For a mic geek, particularly one with a retro taste, The Fin is crystal meth, crack cocaine and heroin mixed into some sort of chrome plated hood ornament with an XLR connector and glowing lights. If you look carefully, this is the mic they used in “The Hunger Games” crowd scenes, though sadly not lit up. I’m not sure that sound quality really matters when it comes to The Fin, but it turns out it’s a decent mic, brighter than a Shure 55SH or Super 55 and able to cut through a lot of live music situations better than an SM58.
It’s probably not a workhorse for the studio. It’s marketed as a broadcast mic, but I think its bottom end is a bit too weak for that. This is a mic made to be seen. I can’t think of a stage situation that would not be made more cool by The Fin. You can purchase it with blue, red or white LEDs to mix it up. Now, finally, a singer has onstage gear with sex appeal.
IS IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO LIVE WITHOUT THIS MIC? DEPARTMENT: Yes. But who wants that kind of quality of life?
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Setup and Usability
This is a rare beast. The dynamic mic that needs phantom power. Not for audio, however, but to power the internal LEDs. The Fin connects with a standard XLR cable and it will work if you don’t have a phantom power source, but it won’t light up.
The Fin is designed for stage, recording and broadcasting, according to the manufacturer, Heil. I’m not convinced on the recording and broadcasting apps, as the housing seems to be far enough away from the mic’s diaphragm to invoke a lot of proximity effect. And let’s face it, this mic is made to be seen.
Onstage, it’s great for vocals, particularly for voices that need a bit more clarity to cut through bands. It might be a bit harsh as-is for mics or sax, but a bit of top end rolled off at the mixer and it could be just dandy. While I’m usually a fan of using the right mic to get the sound without relying on EQ, a performance is just that, a performance, and so looking good can be just as important.
I got into The Fin’s sound a little above. As a large-diaphragm dynamic mic, it’s a bit different. It has the high-end hype that you’d expect from a large cap condenser mic, though it has a bit of dynamic velocity compression happening. Dynamic mics require a diaphragm to move a coil of wire through a magnetic field. Now, you know I hate to throw Sir Isaac Newton at you, but sometimes I have to, to make sense of why things are the way they are. Sir Ike said something that’s pretty important to understanding dynamic mics. Newton’s First Law of Motion states:
“a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.”
I don’t know about you, but the “body at rest” sort of describes me and Sunday afternoons on the sofa. However, it’s the important part here. That outside force is the sound of your voice. The dynamic mic’s diaphragm is just sitting there, at rest, when you decide you want to sing. Intent on resting, the outside force of your voice has to overcome its motionlessness. Since not only does the diaphragm itself have mass, it’s got this wire coil attached to it, and that coil is inside a magnetic field. That’s a lotta pushing and it doesn’t happen at the speed of light. Of course not. It’s sound.
The condenser mic’s diaphragm doesn’t really have to go anywhere, not much anyway. It generates a signal just from the sound pressure that makes changes in capacitance between the diaphragm and the charged plate. Compared to a moving coil, there’s little motion at all.
Overcoming that resting inertia means that a dynamic mic isn’t responding instantaneously. That’s what I call dynamic velocity compression. I’m not a qualified physicist, I made up the phrase because it sounded like what I imagine is happening. That’s a big reason why dynamic and condenser mics sound different and have different applications. And it’s why The Fin, with its big diaphragm, sounds the way it does. Sort of, but not quite, like a condenser mic.
Okay, pardon me for sticking the physics in there. It was necessary, and you’re now smarter for it, I hope.
I haven’t thrown The Fin to see a) how straight it flies, b) how much damage it could cause and c) if it would survive. I don’t know about a) and c), but I suspect b) is “a lot.” This is a heavy mic, over a pound and a half. It. Is. Solid. Some users mention that its screws and friction pivot tend to work loose. I haven’t had that issue. The Fin that I had in my possession seemed military grade.
Now, the downside.
The mic I had created a buzz under certain connections. It was excessive and definitely not a normal thing. I never got to the bottom of it, and I cannot convict the mic with complete assurance, given the equipment it was plugged into. I returned the mic for replacement, it was refunded by mistake and I haven’t ordered another yet. I would write that off as a crazy, one-time occurrence.
However, there are reviews indicating The Fin sometimes arrives dead or dies after only a short period of use. This mic is a bit of a secret and there aren’t a lot of reviews out there. There’s no pattern of failure showing, but there are failures occurring. Heil has a good reputation, and I read no problems about mic returns, but these reviews are out there, and I had a negative issue with one mic myself. It may be a series of one-time events. It may be a quality control problem. There’s not enough data to define this within the scope of a review. There is enough reason to suggest that you give The Fin a good workout when you receive it.
But joking aside, if you’re after a single Swiss Army mic that can do it all, everywhere, this is not a job for The Fin. Art deco cool integrated with a unique mic voice, The Fin may be a very sexy addition to your mic collection.
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