of the drum.
Enter the Audix F5. It’s not the most compact mic in the Audix line. In fact, it’s not much shorter than a 57, but there’s something about it that makes it less a target. It remains large enough and of an appropriate shape to function as a handheld vocal mic. It is just a bit lighter than a 57 and it feels solid. If you need to pull a mic drop, the F5 will handle it, no problem, and will dust off and keep right on working. This is a solid, all-around hard worker that does the job day in and day out, an anonymous laborer.
That’s not a bad thing at all, particularly for someone who uses a lot of mics and needs reliability. In an $80 mic, you will probably never be disappointed with an F5. You also will probably never be dazzled.
DO I REALLY NEED THE DAZZLE? For those home studios that make it work with one mic, this is not that mic. If you’re looking for a second mic to record bongos, congas, cajons or pretty much anything else, the F5 competes with the SM57.
Setup and Usability
Here’s another “nuthin fancy” dynamic mic. No need for phantom power, no on/off switch, pad or roll-off. A standard XLR cable is all you need. The flat-ish head of the F5 makes this an intuitive mic to place. In most cases, the flat surface will be parallel to the sound source, be it a drum head, guitar amp or singer’s mouth. A tight hypercardioid pattern points sensitivity in the direction of the mic head and rejects sounds to the sides.
Now is as good a time as any to review the usefulness of off-axis response. Many times, to get the best sound at the mic, parallel is not the way to go. Any mic with a directional polar pattern, that is any non-omnidirectional mic, has some drift in frequency response as you move away from the sweet spot. Usually the sound gets a bit thinner as you move away from the central axis. In some mics, it’s quite pronounced and in others it’s barely noticeable.
I say this a lot, and it’s to remind myself as much as to share with you:
Mic placement is your first line of EQ and produces the best noise-free signal you can hope to work with.
Consider a snare drum. Aiming the F5 so that its head is parallel to the drum head is a perfectly valid mic placement, if it gives a sound you like. Say, however, you find that position a little boomy. You adjust it so that the mic now points to the spot where the drum stick usually hits the snare in the center. Without touching an EQ knob, you’ve now changed the relationship between the crack of the impact and the resonance of the snare drum itself. The parallel placement brought bass proximity into the picture, while angled placement got rid of it. You can see that where your mic is has much to do with how your mic sounds.
The Audix F5 is a nice, flat sounding mic. Compared to an SM57 it’s perhaps a bit clearer across a wider range. It’s less susceptible to P-pops than the SM57, but more sensitive to them than the SM58, meaning the integral filter is somewhere between the two Shure products. While the F5 exhibits proximity effect, it is reasonable and doesn’t overly clutter the low and low-mid frequencies as some other under-$100 dynamics are prone to do.
As Audix indicates, the F5 is a good choice on a number of sound sources as well as vocals. Percussion instruments are a natural, and the F5 works well on all pieces in the drum kit save for the kick drum and cymbals. This mic does well on guitar and bass amps, delivering amp output with a minimum of coloration. Brass and woodwinds are mentioned by Audix and probably these would be well rendered by the F5’s flat response. Audix describes the mic capsule as a Very Low Mass diaphragm. The mass of a dynamic mic is largely what keeps it from sounding like a condenser, so low mass is good when aiming for faithful response. The F5 does indeed exhibit less of the typical dynamic mic compression that I associate with diaphragm/moving coil mass.
The F5 is up there with SM57 and 58 ruggedness. I like the black finish of the Audix mics and the metal grille looks serious and professional. I can’t speak to the long-term durability of an F5, as I haven’t any long-term experience with one, but my gut feeling is that this is a mic that will be there when you need it, working the way you expect.
Well, the guy who reviewed it liked it. The F5 is not a mic that gets people excited, obviously, and there is little review support through my normal channels. Venturing further afield I did find a few more reviews, but nothing overwhelming in terms of review quantity. Review quality, on the other hand, is everything Audix would want it to be. Four and five star reviews all the way, no hint of unreliability.
This is an effective and solid workhorse mic. It does a decent job with a lot of sound sources and also does a good job on vocals. While it’s clear and approaches condenser-like clarity, it’s probably not going to be a home studio vocal mic. It will work for that, but other mics bring more “big sound” to the table. As a multi-purpose mic, stage and studio, you won’t run out of uses for an F5. It’s well priced at $80.