Sep 7

INTRODUCING THE sE ELECTRONICS RELEXION FILTER

Recording Vocals at home is always a challenge mainly because you may not have a vocal booth or sufficient room for a vocal booth. The trouble is you really want that quality of sound especially if you have just succeeded in recording your perfect take, but when you play it back, you realise it is not quite as good as you envisaged and does not have that professional dry quality. To solve this problem the company sE electronics designed something called the Reflexion Filter just over four years ago, which is a portable device that mounts on a mic stand and acts as an effective acoustic absorber surrounding the mic. sE Electronics was founded in March 2000 by Siwei Zou from Shanghai. They are well known for their extensive and very competitive microphone range.

WHAT IS A REFLEXION FILTER?

The sE Reflexion Filter is a portable vocal booth and reflection filter. It has been designed to sit behind the mic and connects to a mic stand with the clamp provided and its purpose is to remove unwanted reflexions in an untreated room that you maybe recording in.

sE Electronics state that since the release of their original model there have been many copies of their design but none of them use their patented multi-layer technology. Some of the cheaper copies do not work and some are so bad that they actually make the recording worse. sE knew that they wanted a device that would not just absorb one band of frequencies and they wanted audio to be able to pass through it and/or reflect it as evenly as possible – hence its name. Comments made on some of the copies indicate that people say they like the sound. They are however missing the point, because an acoustic device like this should not have a sound. The idea is that nothing colours the sound in any way so you should not hear what it is doing in terms of tonal quality. sE’s multi layers are the reason why you can create something like this in a very small space to absorb across a range of frequencies.

With nearly 200,000 sales sE Electronics know they have a clear winner and currently have three models; the sE Reflexion Filter Pro, Project Studio Reflexion Filter and the Instrument Reflexion Filter. At Namm 2010 sE Electronics brought out a cheaper, lighter filter and I have got my hands on one and it is called the Project Studio Reflexion Filter so I will be testing it out on some vocal recording.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PROJECT STUDIO REFLEXION FILTER AND THE PRO MODEL?


The main difference apart from the price (with the Pro costing £229 and the Studio at £125) are the layers.

With the Pro or the Original filter there is a layer of punched aluminium which has a layer of acoustic grade wool on the back covered by a very high-grade aluminium foil which has strengthening ribs in it that you can tension. You then have on the inside a framework of rods that separate out an air gap to form a very efficient acoustic barrier. You then have another layer of acoustic grade wool, then a layer of punched plastic. Then you have another layer of air-gaps with four polyester acoustic fibre boards which are very high density. This provides a really great effective filter. Some of the main problems with this filter are due to its weight and difficulty securely mounting it on a microphone stand.

With all the competition that sE were facing with poor cheaper models flooding the market, they decided to go back to the drawing board to try and produce a lighter, more cost effective product that still did a great job, but could still proudly wear the sE logo and so they produced the Project Studio model. This uses the same basic design and you will notice that its metal frame is lined with the same polyester fibreboard as the Pro version uses for its outer layer. It is then lined again with a high grade, high density crystal foam with a unique curved ridge cut which performs far better than standard acoustic foam. sE state that :-“While it can never be fully as effective as its more expensive big brother, it easily out performs copies and for project studio use is just the job and it is now the second best filter on the market”.

The sizes of the filters are much the same, so although the Project Studio model is referred to as the ‘Baby’ model, it is not in terms of its size.

ASSEMBLING THE PROJECT STUDIO REFLEXION FILTER

You will need the small manual to follow the five step assembling instructions which firstly confirms that you have the four parts made up the Filter itself, the stand assembly, the support rod and the spanner. You simply fit the stand assembly to your mic stand, fit the support rod to the filter and then insert the rod now attached to the filter into the stand assembly and tighten. You can then adjust the vertical and horizontal positioning.

The last page of the manual tells you how to achieve the perfect position. It starts by saying you should position the mic completely central to the filter, both vertically and horizontally and in terms of its distance away from the filter, it should be roughly level with the front edges of the filter where the curved wall ends. It adds that you can try different positions to create different effects.

TESTING A sE REFLEXION FILTER

I carried out a simple recording in Sonar X1 with just talking into a mic a couple of sentences without the Reflexion Filter and then again with the filter. However before I did this, I thought it would be interesting and a good experiment to not record anything in particular. I put it in record mode without the filter and played it back listening to all sorts of sounds like the computer fan, a car outside, the boiler coming on and birds etc – so much for the sound of silence. I then tried it with the filter on and it was good to hear such a reduction in level or an elimination of these items. Clearly the filter was isolating my mic from other sounds in my room.

Playing back the recordings of my voice clearly demonstrated that the first recording with no filter sounded like I could hear all the room all around my voice, clearly bouncing off all of the walls. I am convinced this sound would be difficult to mix. On playback of the second recording with the filter however, I realised that I have lost most of the unwanted ambience and the worst of the reflections leaving me with a nice dry sound that sounds just like my voice and a recording that is much easier to mix with. Excellent result the SE Filter does exactly what it claims it can do. I can only assume the Pro version takes this a stage further eliminating almost all that is unwanted.

I then experimented with the mic position in relation to the filter. I found that if I placed my mic too far back into the filter, it changed the sound very noticeably, but I did get a better reduction in the unwanted ambience.

I next carried out some singing on an existing track that had no vocals with a view to test what it was like to mix. With the track without the filter, I felt that it needed some EQ, whereas the track with the Filter did not seem to need it. For me, the end result was exactly what I was looking for – perhaps this also highlighted that I need to make some improvements in my room.

I should possibly also take into account that there is a very small amount of colouring to the sound with the Project Studio Reflexion Filter, not much but I am sure this will be less of the case with the Pro model. I know you may be thinking that the last thing that you want to happen is for the Filter to change the tonal character of your favourite microphone but I can confirm that this is almost unrecognisable and the recording was definitely better than the one recorded with no filter at all.

If you wanted to improve things further you could put some form of treatment behind you as well, for example – a Duvet. I realise that this detracts from the meaning of a portable vocal booth but the idea here is to stop unwanted sound elsewhere in the room reflecting from the wall into the live side of the microphone.

It maybe also sensible to mention that most vocal recordings have effects applied such as compression and quite often more than one compression applied. If you record unwanted sounds along with your vocal take, have a think about what the compressors are doing with those sounds. So the idea is to record in an environment that is as quiet and dry as possible.

CONCLUSION

Well at the end of the day, whether you are a singer or a person that does any form of work recording your voice, the Reflexion Filter can make a great difference to mix you are able to achieve. How much of a good job it does really depends on your room and whether you have any treatment already in the room or not. It cannot really keep everything out as you will always get something reflected from the wall behind the singer.

Deciding upon which model you choose really comes down to your budget. Personally, I think Vocals are the hardest part to get right and I therefore would go for the Pro model which is still a good price and can be seen in most studios today. After spending out on a quality mic, the Reflexion Filter Pro should be your next purchase. Yes, you could spend out on other hardware such as better preamps etc but in terms of cost in relation to you achieving better vocals and mixes, then the cost of Filter is very reasonable.

If you really want something portable because perhaps you do voice-overs and travel to different locations then the Project Studio model is ideal. Whatever decision you make, I would also take sE’s advice and definitely not purchase any of the poor imitations out there.

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Absolute Music

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