Side by Side: Mic Processors

February 1, 2012

The human voice is capable of a wide dynamic range, which is why it makes sense to run a station's mics through a mic processor. Used properly, a processor smooths the dynamic extremes and can add some presence to the on-air voices.

Some modern mixing engines provide dynamics processing, so an external processor may not be needed. But processing is as much art as it is science, and the right processor may have just the sound you seek.

Like most equipment categories, there are mic processors that seem to be a ubiquitous choice for many stations. The Symetrix 528E is a popular model. The DBX 286A and 286S are also commonly used. In this Side by Side we look at some other options.

All these units are 1RU. We noted the rack depth as well. The features of these units range from rather basic (but effective) dynamics and EQ to multiple-preset, software-accessable workhorses.

ModelAirtools Voice Processor 2xAphex ChannelPresonus EurekaVorsis M1
Inputsmic or line (XLR)mic (XLR), instrumentmic (XLR), line (1/4" TRS), instrument (1/4")Mic (XLR)
Input Impedance6.67kΩ>2kΩ50Ω-2.5kΩ selectable (mic), 10kΩ (line)>2kΩ
Outputsline (XLR), AES3line (XLR, 1/4" TRS), AES3, S/PDIF, opticalline (XLR and 1/4" TRS), optional AES3 & S/PDIFmc/line (XLR), AES3
Output Impedance200Ω66Ω (XLR), 600Ω (TRS)51Ω<10Ω
Output Sample Rates (kHz)adjustable44.1, 48, 88.2, 9644.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 19244.1, 48, 96
Meteringinput, outputoutput, gain reductioninput, output or gain reductioninput/out, de-esser, compressor, expander
Front-panel ControlLCD menuyesyesyes
Software ControlWindows app - -Windows app
Remote Controlremote port, Ethernetcough switch -Ethernet
Phantom Power48V48V48V36V
Max Gain70dB65dB52dB70dB
Presets50 via front panel & remote11via software
Phase Rotatorvoice symmetry circuityesnoyes
De-esseryessplit-band universal -recursive-style
Filtersadjustable high-pass, low-passlow-cuthigh-passhigh-pass, low-pass
EQ4-band (low shelf, high shelf, parametric mids)single-band parametric, Aphex Aural Exciter, Big Bottom3-band parametric4-band (low shelf, high shelf, parametric mids)
Expander/Gatedownward expanderlogic-assisted gate -downward expander
Unit Depth9.1"8.25"7"10"
Other Models - -Studio Channel, TubePreM2 (dual channel)
MSRP$1,979 $1,299 $700 $899

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