The sE Story

After studying Western Composition at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and moving on to become a successful conductor, composer, and bassoon player, Mr. Siwei Zou was invited to California State University as a visiting scholar in their music department.

A logo from the early days.

A logo from the early days.

During his first years in San Francisco, his contacts in Shanghai would send him newly-developed microphones with which to record. Though he was impressed with the performance of these models, he was unhappy with their machining and design, and began suggesting changes. At this point, sE began to take shape as a business.

In the company's infancy, all sE microphones were produced by the same large-scale manufacturing facilities that still produce mics for dozens of brands known around the world. However, Siwei felt the need for a higher standard of quality and artistic control over his mics, and in 2003, with the help of a new business development team from the UK, the company opened its very own production facility in Shanghai.

 

Since 2008, the sE factory has been run by Siwei's daughter, who presides over the day-to-day operations of the company and all of its 80 employees, including their team of 12 skilled staff engineers. And unlike the more typical large-scale facility from which sE was born, the company doesn't make anything for anyone else at all.

Additionally, sE has the distinction of being the world's only microphone manufacturer to collaborate with Mr. Rupert Neve - arguably the most famous name in the history of recording equipment.

Today, sE Electronics is made up of specialized design, engineering and production teams, and has a global sales and marketing team across Europe and the USA.

 
 
sE is still family-owned and operated, and takes great pride in every single piece of equipment that leaves the building.
 
 

The world's finest musical instruments are built by hand, and so are these mics. Why?

A microphone is the first - and most important - part of your signal path.

The X1's hand-built capsule is the heart of the mic.

No matter what you're recording, your microphone is capturing the movement of air. Tiny fluctuations in air density set the capsule's diaphragm in motion, creating the tiniest of electrical impulses, which are amplified by the microphone and sent down an XLR cable to your preamplifier - but it all starts with the capsule's diaphragm.

The capsule of the sE5 small-diaphragm condenser.

In short, a microphone's capsule is about as delicate an instrument as you can find.

 

This simple fact is why at sE, all the condenser capsules and ribbons are designed in-house, and constructed & tuned by hand by the highly skilled technicians in our capsule rooms.

Building and tuning a capsule is a subtle, artistic process, and given the scale of the vibrations which they must perceive, this is the most vital element of the mic.

Whether your sE mic costs $2,000 or $200, we're hand-building it for you.

 

From chassis to shock mount, the assembly of each piece of equipment is given the same care and attention to detail, and each and every mic is tested in our very own anechoic chamber and by the highly-trained ears of our final testers.

We use the best materials available, we have an amazing team of engineers and technicians, and our products cost us much more to make than the mics that come out of mass-automated factories - yet our microphones still cost you the same (or less) than many others on the market.

 

...so how do we do it?

 

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Microphones, not marketing.

Wouldn't you rather the money you spend on a mic go into the components inside that mic, not the ad that convinced you to buy it?

 

We put our money where our mics are.

Simple, right?

It's not that we don't spend any money on advertising. We just spend less than others do, and that lets us put more money into our mics. It really is that simple.

With all our design, engineering, and nearly 100% of our manufacturing taking place in our very own factory, we are able to offer products of extremely high quality at a very affordable cost.

 

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Equal parts art + engineering.

Test-bench measurements are important, but they aren't everything. Great design makes for truly great equipment.

At sE, we believe in the power of great design. Our engineers don't just want to capture exceptional performances - they want our gear to look as beautiful and unique as it sounds, and we understand that these two things are often linked.

This is why we treat the mechanical design of our products with as much respect as their sonic qualities, and we aren't afraid to defy convention in order to make a better piece of equipment.

 

Why can't a $199 microphone have a hand-crafted capsule?

 

Why should a ribbon mic be dull beyond 15kHz?

 

Why do you have to hear your room in a recording?

 

By asking questions like these, we push the boundaries of what a piece of recording equipment can accomplish.

By devoting more of our resources to quality components - and less of them to advertising - we take huge steps to increase the value of our gear.

By hand-crafting our condenser capsules and ribbon elements with care and dedication, we seek to eradicate the line between "affordable" and "professional".

 

That is the sE story.

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