Gear reviews

CharterOak – SA538 / SA538b LDC microphone




lly speaking

The Cha

rterOak SA538 is an affordable, high quality alternative to other condenser microphones in its class. Its sonic integrity, extreme durability, overall design simplicity, and serviceability make it an attractive option to any of the condenser microphones of its type currently available. The CharterOak SA538 is a dual diaphragm vacuum tube condenser microphone. Nine (9) pick up patterns are switchable. It is de

livered in a locking flight case, power supply, shock mount, and appropriate cables.

The CharterOak SA538 (and his brother B) are tube mics. They are made in Connecticut USA from parts all over the world. To be cost-savy they use some parts from Asia, but final construction, testing and the whole development

process happen in their factory. They are handmade (soldering, final machining) and use USA made transformers (the logo is laser engraved, so no cheesy prints).

The microphone ships with a spider (OEM Asian spider found also in the Peluso, GrooveTubes micrphones), cabling (Neutrik connectors, Gotham cables), PSU (OEM Asia) and a case. They use a JJ tube (83) and a Cinemag output transformer.

Problems & Technicalities

Not much troubles and hazzle with this mic. Hook it up, let it warm up for 10 minutes and then go and have fun. It’s pretty easy. One thing: because it’s a tubemic the cable run from the mic to the PSU is a 7 pin cable, means you are kind of limited if you want to use them 5 meters above the drumkit (LOL) but you can have them custom made by CharterOak according to your specs.


I am a SA538 guy. The SA538 has different bumps in the highend then the SA538B. The B even sound more modern, due to it frequency-response. Usually it was too much topend for me (except one girl, which sounded extremly well trough the SA538B, check Caladmor – midwinter).

The sound is wonderful on vocals. CharterOak really got it right. Both the 538 and the 538B work extremly well on male and female vocals. They have a modern approach, means the sss are really cutting trough, it has a lot of air (not to be confused with Chinese sizzling) and a nice bottom end not hyped at all.

Like I explain in all my gear reviews is, that not every piece of gear fits every instrument/vocalist/production. With the CharterOak I had one female singer who had too much air already in her voice. The second mis-conception was a male singer with a very earthy voice who didn’t translate well trough that mic. Except that, it worked (and works) on most singers.

What didn’t work was using them on cookiemonster voices (Screamo, grunting). The sound divides into lowend and top-end with not enough midrange. That is common with a lot of LDC on those type of vocals. I use dynamic mics anyway on most of those screamers. That’s not a mic problem, it seems more sort of a LDC-donotfit-cookiemonsters-voices problem.

I used the SA538 also outside the kickdrum with great results. The kick gets big but not messy. Lovely.

I tried a stereopair as drum overheads but didn’t like that. Too much detail, the bottomend was too rich. Well, again, it might have been the drumtuning, acoustics.. not sure. But I was not a big fan using them as overheads.


It doesn’t matter wheater you are a hiphop guy recording your vocals, a rock-voice or even using them for inyourface-RnB vocals: the mic delivers. You can read several other reviews about that mic which contain a lot of praise and I am one of them. If you need an allrounder use the SA538, if you really want an outstanding mic (regarding the topend), use the SA538B.

You can’t get wrong at a pricepoint of about 1000US$.

Additional info
TapeOP Review

Acoustical Operating Principle Pressure Gradient
Diaphragm Dual 1.07″ 6 micron thick gold sputtered Mylar
Frequency Response 30Hz-20kHz
Sensitivity 12mV/Pa 0dB=1V/Pa@1kHz
Polar Pattern Cardioid, Omni, Figure-8, and intermediate stages selectable from power supply
Impedance < 200 Ohms
Recommended Load > 200 Ohms
Equivalent Input Noise 22dB A weighted IEC651
Maximum Sound Pressure Level 128dB for 0.5% total harmonic distortion @ 1kHz
Power Requirements Custom supply 115V or 230V operation with IEC type 2 AC Cable
Connection between
Mic & Power Supply
7 pin XLR

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