I�m a microphone connoisseur�or I at least I think I am.
When USB mics came onto the scene I was excited � and skeptical. Shortly thereafter, I found myself disappointed. Though USB mics got the job done, it seemed to me that their quality left something to be desired.
I loved the idea of a plug-and-play situation where we can all record ourselves or do interviews at the drop of a hat. Imagine digging into your backpack and capturing a performance by the next Elton John or a famous sports hero with air-able quality.
Flash forward eight years, and today everyone is getting pretty good at this technology. Still I do think USB microphones have been a bit rocky. I want something that is fast and quick to set up, yet of high enough quality that is more than just �audition-quality.� I want something that I can actually put on the air.
�The Aphex Microphone X with analog processing may be it. This USB mic is quiet; and that�s the thing I care about most.
Traveling provides some challenges, so when you have a shot at an important interview, having confidence in your gear is a big deal. When recording in a hotel room or a room just off of the stage of an auditorium or locker room, how it performs is paramount.
The Aphex X comes with �Aphex audio processing,� meaning it has some advanced features that aren�t typical to USB microphones.
Aside from performance up to 96k, 24-bit audio, the mic comes with an analog aural exciter enhancer, an analog �Big Bottom� enhancer, an optical compressor and a headphone amp � all are onboard the actual microphone.
The mic also comes with software and a desktop tripod. Loading the software was easy enough; use the disk, or do as I did � just plug it in and let Windows go after the drivers on its own.
With all the tonal options on the mic, I believe Aphex has given the producer a lot of choices that can be made prior to recording. You can truly adjust a great deal of characteristics prior to capturing the audio. The mic offers a 3.5 mm jack for headphones for this purpose.
I had to adjust my own DAW program to simply see the Aphex as an option in the input, and I was off.� Levels were low, but it improved by simply adjusting the knob on the mic.
The first button on the mic engages the optical compressor. It�s designed to �knock it down� or keep it from clipping. It works.
Next is the button that activates the two onboard processors: Aphex developed the �Aural Exciter� and the �Big Bottom.� Both are used to enhance your audio prior to recording.
The Aphex X USB is unique because of these options alone. I think these are a nice enhancement to USB mics that most microphones of this kind do not offer; I would prefer to add compression and EQ on the �backside� or in my DAW system. And, honestly, my clients generally want unproduced, raw VO.
I was anxious to show an audiophile who owns his own studio the weight of this USB mic and the promise of what I was hoping was a turn on the USB front. When I told him about, he was skeptical.
However, when I recorded 60 seconds in a hotel room to judge its pack-n-play performance and emailed him the results; he texted me: Hey, this sounds pretty good.
My only criticism is this:� I don�t care for the Aphex effects on the mic with �my voice,� but I do like how �warm� this mic is with no effects engaged. And proximity to the microphone applies a lot of warmth.
The basic features:
� Project Channel built into this microphone.
� Includes Aphex opto compressor, Aural Exciter and Big Bottom
� Built-in headphone amplifier from HeadPod 4
� Connects to computer via USB 2.0, compatible with Mac OSX and Windows. 24 bit, 96k recording
� Includes desktop stand and recording software
As I said, I do travel a lot, and I did use the Aphex to voice track an air shift from a hotel room in San Jose. The mic did well. The room had its challenges. I did use the bed pillows all around the mic and managed to knock some of the noises from a large hotel room. But it did go on-the-air.
At $199, I think it�s a nice piece of equipment to have for travel and to do on-the-spot interviews or auditions; and it could come to the rescue in an emergency.
Specht is creative services director for Cumulus Kansas City.