Zen of Recording
From shelves of brick and mortar to the digitized warehouses of online retailers, there is a vast variety of audio interface solutions available to recording musicians and other content creators. This is due in no small part to an ever-widening client-base that has its eyes (and ears) on the broadening horizons accessed via these tools into other audio worlds, from podcasting to field recording.
I mused recently about Presonus (www.presonus.com) and the company’s sensitive ear toward its customers and we have an opportunity to evaluate three products: The Revelator Dynamic USB microphone ($199.95), Revelator iO44 audio interface ($179.95), and the ultra-compact AudioBox GO 2×2 USB-C Audio Interface ($79.95). I found each of them to be every bit as capable and inventive as they were inexpensive.
The Revelator Dynamic microphone comes in through the door looking very much like the Shure SM7B, a time-honored dynamic broadcast mic with creamy low mids and a focused upper range.
The sound of this mic “right out of the can” definitely displays a similar profile: The hefty warmth of a late-night DJ with a spritz of high-end saturation to help cut through without much or even any additional EQ .
Oh, but there is just…So. Much. More.
At first it seems like less. I mean, look at the bottom of the mic for example. Where is the robust (bulky) XLR connector for attaching a cable? Instead, there’s just a 1/8” headphone jack and a mini USB-C jack. What gives? The headphone jack I kinda get, but the other port might as well be a rabbit hole!
And down into it we go…
Almost immediately obvious is that the Revelator Dynamic provides its own audio interface, via the USB-C connector and it’s got some cool tricks up its sleeve, like great sounding vocal presets that make your voice shimmer and punch with professionalism. Digging even deeper into the Revelator’s app you’ll find components from Presonus’ flagship DAW Studio One’s ‘Fat Channel.’ These are pro-level emulations of vintage gear like EQs from Neve and Pultec, compression via Teletronix and Universal Audio, and a host of other professional-grade tools. You can really get under the hood here and customize an excellent tone for Podcasts or other recordings. Again, all of this can be saved to presets and/or default settings.
Another smart and convenient feature set presents itself in the form of loopback mixing. This is essentially adding other audio streams like background music, alternate mixes and even Zoom or Skype meetings, you are able to route these channels and balance these mixes alongside your own feed or those of others. There is also a Reverb channel for adding excellent sounding ambience to whatever audio elements you choose.
In use, I found the Revelator Dynamic to be very simple, intuitive, and easy on the ears. The fact that a single microphone can provide all the hardware and software you need to start your podcast or other recordings is a tribute to keeping a keen eye on ergonomics and a bargain at 200 bucks.
In all honesty, I got a little lost at first when moving on to assess the iO44. You see, in many ways the Revelator Dynamic and the iO44 both offer nearly identical features! There are some differences, of course, starting with the XLR mic – 1/4” inst. combo input, alongside the headset and line inputs.
I found the inability to simultaneously use both the mic and instrument inputs a little bit of a drag but loved that you could apply different effects to the mic, headset, and line signals and mix them all concurrently. If you decide you want to bathe your favorite dynamic microphone in great sounding effects, along with all of the great routing options available, this is going to be your best bet. Especially at this price. Or have I spoken too soon?
At $79.95 and half the size and weight of a sandwich, the AudioBox GO Ultra Compact Mobile Audio Interface may be the best value around, considering its crystal clear 96k/24bit digital and 50db of clean gain, not to mention the downright handiness of the little bugger.
Granted, you’re not looking at the whiz-bang added functionality of the sort that the Revelator products, er…revel in, like presets and effects. This is more about bringing top tier audio into your mobile rig, be it laptop, desktop, or pad. Apple or Android. Windows or Mac. On the go.
I had the GO set up as my main audio interface in my recording studio for about two weeks and it was so convenient and nice sounding. Once I familiarized myself with the inputs, outputs, and monitoring, I was inspired by the transparency and availability of this cool little tool and found myself sneaking back to play with it more and more.
When I think back to all of the computer soundcards I purchased and installed over the years, it’s hard to imagine now (and would have been impossible to dream of then) that it would one day be so easy to receive a level of audio quality far beyond what we’ve known, as well as to do so almost anywhere imaginable and affordably.
Create. Congregate. Communicate, and find your way into your own inspired endeavors.
Sven-Erik Seaholm is an award-winning independent music producer, singer, and songwriter.