TMV World Team

  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by TMV World Team

  1. The Aussies Gave Us The Rode M1: Was It Worth While? Somebody told me once that Australia is like the United States minus about 10 years of progress. I didn't exactly get the point but I would have to disagree. The Aussies have given us things such as the Electric Drill as well as the modern WiFi standard ( Wireless LAN IEEE 802.11 ) used in just about every connected device out there from Laptops to e-Readers. They are also home to Rode Microphones.{C} A Brief History Of How The Rode M1 Came About Rode got its start in the late 1960's when two Swedes, Henry and Astrid Freedman, emigrated to Australia and opened a small pro audio shop according to the RODE website. They spent the next 20 years honing their craft and finally, in 1990, Rode Microphones was born with the release of the RODE NT1 studio mic. The NT1 was unique in that it was one of the first studio quality mic's introduced that was actually within reach of the project studio budget - a completely new market that was just coming into its own in the early 90's with the introduction of the DAW. Over the next 20 years they would continue to build on the original concept of the most microphone for the dollar in the studio. More recently however Rode has expanded into the live audio market with the RODE M1. Rode M1: Look And Feel Order from The Vocal Gear Store Click HERE I had to snicker a bit at the rather innovative packaging [ read: a CAN! ] the Rode M1 comes in. In typical Seattle fashion I initially thought to myself, "Well, this can be recycled right!?" Rode deserves points for originality and its nice to have another potential safe option for transport besides the standard soft case. Outside of said can-in-lieu-of-box the usual suspects of mic, clip, spec sheet, soft case can be found inside. The mic clip actually looks extra beefy compared to most. Extra bonus: If you register your mic on the 1 year warranty magically extends to a LIFETIME warranty! The M1 itself won't actually stop traffic with its looks but certainly won't send everyone packing. Just don't expect anyone to say "Hey dude! What kind of mic is that!?" Elegantly Understated is the operative phrase here. The dark satin gray finish looks classy and aside from the small Rode M1 lettering near the gold-plated XLR connection there are no other graphics. The gold dot near the pop screen is a nice throwback to Rode's start in capacitor mics but considering the M1 is a cardiod dynamic this is clearly decorative here. Rode M1: Useability In hand the Rode M1 feels solid and substantial at 360 grams. Comparatively speaking, the Shure Beta 58a weights in at 278g and the recently reviewed EV N/D767a is a relative flyweight at 260g. Despite the aforementioned porkiness, the Rode is fairly short at 171mm which combined with a relatively fat tapered body feels nicely balanced and comfortable. While the integral grill/pop filter feels pretty stout I would be a bit leary to see what happens the first time this mic gets dropped on its head. Rode M1: Specs As stated earlier, the Rode M1 is a dynamic mic and sports a cardiod pickup pattern. Rode advertises the frequency range as 75Hz - 18,000Hz which looking at the frequency graph seems about right. After a slight rise around 150-200Hz to probably add a touch of warmth theres a gradual rolloff from 150Hz down. Response upward from there is fairly flat with the exception of a broad bump of approximately +6db around 7-8000Hz which could lend itself towards a little air or sparkle to the vocals. Rode states it's sensitivity as -56dB ±2dB re 1V/Pa (1.6mV @ 94 dB SPL) @ 1kHz which is more or less inline with the Shure SM58 (1.85mV @ 94 dB SPL) and the Audix OM5 (1.8mV @ 94 dB SPL) with the outlier being the considerably more sensitive EV N/D767a at 3.1mV @ 94 dB SPL. Rode M1: Test For the sound test, I was fortunate enough to have a number of mic's at my disposal including the Audix OM5, Shure SM58, Shure Beta 87a, and of course, my trusty EV N/D767a - all dynamics with the exception of the Beta 87a. I came prepared with the instrumentals for a new track I'm working on and proceeded to work through the song with each of the mics starting with the Rode M1. Upon powering up the Rode M1 I noted that handling noise is quite low. Short of swinging the mic around wildly by its cable in raucous fashion, it definitely does just as good as its competition. Likewise, feedback with the cardiod pickup patte rn is also very well controlled. With the mains up at significantly high levels I had to get dangerously close to the PA speakers before feedback started rearing its ugly head. Plosives were also well controlled with thanks to fairly thick foam contained within the grill. Rode M1: Comparison If I had to make a comparison sound-wise I would call the Rode M1 the illegitimate love child of a SM58 and Beta87A.The Rode exhibits some of the warmness of the SM58 minus the muddiness but seems to share more of the natural flat frequency response sound of the Beta87A. As a result it almost sounds more akin to a condenser mic than a dynamic. The Rode M1 exhibits a nice but not overly pronounced airiness to vocals on the upper end and generally gives the vocals a clarity that is very studio-like in nature. When using both the OM5 and N/D767a I noticed just how much more presence both microphones had over the Rode. My voice sounded not only more full but while singing through some more challenging passages with some sustained belts hovering around high A/B I was actually able to use about 15-20% less effort vocally. Again with both the EV and OM5 the harmonics naturally present in my voice seemed to be better showcased than with the Rode. WRAP UP With the Rode M1, Rode has brought what amounts to a very solid addition into the already somewhat crowded live microphone arena. Their years of experience building top-notch yet within reach studio microphones has led them to create a live vocal mic that not only approaches condenser studio-like quality in sound but is built to withstand ridiculous amounts of abuse. I have a feeling a lot of these will be going strong well after the grill has crusted over with nasty green growth and the 10-year warranty expires. Your mileage may vary but at the end of the day my only gripe is that its natural sounding dynamics may not give your vocals as much cut through a live mix as you might want. On the flip side if you naturally have a bigger sounding voice and an Audix or EV borderlines on honky then th is may very well be an excellent option. Regardless, at $99 USD the Rode M1 is a hellava lot of microphone for the money and if you happen to be in the market for a new premium live mic then this one is certainly worth a look. Rode Microphones - Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  2. Is The Allen & Heath ZED-22FX Mixing Desk For You? Hello, everyone! My name is Sebastian Zuendorf (yes, even hard to pronounce in English for myself) and I'm both a sound engineer and singer. In the future, I will review some vocal-related products like microphones, mixers, effects processors and other equipment like that and show you what it can do for you. For now, I will tell you something about the Allen&Heath ZED-22FX small format mixing desk. And as this unit is fully dedicated to audio, it will be an audio review. Allen & Heath ZED-22FX Mixing Desk: Test Ok, let's get started with the overview in which I will tell you about the main features: Part 1: ZED-22FX Overview I hope you enjoy listening to these little samples from a very fine small format mixing desk. Made in China but engineered in the UK, it sounds quite good to my ears, is easy to operate and will last for years due to it's sturdy construction. You will find more information at the Allen&Heath Homepage. As always, I have to say I'm not a native speaker so please bear with me :-) Corrections and comments are very welcome! Review by Sebastian Zuendorf *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  3. Electro-Harmonix Vocoder: Dedicated To Voice At Last? "Don't they make guitar pedals?!," I thought to myself when I first got word of a new Electro-Harmonix Vocoder box coming home to roost in the The Modern Vocalist Journal test barn. While over the years a lot of EH pedals have likely been used for vocal effects in the name of experimentation it has only been within the last couple years that Electro-Harmonix have begun to develop a dedicated line of vocal effects processors including the v256 Vocoder, the Iron Lung, and Voice Box vocal synth processor. I say dedicated in that all 3 of these processors come with a built in mic pre-amp with XLR connections meaning you can actually plug a mic directly in without the necessity of an external mixer or separate pre-amp. Electro-Harmonix: Company History Electro-Harmonix got its start in the late 1960's when an R&B keyboard player named Mike Matthews had fi nally had enough of his salesman job at IBM and decided to focus on his music. Unfortunately the income stream as a musician wasn't going to cut the proverbial mustard to support both him and his wife so he set about working with an audio repair friend of his to manufacture and market a guitar fuzz pedal. At about the same time the demand for effects pedals was starting to pick up due to some cutting edge sounds featured on the latest albums by a few notable artists including Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. After some success distributing the pedal through a deal with the Guild Guitar Company, Matthews officially began developing and marketing new effects pedals including the Linear Power Booster and Big Muff under the name Electro-Harmonix. Over the next 20 years he would continue to primarily focus on the stomp box effects model until the mid 1980's when Electro-Harmonix changed directions to primary produce vacuum tubes. This would continue until the mid 90's when demand and prices for the vintage EH effect boxes started to increase on the secondary market at which time a decision was made to start manufacturing reissue versions of the original effects pedals. They were so well received that in 2002 Electro-Harmonix decided to expand on the original lineup which in 2009 included the creation of the v256 Vocoder. The Electro-Harmonix v256 Design And Durability: ANALOGUE? NO! OLD-SCHOOL? YES! The v256 Vocoder comes out of the box looking very much like the vintage 70's EH line complete with naked die-cast case and retro orange decals. This is by design as EH specs their new gear to look like the old-school versions right down to the switchgear. It's actually a refreshing departure from the typically menu-driven feature packed vocal effects boxes currently on the market. You won't find any LCD screens here. In it's place is a clean well-marked layout with simple LED mode lights, sturdy foot switches, micro-toggle switches and smooth rotary knobs. Don't be fooled into thinking this puppy is all analogue however. Removing the 4 screws holding the back plate on reveals a modern micro-processor controlled device. That being said on the input side of things you will find balanced XLR mic input with a high/low mic gain mode as well as phantom power for condenser mics as well as instrument control input and midi control in. Output includes a dry instrument out and balanced wet effects XLR out. Overall I have only two relatively small issues with the design. First is a +9v mini-power connector located in the rear which is affixed directly to the circuit board without any chassis reinforcement. While this is perfectly acceptable and not uncommon, it does raise some concern about long term durability. Considering most of the other connections and controls are chassis mounted it would have been nice to see one of the most used connection points also have more robust mounting. Secondly it would have been nice to see the 5 control knobs at the top of the device actually line up to their respective 12 0'clock positions in relation to the centered detents. Electro-Harmonix v256: Features And Modes Order Electro-Harmonix V256 Vocoder with Reflex-Tune from The Vocal Gear Store Click HERE The Electro-Harmonix v256 comes out o f the box with a total of 7 different modes: Robo-vocoder mode, single, major, and minor drone modes as well as transposition, instrument control and reflex-tune. Each mode can then be custom tailored via the blend, bands, tones, gender bender, and pitch controls. As you dial these into your liking you can set each custom setting to one of the respective 9 available presets. As a rock guy I don't tend to venture too deep into the vocal effects category aside from the usual delay/reverb. Instead I prefer to focus on delivering a solid vocal performance and don't necessarily want to concern myself with switching effects. So when I first fired up the v256 the only thing going through my head was how to potentially find a way to incorporate this into my material. My test of the v256 used a Rode NTK tube condenser mic to the vocoder and then routed through a TC Helicon Voice Live for a bit of delay/reverb to an otherwise dry mix. Starting at the top with the Robo-Vox mode after about 30 seconds of tweaking I was instantly reminded of the song Mr. Roboto off the 1983 Styx album Kilroy was Here. The next few modes consist of drone single note modes. With tweaks you can pretty much get as crazy and cartoonish as you want but in keeping with the theme of fitting these into my own material I focused primarily on the drone modes. With a little experimentation by primarily dialing down the blend and the gender bender controls in single drone mode, I was able to get some nice subtle undertone notes that gave the vocals a little extra kick on some simpler melody lines. Then bringing the gender bender back up to the 12 o'clock position the vocals took on a slick "doubled" effect. The other mode I found myself focusing more on was the minor drone mode. I took a song of mine with minor tonality feel and by adjusting the pitch and bands controls I was able to emulate a fairly convincing minor harmony tonality for a particular vocal line. Overall the real beauty of the v256 lies in it's simplicity of actually providing direct controls instead of menu's. This leads to worrying less about whether the mix is set at 38.5% or whatever and instead more on what it sounds like. That's not to say that you wouldn't necessarily want that type of finite control but sometimes the details and menu's can get in the way of creativity. I didn't spend as much time with the last 3 modes however they could certainly prove useful. Transposition does pretty much as you would think. The pitch control knob will directly transpose the note sung up to +/-1 octave. Here's your Barry White or Alvin and the Chipmunks sound. Instrument control enables an instrument to control the pitch with the amount of control being tweakable via the Pitch knob. Finally, Reflex-tune has the capability of giving you that T-Pain sound but should you turn the Pitch knob fully counter-clockwise will also act as plain pitch correction. After a few quick adjustments, I managed to g et some very natural smooth sounding basic pitch correction that in my opinion sounded every bit as good as some of the more fully-featured vocal boxes. WRAP UP: ORANGE BOX OF WONDERS Don't get me wrong. The v256 is not going to take the place of the primary effects box in your signal chain. It's something that must be used tastefully. However for something just calling itself a vocoder the EH v256 packs a lot in there. From wild Robo sounds to fairly realistic harmonies to simple pitch correction this device will find a use in just about any genre. The lack of menu driven architecture that is commonplace on the vast majority of vocal effects boxes today makes it easy to start dialing in your sounds and getting good results right away. It inspires you to be creative and makes it easy to step outside the box however sane or crazy that may be. Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  4. Double Review Of The VoiceTone Singles Series: R1 And C1 Yes, this is an article about the TC Helicon Voicetone Single s series. Before you even open your mouth I'll admit it: There have been moments where I may or may not have showed a bit of a partial bias towards TC Helicon. It was purely unintentional, I promise. Now before you go brushing this article off as another one written by a stark raving mad lunatic who does nothing but praise TC Helicon in all their brilliance hear me out: I find it difficult to not like things that just work. Without further adeau, I present you the TC Helicon VoiceTone R1 and its stablemate the VoiceTone C1. But wait you say! [Gasp!] He's...he's doing two products in a single review. Yeah, that's right in a bit of a departure from the norm this is a special double header TCH product review. Introducing The TC Helicon Voicetone Vocal Effects Pedal Line Those of you arriving late to the party [slackers] may not be familiar with the TC Helicon VoiceTone pedal line the Voicetone R1 (Red) and Voicetone C1 (Blue) represent 2 of the 7 stomp box Singles line that are chain-able effects pedals for vocals. Each pedal represents a single effect such as reverb, pitch correction, compression etc. and feature sturdy little stomp boxes with onboard mic preamps and intuitive analogue controls. The beauty of the lineup is the simplicity. It's a refreshing departure from some of the other more complex menu driven offerings from TC Helicon and others which is not to say sometimes you may not want that. You do. However think of it more as everything you want and none of what you don't. Do you just need reverb? Get the Voicetone R1. Pitch correction, Megaphone, Reverb and Doubling? You get the idea. Go to Voicetone Singles Series for the full lineup.So the task at hand was a full test of the TC Helicon Voicetone R1 and C1: Testing The TC HELICON Voicetone R1 The R1 like the rest of the Singles lineup features the typical I/O setup of Mic in/signal out with USB port for firmware upgrades. Standard here too is wall-wart power supply which once I had 4 pedals chained together due to the standard plug orientation as opposed to the sideways style effectively blocked over half the plugs on my power supply. Fortunately, TC Helicon does offer a special "singles connect kit" that links up to 4 pedals together you can check out here. I would probably recommend it if nothing else but to save your sanity. As with the others the Voicetone R1 comes equipped with a signal/clip led, effect in/out foot switch with status light, mic gain control and a micro switch to remotely enable/disable mic control from the TC Helicon MP-75 microphone. From an effect control standpoint the R1 has but two dials: Reverb type and Dry/Wet mix. Of the former the R1 comes with 8 different types: Hall, Plate, Theater, Club, Room, Studio, Ambience and Arena. With the Voicetone R1 plugged into my signal chain with the others I initially dialed up the Room effect with dry/wet mix centered. For my rehearsal space which is relatively live this initially proved to be a bit but I was struck at how naturally non mechanical the reverb sounded. Once I dialed the mix back to about 1/3 to find the sweet spot I was actually impressed. It's clear that TC has clearly done their homework in regards to reverb algorithms and come a long ways since the earlier days of the original TC VoiceLive which I have been adamant about not putting in the closet - yet. That may well change with the Voicetone R1. Of the other reverbs I found theater to lend itself especially well to big slower tempo tunes and gave the vocals the ability to breath and shimmer. In fact there's really nothing here you won't be able to find a use for. Testing The TC HELICON Voicetone C1 Order directly from The Vocal Gear Store - Click HERE The Voicetone C1 is an interesting little bugger and represents TC's take on hard tune and pitch correction and will give you anything from mild pitch correction to some pretty crazy T-Pain style vocals. In addition to all the I/O of the Voicetone R1 the Voicetone C1 also features a 1/4" instrument input in support of pitch correction through guitar input. On board the Voicetone C1 are 3 rotary controls: Pitch Correction Mode, correction hardness, and gender. Pitch correction can be selected by specific key or chromatically. Inserting a guitar input thereby overrides the selected mode. Pitch correction hardness controls how severely the unit reacts to approximate the vocals at the correct pitch. The softer the correction the more natural the sound. Dial it harder if you want to be Cher - "Do you Believe". I promise I won't tell. Finally, a gender control allows for a neutral "normal voice" setting with lower and higher voices on opposing sides. Admittedly this is where things can get pretty weird. So go wild. Now let me be honest I'm more of a straight up singer kinda chap and I'm not huge into live vocal pitch correction. I worry about anything that could pose the potential to take away from what makes a live performance, flaws and all. I may have even not so many years ago been an elitist classically trained choir boy with a private university music scholarship who thought pitch correction was for amateurs. But I digress I may as of late become more accepting. The question for me with the Voicetone C1 was can it take already good vocals and give them a bit of extra polish? In a word yes. But it really depends on what you are trying to do vocally. It goes without saying you can't polish a turd. However feed the Voicetone C1 something reasonably good and I can say with confidence with the scale set to chromatic I saw some fairly transparent correction with the harness control around 1/4. I was concerned that even a low setting the Voicetone C1 might be too grabby at the pitch but it turned out the C1 could play nice. This came to light during my last 3 hour intensive rehearsal session. While battling a cold my voice was beginning to tire towards the end of the intensive giving me some minor spotty pitch issues but I was surprised to find switching the Voicetone C1 in significantly cleaned things up. It was perfect mind you nor should it be expected to be but I was nonetheless pleasantly pleased. Order TC Helicon 996008005 Singles Connect Kit Vocal Effects P rocessor from The Vocal Gear Store NOW! Click HERE WRAP UP PRO: Bottom line another two easy to use vocal stomp boxes from TC that give you excellent results out of the box, R1 reverb is rather excellent, C1 can actually play nice CON: Chunky power supplies consume strip space and singers sanity, the connector kit is moderately expensive at $50, a mounting board or case that turns into a pedal board would be nice Contacting TC-Helicon TC-Helicon Vocal Technologies 1075 Pendergast Street, Suite 204 Victoria BC V8V 0A1 Canada (800) 565-2523 Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  5. Keeping Your Voice In Shape With Superior Vocal Health Products While there is certainly no miracle solution for inflamed vocal chords or exhausted muscles I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks using a series of herbal vocal health products from Superior Vocal Health with interesting results. Here the saying you can't polish a turd holds true- that is there is only so much you can do with a vocal performance that is pitchy, raspy, or otherwise just plain tired and overworked. With all the cool new toys coming out for vocalists lately it's easy to sometimes get lulled into the mindset of my "XXXX" vocal processor can make me sound like a god. Admittedly they can help but there are limitations, those being your physical health, technique and overall vocal health. A tired body, lousy te chnique or tired voice won't make for a good performance. The former two are completely in your control but what about a sick or otherwise overworked voice? Superior Vocal Health Products: A Full Vocal Care Solution As vocalists we have all experimented around with different concoctions in hopes of finding one that works the best. Personally I have tried all varieties of throats sprays, gargles, teas, as well as various types of alcohol with varying effectiveness. Whiskey is my pick in case you were curious. Others try more non conventional things: Chris Cornell likes to chain smoke before hand so it gives him his signature vocal rasp. Vanessa Williams eats potato chips prior to a performance because it imparts an extra vocal sizzle. It all can be summed up into one part science, one part voodoo and one part placebo which I might add is a real effect that has been proved in clinical studies. David Katz of Superior Vocal Health offers a twist in that his products are meant to be used as a full vocal health care solution used together instead of a single stand-alone product. Meet Superior Vocal Health Founder: David Katz Boys and girls meet David Katz, founder of Superior V ocal Health. Mr. Katz is a veteran of the voice profession with more than 22 years performing internationality in Opera, Broadway and popular music. During that time he has also worked as a voice coach, nutritional consultant and herbalist with his primary focus on vocal health. Superior Vocal Health is the culmination of over 10 years of research towards finding a solution to keeping vocal chords in optimal health-even during the most demanding of times. From his own personal experience David has created Superior Vocal Health as a way to share his findings and help other vocalists maintain optimal vocal health. Superior Vocal Health: The Product Range Lineup Superior Vocal Health: Throat Saver Spray The Superior Vocal Health Throat Saver spray according to the documentation is a product designed to keep the throat and vocal chords moist as well as break up nasal secretions at the back of the throat. Out of the 3 products I had at my disposal this ended up being my go-to bottle due to the convenience of the spray which was easy to pack around to rehearsals. I found the throat spray when used in conjunction with regular sips of mildly warm tap water throughout a rehearsal to be quite effective in keeping my vocal chords well lubricated for the duration of even the most intensive session. While I was a bit vocally tired after the session my voice still sounded strong and I didn't have to work as hard to overcome the dryness that usually comes after a long set. I also liked that after using it the spray seemed to actually coat the throat for sometime afterwards before dissipating which reduced the need t o overuse the product. In addition the taste is actually quite palatable. The best I can describe it is peppermint-like with a hint of ginger. Overall the Uperior Health Throat Saver spray is a well thought out product that works well to maintain an already healthy voice when used in conjunction with proper technique and normal hydration. Superior Vocal Health: Vocal Rescue Gargle On to the second product in the lineup - Vocal Rescue gargle. Let's say you've been sick or have managed to already overwork your voice but you've still got to perform. That's where the gargle comes into play. Initially, I was a bit skeptical of a product promising to bring back to life an already dead voice. In fact the first few times I used the product on an already healthy voice it actually seemed to have the opposite effect by causing my vocal folds to become slightly irritated and feel more constricted. As a result, the Vocal Rescue gargle sat unused on the counter for a week or two until one evening where I was working on a particularly challenging track that essentially stays pegged up in the G4-C5 range the entire 3 1/2 minutes. As as a leggerio tenor with my break sitting right at A4/B4 the entire song weaves in an out of belt/head voice so it's a bit of a workout. Nothing I can't handle but doing the same song over an over again can start to wear. Finally after the 4th pass through my technique started to slip thus my voice started to become rather tired-enough to have to stop. I needed to finish the track that evening so immediately I mixed up a glass of warm water and put in 2 droppers worth of Vocal Rescue. After gargling for approximately 30 seconds I decided to give the track another shot. Suprisingly I had about 95% of my voice back --enough to finish the track. The combination of licorice root, ginger and other proprietary ingredients had a rather profound effect on bringing my voice back. This is quite honestly the first product I've found to be this effective in restoring a very overworked voice to serviceable condition. Superior Vocal Health: Sinus Clear Out The final product in the Superior Vocal Health series was the Sinus Clear Out. There's nothing worse during a performance that suffering from congested sinuses. I typically find when working late into the evening that sometimes this happens to me and not only does it effect how you breath but your sound as well which is simply not acceptable. Sinus Clear Out promises to address this. So how does it work? Actually rather well. Over the course of the testing weeks I did not ever have a full blown cold with severe congestion but I did find it to work well for mild congestion issues. Similar to the Vocal Rescue it uses a dropper but instead of gargling Sinus Clear Out is intended to be dropped directly on the back of your tongue. There you let it sit for a few seconds while inhaling the vapors, then swallow. While it is fairly effective I tended to only use it when absolutely necessarily due to the taste which is a bit harsh and during the first few uses led me to feel a bit nauseous for the first few minutes after use. WRAP UP: Herbal Goodness, Naturally Overall the Superior Vocal Health product lineup brings to the table an innovative take on herbal vocal health care solutions by offering a one-stop complete suite of products for the typical vocal health issues we as vocalists deal with every day. SVH uses all natural FDA certified herbal ingredients backed by a manufacturing process that does not contain any chemicals or alcohol. As with any herbal supplement you should check the label before using to ensure you do not have any existing allergies and as always use in moderation. When used along with proper technique I would have no problem recommending you give Super Vocal Health a try if you are aiming to be on top of your vocal game 100% of the time. Getting In Touch With Superior Vocal Health Superior Vocal Health (888) - 480-9957 Superior Vocal Health can also be found at #1 Supplier of Vocal Products in the Industry! Click HERE >>> to find Superior Vocal Health Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  6. TC Helicon VoiceTone D1 Stomp Box: Better Sound Effects For Vocalists? No matter where you look every market has two kinds of companies: those that innovate and those that imitate. Consider the old Apple OS vs. Microsoft Windows comparison [pretty much a direct rip-off] or German vs. Japanese auto manufacturers [a la Lexus LS400 being pretty much a copy of a Mercedes S-Class ]. Sometimes the imitation ends up being better than the original but sometimes the original turns out to be pretty difficult to improve upon. Enter TC Helicon with their brand new line of vocal effects pedals - VoiceTone Singles including the VoiceTone D1 reviewed here. TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: Philosophy Order from The Vocal Gear Store - Click Here Whether or not you are familiar with the name, TC Helicon is one of the leading pioneers of cutting edge vocal effects and processing. They were one of the first to realize working singers and vocalist's as well as professionals want affordable full control over their sound the same way a guitar player wants control over their axe. Since the introduction of the or iginal VoiceLive 1 of which your author owns and still uses one daily, many industry players have followed suit with similar vocal effects offerings but I digress. The original [TC Helicon] still sets a very high standard. The only beef I sometimes have with Helicon gear in general is their over-complexity. It's the old story of everything you want times 1000. Due to the menu-driven approach of some of their other offerings I have sometimes found it less than simple to find the sound I'm looking for which can be a drag in a live situation. This time around TC has a solution with a new line of vocal stomp pedals which are a bit of a departure from their brethren. With the new TC singles: gone are the menu driven LCD/LED displays and the multitudes of effects. In their place come devices that focus on one type of effect each and lie within a compact footprint with robust build quality and a beautifully simplistic layout. TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: A Closer Look Over the past few weeks I've had a chance to play around in depth with the VoiceTone D1 Doubling and Detune pedal with currently lists at Guitar Center for $149.00 + tax. If you're familiar with TC it should come as no surprise that this little pedal on first glance looks and feels more expensive than it is. With chassis mounted gold-plated XLR connections, rubberized well-labeled knobs with smooth detents and an all-metal housing with anti-slide rubberized base the build quality is first class. TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: Controls Starting topside on the Voice Tone D1, you'll find only 3 simple controls: A knob for the type of doubling selected, a Dry/Wet control and an engaged/bypass footswitch. The only indicators you'll find are a red LED to signify if the doubler is engaged and a green signal indicator light. On left and right sides of the unit are a built-in input gain control and Mic control respectively for when an TC Helicon MP-75 mic is used. For those of you unfamiliar with the MP-75 it features a built-in button to control the engaged/bypass function on the pedal itself via standard XLR cable. O n the backside are your in/out XLR connections, power in and mini-USB for future firmware upgrades. TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: Useability Aesthetics and build quality aside the real clincher is obviously how useful the VoiceTone D1 is in the wild. The short answer: pretty dang good. With the VoiceTone D1, at your disposal are a total of 8 types of doubling and detuning: Tight, Loose, Group, Detune, Thick, Octave Up, Octave Down, and Shout. The only configuration limitation is that changing an effect type mid-song requires bending down to manually change the active setting as opposed to some of the bigger TC boxes (VoiceLive2, CreateXT) which with allow you select and scroll through effects via the foot switches. It's a minor annoyance and quite honestly well worth the trade-off of ditching the menu's. TC Helicon VoiceTone D1: Test While on the VoiceTone D1 there is no dud to be found in the 8 available presets in practice I found myself more often than not gravitating towards 3 of the 8 settings: Loose, Thick, an Octave Up. With Loose activated and the Dry/Wet knob around the 9 0'clock position I found the VoiceTone D1 to add a subtle yet realistic doubling effect to my vocals. Sure every effects box has a doubling setting but generally I find them to be less than realistic sounding. To this day I have yet to find the right magical combination of settings on my VoiceLive that gives a convincing doubler. Bam! With the D1 I had a setting ready to go that sounded great in about 10 seconds. Activating the Thick setting this time with the dry/wet mix at about 11 0'clock resulted in a pretty cool effect that lent itself well to more whispery type vocals a la Chino of the Deftones. To up the ante I added in a VoiceTone T1 Adaptive Tone pedal to the signal chain. With the combination of the Thickening and slick compression of the T1 my whisper-like vocal lines became larger than life and easily soared over the rest of the band. I now had an amazing new sound with less than 2 minutes of work. I nearly wet myself. The final effect I spent time experimenting with was Octave Up. If any of you read my review of the Electro-Harmonix v256 you know I had managed after a bit of tweaking to achieve a similar effect. Personally I like the vocal layering effect it can give when used under the right conditions. I found it most useful when I was utilizing the lower half of my range below middle C. Here the VoiceTone D1 sounds about on par with the v256 but it took me 10 seconds to dial in my sounds rather than 5 minutes. WRAP UP: Plug, Select, Twirl, Repeat Overall the beauty of the TC Helicon D1 is in its simplicity and top-notch construction. There is no need to spend hours tweaking and retweaking to find the exact setting you want. Simply plug it in, select your effect, twirl the mix to suit your liking and go. It's compact design adds minimally to what you already pack around in your signal chain and t he quality of the effects themselves are without question up to TC's high level of standards. VoiceTone D1 aside the introduction of the VoiceTone Singles proves that TC is still on top of their game and continues to lead the industry as innovators not imitators. Stay tuned as we have more TC Singles in the pipe for review including the Adaptive Tone T1, Vocal Tuned Reverb R1, and Hard Tune and Correction C1. Video: TC Helicon Voicetone Singles Series (Including Voicetone D1) Getting In Touch With TC Helicon TC Helicon - Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  7. Direct Sound EX-29 Isolation Headphones: Cancelling Out The Bleed? Kevin Martin, former vocalist of Seattle band Candlebox once said "It's called Rock and Roll - look it up." Whether or not he coined the term I haven't a clue but it does a fine job of summing up what we all do into a tidy little blanket statement. Namely rock. Loudly. This is all fine and good in a live environment but when it comes time to head to the studio finding a way to simultaneously play with the same intensity, hear yourself and avoid excessive headphone bleed this can be another matter entirely.So are the Direct Sound EX-29 Isolation Headphones a solution for this problem? Let's find out! Every vocalist has their own strategy that presents its own unique challenges. Some guys like to sing in the middle of the roo m with no headphones and the monitors blaring. More budget-minded bands may all be the same room together and still with others the singer may insist on having their headphones as loud as possible to be able to feel the music. With some effort, a competent engineer will likely be able to take the bleed coming into the mic from monitors and/or headphones and reverse phase to cancel it out. Unfortunately, this isn't always an option. With the majority of us utilizing at one time or another our own home studios instead of having our own on-call sound engineer I'm happy to say there is another solution for when a high quality isolated monitoring environment is needed. Direct Sound EX-29: Look And Feel Engineered with the pro drummer and studio musician in mind on the premise of delivering maximum isolation the Direct Sound EX-29 certainly looks serious. In fact the '29' signifies these puppies provide up to 29db of sound attenuation. Finished entirely in matte black [white is also an option] the EX-29 sports gold Direct Sound logos adorned on each rectangular shaped can. Direct Sound EX-29: Durability And Useability Extra Thick ear pads and a nicely padded headband suggest these things might do well for a long session. While not flashy the materials are of high quality a nd appear very durable. I have no doubt you could toss this one around in your gym bag with a couple bricks and they'd likely be just fine. The EX-29 comes standard with a 1/8" mini stereo plug with and optional screw on 1/4" as is the norm now. The straight cable [ Thank you - no twisty] and its connection points are also of high quality. As an added bonus the inner right headphone has been colored red to easily distinguish between right and left. As an extra, extra bonus, my demo arrived complete with handy soft carry case and bag. Yep. My inner nerd is a sucker for thoughtful details. Direct Sound EX-29: Pricing And Competition Order from The Vocal Gear Store After considering my options on test plan, I finally decided the best way for a reference point was to throw the Direct Sound EX-29 which lists on Musicians Friend for $119.95 up against an alternative or two. After some digging around at the test barn I managed to come up with a Beyer-Dynamic DT 770 at $199 and my trusty well loved pair of industry standard Sony MDR-7506's right at $85. While the 7506's aren't exactly isolation headphones they've got an excellent reputation of sounding good regardless of the application. A word of warning: The Direct Sound EX-29's fit very snugly. However I never found them to cause hot-spots around my ears like the Beyer-dynamics have had a tendency to do in the past. Order directly from The Vocal Gear Store NOW!!! Click here Direct Sound EX-29: Test And Comparison For the test I decided to use each of these headphones in the loudest possible place possible my rehearsal studio - a 13x13 box with moderate sound deadening and a high ceiling. Throw in a drummer, guitars and bass on top of vocals and you've got a seriously loud room. My plan for the test was to use the headphones in lieu of my typical inner ear monitoring setup. First up naturally were the Direct Sound EX-29 's. After my bandmates got rolling with a song it became pretty apparent that I started with my monitor mix significantly hotter than it needed to be. Between the thick ear padding and tight enclosure the sound isolation is quite impressive. T he overall mix with the EX-29's is smooth and flat. The sound as you would expect with a heavily dampened closed-ear type design sounds a bit closed in but not bass heavy nor exaggerated on the high end. I predict that these would do well in a critical listening situation for mixing. The only thing that was missing for me was a bit of that extra high crispness on the high end that for a vocalist makes the vocals really come alive in the mix. I digress what you hear on the EX-29's is what it really sounds like. Next in li ne were Sony MDR-7506's. As I said earlier not exactly and isolation headphone but more artists and professionals use these more than any other pair of cans out there myself included. Once the band started I immediately had to turn the mix up. No surprise here but these things leak like the Queen Mary with a torpedo hole. Once I got the mix up to the point of overpowering my bandmates leaking through things were great. I have always been a fan of the 7506 sound which while not being exactly a 'reference' headphone sounds great for live tracking. The slightly sloppy bass with slightly over-accentuated high's give the signal good cut and make pretty much anything sound good. Now if I just didn't have to turn things up to ear bleeding levels to hear. The final contender in the series were of course the Beyer-Dynamic DT-770's. Like the Direct Sound EX-29 they are more of an isolation type critical-listening headphone providing up to 19db of sound attenuation. With the DT-770's I was able to turn the mix down slightly over the Sony's. Again like the EX-29's they have more of a neutral flat frequency response with the exception tending to be slightly bass heavy which translates to a slightly muddier top-end. This would probably be great for a drummer but as a vocalist it ends up being less than ideal as I found myself with the DT-770's having a slight tendency to over-sing in an effort to compensate for qualities of my voice usually heard with other cans that somehow were lost in translation with the Beyer-Dynamics. WRAP UP The Direct Sound EX-29 's represent an excellent addition to the premium studio headphone market. Their flat frequency response and ultra high sound attenuation make them a solid choice for anyone looking to lower the sound level they need hear themselves as well as preventing mic bleed. While they lack the artificial high end crispness of the Sony MDR-7056's, they deliver an accurate representation of the sound that is both smooth and non-fatiguing. The construction is top notch and the design makes it easy to replace specific parts should you manage to break something. Should you be in the market for a top-quality reasonably priced set of isolation cans I recommend you look these guys up. SPECIFICATIONS Type: dynamic closed type headphones Frequency Response: 2 0 - 20,000 Hz Drivers: 40 mm Impedance: 32 ohm Sensitivity: 114dB/mW @ 1KHZ 1mW Cord: 9 feet Plug: stereo 3.5 mm with screw-on type gold plated 1/4¨ adapter Rated Input Power: 500 mW Maximum Input Power: max 1W Weight: 11.5 oz Warranty: 1-year manufacturer warranty Direct Sound : Contact Details Direct Sound Extreme Headphones - Phone: 314-845-7667 Email: Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  8. Audix VX5: American Built Budget Condenser Vocal Microphone What do Travis Barker, Buckcherry and Ani DiFranco all have in common? Give up? They all swear by Audix microphones. From its humble start in Redwood City, California in 1984 to its move to a state-of-the-art facility in Wilsonville, Oregon in 1991, Audix has a long-standing reputation of engineering and building world-class microphones. They are also one of the seemingly dwindling group of pro audio companies who have managed to maintain the entire design and manufacture of their product line domestically. There's something I find oddly satisfying knowing I could jump in the car and be at their facility in the matter of a few hours. While vocally speaking their primary focus has been leaning towards the live end of sound Audix has recently introduced some rather capable workhorse products that sonically speaking are at the level where they could pull double duty to provide some very satisfactory results in the studio as well.Without further adieu ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce you to one of the latest offerings from Audix to visit the TMV test barn: The Audix VX5 condenser microphone. THE AUDIX VX5: LOOK AND FEEL As a departure from the typical all-business tuxedo black satin finish Audix has upped the ante with the VX5. In addition to a slimmer than average shaft this bad boy sports a rather subtle but sexy silver recessed lower grill which according to Audix also serves to provide some additional acoustical qualities. While it doesn't scream look at me its one of the nicest looking handheld mics I've had in my hands recently. THE AUDIX VX5: DURABILITY AND USEABILITY Unscrewing the pop screen reveals beauty is more than skin-deep as the capsule is also enclosed in an additional solid meshed polished cylinder so if durability were a concern for you its a safe bet the Audix VX5 could withstand a hell of a drop and survive unscathed. While I tend to prefer handheld microphones with a thicker handle the slim shaft on the VX5 combined with its balanced weight proved to be quite comfortable when used for extended periods. After a couple sessions, I found myself actually preferring it over some of the other mics in my arsenal. THE AUDIX VX5: PRICING AND COMPETITION At a retail price of $249 its pretty clear Audix has aimed the Audix VX5 squarely at some of its notable competition. In fact, the veteran condenser Shure Beta 87A also retails at $249 which I find hardly to be a coincidence. T his class of mic, commonly referred to as budget condensers are generally geared to pull double duty both live and in studio. It must also be noted however that these aren't to be confused with studio condenser microphones which still typically will have a superior frequency response. That being said a well-engineered electret condenser using modern design technology will give you sound nearly approaching that of a studio condenser on top of the fact their typically super cardioid pickup pattern will offer fairly good sound rejection off axis. That's not to say you can't use a dynamic to record vocals but given the choice between a dynamic handheld and a condenser you generally are going to have better results with the latter. With the VX5 Audix has also added in a few additional features that normally aren't found in a condenser mic in this price range that could potentially come in handy. Those include a recessed -10db pad switch as well as a 150hz bass rolloff both of which may come in handy given the VX5's fairly hot 6.9mv sensitivity. In light of durability, I especially appreciate the fact that these switches are actually chassis mounted with recessed screws. As is fairly standard with a condenser style mic the Audix requires phantom power to operate so you will need to make sure your mic pre supports this. THE AUDIX VX5 TEST: THE CLARITY OF CONSCIOUSNESS For the actual test my signal chain consisted of the VX5 running into a TC Helicon VoiceLive for preamp/phantom power into a Mackie VLZ-1602 out to a pair of Mackie SRM-450 active monitors in my 13x13 studio. To get a feel for how the Audix VX5 would perform in different live environments my first test was performing vocals with pre-recording backing tracks followed up by the second test of performing with live drums, guitar, and bass - some very high SPL's for a rather small room. For the first test upon initially firing up the VX5 with all EQ zeroed out as well as bass roll-off / pad disengaged on the mic I was initially quite disappointed just how little gain before feedback the Audix exhibited - significantly more so than my Shure Beta87A. Afterfurther experimenting with monitor placement as well as some EQ adjustment I still was not happy with the results. However, after engaging the bass roll-off I was pleasantly surprised that this was able to eliminate nearly all of my feedback issues and after a slight EQ tweak to compensate for the room I was able to get the mix up to performance levels. This is when what makes the Audix VX5 special became apparent. My vocals with the Audix VX5 took on a clarity and airiness that I have difficulty creating this side of a full blown studio condenser. They were not thin nor were they muddy on the lower end. They possessed a very natural quality to them that just sounded right. Along with an extremely low handling noise, the Audix VX5 sounds more expensive than it is. Test number two with the full band also proved interesting. While it should come as no surprise the VX5 does not handle extremely loud environments as well as a dynamic hypercardoid would it performed admirably well. I might add that my small square studio is not likely an accurate representation of a performance environment so getting a workable sound in a fairly high SPL environment is a fairly good indication that the Audix VX5 would perform quite well in a more typical performance setting. WRAP UP: SONICALLY SLICK The Audix VX5 represents yet another fine offering from Audix. From a clarity of sound standpoint it without a doubt ranks right up at the top of my list when stacked up against some of its notable competition from the likes of Shure, Rode, and Electro-Voice. It sounds good right out of the box requiring little if any EQ to get the sound dialed in. The quality of craftsmanship is top notch and the 3-year warranty lets you know Audix stands behind their products. Short of full on screamo or extremely heavy metal acts this is one of the few mics that I feel confident would work well with nearly all voice types as it posesses a very natural frequency response. The Modern Vocalist rates the Audix VX5 as highly recommended. Audix VX5: Specifications Type Pre-polarized Condenser Frequency Response 40 Hz - 16.5 kHz +/- 3 dB Polar Pattern Supercardioid Impedance 150 ohms Sensitivity at 1k 5 mV / Pa Equivalent Noise Level 26 dB (A weighted) Signal to Noise Ratio 68 dB Off Axis Rejection >20 dB Maximum SPL1 40 dB (w/ -10 pad) Power Requirements 9-52 V Connector Switcraft Male XLR connector Polarity P ositive voltage on pin 2 relative to pin 3 of output XLR connector Housing / Finish Die Cast Zinc Black E-coat Weight 227 g / 8 ounces Length 181 mm / 7.1 inches Audix Microphones +1 (503) 662-6963 Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  9. The MXL 2003a: A Budget Microphone With A Good Vintage Sound? In today's market there are hundreds of low-cost microphones geared towards the budget-minded consumer and hobbyist. While some of these microphones do sound quite good for the price, the majority of them suffer from an overly hyped sound, being both bright and shrilly on top, and having a deep, but muddy low-end response. Enter the MXL 2003a Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic, MXL's attempt at designing a mic with a more un-hyped vintage sound while sporting a pro-sumer price tag. The MXL 2003a: Basic Design, Characteristics And Specs The MXL 2003a is a Large Diaphragm Condenser mic featuring a transformerless design with a 3 micron thick vintage modeled capsule. It has a bass roll-off switch, as well as a 10 dB pad switch. Included is a high-isolation shock mount and 3 year warranty. MXL 2003a Test In Home Studio I first used the 2003a in my home recording studio tracking vocals for a new song I have been working on. The song was a down-tempo ballad which called for a more natural and detailed vocal tone that would be featured in the mix with little processing. My go-to and most often used mic for vocals is the Neumann U87, which has a beautiful mid-range warmth and smoothness with just a slight honk that really brings the vocals up front in the mix. While it may not be the best mic for every vocalist (although it usually will sound great) after working with many different mics, it is the one I am most satisfied with. While I was testing out the MXL 2003a with my tracking headphones on, I heard a natural and present tone with just the right amount of air, but without any harshness or excessive brightness. Getting closer to the mic does yield a proximity effect which was appropriate for this particular song, but the effect was not as pronounced on some of the classic transformer-based LDC mics which I have been lucky enough to record with. While the MXL 2003a did not have the low-end girth and mid-range presence of the U87 and other classic mics I’ve recorded with, it took EQ very well -- adding a few dB boost at 200hz added more body to the sound without taking away and of its natural detail and clarity in the higher frequencies. MXL 2003a Test With Female Voice My second test with the MXL 2003a was tracking vocals for a female singer who has an enormous vocal range, but a somewhat thin sounding voice which, when paired with the wrong mic, can sound overly bright and sibilant. While the 2003a may not have been my first choice for her voice, with a slight low-pass filter and cut around the 5k range, I was able to track a more than adequate vocal take that once again produced a very clear and un-hyped sound. MXL 2003a Test Recording Guitar The MXL 2003a also performed quite well when recording guitar. Some people love to use a pair of mics in a variety of configurations when tracking an acoustic guitar, but I've always preferred the sound of a LDC mic about 6 to 8 inches away from the 12th fret of the neck. My Martin dreadnaught has a tendency to get a little boomy on the low end, so enabling the bass roll-off switch took out the mud that I would have had to EQ out later on in the mixing stage. The MXL 2003a, perhaps due to the transformerless design, had an excellent transient response which really highlighted the punchy sound of my guitar. While it didn't have the same richness and warmth of my more expensive tube mics, the sound of the mic could actually work better in a song where the extra clarity and treble detail could help the guitar punch through a busy mix. When recording clean electric guitar, I will often times ditch the SM57 for an LDC to give me a more un-hyped sound, rather than the strong mid-range push of the SM57. Since my Fender Twin Reverb produces a lot of decibels, I have to choose a mic that will not distort when faced with huge sound pressure levels. The MXL 2003a with the 10db cut switch engaged was able to handle the volume of the amp without any capsule distortion or unwanted compression. WRAP UP The MXL 2003a is an excellent choice as an all-around instrument and vocal mic if you are unable to drop thousands of dollars on a vintage or boutique mic. It is one of the best LDCs in its price range (around $170 street) and performs as well as mics that cost 2 or 3 times as much. If you are looking for a character mic that provides a lot of color, this wouldn't be a first choice, but if you need a solid and reliable mic with a transparent tone and great clarity, I would highly recommend picking one of these up. Kudos to MXL for bringing to the market a great sounding mic for very small change.[protected/] Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  10. To The Rescue: The Lampifier 111 Vocal Mic Certain things just work well together. Think Peanut Butter and Jelly. Ham and Cheese. Gin and Tonic. With that in mind those of you who use a bit of compression on your vocal mix raise your hands. Nearly everyone? No news there. Who among you get tired of either dragging around an extra piece of gear just for that purpose or would rather not have to bother depending on the bored sound engineer who looks like they would rather be anywhere but sitting behind the mix console optimizing your mix? Well boys and girls, today is your lucky day. Like our beloved PB&J, American ingenuity has come to the rescue again by way of a new type of professional vocal microphone: the Lampifier 111 Vocal Mic!. Lampifier 111 Vocal Mic: No Setup Required Say hello to my new little friend: the super-cardioid phantom-powered Lampifier 111. So what you say?!...There's a million different handheld vocal mics out there. Well sure, but nobody except Lampifier has gone a step further to incorporate user programmable built-in dynamic sound processing i.e compression directly into the mic. What's compression? Quick 30,000ft overview: an audio compressor reduces the volume of loud sounds and amplifies the volume of quiet ones by narrowing or "compressing" an audio signals range. The brainchild of inventor Gary Osborne Lampifier was the result of his quest to create an easy to use product that would consistently deliver superior sound results for whomever the end user be it a vocalist, speaker, or other instrumentalist - no setup required. While they haven't been on the scene long Lampifier has already seen some notable recognition most recently being awarded "Best Audio Product Microphone� award at the Worship Facilities Expo (WFX) in Atlanta, GA in November 2010. Lampifier 111 Vocal Mic Technology: Lighting Up So what makes it tick? Time to talk turkey. For today's lesson we take a trip back to the 1930's when audio compressors first started to become popular to boost the overall sound without clipping in noisy movie houses. These early audio compressors utilized a rather simple yet unreliable light bulb solution in the audio circuit and generally had a short life-span due to the power requirements to keep the bulb lit. It wasn't long after that the photoelectric cell became more popular from both a reliability standpoint as well as from a cost basis. Light bulb or opto-compression has been used off and on over the years in higher end pro-audio offerings (think big old Neve consoles) but never has it been scaled down and simplified to a size which fits completely inside of a handheld mic. In the spirit of simplicity the Lampifier circuit is 100% analog and features 2 preamplifiers bookending a specialized audio bulb and a load resistor. On a basic level when a signal is fed into the first preamplifier it in turn drives the audio bulb which as the bulb filament heats up increases the electrical resistance of the filament. This in effect changes the input drive to the second preamplifier and in effect the output to the mixing board. As the signal level drops the reverse occurs. Simple right? In addition to the base program the Lampifier 111 comes programmed (with in my case the Pro Concert Vocal program). The Lampifier is user configurable with over 30+ different programs. Now keep in mind reprogramming will require removing the electronics and moving some jumper cables but just about anyone with a few basic tools and the ability to read some simple instructions should be just fine. Lampifier even has a slick little programming tool on their website which allows to to tailor the exact sound you want. Lampifier 111 Vocal Mic: Design And Durability According to Mr. Osborne the baseline sound for the Lampifier 111 is modeled loosely on the industry standard workhorse Shure SM-58. Indeed even the overall look and ergonomics of the Model 111 would make it easy to confuse with its long-standing brethren. Personally I felt the overall look to be fairly me-too and not particularly attractive considering its street price of $155.95. That being said the construction and fit and finish are right up there with the best of them. Club owners take note: The thick alloy construction and durable grill would likely do a pretty good job of protecting the innards when subjected to that one problematic singer that likes to throw things. Lampifier 111 Vocal Mic:Test I degress. In live room testing with a full band consisting of guitars, drums, and bass I decided A/B the Lampifier up against another mic in the TMVJ test barn - the Rode M1 - an excellent mic previously reviewed by TMVJ a few months back. Since I did not have access to an SM-58 and the M1 is a mic that I feel based some of its design around the warmer easy-going sound of the SM-58 I felt this would be an appropriate choice. Both mics were run straight into the board with no additional effects or EQ. After a relatively short amount of testing it became clear who the clear winner was going to be. The Rode possesses a rather warm natural sound with a slight tendency to sound a little flat and muffled. While it generally sounds nice by itself when the full band was introduced into the mix I found myself starting to over-sing to be heard through the mix. I was able to overcome some of this by driving the mic a bit harder with additional gain and this helped for more dynamic vocal passages but the problem returned during quieter whisper like sections in my material. Short of introducing some EQ to add a bit more crispness and some additional processing by way of an external compressor I found the M1 by itself leaving me feeling a bit shortchanged. Switching over to the Lampifier with the identical flat EQ settings I was immediately aware of the additional amount of presence and cut introduced. Top end is well executed and gives the vocals a nice amount of shimmer without being over the top or shrill. While my vocals took on a little more of a scooped effect than I generally like it wasn't over the top and decidedly sounded just fine in the mix. The Lampifier actually has a nice proximity effect when you get right up on the grill which thanks to the compression is well controlled without getting too squirly. It's a nice tool if you want a little extra girth in a particular passage. According to Lampifier if you want even more proximity effect you can do so by removing the ring located below the grill. Additionally I found the way compression circuitry can also act as a gate to be especially useful for controlling feedback when the mic is pointing places other than directly in front of the mouth. WRAP UP: Believe in the Light As per their slogan "Believe in the Light" I believe that Lampifier might just be onto something here. Some of us either don't have the knowledge, the money or just plain don't want to mess around with additional outboard gear. Sometimes we just want to plug in and sound good. The Lampifier 111 is a huge step in that direction. Is it perfect? No. Is it nice to look at? Not really. But it sounds dang good. Good enough that it could hang with a lot of the big boys at Shure, Audix and Rode among others. And for $155.95 you get a mic AND a compressor. Hows that for a deal? Contacting Lampifier Lampifier Company c/o, Inc. 5348 N. Tacoma Avenue Indianapolis, IN 46220 317-225-5509 phone 317-222-1327 fax Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  11. Testing The Audix OM2 Microphone You may recall a few months back we at TMVJ happened to get our hands on a rather svelte yet excellent sounding Audix VX5. Well as luck would have it our friends in Wilsonville, Oregon have again been kind enough to bestow upon us yet another offering from their lineup. This time, around we have in our only slightly greasy paws [ I promise! ] the Audix OM2 dynamic vocal microphone. Unlike the condenser VX5, however, the OM2 represents the all-around workhorse performance mic of the lineup. Audix OM2: Look And Feel Representing one of Audix's more budget minded offerings in terms of price with a street tag of $99.00 the Audix OM2 certainly doesn't feel like corners were cut in terms of build quality. While the Audix OM2 ditches the polished mesh trimmings and pad/lo pass switches of the VX5 in lieu of the classic yet durable black Audix finish with matching black mesh grill the Audix OM2 would feel right at home alongside its bigger brothers the OM5 and OM7. As with its brethren, it retains the slim yet comfortable tapered shaft design and gold-plated XLR connection. Construction is all alloy giving the mic a nice weighty yet balanced feel in hand. Audix OM2: Pricing And Competition My initial concern with the Audix OM2 before even giving it the juice was the fact that at a sub $100 the sheer amount of competition at this price point. For reference the venerable industry standard Shure SM58, EV 767a, and Rode M1 [ the latter two we reviewed earlier this year ] all retail for $99. While no two mics sound the same and I cannot stress enough that each singer should choose the mic that best matches their respective voice the primary question in my mind was how the Audix OM2 stacked up against the competition given the other solid alternatives. Audix OM2: IN PRACTICE For the test environment signal chain the Audix OM2 was run through a TC Helicon VoiceLive 1 to a Mackie 1604VLZ mixer into a pair of Mackie SRM450 mains. EQ and effects were removed from the signal chain. Since the OM2 is dynamic no phantom power was required. As always I prefer to test a vocal mic both with solo vocals as well as with a backing band to get the best overall feel for its strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a mic which sounds excellent in an acoustic scenario will later cause the vocals to get 'lost' in the full band mix for lack of enough cut. For others, the reverse scenario is true. Audix OM2: TEST 1 Starting with the solo vocal test, I began with my usual series of vocal warm-up exercises which service to work out my entire range. This can be a good window into a mic's given sweet spots. Not knowing what to expect from the Audix I found the Audix OM2 to have a pleasantly balanced sound. I did not to find its overall frequency response to have any necessarily hot spots nor did it sound dull. In a word, it sounded relatively natural. I found it to have quite a bit more clarity and sibilance than the Shure SM58 and Rode M 1 without being harsh on S's and C's. Getting right up on the grill resulted in a moderate proximity effect which was well controlled and sounded a bit more natural than that produced by the EV 767a. At times, I found myself wanting a bit more sparkle on the top end, but this was easily corrected with a bit of EQ. Audix OM2: TEST 2 Continuing the test with the full band setup, I found the Audix OM2 to perform rather admirably as far as providing enough 'cut' to be heard over the rest of the band. My vocals sounded a bit more full as compared to the big brother Audix OM5 but without feeling boomy like the EV 767a has a tendency to do. With the mains at significantly higher levels than with the acoustic session I often find myself reaching for EQ to compensate for other mics being on the verge of feeding back but I found the OM2 to perform quite admirably in this respect. Not at one point did I need to attenuate any EQ settings. I would have to say arguably in this particular scenario the OM2 demonstrated some of the best feedback rejection than any of the other mics we have reviewed recently. WRAP-UP As the weeks wore on and I became more comfortable with the Audix OM2 I started to find it becoming my go-to mic. It's balanced sound, high gain before feedback and hyper cardioid pickup pattern offerin g excellent feedback rejection make it an excellent choice as an all-around performer. It's relatively flat response curve would likely work well with most voice types as well. This would be the mic I would take gigging with me to an unknown venue and/or with a bored half deaf sound engineer. The OM2 while priced more like a budget mic certainly doesn't sound like one. TMVJ can decidedly issue this one as recommended. Audix OM2: SPECIFICATIONS Transducer Type Dynamic Frequency Response 50 Hz - 16 kHz Polar Pattern Hypercardioid Output Impedance 250 ohms Sensitivity 1.7 mV / Pa @ 1k Capsule Technology VLM Type B Off-Axis Rejection > 25 dB Maximum SPL 140 dB Power Requirements None Connector Switchcraft male XLR connector Finish Zinc Alloy / Black E-coat Weight 307 g / 10.8 ounces Length 176 mm / 6.9 inches 503.682.6933 Review Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International. use the 50% Discount Code for "Review my singing" Forum: TMVWorld50
  12. Should The EV PL80a Be Your Choice Of Vocal Mic? Choosing a live vocal mic is a personal thing for most vocalists. Every voice is unique and different mics accentuate different qualities that can bring out the best or worst in a singer. In addition, when choosing a live vocal mic, it is important to choose a microphone that is rugged and durable, cuts through a live mix and can take a lot of gain without feeding back.Has Electro-Voice delivered on these criteria with the PL80a? Putting The EV PL80a High-Performance Dynamic Mic To The Test I was eager to test the EV PL80a and see how it compared to the Shure SM58, the world's most popular live vocal mic which can be found in countless recording studios and live music venues. The EV's stylish Memraflex grill and unique body shape certainly make the PL80a a more attractive mic than the SM58, and the weight of both microphones is quite similar. Unlike the cardioid pattern found in the SM58, the PL80a features a super cardioid polar pattern which helps reject unwanted room sound and system feedback. It also boasts a powerful neodymium magnet structure and an "EQ friendly" sonic contour which helps the vocals sit nicely in the live mix without being harsh. use the 50% Discount Code for "Review my singing" Forum: TMVWorld50 EV PL80a High-Performance Dynamic Mic Test: Live Use I recently had the opportunity to put the mic to use at band practice. Our band has a habit of practicing a lot louder than we should and it's often difficult to hear my vocals over the guitar player's stack and our aggressive drummer. Often times I find myself struggling to get a good level of vocals in the PA without experiencing any feedback. The first time I plugged in the PL80a, I noticed that I didn't have to turn the level on the PA as high as with the SM58 and my voice sounded a lot more lively and clear. It was as if a blanket had been lifted off the sound of my voice, which actually helped with my singing because I could focus more on my technique without straining to sing over the other instruments in the room. EV PL80a High-Performance Dynamic Mic Test: Comparison I was so pleased with the results that I wanted to make sure I wasn't just imagining a difference, so I plugged in my SM58, and sure enough, the new found clarity I was hearing with the EV was gone and I had to turn my PA up to bring the Shure to an adequate volume. While singing right on top of the microphone, I noticed it had slightly less proximity effect than the SM58 which I actually preferred because I could get my lips right on the grill without the sound turning to mush while still enhancing the low end of my voice. Although the PL80a was designed primarily as a live vocal mic, the manual suggests that it also works well as an instrument or amplifier microphone, although for, the purposes of this review, I did not test it on any instrument other than the voice. An important and sometimes overlooked quality of a live vocal mic is how well it can stand up to years of rugged abuse on the road and on stage. The SM58 is legendary in its indestructibility and could double as a hammer or blunt weapon if need be and still function without a problem. While I have not road tested the EV PL80a, based on EV's reputation and the quality feel of the mic, I would have no problems taking this on the road with me and throwing it into my duffel bag without worrying about it breaking. WRAP UP Although I have not tested every vocal mic on the market, I have used plenty of other mics that cost more than the PL80a's $150 street price, however, I wouldn't say that any of those mics are better. At this level of quality and price range, it all comes down to testing the mic to see how it reacts to your own unique voice and choosing the one that inspires you to sing the best. I will say that I absolutely love how my voice sounds through this mic and would have no problems recommending it to other singers who are looking for a high performance, yet affordable mic. For those of you who have been singing into a low cost generic dynamic microphone, this mic would be a huge step up. Personally, I am looking forward to testing this mic out at my next live performance. Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  13. Telefunken Company History And The CU-29 Copperhead Microphone Telefunken has long been a name synonymous with high-grade professional audio equipment. Dating back to the turn of the 20th century Telefunken was founded in Berlin, Germany in 1903 after patent disputes arose among two different German inventors resulting in the formation of Gesellschaft drahtlose Telegraphie System Telefunken ("The Company for Wireless Telegraphy Ltd."). During WWII they were one of the primary suppliers of military grade vaccum tubes to the German military as well as being the first to develop the two-stage hi-fi amplifier of which a version was used in the recording console for the Beatles on just about every album. In 2001 ,the rights to the Telefunken name and logo were acquired by an American company in order to restore and service vintage Telefunken microphones. As business grew this in turn led to the development of new Telefunken products known as the Diamond Series based on closely on the designs of the originals with price tags to match. Since these were out of reach to the average project studio Telefunken yet again created an entirely new lineup known as the R-F-T series. The R-F-T series takes all the design expertise and high quality engineering Telefunken is famous for but at a price point approachable to the project studio musician. Which brings us to the Telefunken Elektroakustik CU-29 Copperhead: the newest entry in the R-F-T series. THE CU-29 Copperhead Microphone Philosophy The CU-29 represents the least expensive offering in the Telefunken lineup. While not exactly a budget mic at a street price of $1295 its certainly a bargain compared to its bigger T-Funk brethren some of which retail well into the 5 figure category. According to Telefunken the Copperhead is not the result of cutting corners but instead consulting some of the best engineers in the business to design the electronics around high quality readily sourced components and NOS Telefunken tubes. T his results in a microphone that has the price point of a mass produced product but one that is high quality enough to wear the Telefunken badge. THE CU-29 Copperhead Microphone DESIGN The cardioid Coppe rhead features a large-diaphragm single membrane gold-sputtered condenser capsule similar to the dual membrane version found in AR-51 and AK-47 MkII microphones. Both unlike the CU-29 offer multiple pickup patterns. Featuring a hand-selected NOS EF-95 tube the CU-29 has a maximum SPL of 138db and a relatively low noise floor of 16 dB (a-weighted). The Copperhead comes ready to go with its own external power supply and 7 pin XLR connector. Also included is a finished and lined wooden transport box which holds the mic but at this price point I would have liked to have seen a full carrying case that would fit the power supply, cabling and clip as well. On another minor gripe I found a power supply ground lift mysteriously absent that seems fairly common place on other studio mics costing several hundred dollars less than the CU-29. THE CU-29 Copperhead Microphone SOUND Since the CU-29 is aimed at project as well as professional studios it then fits that my tests were performed running straight into a Protools 8 MBox DAW with basic 2:1 signal compression. While a good preamp can make even a mediocre mic sound fairly good I wanted to utilize a complete bare-bones approach. After giving the CU-29 a 20 minute warm up period, I slapped on a pair of cans and brought the levels up. Initially I was bothered by a significant amount of line noise but this was remedied by wiggling the 7 pin connector in the base of the mic around. Although the cable was clipped in it seemed to have slight trouble seating properly to be noise-free. After some finessing the cable seemed to be happy and the noise dissapearred. I was initially struck by how quiet the noise floor was on the mic. When A/B 'ing back and forth with my Rode NKT tube mic it was instantly apparent that the CU-29 was immediately the higher end mic before even doing any vocal tests at all. Continuing with the A/B testing I found the CU-29 to have excellent control all on its own with plosives. Whereas the NTK is virtually impossible to use on close to medium range vocals without a pop screen the CU-29 could nearly get away without at medium range to close range with some c are. Siblant letter had a nice crispness without being overly harsh. In vocal singing tests I found the overall balance of the Telefunken to be quite neutral. My voice sounded very much like I would expect it to sound without any extras. Whereas some tube based mics in the project studio category tend to lean their response curves towards introducing some cut or character the CU-29 gives exactly what you would expect from a mic which costs upwards of $1300. It sounds expensive and I would wager with the addition of a high-end preamp would sound even better. The highs had a smooth touch of airiness that led to a nice touch of shimmer. Low-end was non-accentuated sounding quite natural. Even at close range I did not find much proximity effect present. In moving onto some lines involving some belty mid-range vocals quickly dimish ing to soft whisper-like the word control accurately sums up how the Copperhead performs. It's a sensitive enough mic that you don't have to feed it a ton of gain before there's more than enough to handle whatever is thrown at it without blowing things out of the water. WRAP-UP The Telefunken Elektroakustik CU-29 Copperhead represents what is on the high end of studio and low end of expensive high-end mics. It would fill both rolls well. Put a quality pre-amp behind it and your results will sound even better. Let's face it you probably wouldn't buy a $4,000 mic only to run it directly into your DAW. Same principle applies here but for less overall outlay. My advice: If you've got the money to burn and you're in the market don't rule the CU-29 out. It's living up the Telefunken name and in my opinion worth a listen. THE CU-29 Copperhead Microphone SPECS Type Condenser Pressure GradientCapsule Single-Sided Gold Sputtered Membrane Frequency Range 20Hz / 20kHz Polar Pattern Cardioid Sensitivity 14MV/Pa = -37dB (0dB = 1v/Pa) -10bD Impedance 200 ohms stock SPL 138 dB NonLinear Distortion Less than or equal to 0.5% at 100 dyne / cm sq Equivalent Noise 16 dB (a-weighted) Tube Type TELEFUNKEN new old stock EF-95 Power Dedicated Power Supply Weight 24.7 oz (690g) Size 8" (203.2) Length x 1 3/4" (44.45mm) Diameter Extras Modern Power Supply, Shock Mount, Wooden Box, 7-pin Microphone Cable Contacting Telefunken TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik 300 Pleasant Valley Rd. (Suite E) South Windsor, CT 06074 United States of America Office Phone: 1.860-882-5919 Office Fax: 1.860-882-5980 Review by Travis North * This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International. If you want to be part of the world's largest online community for singing where great professionalists will review your singing, don't miss the chance and use the 50% Discount Code for "Review my singing" Forum: TMVWorld50
  14. Putting The TC Helicon VoiceTone T1 To The Test If you were following The Modern Vocalist Journal earlier this year with the debut TMVJ Product Reviews, some of you may recall the review of the TC Helicon D1 VoiceTone pedal. The VoiceTone Singles series feature 7 new single function pedals designed to add professional vocal results and offer maximum flexibility and portability. The are all stoutly built 'stomp boxes' for vocalists that can be linked together in the signal chain with the ability to be controlled via the newly released TC Helicon MP-75 microphone - one I might add TMVJ is slated to review later this fall. More to come. Back to the subject at hand: The TC Helicon VoiceTone T1. TC Helicon VoiceTone T1: FEATURES OVERVIEW Like its singles pedal brethren the VoiceTone T1 utilizes the same durable alloy stomp box form factor. The purpose of the T1 according to TC is to "adapt studio-quality compression, de-ess and EQ to your [sic ] voice". Sounds interesting considering the T1 features a total of 3 adjustment controls. Those consist of rotary "Shape" and "Comp/De-ess" knobs and a "Warmth" in/out switch. Other controls are a main effect stomp switch with on/off led indicator, mic gain control with signal/clip light and Mic-Control off/on switch for MP-75 control. Labeling and layout is up to typical high TCH standards as is the quality of the controls. Each singles pedal features different colored accents to differentiate them. In this case the T1 sports bright yellow accents on black with a grippy matching rubber anti-skid mat. As of this writing the T1 was retailing on for $129.00. Standard XLR in/out are provided along with fairly typical wall-wart power jack. One thing to note is the lack of a phantom power switch. The VoiceTone pedals do in fact have phantom power that is always on. It's an interesting design decision but ultimately I would prefer a micro-switch to disable it. A USB port for setting tweaks and upgrades using the downloadable TC-Helicon VoiceSupport application available on both Win and Mac platforms. TC Helicon VoiceTone T1: IN PRACTICE While I never believe in writing a review before I live with a piece of gear for a while the VoiceTone T1 is on the high side of long term as I have spent nearly 4 months dealing with it on a regular basis. While mic's were swapped, effects switched in and out the T1 stayed plugged into live signal chain for the better part of that. In fact at times I almost would forget I had it plugged in at all - but not because it doesn't do anything. In a word the T1 is ultimately transparent operating unobtrusively in the signal chain. Right out of the box I left the T1's Shape and Comp/De-ess knobs centered out, Warmth switch in the off setting and plugged it into last link in my signal chain prior to the board using my trusty warm yet slightly boomy EV N/D767A. After performing some test A/B vocal passes using some of my vocal warm up material, I began to get a feel for the T1's sound. While generally speaking I'm not a huge advocate of adding compression and ultimately removing too much of the dynamics in live vocals due to how it can effect how the vocalist sings my ears tell me the average compression ratio of the T1 to be relatively low. With only two knobs, I can only speculate what's actually happening behind the scenes but I found it to actually leave the bulk of the vocals alone while adding a little bit of beef to the low end and providing just a touch of attenuation on some of my higher belts ultimately providing a slightly smoother vocal. After dialing in my sound a bit more I finally settled on the Shape knob around 8 o'clock and Comp/De-ess around 9 with Warmth still in the off position. Generally speaking I did not find the Warmth setting to be entirely necessary in my application as I found it to add in a bit too much muddiness into the vocals however I could see this being useful given a thinner sounding microphone or singer. My vocals also benefited when using the T1 with the full band. The additi onal clarity provided gave a nice bump of extra vocal cut with a bit more sparkle on the top. With the T1 doing the work of adding a bit of compression and EQ I was safely able to bring up the overall levels a few db's giving me a bit more girth on my lower less-powerful register without fear of feedback. While I understand the point of a minimal amount of available controls with which to tweak the sound I found myself at times yearning for a little bit more in the way of tweak-ability. It might be nice to change the compression ratio or enable/disable de-ess for example. TC Helicon VoiceTone T1: WRAP-UP At the end of the day the TC-Helicon VoiceTone T1 represents yet another solid offering from the company which has brought us the likes of the VoiceLive and VoiceWorks products. This would be a great addition for those of us looking to add icing to the cake on our already good live vocals. Is it absolutely necessary? No. If you're torn between upgrading to the T1 or upgrading your mic start with improving your primary signal chain first. Once you've got your other bases covered then it comes time to add in the VoiceTone. Given TCH's class-leading reputation for build quality and from my experience so far the VoiceTone T1 is worth checking out for those of you looking for a little something extra. Order TC-Helicon T1 Vocal Tone and Dynamics Ef fect Pedal from The Vocal Gear Store NOW! Getting In Touch With TC-Helicon TC-Helicon Vocal Technologies 1075 Pendergast Street, Suite 204 Victoria BC V8V 0A1 Canada (800) 565-2523 Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  15. When shopping around for a live vocal microphone, I had never really considered trying out a condenser mic, as the vast majority of vocal mics out there are dynamics. While I have used plenty of great sounding dynamic mics, I always thought it would be great to find a live vocal mic that could combine the sensitivity, clarity and extended frequency response of a large diaphragm condenser microphone with the feedback and sound rejection of a dynamic. After years of using the standard Shure SM58 and similar dynamics, I was curious to see how a condenser microphone would perform in real world live singing environment. At my bands next show, instead of using the SM58, I decided to take the Rode M2 for a spin in the hopes that it would give me some of those studio condenser qualities I described above. During soundcheck, I noticed the soundman actually had to turn to me down as the Rode was noticeably more sensitive than the Shure it had replaced. Since the M2 sounded great during the soundcheck, I was confident that it would be a worthy choice during the show. Throughout the performance, my voice had a lot more midrange cut which allowed my singing to be even more expressive as I could hear much more nuance and detail in my vocals than ever before. The Rode enhanced sensitivity meant that I did not need to get as close to it as I would a standard dynamic, which allowed me to ride the mic more than usual and effortlessly jump between breathy whispers to full-on screams without the volume level changing too drastically. Having never used a condenser live vocal mic before, I was a little worried that there would be some distortion if I belted too loudly into the mic, but the Rode was able to handle everything I did without distorting or sacrificing clarity. I don't know if it was the Rode M2 specifically, or rather the confidence I felt while using it, but I received more compliments on my singing after the show than I ever have before. I was surprised that the soundman came up to me after the show to find out which mic I was using. While I wouldn't say that condensers are necessarily superior to dynamics when it comes to live vocal mics, I can honestly say that I love the sound of the Rode M2 and it far exceeded my expectation of bringing the sound of a quality condenser studio mic to the live stage. If you are thinking about buying a condenser mic for live vocals, there are a few things that you will need to consider. Condenser mics do require the use of 48v phantom power, so if your PA or mixer does not have it onboard, you will have to buy an external adapter which will run you an additional $20 - $50 depending on which model you buy and how many features it has. The other important thing you will need to know is that even though Rode has an exceptional reputation for building extremely durable mics, condensers are a little more fragile than most dynamics, so you will want to take some extra care when storing and transporting this model. Additionally, the diaphragms are susceptible to moisture so you will want to keep the mic sealed in its case with its own moisture absorbent desiccant pack whenever you are not using it. One feature the M2 has, which many vocals mics are missing, is the on-off switch, which comes in handy in situations where uncontrolled feedback is encountered, such as when someone turns the wrong knob and mistakenly cranks the PA. If you are currently shopping around for a live vocal mic, you should definitely check out the Rode M2. The M2 does cost more than your run-of-the-mill standard and entry-level live vocal mics, but after putting the mic through its paces during my show, I know that it was money well spent. Order directly from The Vocal Gear Store NOW! Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  16. Testing The Lampifier 711 In a vast sea of dynamic stage mics, it's not often that a manufacturer stands out for being as practical and refreshingly innovative as Lampifier Microphones. Most microphone companies release new m odels which feature tweaked EQ responses or pickup patterns, but seldom offer something truly ground breaking. Gary Osborne, the man behind Lampifier microphones, has a very unique and refreshing vision which inspired his new microphone designs. {C} LAMPIFIER 711 FEATURES INTERNAL SOUND PROCESSING The Lampifier 711 is a uniquely cutting-edge professional dynamic mic which features an internal sound processing unit. The Lampifier uses light pulses emitted from a tiny lamp to regulate the microphone's built-in compressor. This enables the Lampifier to nicely accommodate the dynamics of a wide range of singers and instruments, as well as reduce plosives and excessive sibilance. Because the Lampifier technology does such a great job of regulating audio input (the compressors attack/release time and ratio change with the incoming signal) there is far less of a need to adjust the microphones levels and EQ on an external soundboard. That's right, the sound is optimized entirely within the microphone itself. In addition to controlling compression, the internal sound processor also boosts the warmth and clarity of instruments and vocals while intelligently blocking low-level feedback and unwanted background noise, allowing desired sounds to cut through the mix. The internal sound processor comes pre-programmed for general use, but is also fully customizable and can be reprogrammed to suit a wide range of instrumental and vocal applications. Reprogramming the microphone is as easy as changing the order of shunts (jumper pins) inside the microphone body. LAMPIFIER 711: DESIGN At first glance, the Lampifier appears quite durable, its all metal body makes it resistant to road wear and abuse by performers and roadies. Personally, I think the 711's silver mesh grill could stand to look more unique as it appears a bit too similar to the Shure SM58. Regardless, looks are not nearly as important as functionality, and the Lampifier 711 has definitely been engineered for performance over appearance. The Lampifier 711 requires 48v Phantom Power to operate, so users will be needing to supply an external Phantom Power unit if the PA or mixer does not have it onboard. LAMPIFIER 711: TEST 1 I gave the 711 an initial test run by plugging it into the PA at my rehearsal space. I first noticed how much more output it has compared to my Shure SM58, I didn't take any measurements with a decibel meter, but the 711 seemed almost twice as loud as the 58 at the same gain settings on my mixer. I was curious to hear how the built-in compressor sounded and responded to a wide variety of singing, and I was pleased to observe that it did was not at all heavy-handed or squash sounding, even as I sang as loud as I could. The compression was something that I felt more than heard, and for live singing or public speech, a compressor that is relatively invisibleâ� is something that is very important, as too much compression results in an unnatural sound that draws too much attention to itself. As far as the sound of the mic, to my ears it sounded like a cross between a dynamic and a condenser mic, in that it had more clarity and high end than the average stage mic, while still maintaining its warmth and smoothness. My first impression was very positive, and I thought I would be fun to put the mic through a much more rigorous and comprehensive test by using it as the vocal mic at karaoke night at one of the local pubs. LAMPIFIER 711: TEST 2 This particular pub, charming as it is, has a notoriously mediocre sound due partly to the low-end PA system and speakers as well as the lack of any acoustic treatment. (Though I suppose the throng of beer filled patrons and aspiring karaoke stars could count towards some form of sound absorption.) I met with the karaoke hostess while setting up and she graciously agreed to let me use the Lampifier 711 instead of the standard SM58. I sat in the corner of the pub with pint glass in hand and listened to the results. I could hear right away the Lampifier made a marked improvement of the vocal sound as the singers voices cut more clearly through the muddy sounding room than ever before – the slight presence boost and open high end I observed really gave a heightened intelligibility and clarity that helped the vocals and lyrics be more clearly heard. Another thing I noticed is that the level changes that are caused by different singers performing at different volumes wasn’t nearly as drastic as it can be on the SM58. I wasn't able to detect any negative compression artifacts from the built-in compressor, and the mic seemed to be much more forgiving when it came to placement and proximity to its source. After karaoke was over and the bleary-eyed patrons started shuffling out the door, I spoke with the karaoke hostess who affirmed the positive effects I was hearing and jokingly asked if the bar could hold onto the mic. WRAP UP Even though I did not test this mic in every vocal situation, I'm confident that it would be ideal for use at public speaking events, due to its exceptional quality of sound and management of different voices and volume levels. Essentially, the Lampifier is not a fussy mic, which equates to spending less time setting up your external compressors and outboard EQ. The one thing that could be slightly cumbersome is that, if you do want to adjust the internal compression and noise gate settings, you will have to disassemble the microphone body and refer to the website online to see how the components need to be adjusted to change the processors' characteristics. If you'd rather not disassemble your microphone, the manufacturer also offers pre-set mics that they will adjust at the factory before shipping your order. I must congratulate Lampifier for raising the bar by introducing finely-tuned processors and expert sound management into a live performance environment. If you'd like to learn more about Lampifier models and technology, check out their website at Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  17. SHOULD YOU PROTECT YOUR WIRELESS MIC WITH THIS GATOR CASE? Wit h the sheer amount of capital tied up into gigging gear it goes without saying that p ortability and protection is paramount. When wireless mic systems can cost upwards and beyond $1000 the last thing anyone wants is to have is their wireless receiver unit sitting naked on the floor waiting to be crushed when Chieko the guitarist gets a little too caught up in the moment. It also gets a little tiring packing around a 4u reinforced airline case that weighs 50 pounds. For those of you looking for something a little more compact which still offers a nice safe home for your wireless unit Gator Cases has a solution for you. GM-1WEVAA GATOR CASE: MAIN FEATURES The Gator model GM-1WEVAA is an ultracompact padded 1/2 U case constructed of 5mm EVA rubber foam that is intended specifically for wireless mic systems. Designed with the on-the-go musician in mind the GM-1WEVAA is constructed of durable vinyl and features hinged zipped doors on each side which open to reveal separate compartments for both a 1/2 U wireless receiver unit and wireless microphone. The rear door contains elastic straps which typically will function as cable management or bodypack/lavalier storage.For added convenience they have also built in two zips topside to allow the receiver unit to be used with antennas attached while still in the case. The Gator case also features a built-in carry handle on one side for easy transport. WRAP UP We think it's a nice little case on Gators part. Given their reputation for building bombproof products, you can rest assured this one is as well. At a street value of $59.99 the GM-1WEVAA if not a bit of a one-trick-pony represents a moderately inexpensive way to keep your wireless unit safe and negate the necessity to drag around the Queen Mary II every time you gig. On the downside, there's room for little else in the case aside from a wireless unit and mic so pack your extra cables and accessories elsewhere. Christmas is coming. Think about it next time you pop that arm back into its socket. ~TN GETTING IN TOUCH WITH GATOR CASES Gator Cases, Inc. 18922 North Dale Mabry Hwy Lutz, FL 33548 Phone: 813-221-4191 Fax: 813-221-4181 Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  18. What Are The Effects Of Singers Tea? Ask any vocalist what one of the keys to staying fresh vocally is and undoubtedly hydration will be on the short list. While each has their own opinion as to what might work best IN said liquid, generally water remains one of the key ingredients. As for the guy in the corner with the jug of petrol well there are of course exceptions to every rule. Now today's subject is a liquid typically served warm. This beverage has been around since the 10th Century BC. Tea For Singers! From its humble origins in early Tang Dynasty China later gaining popularity and finally fanning out to Western civilization around the 19th century, tea was, and still is, one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world. While there is no direct proven relationship between the consumption of tea and positive health effects, tea leaves contain somewhere around 700 different compounds, some of which are in fact related to positive health effects including flavanoids, amino acids and vitamins. It then seems reasonable to say that drinking tea in moderation certainly isn't damaging to your health and may even be a good thing. Singer's Tea: What Is It? With that in mind on the chopping block are a duo of herbal tea's from Vishudda Singers Tea. Vishudda loose-leaf teas feature a proprietary blend of ingredients geared towards singers which aim to sooth and coat the vocal chords. One thing to keep in mind with the Vishudda teas is they are loose leaf teas so you will need to equip yourself with some kind of infuser which can be purchased at most kitchen or tea stores. It's also important to note that to avoid bitterness each type of tea has a specific steep time that will result in the most flavor and least amount of bitterness. Vishudda teas do not come with directions on the package but since they are green teas they are generally best when steeped for approximely 1-2 minutes with water that is slightly cooler than boiling (175 F ). Of the Vishudda lineup I had the pleasure to sample both the Chop-Chee-Rann and Chee-Nassah-Rann teas. Testing Singers Tea: Chop-Chee-Rann Starting with 2 minutes steep on the Chop-Chee-Rann mint tea. I was fairly impressed with the overall taste and smoothness. The Chop-Chee is quite a nice double mint tea with wild peppermint, eucalyptus and essential mint oils that did in fact have a subtle soothing effect in my throat that seemed to last. In a rehearsal setting I felt the net effect of the tea over plain water did seem to contribute to my vocal chords feeling a bit more lubricated over the course of the session. Testing Singers Tea: Chee-Nassah-Rann The Chee-Nassah-Rann tea on the other hand had just a bit more bite to it but overall was just as pleasant. I can only attribute this mainly to the ginseng and gota kola not present in the Chop-Chee-Rann tea. Again I felt a nice minty soothing coat against my throat which in addition seemed to ease a bit of mild congestion I was experiencing. While there is no magic solution for fighting vocal fatigue or bringing back a hoarse voice there are things in addition to proper technique and rest that certainly won't make things worse. One of those is keeping things lubricated. If you choose to do so with tea then Vishudda Singers Tea is a fine option. It doesn't hurt that they are tasty to boot. Find out more here: Vishudd as Vocal Inhaler releases a vapor that is used to open the resonators for Singing. Web site: Singers Tea Facebook: SingersTea YouTubeChannel: SingersTea Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  19. TESTING THE EX-25 ISOLATION HEADPHONES FOR RECORDING In any recording environment, the elimination of unwanted noise is essential to achieving a quality recording. Undesired noise can often "bleed" or leak out of studio headphones during the recording process. Having a pair of headphones which can isolate or contain noise are an indispensable tool for any recording studio. ISOLATION HEADPHONES DESIGN Closed-back headphones are designed to provide more isolation compared to traditional open-back models. The EX-25 takes this concept of extreme isolation a step further by improving upon the closed-back design to minimize leakage, as well as attenuate background noise. While some sound isolation headphones utilize active electronics to cancel out unwanted external noise, the EX-25 Extreme Isolation Headphones are a totally passive design that does not require a power source while attenuating external noise up to 25dB according to the manufacturer's specs. The EX-25 comes with an adjustable headband and feels very lightweight and comfortable, even while wearing them for an extended period of time. The 9-foot long cable is adequate for most applications and the cord is a non-curly, straight style. A 1/4 inch stereo adapter is included. While some headphones can be louder than others, the EX-25 features a sensitivity rating of 107dB/mW, which in the real world means they will provide more volume than you will ever need. ISOLATION HEADPHONES USE Although isolation headphones are predominately used by drummers who play to a click, or engineers who are positioning a guitar cabinet mic, sound isolating headphones can be quite useful in many other situations where you need to attenuate unwanted background noise. For instance, let's say you're recording a vocal track and you notice that in-between vocal phrases, your microphone picks up sounds that are bleeding into your recording. This can be frustrating to remove later, so eliminating unwanted bleed before it begins can save you a lot of time later during the editing process. In other cases, you may be working on mixing a track and your next-door neighbor is practicing on his drum kit. With Extreme-Isolation headphones, unwanted noise is eliminated allowing you to focus clearly on your mix. ISOLATION HEADPHONES TEST After testing the EX-25 in a variety of recording scenarios, I found that it does a great job at blocking sound, though it is more effective at attenuating high and mid frequencies. Low frequencies are reduced, but not eliminated, which is expected as a large amount of dense mass is required to effectively absorb low frequencies. Even though isolation headphones are not known for high-quality sound reproduction, the overall sound of the EX-25 is very good with a well-balanced low end and mid range, but slightly less clarity in the highs that you would get on more expensive open-back headphones. I had no problem using these headphones to find the sweet spot of my 4 x 12 guitar cabinet, and the sound I heard in the headphones translated very evenly to the sound of the recorded guitar played back on the studio monitors. My drummer, who normally doesn't like to play to a click, but for a song that required a very precise and steady beat, he had no problem hearing the click and keeping time while using the EX-25. WRAP UP In conclusion, Extreme-Isolation headphones are comfortable and provide great sound reproduction while effec tively blocking background noise, headphone bleed and distractions. EX-25 headphones are also great for everyday use, from listening to music on your stereo or MP3 player, to blocking out distractions while studyin g or relaxing. While "active-isolation" headphones can cost an arm and a leg, the EX-25 are reasonably priced at $89.95. Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  20. USING THE NUVOICE PL-2 WIRELESS MICROPHONE PLUG -ON TRANSMITTER In the course of a rehearsal, recording session, or live performance I occasionally find myself thinking wouldn't it be nice if I had an X. Letter X being fill in the blank for whatever toy/tool/widget that could potentially make your life easier at that given moment in time. New player to the wireless game NuVoice has come up with something that could be the something to fill that gap. Ever wished you could convert whatever wired mic you had lying around into wireless. Are you short a cable or two? {C}I introduce to you the NuVoice PL-2 Wireless Plug -on. NUVOICE: THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK Upon opening the box and given the inherent newness of NuVoice, I was initially unsure of what to expect. To my surprise however the PL-2 which currently lists on for $239.00 comes quite complete - right down to the rechargeable batteries that are used in the wireless units. Being the PL-2 is a two channel system: along with the receiver unit two transmitter units with wall adapters and charging cables are included. Given the trend of an increasing amount of small devices being chargeable off a computer USB port I was happy to see the transmitter units are capable of this as well. The PL-2 microphone plug -on also arrives with two 1/4" unbalanced cables all enclosed in what looks to be a fairly sturdy plastic carry case. The receiver itself is a relatively compact unit not much more than the size of two decks of cards however the solid metal construction alleviates some of my durability concerns. On the face are twin antenna screw on connects along with power and channel select micro switches for each respective channel. Three red leds indicate power and channel status. The back contains 1/4" channel outputs, mini plug 12vdc power and a custom connector input for using the PL-2 in an open port of a VocoPro PA product. While overall the packaging is fairly clever the diminutive size when used standalone seems to potentially lend itself well to becoming the perfect object to be used as a foot propelled projectile. An optional standard rack mounting would be nice. The PL-2 transmitter units continue the theme of robust construction and actually appear to be fairly well thought out. The XLR connectors features a safety screw type design to ensure the transmitter firmly locks to the base of the microphone. The face features power, volume up/down and channel select switches along with power status led. Nice touches include phantom power support via side mounted switch and requiring the power button be depressed for 1 second before powering on to prevent accidental turn on. Unfortunately this does not apply to the reverse. The back cover plate slides off for quick battery replacement using two AA-style batteries. As a bonus when attached to a microphone the transmitter also doubles as a club to whack your bandmates with. In fact, I'd wager that the PL-2 transmitters bear strong resemblance to whack-a-mole paddles and ultimately this kicks what otherwise is a clever design down a notch. The square boxy design is ultimately a bit bulky and shows a bit less creativity than the rest of the design. It's almost as if someone got bored halfway through designing it and gave up. When NuVoice decides to come out with Version 2.0 I can only hope they can figure out how to improve and perhaps reduce the size of the form factor. THE PL-2 PLUG -ON IN TEST Interestingly I had two completely different experiences with the PL-2 microphone plug -on. The first was nearly a non-starter. It's a known fact my rehearsal spot has a questionable grounding situation. Generally speaking it's manageable with strategically placed ground-lifts but some devices just won't play nice. Combine that with unbalanced 1/4" cables and the PL-2 came nearly to the point of being unusable with the amount of 60 cycle hum. It just wasn't going to work. Test 1 concluded - no dice. After a few emails back and forth between the helpful guys at NuVoice I fired the PL-2 back up in my home studio and ran a couple test vocal passes. Verdict? Silence. Line noise resolved I could get down to business. After running through a few test vocal tracks using some of my material it became pretty clear the NuVoice sounds pretty darn good. While not a diversity setup like on some of its rather more expensive brethren the PL-2 does admirably well. As a moved around the receiver held onto the signal rather well - definitely good enough for a small-medium sized venue or rehearsal. Signal quality was equally pretty good as I heard only faint traces of diminished "digitalized" signal quality than can occur with less expensive wireless units. WRAP-UP Although NuVoice isn't the first to the party with the turn-your-wired-mic-into-wireless concept they arguably have built a solid little system. Fortunately for the PL-2 the signal quality and thoughtful bonus features like on-board phantom power and USB charging make up for its whack-a-mole form factor. What the PL-2 does best is to make an excellent utility tool for those occasions where for whatever reason cabling isn't in the cards. Should you be looking to cut back on your cable count you should check them out. WHAT WE LIKE ABOUT THE PL-2 MICROPHONE PLUG - ON Instant wireless for all microphones (condenser & dynamic)Thoughtful solid constructionGreat value! Make all your wireline microphones instantly wireless!Ready to go out of the boxNOT SO MUCH Transmitters resemble the box they came in Non standard size receiverNon balanced outputsCan be noisy with less than ideal power conditionsNuVoice Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  21. TESTING THE HERCULES MS401B STAND Order Hercules MS401B Stand from The Vocal Gear Store At the start of the 1900's when Henry Ford was introducing the Ford Model T, a "car for the masses" he once quipped during an interview that "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black" (My Life and Work (1922) Chapter IV, p. 71). Yeah I know its a tired quote and I can already hear you yawning but stick with me for a moment. For those still awake I'm going to apply that analogy to the venerable microphone stand. Since the dawn of time exclusive of Freddie Mercury's accidental bottomless microphone stand creation there have only ever been two distinct flavors of microphone stands for performers: Straight and boom. You might count the variations thereof such as tripod base, 2 and 3 stage adjustable but reduce it down and we're left with just that. See what I did there? As a singer each type of stand presents its own challenges from a standpoint of durability, flexibility, and general use ability. Before diving into the Hercules Stands MS401B review allow me to point out the shortcomings of the current two options. THE STATUS-QUO IN MICROPHONE STANDS The standard straight stand in theory isn't a terrible thing. By far the easiest to use as a prop in a performance it's rather easy to carry around and when equipped with a round heavy steel base can make for a stable yet durable stand. The tripod versions weigh less and with their jutting legs are significantly more irritating to use. The biggest downfall, however, are friction based extension point locks which consistently go on coffee break in the middle of a performance and cease to hold your microphone at its proper height. Unless you are a vocalist with an axe or keyboard or prefer a stationary performance boom stands are the quite possibly the worst solution for a standalone vocalist. Most boom stands found in the wild like straight stands feature friction based adjustment points. Only this time instead of one or two you have five or more. You see where this is going. Ever try using a boom stand as a straight stand with all those loosey -goosey lock points? Many times I've ended up looking like a contortionist with hands at odd angles trying to adjust and lock on the fly while another extension point starts slipping as I'm re-securing another. However if that's what you're going for then this is the stand for you. MS401B: A BETTER MICROPHONE STAND! The Hercules Stands MS401B is actually rather clever. Not so much revolutionary as opposed to evolutionary Hercules has taken the microphone stand and reset the bar both from an engineering and useability standpoint. Let's start with the most interesting feature: The MS401B is essentially a hybrid straight and boom stand in one. With one pivot point at the base of a nicely weighted flat tripod setup it easily serves as both a pivoting straight stand for performers looking for more flexibility than a standard straight stand as well as a pseudo boom that can angle into the right position. While the MS401B comes with a rather innovative quick release mic clip attachment one could easily add other boom extensions and then quick switch back without the need to thread on different attachments. Tired of two hand height adjustments? Hercules has you covered here as this stand features single-handed height adjustment via a stand grip. Why this wasn't done years ago is baffling as its absolutely brilliant to use in practice. WRAP-UP It's hard to argue when someone takes something and just makes it better. Hercules certainly delivers just that with their MS401B. Think of it as the iPhone5 of microphone stands. It's engineered better, it looks better and certainly works better giving you one less thing to worry about during a performance. The Hercules Stands MS401B is now on sale at many of your favorite music retailers for $75.99. Do yourself a favor and throw away your other stands. This is better. ~TN Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International .
  22. PUTTING THE RODE PODCASTER USB MICROPHONE TO THE TEST While USB microphones have been out on the scene for quite some time now they've more or less been relegated to the lower pro-consumer end of the spectrum as multipurpose general recording devices. No real problem there but start getting serious about any type of reasonable recording and it becomes pretty clear there's nothing reasonable about their inherent fidelity. As a result over the past few years we've started to see a new influx of higher quality USB microphones more geared towards the recording artist as a convenient means to have a simple all-in-one microphone/monitoring system without the need for breakout converter boxes or relying on an on-board sound card. INTRODUCING THE RODE PODCASTER USB MICROPHONE Order Rode Podcaster USB Microphone from The Vocal Gear Store A quick check on the interwebs reveals there are a number of other notable manufacturers out there {C}such as Blue and Audio-Technica offering a similar solution to that of the Rode Podcaster USB Microphone but Rode has positioned their microphone at a slightly higher price point than the rest suggesting a moderately more premium product. Interestingly unlike the Podcaster, which looks pretty sweet in its white powdercoat alloy casing and silver grill, most other similar product offerings come in a more pro-consumer plasticky look to their packaging. I should note however that without holding each example in my hand I only have the high-res photos to go off of. Your mileage may vary. Further the only microphone with a similar traditional studio grade housing was the AT-2020 which does not have a integral audio processor and headphone jack. So on the surface the Rode does in fact appear to have the most presentable and functional packaging. In addition the Podcaster itself, Rode was generous enough to send along their PSA1 professional studio boom arm and PSM1 shock mount which when used as a complete package along with the Podcaster work beautifully together. What always gets me with Rode is their inherent attention to detail. It's the little things such as the green led on the Podcaster which indicates its powered up and ready to go to the clever cable routing and velcro ties that come with the PSA1 that set them apart from the competition. FIRST TMV PRODUCT REVIEW PODCAST This being a microphone developed with the podcaster in mind I felt it very fitting then that we use the Rode to kick off a new feature of product reviews for TMV which you will now find at the top of each product review from now on. That said setup on the Podcaster was 100% plug and play. My Windows 7 machine instantly installed the drivers and the Rode was ready to go with no drama. Being as I'm a Protools guy I did unfortunately have to find an alternative audio tool so in the interest of a total budget free solution I used Audacity for the podcast. As you can tell if you've listened to the audio sample above the Podcaster has a fairly flat response curve with a slight bump around 10k that should work nice with most voices. I felt no need to muck around with any EQ after the fact. The built-in pop-filter does a great job neutralizing plosives and I feel negates the need for any additional pop-filtering. Additionally with a maximum SPL of 115db the Rode has plenty of headroom to also be useful in grabbing quick demo recordings or song ideas on the fly. It should be noted however that while the Podcaster looks suspiciously like a condenser microphone it is in fact a dynamic so while it can be a subjective subject you may want to experiment with a few different mics when recording sounds which are far away or have a lot of high frequencies such as cymbals or acoustic guitar as it may or may not do them justice. WRAP-UP With the Podcaster USB Microphone, Rode has produced what is, in my opinion, the most well-engineered execution of the pro-audio grade USB microphone. It looks great, the build quality is up to Rode's typical high-standards and quite honestly it just works and sounds good doing so. Available at your favorite music retailer soon for around $229. ~TN Ph. (805) 566-7777 (USA) Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International. Don't miss the chance and use the 50% Discount Code for "Review my singing" Forum: TMVWorld50
  23. Could the TC Helicon Mic Mechanic replace all your live voice processing? Do me a favor to start off by closing your eyes and picturing two things: Swiss army knives and sport utility vehicles. Now ask yourself what comes to mind? General all-purpose-ness? Usable but not ideal? If you miss what I'm driving at it's that generally things perform better when they are built for a specific task. TC Helicon, on the other hand, may just have figured out how to buck that trend. I generally try to refrain from waxing ecstatic by maintaining my most professional unbiased opinion when it comes to product reviews here at TMV HQ but TC Helicon's latest offering is making me a bit giddy. Why you ask? Well, it's simple really. I introduce to you the Mic Mechanic: an all-purpose live vocal processor that sounds so good out of the box it nearly made me do a double-take the first time I rigged it into my signal chain. INTRODUCING THE TC HELICON MIC MECHANIC Order from The Vocal Gear Store NOW Click HERE We've been collectively impressed with the concept TC has created with the VoiceTone pedal series with an effort towards studio quality vocal processing with simple analog-style user interfaces. Rotary knobs and stomp switches replace LCD menus and rows of buttons all the while maintaining pretty sophisticated digital design under the hood. With each generation of new products Helicon has continued to revolutionize what makes for cutting edge vocal processing and they that concept even one step further with the Mic Mechanic. TC Helicon touts the Mechanic as a complete vocal toolbox and they may not be far off the mark. Considering its diminutive stomp pedal form factor the Mic Mechanic comes equipped with 3 reverbs, 2 echos as well as combinations of each, automatic chromatic pitch correction, as well as adaptive tone with EQ, compression, de-essing and gating. That doesn't even take into account the built in mic-pre with phantom power and remote effect control via the MP-75 microphone. Obviously at this point you now have a small stomp pedal that is trying to do the job 3 or 4 TC pedals did so on the surface it appears there are compromises. Tone control is either on or off, pitch correction has a single knob of control and the effects only have a dry/wetness knob and yes changes in effects mid-performance require you to reach down and manually change them. TC has however cleverly integrated a tap tempo into the effects bypass switch if you first hold it down until the effect on light flashes. In the end I found the compromises to be nearly meaningless as the Mic Mechanic sounded so good out of the box I could have cared less about it's supposed limitations. With adaptive tone my voice cut over the band better than it ever had, big lush effects were dialed that sounded great in seconds and pitch correction was the most natural I have ever heard out of a live rig. All these things acted in unison to really make my vocals 'pop'. WRAP-UP For $149.00 the TC Helicon Mic Mechanic is in my opinion one of the best sounding new vocal processors on the market that easily sounds as good as voice processors costing 3-4 times as much. It wraps studio quality effects into a simple compact package that sounds literally fantastic right out of the box. We at TMV give the Mic Mechanic our highest level of recommendation. Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  24. Throw out your vintage effects, this mic does it better. You can find Placid Audio products on Vocal Gear Store. Most of the time in either a live or studio situati on when I'm looking to give a vocal track a bit more of a distinctive sound I instinctively either reach for some flavor of an effects processor or my favorite plugin. Why? Because generally unless one enjoys combing through Craigslist and eBay listings for that perfectly elusive esoteric microphone, modern effects processors with hundreds if not thousands of available models to choose from often sound quite good in addition to offering nearly infinite control over our sound. Convenience, however comes at a price and there is one effect situation in my experience where the cold unfeeling electronics continually seem come up a bit short of something authentic sounding: the vintage "telephone" effect. Sometimes there's no replacement for the real thing and thanks to Mark Pirro of Placid Audio we have something called the Copperphone Mini that may just fill that niche. INTRODUCING THE COPPERPHONE MINI Placid Audio was initially spurred by a need of the singer of Pirro's band - The Polyphonic Spree - to find the perfect vintage sounding microphone. Instead of trying to actually find something authentically old Mark - whom is also a sound engineer - decided to have a crack at creating his own. After creating a few prototypes, word started to spread around the musician community and in 2003 Pirro started producing small quantities in his garage outside of Dallas, Texas to fill the need. As popularity grew he created two additional models, one of which is the Copperphone Mini . One of the most distinctive features about the Copperphone series is Placid Audio builds them out of rather robust looking polished copper housings. The Copperphone mini is no exception and is rather attractive to look at especially when installed it is removable aluminum shock mount housing. Construction and fit and finish is high grade and I would say the overall look belies its $299.00 MSRP. Oddly enough the Copperphone Mini was originally designed with Harmonica players in mind but after artists started using it on vocals, guitars, upright basses and the like it became apparent that the point of the Mini isn't the application but rather the creativity it can introduce into the sound. The Copperphone Mini uses a fairly forgiving dynamic as well as a cardioid pickup pattern to make it fairly versatile both live and in studio. Contrary to the look the Mini does not use any vintage internal components but rather high-grade modern electronics with an impressively low noise floor. It should be noted that any mic or effects box operating in a limited frequency bandwidth can increase the potential for feedback depending on how much gain you are trying to pump through it. However, in practice I didn't find the Mini to be any better or worse compared to other similar devices when pushed beyond realistic limitations. THE SOUND OF NOSTALGIA So then how does the Copperphone Mini sound? Impressive. On vocals, the Mini finds an excellent balance between that vintage lo-fi effect and leaving a wide enough of a frequency band so the vocals still have some weight to cut through the mix. The Mini when compared to some telephone effects I had in my signal chain really shined with its warm analog goodness. I found the Mini to inspire more creativity than just a stock telephone effect as I felt generally it had a much more authentic sound and that could even be varied by careful use of proximity effect. WRAP UP With its tank-like boutique build quality, killer vintage sound and lifetime warranty the Copperphone Mini is decidedly one to consider adding to the arsenal. It's not so much IF you'll find a use for it but rather WHEN and I'm willing to bet the first time you do you'll quickly find more and more uses. We at TMV are certainly having some fun with ours. ~TN Copperphone Mini Specs: - Type: Dynamic - Polar Pattern: Cardioid - Frequency Response: 200Hz , 1.4kHz - Impedance: 150 ohms - Output: 105 +/- 2dB SPL @ 1 kHz - Microphone Dimensions: 1.75 inch x 2.25 inch - Shock Mount Dimensions: 6 inch diameter x 0.75 inch - Weight: 0.75 lbs FEATURES - High-grade passive variable reluctance transducer - High-quality Switchcraft 3 pin XLR connector - Rugged copper housing and components - Dismounting kit for optional ergonomic handheld use - Handcrafted in the U.S.A - Lifetime operational warranty - Aircraft aluminum shock mount ring to fit North American style stands Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.
  25. Kick the nasties coating your mic to the curb with Mic Wipes INTRODICUNG MIC CHECK WIPES If you ever find yourself in the situation of being at the mercy of using a crusty club mic then you're going to want to know about Mic Check Mic Wipes. Because god only knows where one of those things has been. You may have even improvised and gone as far as to pick up a box of GASP chemical laden Kitchen wipes to do the job. Thanks to Mic Wipes you no longer have to ingest green crusties or chemicals. Mic Wipes are a specially formulated single use packet cleaning and disinfecting wipe designed just for your microphone. According to the company Mic Check Mic Wipes have a higher alcohol content of 70% than normal wipes which is effective at killing 99.9% of all germs. Unlike chemicals in other wipes the Ethyl Alcohol used in Mic Wipes is completely safe so there is no concern of inhaling anything toxic to your body. In addition, the wipe material used is a more porous material which is better suited at cleaning all the crevices of the microphone grill. IN PRACTICE I found Mic Wipes to be fairly effective in not only cleaning the grill but the body of the mic as well. There is enough moisture in a single wipe to easily clean the average handheld microphone such as a Shure SM58 with enough left over to go wipe off something else sitting nearby which over the course of my review I found myself compulsively doing. Everything cleaned with Mic Wipes is left with a subtle yet fresh minty smell. WRAP UP Overalls Mic Wipes are a good addition to the gig bag. A pack of 50 for $34.50 (all the product you can see HERE) on the street would probably last the average singer or sound engineer a reasonable amount a time and it 's hard to put a price on preventing yourself from getting sick. Go check them out. ~TN Review by Travis North *This product review is a courtesy of The Modern Vocalist World and is endorsed by The Vocalist Studio International.