As a preface, I'd like to mention that my starter condenser was a GXL2200. It's made in China and sells for under $100. It was, compared to every other microphone in its price and class, a considerably smart buy on my end. For anyone seeking the bottom end microphone because their wallet is exceptionally limited, this would be my strongest suggestion for you. An older version is likely to be a better choice, as a lot of the newer versions have been said to have quality control issues.
CAD Audio (Conneaut Audio Devices) was once a company called Astatic, formed in the 1930s. There has been considerable changes over the course of almost 100 years, but the company remains an underdog in a saturated market dominated by hype, word of mouth rumors, and hugely renowned giants (Neumann, anyone?).
Recently, they've resumed American production of their higher-end models, while the lower end mics that are far more renowned are still manufactured in China. Through the 90's, the original e100 was a prominent microphone, but differs greatly from the newer model I'm about to prattle on about.
Polar Pattern and Noise Floor
I can't stress enough how serious an issue polar pattern happens to be, especially in ill-treated (or untreated) rooms when recording. A cardioid mic is the most common pattern, and tends to pick up a considerable amount of room ambience in the process. If you're working in a prestigious studio, isolation is going to be able to stifle this well enough it won't make a huge difference in sound. The more budget concerned hobbyist, however, may very likely find this to be an unattractive pattern, and the omnidirectional mics not any better.
There are tighter patterns with the cardioid shape: super and hyper. Hyper is the type of pattern that rejects most everything off-axis, and super does the same thing to a lesser extent. Supercardioid is, in my opinion, the more ideal of the two, giving "the best of both worlds" effect a run for its money. Since I use a variety of acoustic folk instruments in my music, too tight a pattern can mean standing/sitting with extreme rigidity in order to not have the effect of moving away from the microphone happen. A tighter pattern also makes recording traditional pianos extremely difficult, as the width of the instrument impedes the recording through these mics.
The e100s works well enough for how little an area of influence it has. Like any mic, cranking gain up can increase the area, but introduce a lot of noise in the process that will probably be detrimental to the recording: enter low self noise. This mic boasts the lowest self noise in its class, and quite a few mics of higher sale value as well. The e100s advertises a 3.7 db self noise, and in comparison the aforementioned GXL2200 has a 14 db noise level. This is a huge difference, as 3.7 db is largely unnoticeable in a mix and 14 db stands out like a sore thumb. Noise removers can damper the overall quality of sound in any recording, and I've been wanting for a long time to completely remove them from my process.
I found this difficult with most mics I was using, particularly cheaper condensers. Dynamic mics, while tending to be quieter, do not offer the crisp and pristine replication of natural sound in the way condensers do, albeit the Shure SM7B is famous and popular for being a dynamic microphone rivaling its condenser competition.
Hardware and Design
Ever have that subconscious fear of your microphone stands toppling over while your mic is still attached? Maybe I'm the only one, but I've had enough close calls to realize that a clumsy oaf like me should be buying microphones that are built like tanks. Condensers are often thought of as fragile (though that's really not the case any more, older ribbon mics gave them this reputation), and the e100s is not.
I'd never throw a mic at the floor or wall to find out, though my days working in a music store had plenty of moments where manufacturer representatives would do just that. I'd however be less concerned for the e100s if it happened to tale a blow to the head, it's very solid and holding it simply feels like quality. There's no cheap plastic here, and while not at all lightweight, it isn't really a brick, either.
The mic boasts 4 FETs and the wiring is impeccable. The capsule is large diaphragm, made of nickel, and modeled closely to the capsules of microphones from the 1960s. There's a high pass filter and a -10 db pad, neither of which I find myself using, but useful for some people's applications.
It's not really much to look at, it's neither extremely sleek or modern, but I personally like the flat and squared appearance. This is definitely more utilitarian than it is a decoration, and for a microphone's effectiveness, that's a very good focus.
Against mics like the AKG 414 or Neumann TLM103, the e100s holds up. It brings a unique character that is often desired for voice over, but I've found it perfectly capable on my male singing voice and various instruments. It seems to do really well with my 12 string guitar, various woodwinds (sax is really accentuated well), and hand drums. The bottom end isn't as muddy as I've found mics in this price range to be, and response is rather flat, which I tend to prefer. There's a slight bump in the 6khz range up to 10khz, but it hasn't been detrimental to my somewhat sibilant voice (I do not use a de-esser).
The real attraction to this mic, and what often confuses users like me who have had more experience with low-end cheapery, is the lack of noise that tyhis mic both creates and picks up. It's not the best quality sound when A/B'd against the big dogs like the Neumann u87, but at under $500 you really won't find anything that really delivers to the extent this microphone can, and does, regularly for its owners.