sE Electronics Story
sE Electronics was founded in March 2000 by Siwei Zou, a very talented classical musician from Shanghai, who won a top position at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and went on to become a hugely successful conductor and composer. He has also worked closely with the Shanghai Opera and the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra for several decades.
In 2002, James Ishmaev-Young and Phil Smith became equal partners in the still very young company, and the combined technical expertise, market knowledge, and commitment to absolute perfection and detail, quickly established the new sE team as one of the brightest lights in the pro audio industry. Less than a year after James and Phil took co-ownership of sE, the company moved on from its OEM roots and never looked back. Along with their great friend and business partner Mitch Carey, who tragically died in 2010 aged only 43 years, this team of 4 people made sE what it is today after our first 10 years in business. Our greatest happiness is that Mitch got to see what we had built together, our ‘baby’, achieve international recognition as one the world’s leading manufacturers of old-school, hand crafted mics; something of which he was incredibly proud... and so are we.
Siwei designed his first range of microphones in 2000; originally built by OEM companies Shanghai Feilo and Fon Le (OEM companies are ones which build products for lots of different brands). Like most companies, sE started making mics this way because we started with some great mic designs, but no money to buy our own manufacturing plant. We moved away from mainstream OEM, however, extremely quickly, so that by early 2003, less than 3 years after we started the brand from a small office in the USA and a garage in the UK, we moved into our own facility and cut our ties to OEM production.
Most brands take decades to make this kind of move, if ever, and in fact the vast majority of mic brands on the market today either still mainly use OEM production for their entire range, or big parts of it.
Every sE product is designed and built in-house, by us, in our own facility, and we do not make products for any other mic brands, period. Every single mic has a hand crafted capsule which we build at our own facility.
Our goal and aspiration as a company is to be the next Neumann. Now, there’s mic’ company with a great brand and history.
We do not, and have never wanted to be, yet another mass-automated producer... soul-less and characterless, machine-made, capsules can never get you the refinement and depth that a purely hand crafted capsule can. Take a look at any of the very best products in the world and the same is invariably true.
My personal belief has always been that to make sE the next Neumann, rather than just another mass automated brand using machines instead of skilled engineers to build mics, then we had to do things the way a company like Neumann or Gefell would.
So, we set about creating a facility based on highly skilled people. Real engineers and craftsmen, building products the way they should be built. Mass OEM production could never hope to achieve this quality since it is based largely on unskilled labour and there is too much variation in the final product. The problem with Mass Automation is that it has no finesse. A great analogy is that of musical instruments... if you want to take pot luck on buying a guitar, buy an OEM one. If you want a decent, consistent, but cheap guitar, by a mass automated produced one. If you want the best... buy one that’s hand crafted. We all know that and yet some unscrupulous brands at the low-end of the hi-tech market would still have you believe that mics are somehow different. They are not... because mics are not simply mass produced parts and electronics. The heart of a mic is its capsule; a living breathing thing which is as much a musical instrument as a guitar or piano. It’s also your first route into any recording system, and therefore arguably the most important part of your entire recording chain. Neumann U87, Microtech Gefell M900, AKG’s C12 mic... these mics are still built by hand, and they are some of the finest you can buy. So ask yourself, when a mass automated brand starts telling the world that their way is somehow better than buying products hand-crafted by highly skilled engineers, what are they trying to say exactly?!
All sE mic capsules are entirely built by hand by highly-skilled engineers. Even the chassis and flight cases are built in-house. In fact when you own an sE Electronics microphone you can be confident that every aspect of both the mic and its accessories has had the same unrivalled level of care and passion right throughout its design and manufacture. Even to the level that every single microphone that leaves the facility has undergone a personal listening test — and it shows.
sE Electronics condenser mics are already the No.1 brand in the UK and the fastest growing microphone brand in Europe and the USA. The brand, in its short history, has already won almost every major European award possible for excellence and is fast finding the same unanimous acclaim and passionate following in the USA and Asia that it has in Europe.
We are also so confident you’ll be able to really hear the difference, that we offer a completely free loan service for all of their (our) products in most territories. And because we build our products so well, we offer the best warranty for any mic brand in the world... our 3 year ‘Zero Downtime’ free replacement warranty on all sE mics and Reflexion Filter products, and a 20 year manufacturing defect warranty on top of that!
So in a nutshell... we at sE are absolutely committed to always bringing you hand-crafted quality, from our own highly skilled workforce. We always use the best materials, the highest production standards and bring products to market which cost us several times more to make than the mass automated brands, but at the same prices to consumers. How? We rely on the quality of our products and word of mouth instead of big margins and big marketing budgets to promote how good our mics are. We rely on our users to tell the world what we do, so we can bring the best possible build and performance to other artists, engineers and producers.
It’s all about the mics — not the marketing.