Mike-e

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A ‘do-it-all’ mic pre-amp and compressor/saturation unit in one small box. The Mike-e.

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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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Presonus FireStudio Project

Sponsored by BSW. Voiceover, Broadcast Recording, Pro-Audio and New Media Gear is here…



Simple, Pro and Elegant. The Presonus FireStudio Project.

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You have pro audio gear – maybe a lot of it. Getting that signal to your DAW (Desktop Audio Workstation) is a critical piece of the equation.

From the start of PodSqod, into NewMediaGear and beyond …Studio1A relies on Presonus as our audio pipeline. As our fleet of aging, but ever vigilant Presonus FirePods and FP10s (discontinued models) needed to be replaced, I first turned to the FireStudio series. Specifically, I found the FireStudio Project to be our solution.

Pro all the way, the FireStudio Project boasts 10 inputs – eight of them utilize the excellent XMAX Class A preamps. With a standard 6-pin FireWire (IEEE 1394) connection and 1 rack unit of space, you are ready to load up the drivers and Universal Control software, allowing ‘soft’ mixes and control of the device. Presonus offers their own multi-track editor – a good one called Studio One Artist. There is an upgrade path to Studio One Pro. On an upcoming show, we’ll talk with Presonus about this new software, which is turning heads (in a good way). For me, it’s all about reliability and quality. Presonus fits this criteria while maintaining a very reasonable price tag.

The latest show was recorded right through our FireStudio. If you are thinking about upgrading your FireBox, FirePod or FP10, Presonus is still the way to go – at least for Studio1A.

Our sound for this cast is a little different as I continue to change and adjust microphones and processing. This particular show was recorded with a Sennheiser MKH416 and a lot of compression. We’ll be making adjustments as we go.

Also – we’re adding a completely new voiceover chain to free up broadcast and post production studios for a single use. More to come!

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Shure Notes

Sponsored by BSW. Voiceover, Broadcast Recording, Pro-Audio and New Media Gear is here…



I am very pleased to be included in this edition of Shure Notes. Sign on to their mailing list for great tips from an audio legend!

The Shure logo, above layout and Shure Notes are registered trademarks, and property of Shure Incorporated.

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