Townsend Labs Sphere L22 Microphone System – first impressions
At my studio, we recently backed a kickstarter for the Sphere L22 Microphone System from Townsend Labs. I’d seen a similar product from Slate Digital which looked cool but to be honest, I just wasn’t that interested in the idea of a modelling microphone. I find the analog vs digital debate and all the modelling and emulation that goes with it to be fairly tiresome and so long as a microphone sounds good and I can find what it sounds good on then I’m happy. The fetishisation of classic gear has (in my opinion anyway) resulted in a bit of stagnation when it comes to interesting digital design.
Which is why the L22 piqued my interest and convinced me to invest. Because whilst it does model a bunch of classic microphones – and to my ears and experiences of some of those microphones, it does so very well – it has a bunch of other controls that make it incredibly flexible after you finish tracking takes. You can even turn the microphone 90° so the source faces the side and then use the software in dual mode to emulate a different microphone on each diaphragm – effectively creating a 180° 2 microphone stereo recording from a single mic!
If you watch and listen to the video below then you’ll hear me reading the preface of “Elementary Harmony Part 1” by C H Kitson (a wonderfully stuffy tome, first published back in 1920!) whilst going through a few mic models and playing with the associated settings. If you listen on good speakers or headphones then you’ll be able to hear the differences between the different models but more importantly, the difference that can be achieved by experimenting with the various controls in tandem with each other. The idea of being able to change the polar pattern, roll-off filter, microphone axis and even lessen or emphasise the proximity effect during the final mix of a production is an extremely attractive prospect to say the least! I’m a big fan of avoiding EQ where possible by using other forms of coloration like tape emulation or harmonic distortion, etc – and this seems like a great addition to the toolset.
So my first impressions are really positive – the build quality is nice, the cradle is good and includes spare rubber bands AND the all important stand adaptor! The microphone grill even illuminates to confirm phantom power is getting through, such a great feature which I now wish all microphones would adopt!