Microphones are a tricky thing with voiceover people. Some people swear by the $3,000 mic while others get just as much satisfaction with a $200 USB microphone.
It varies between every talent. What works for you may not sound good for them.
Enter the Virtual Mic System.
A Virtual Mic System, or 'VMS', is essentially one hardware mic that's connected to a software program that allows you to use different models and makes of microphones.
Don't like the Nuemann U87? Click here to try to the U47! Your voice too muddy on that U47? Click on the Sony $10,000 virtual mic in the software!
Of course none of this means a hill of beans if your studio space isn't acoustically right. But I digress.
Anyway, I was lucky enough to get a demo of the Townsend Labs Sphere VMS. Long story short, I was supposed to do a video review on my Youtube channel, 'Sound and Receive', but because of various reasons and health issues (goodbye Uvula!), I haven't been able to get the video done.
Here are my thoughts on these two VMS microphones. I get a little into tech stuff but nothing too 'nerdy.'
Thinking they were going to be beating down my door for the mic to be returned I saw that the Slate Digital ML-1V ('V' for vintage) was on sale for $700 (down from about $900). So, I jumped on it.
I figured I could get the Slate 'in the chain' and comfortable using it when the good folks at Townsend Labs said 'GIVE ME BACK MY MIC, SON!'
Here's the thing, though. The ML-1V (let's call it the 'Slate' from here on out, k?) wasn't that good.
The software was kind of cumbersome to use and, more importantly, it wasn't the best sounding.
Here's my problems with the Slate.
Here's what I DID like about the Slate...
..and that's it.
As for the Townsend Labs Sphere, I found myself constantly using it in auditions and even for the podcast I do with my wife. Did I book work while using the Sphere? Not really but I did get potential clients hitting me back about auditions I sent them.
I think the non-booking was mostly because I was (naively unaware) that I was sending audio in 96kbps bit rate which doesn't sound too good. But more likely, the reads I gave them (tone, inflection, pacing, whatever) PROBABLY weren't what they were looking for.
In fairness to the Slate, here are my problems and pluses with The Sphere, starting with the problems...
Here's what I DID like about the Sphere...
As far as the mics I've emulated with the Sphere, I've used the '47' the '251', the '12' , the '87' and the '416.'
I found that the 251 is what I sound best on with the Sphere. I hear more resonance on my voice with this mic. The '87' has a clean mid-range boost that suits my voice for audiobooks. I've only KINDA used the 416 mic because I have the real thing in the studio. Based on my non-scientific comparisons, the Sphere gets close to the classic 416 sound but doesn't quite nail it. I'll do a quick shootout between an actual Sennheiser 416 and the Sphere 416 hopefully soon.
It just dawned on me that I didn't list any of the emulated mics that I tried on the Slate. I think that's telling because nothing really stood out. I THINK the 251 on the Slate was fine but, honestly, between having to plug in my iLok and the ploddy application of the software, it didn't really invite me in to WANT to mess around with it.
To wrap up, I mostly use my actual 416 but the Townsend Labs Sphere is a fantastic microphone to have on hand.
It's my go-to for doing audiobooks and anything else that I need a natural and not-in-your-face type of read. It's build quality is pretty solid and even the mic itself WITHOUT the emulation on sounds pretty good.
I wanted the Slate to work but I'd honestly pay the extra $400 for the Townsend Labs Sphere. Luckily I have that covered (and then some) from the sale of the Slate.
Thanks to Erik Papp from Townsend Labs for sending me the demo unit. Look for some examples up here soon.
*'nickel beast'= worst Nickelback cover band ever.
I am a voiceover artist with over 10 years professional experience doing voicework for local and national clients for radio and TV commercials, video games, web videos, phone systems and more.
I can do 'record and send' via email and FTP or live recordings via ISDN, Source Connect, ipDTL and more. I can usually turn around a project for you within a couple hours or quicker if need be. And I typically WON'T charge more for quick turnarounds as I believe my ability to record not only at my high-end home studio but at my work (radio station) as well.
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