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If you are recording any type of audio sounds to your productions from vocals to acoustic guitars, hand percussion & more then you need a microphone & the amount of choice today is staggering...
We're going to get a bit 'history-class' on you here, but it's very interesting to see how the collapse of the Soviet Union & European Eastern block combined with China's Communist Party reforms - all of which happened at the beginning of the 1990's - started the revolution that changed the price of microphones we can all buy today... yeah I know... bare with me ok, this is some deep sh*t brah!
If you went back to Ye Olden Days of 1980-1990 and you bought a microphone it'd usually be from either of the American companies Shure or ElectroVoice, the Japanese company Audio-Technica.. or... Ze Germans, who had dominated quality microphone production since the 1940's via the companies Neumann, Telefunken, AKG, Sennheiser & Beyerdynamic. In the 1980's up to the start of the 1990's your typical budget backstreet & home studio would be using a lot of old Shure Unidyne's, SM57's & SM58's & other dynamic mic's such as the AKG D12 (for kick drums & bass) or maybe the D202 & D190 for drums & other miking duties, along with the usual suspects like the Sennheiser MD421 etc if they had a bit more money to spend. The real issue back then for the budget studio was affording a high-quality main vocal mic & high-end pencil type condensers with the usual 'industry-standard' German models used in the pro-end bigger studios costing huge amounts of money.
But things radically changed as we entered the 1990s. One of the first encroachments into the usual German, Japanese & American marketplace dominance occurred with the fall of the The Soviet Union & the Eastern block states which collapsed over a period from 1991 to 1993. The following year in 1994 Oktava mic's started to appear on the western market... the story basically goes like this:
In the final years of the Soviet Union under the 12th & 13th State 'Plans', manufacturing continued regardless of whether products had any sales. Communist Russia was imploding but carried on as if nothing was happening because nobody knew how to end it all (this is explained in some detail in Adam Curtis's excellent film 'Bitter Lake' - available to watch free on Youtube). The upshot of this was that when the Soviet State finally collapsed there were masses of un-sold surplus products sitting in Russian warehouses, including microphones which had been continuously manufactured for State Broadcasting facilities over the final Communist Party years despite the fact they never got used.
These Oktava mic's were marketed into Europe starting in 1994 with the large diaphragm MK219 condenser mic & it immediately found favour for having a high quality sound at a measly £250 quid price point. It was rumoured that the MK219 used copies of German capsules designed by George Neumann. To understand that potential connection it is important to know that during WW2 George Neumann moved his factory to Gefell in what later became East Germany after the war. This factory/Company was called Microtech Gefell. It was therefore possible that the Communists - having control of the Gefell company after annexing East Germany - shared designs across the wider Soviet block (and with Communist China). Neumann's Microtech Gefell factory produced the M7 capsule used in the famous U47 made by Neumann & Telefunken, and with the Eastern block now collapsed Microtech Gefell also started to offer high quality condenser mic's into the western market at the same time... isn't history wonderful?
Oktava & Gefell mic's sold well, offering VERY good sound quality at a seriously competitive price, and this set the market expectations so that very soon AKG were offering their cut-price C3000 & even Neumann joined the party with lower priced (for them) offerings like the TLM193.
The next step in cheap mic's was via China. China had been going through various stages of 'reform' over the previous 25 years. Chairman Mao died in 1976 & Deng Xiaoping took over as leader, ushering in new reforms starting in 1978 which culminated in the 1991 policy of "reform and opening", that is, reform of the economic system and opening to foreign trade.
Smaller companies started appearing offering low-cost but quality microphones usually sourced in China and then imported & sometimes modified to create some serious cost competition for the old legacy companies. One of the first of these was Australian company Røde who brought their NT-2 to market around 1995 soon followed by the NT-1, both mic's soon established themselves as budget high-quality products, with Røde eventually shifting to manufacture most of the components in Australia but their mic's still used Chinese parts to some extent.
As we marched through the 1990's & into the early 2000's the Chinese revolution started to seriously take off with a wide range of Chinese-made mic's appearing all over western markets derived from companies like the 797 Microphone Company or Feilo.
It should also be noted there's a further Communist connection here, in that the 797 Microphone Company started back in 1953 as a State manufacturer used designs & technology shared with the Chinese State by the East German communists... who remember had 'acquired' certain 'German' microphone technologies after annexing East Germany.
The Chinese factories turned out visual clones of all the famous American, Japanese & German mic's, but with inferior components & electronics. Western companies however could specify different components for their OEM models or simply buy off-the-shelf with their own brand-name simply added to the product. The die was cast & soon all the lower-cost models from the big legacy companies were being manufactured in China too. The upshot of all this was that good quality microphones, particularly large diaphragm vocal condenser mic's finally became affordable for the masses in their home studio setups.