The home recording The revolution has come. From cheap and affordable audio interfaces and software to the skyrocketing abundance of USB microphones in the Zoom era, there’s no reason you can’t produce chart-topping singles from your bedroom. (See: Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell.) Achieving good enough audio quality is easy, but now high-end companies are aiming to help even average musicians achieve true studio quality at home.
Universal Audio’s newest Sphere DLX and Sphere LX modeling microphones ask a simple question: What if you had virtually every famous microphone at your fingertips in a single device for under $1,400?
Plug these stereo microphones into any audio interface, open the software and you’ll gain access to tens of thousands of dollars of modeled microphone sounds and even the ability to modify them after recording. It’s been a game-changer for my little project’s recording studio, making next-generation indie rockers sound cleaner and more focused than ever before. You can even use a model of it Eilishes’ own Neumannalthough you may be disappointed to find that talent is the main reason they sound so good.
On the microphone
The Sphere is available in two sizes and prices, the cheaper LX and the more expensive DLX, both of which come in sophisticated soft cases. (You can stack them, but they won’t survive a hit with a baseball bat.) In the DLX case you get two mounts, a regular mount and a shockproof mount, and in the LX case you only get a non-shockproof mount. The larger DLX will look immediately familiar to those who have tried it Townsend Labs Sphere L22another modeling microphone that hit the market a few years ago, and for good reason. UA bought Townsend Labsused its technology to recreate the old model and create the smaller LX series for more budget-conscious people.
Universal Audio has manufactured everything from microphone preamps and compressors to microphones for the past 24 years. Like everything the company makes, these microphones look and feel like they were designed for professional use, with solid metal bodies and a great fit and finish. The main difference between the two is size. The smaller and cheaper Sphere LX simulates many of the same microphones as its bigger brother, but lacks 18 microphone models included in the larger microphone. You get 20 microphone models on the smaller LX and 38 on the DLX.
Both are stereo microphones that record through the front and back of a custom-made 1-inch stereo capsule. Taken on their own, these are extremely transparent sounding microphones; This is partly why the microphone’s plug-in software can analyze and emulate classic microphone polar patterns, tones, etc. Both are powered by 48V Phantom power, with white LEDs that illuminate the capsule when the microphone is connected and turned on – a cool effect that I haven’t seen on other microphones of this type. It feels like the capsule is calling to your mouth.
The only downside to stereo microphones is that they take up two channels of your audio interface. If you have a smaller interface, you’ll need to track vocals and other instruments at different times. Not a big deal, but worth mentioning for those who only have two microphone channels.
The microphones are basically Photoshop microphone selection and placement. You can choose which microphone model you want. Anyone who has ever hung around a professional recording studio will immediately recognize many, if not all, of the microphone models included in the Sphere’s plug-in controller. Everything from classic Neumann models like the U47 and U67 to more modern microphones like the Shure SM7B and Sony C800G, are available. There is even a selection Ribbon microphoneswhich can be very helpful with horns or for a vintage sound.
You can also select microphones after recording. You install the plug-in, set it up on a stereo channel on your digital audio workstation, and choose which microphone you want to use and how. You can always change it later as long as the sound was recorded with the Sphere microphone first. The plugin works with every major audio recording software, from Garageband to professional standards like Pro Tools, making it virtually foolproof.
Not only can you adjust the specific microphone, but you can also adjust the polar pattern, the “lens” of a microphone that controls the direction from which the microphone records, whether it is a direct forward recording or an omnidirectional recording . You can even use microphones in ways the original model didn’t allow; I liked using a model of a vintage RCA ribbon microphone in a tighter configuration than the vintage microphone would allow in real life. I get much less bleeding from surrounding instruments. You can also adjust the distance from the microphone, which can sometimes result in too many pops with “p” sounds or hissing with “s” sounds.