Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Reflex

Well, the Reflexion Filter to be exact. The Studio Electronics Reflexion Filter is a new studio apparatus that solves or minimizes a huge problem with home studios: lack of acoustically treated space.

I have the obligatory slabs of Auralex foam on the walls of my bedroom/den/studio and I'm sure it helps keep the room under control a little, but I have basically spent the past year learning how to mix around the flaws in the room, as any glance at one of my recording-related posts would attest. Tracking vocals in the control room is not possible due to a noisy computer, so I have been hanging blankets and feather beds from mic stands in an effort to create a reflection-free zone to record vocals.

The Reflexion Filter tries a different approach. Instead of treating the walls to be less reflective (bounced-back sound waves make the recording sound boxy or distant), SE decided to make a portable treatment that goes wherever the microphone does. Instead of spending several hundred dollars to get a room under control, for $299 you can go portable.

The Reflexion filter is mainly intended for use in cutting vocals, but can be used and adapted to meet any recording demands where less room noise is desired. By adjusting the distance between the mic and the Filter, you can get varying degrees of "room", making whatever space you record in go seem larger or smaller.

I used it tonight for fiddle overdubs and backing vocals for Elizabeth Cook's new demos. Compared to an earlier session on the same song - recorded without the Reflexion Filter - you can readily notice the improvement to the vocal, both in isolation and tone. Just speaking into the center of the Filter mimics the sound of an anechoic chamber. All of your words seem to stop immediately once they leave your lips, a rather spooky and unnatural sound.

It's generally considered preferable to get the vocal recorded as "dry" as possible and then add reverb to taste. With modern digital reverb plug-ins, I can use the sampled room sounds of Abbey Road, Notre Dame or a parking garage. The latest technology of impulse response (IR) reverbs like Audioease's Altiverb allow designers to sample the characteristics of any room, space or mechanical reverb, including the legendary EMT 140 plate reverb, a sound you have heard countless times on classic recordings of the past few decades.

The unit is constructed of several strata of acoustical filters including perforated aluminum, foam, and simply air, layered in such a manner that the sound waves emanating from the source at the mic are manipulated so they reach the back wall greatly diminished and therefore are kept out of the recording.

I was fortunate to be reading a discussion of the merits of the Reflexion Filter on an audio engineering forum a couple of days ago. One guy wrote that he was selling his for $175 because he decided to treat his room instead. He lives in Brentwood, just outside of Nashville, so a few messages and a phone call later, we met in the parking lot of a local music store (!), and I became the new owner. It was still in the original box.

I'm sure to experiment more with the Relexion Filter in the future, since doing overdubs at home is something I intend to continue... you can't beat going to work in your pajamas!

Del McCoury's bobblehead approves.


Blogger Barry Pike said...

This is a cool concept and I had not heard of this device. I'll be interested in reading your future thoughts after you have used it a few times.

12/3/07 10:30  

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