Monday, October 27, 2008

Living Room Laboratory: The SM Pro Audio Mic Thing

While setting up a client's home recording kit, I got to play around with an SM Pro Audio Mic Thing. Similar in design to the sE Electronics Reflexion Filter, basically it's a foam covered screen that wraps around the back of the mic to help reduce room reflection and echoes.

I've always been a little wary of these types of products. When talking about "sound proofing", I often see people get caught up in the differences between treating a room for reflections and insulating a room. These types of screens are good at helping you shape a room (when used with additional room treatments), but are completely useless for insulating a room from outside noise.

My client had a small office (in a pretty quiet corner of the house) with hardwood floors for his recording space, so we decided to attack the space from multiple areas. We built PVC/Packing blanket baffles to "shape" the corners of  the room, we found a nasty shag style rug to throw on the floor, and employed the Mic Thing to finish the space off.

We decided on the MicThing over the Reflexion mostly because of price, being about $70 cheaper than the Reflexion. I don't think the build quality is quite as solid, but I do like that the Mic Thing is adjustable. You can take the screen's sides from perfectly flat to ninety degree angles forming a pretty tight box around the mic. One advantage of the adjustable sides is it makes it easier to use a music stand. We formed an "L" shape with the Mic Thing, the mic in the corner of the screen, and a concert music stand continuing on the flat end, so he could still read copy. I don't think this arrangement would be as easy with the Reflexion.

The SM Pro mic stand we ordered with the Mic Thing is formidable, and is easily one of the most rugged stands I've ever used. You can often find the two bundled for the same price as just the screen.

I like the Reflexion's Mic mount better. On the Reflexion the mic clip attaches from under the screen, and the depth (how far the mic is from the screen) is adjustable. With the SM Pro, the mic attaches to a boom that has to swing over the top of the screen. The closer the mic is to the screen, the higher the remainder of the boom swings up. It looks sloppy and is hard to adjust without swinging the mic around dangerously for minor adjustments. I think I'll recommend a two mic stand approach, one for the Mic Thing and a round base stand for the mic. I think this will make height and depth adjustments much easier and safer.

In all, I'm very pleased. We picked it to save a little cash, but it's doing the job well.

I had a chance to play with the Mic Thing in my living room, and decided to test it out with my M-Audio Solaris and a packing blanket baffle. I recorded first in Omni to get a sound for how "live" the room was, then added the Mic Thing, then switched over to Cardioid.

Take a listen with headphones to really hear the difference.

SM Pro Audio Mic Thing test:

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