Sterling Audio ST155 & SP150SMK Condenser Microphones: Be Heard
DAMIEN GULA – JAN 7, 2019
If you are an aspiring content creator, live streamer, or commentator, your voice is one of many instruments you will use to convey the message of your content; making sure to capture it with clarity is essential. Within this review, we are going to be looking at two options which will do just that. This is a review for the ST155 and SP150SMK from Sterling Audio.
MSRP: $79.99 (SP150SMK), $199.99 (ST155)
Polar Pattern: Cardioid (both)
Circuit type: Class-A FET (both)
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz (both)
Sensitivity: 32mV/PA (ST155), 5mV/PA (SP150SMK)
Volume handlings: Up to 144dB (ST155), 136dB (SP150SMK)
Power: 48v Phantom Power
Features: included shock mount, carrying case, and replacement bands (both), ST155 equipped with -10dB Attenuation Pad, 75Hz switchable high pass filter
The SP150SMK and ST155 are both cardioid condenser microphones. The cardioid polar pattern means that microphone will pick up sound surrounding it in a heart-shaped pattern.
Being condenser microphones mean that they will pick up sound waves on a thin diaphragm which is backed by a similarly sized plate. These types of microphones are designed for audio fidelity as well as quick response. This will require them to receive 48v of power from an external source (phantom power) from a mixer or USB/TB3-based audio interface.
With that in mind, if you are simply looking for a microphone for chatting in Discord… a condenser mic would be a smidge overkill. However, if you want your voice to sound as natural as possible for recording podcasts, voiceovers for play-of-the-game montages, or to make sure your community can hear you loud and clear on Twitch, condenser mics will do the trick.
The SP150SMK and ST155 both come with padded storage cases along with a shock mount. While the SP150SMK has a molded plastic case with padded interior and classic cage style shock mount, the ST155 has a metal case with an equally padded interior and Sterling Audio’s SM8 premium shock mount. Rather than the classic shock mount design, the SM8 is a sturdy cylinder in which the microphone is cradled in a mesh of elastic bands as it screws into a floating mount surface on the bottom.
Speaking of sturdy construction, both the SP150SMK and the ST155 have a solid heft to them. Weighing in at 1.2 (ST155) and 1.0 (SP150SMK) pounds respectively, Sterling has put great care into making sure both microphones have their components well protected. Both mics have a glossy black design with Sterling’s logo emblazoned on the front and a pale blue halo around the microphone crown with the ST155 adding some extra silver trim.
But not all that glitters is gold.
While both are well designed, they are not without their flaws. The SP150SMK lacks any on-board attenuation that can be found on similarly priced microphones and the ST155 is limited to -10dB with its pad switch versus the -20dB found on their competitors’ offerings. These are curious design choices, considering the quality of both.
I did find that plugging in and unplugging an XLR cable from both of these microphones to be a bit challenging while they were sitting inside their respective shock mounts. I also found that the vertical adjustment on the SP150SMK to be a little bit tricky to get just right. Its small adjustment key made it difficult to loosen and tighten. Each mic does come with an alternate mount, but chances are, you are going to want to use the shock mount.
These flaws aside, they look great and they feel great, but one question remains: how do they sound?
Side-by-side A/B sample
If you listened to the sample, you can hear that the ST155 stands out in its vocal volume, quality, and tonal range. This is due, in large part, to the ST155 having a larger diaphragm than the SP150SMK. That does not mean the SP150SMK is a slouch in the capture department. When given a little bit of a volume lift, you can hear that it, too, captures good vocal articulation, even if it does not seem to have the same response as the ST155.
Which begs the question…
Which One Is For Me?
While there are similarities between these two pieces they both have their place for the burgeoning broadcaster.
If you are dipping your toes into the realm of content creation, the SP150SMK is a great starting point. Similarly priced as the MXL 990 – a piece that I have used for several years of podcasting and on the GameSpace GameShow – the SP150SMK is a good value-for-the-dollar option. To me, the build quality, included extras (shock mount, case), and vocal clarity would make the SP150SMK a strong contender for best condenser microphone on a budget if it, too, had an attenuation pad and high pass filter. Even without those feature, it is still a solid microphone. The question you will want to answer is whether or not those features are deal breakers for you.
However, if you are looking to take your content quality to the next level and have an audio interface to support it, the ST155 will take you into a similar weight class with such tried-and-true microphones as the Audio-Technica AT4040 and Blue Microphones Bluebird. The unique shock mount gives it a flair that may just be to your taste. It does work like many on the market, but if you like aesthetically pleasing things, the included SM8 has your covered in both form and function. Stripping away the aesthetic, the large diaphragm of the ST155 is capable of capturing any voice with great fidelity.
Sterling Audio has produced two versatile products with two different levels of content creation in mind. If you are looking to capture and communicate your message with clarity, either microphone will suit your content creation needs with silvery smooth tones. The SP150SMK makes for a great entry-level microphone while the ST155 can kick your game up a notch if you are looking to upgrade without breaking the bank.
• Solid build quality on both.
• SP150SMK makes for a great value-for-dollar proposition piece if you are building out your kit.
• ST155 provides great vocal clarity and tonal range. A solid consideration if you are looking to enhance your production quality from entry-entry-level gear.
• XLR Connections are a bit tight on both, making it tricky is plug in securely and unplug cables.
• The SP150SMK lacks on-board attenuation and high pass filter switches that can be found on similarly price microphones.