Sponsored by BSW. Voiceover, Broadcast Recording, Pro-Audio and New Media Gear is here…
A ‘do-it-all’ mic pre-amp and compressor/saturation unit in one small box. The Mike-e.
Our Studio1A broadcast chain continues to get the job done …just fine. In the midst of single and multi-band leveling, processing and a myriad of other broadcast tools, I knew that a more flexible a/b solution was needed for the voiceover business.
Yes – we can bypass final processing and lighten up on the vocal strips to get a smoother, more subtle sound required for VO. One problem in constantly adapting equipment back and forth is time and repeatability. This led to the idea of a completely separate chain, designed from the ground up for voice work.
The broadcast chain can now be finessed and [mostly] adjusted for our media feeds. A separate studio can also be used just for voice work, which requires a smoother and thankfully simpler approach.
As the studio gets burned-in and comes to life, I’ll share the progress. The first step is to dampen the room, so any room-tone added is an intentional effect. Being a gear guy, I gravitated to (what I think) is the heart of the studio – pre-amp and processing. As I checked out some of the classic compressors and new offerings, it was becoming very clear. There are a lot of choices. Vintage, new vintage or just new? And the budget. Good quality compressors are very pricey. A smooth clean mic pre-amp is a must have. Then, the compressor. Optical, with its unmistakeable character or FET for its own hybrid sound. Most all of these devices were designed for band and recording studio work. I paged through forums, looked at specs and watched YT demos for weeks. Unfortunately, every compressor I found was great at snare drums or acoustic guitar. Some really shined on lead vocals. How about voiceover guys and gals? Nothing. No demos; not a mention on gear forums.
Of course! I was looking in the wrong place! Let’s peruse voice talent forums for gear. Not so much.
So, the journey continued. Once I wiped away the clutter of all that research, I landed at a very logical solution. Empirical Labs is famous for their Distressor. For good reason, this little 1RU compressor is a chameleon of sound design. Simple, digitally controlled with analog bones. Presets for crucial settings using high quality sealed push buttons. The ability to sound mellow, new or vintage – smooth or gritty to the bone. The clincher – price. Compared to the competition, the Distressor is a true bargain.
Right beside the Distressor, lies a somewhat new entry from the same designer: the Mike-e. This box, in concept, looks amazingly like a vocal strip. Maybe it is?
The Mike-e is a 1 rack unit design with some Distressor technology. Simple push-button presets, repeatability and an extremely wide spectrum of sound. As well, the Mike-e has a built-in transformer-coupled microphone pre-amp that is amazingly quiet and has plenty of gain. This unit is very reasonably priced (considering the cost of a separate mic pre/comp) and goes the extra mile in performance. Don’t expect elegant styling – just pure performance and dedication to quality.
In this show, I mention another crucial component which is an EQ. Unlike the broadcast chain, a good EQ is indispensable in post and for voiceovers. More on the EQ to come.
None of this is set in stone. After all, it’s no secret that I like gear. The separation of studios and basic gear placement is just the beginning. For now, join me and lets listen to the unique Mike-e from Empirical Labs.
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Drop me a line with comments, thoughts and suggestions:
mark at newmediagear dot com