Item: Slate Digital VMS-ONE / ML-1
Price: £925 (UK), $999 (US)
Quick Singer Assessment:
Slate Digital’s VMS is a great option for recording different singers and instruments without having to spend thousands on a range of different microphones.
At a Glance
The Slate Digital Virtual Microphone System (VMS) combines hardware and software to give users maximum versatility from a single microphone. What makes the VMS special is it uses software to model other microphones and preamps, enabling it to potentially be the only setup you will need for recording. There are various options available including a large-diaphragm model (ML-1), a small-diaphragm model (ML-2), a single channel preamp (VMS-ONE) and an 8-channel preamp (VRS-8). For this review I will focus on the most popular bundle for singers that combines the ML-1 large-diaphragm microphone with the VMS-ONE single channel preamplifier.
The microphone models available include some of the most popular vocal recording microphones in the world such as the Neumann U47, U67, AKG C12, and Sony C800G. The preamplifier offers a choice between a model of a Neve 1073 and a Tab/Telefunken V76 tube amplifier. There are also expansion packs available to give even more options. One great feature of the VMS system is that you can use the software to change the choice of microphone and preamplifier after you have recorded. You can also just use the microphone and preamplifier without any of the emulation for an ultra-clean sound.
As good as the emulations are; they are not as identical to the original microphones and hardware as marketing messages would lead you to believe. One of the most noticeable differences I found was that of increased sibilance in the recordings. It was especially noticeable when I recorded a jazz singer using the U47 emulation – a microphone that is usually known to handle ‘esses’ (sibilants) well. I have recorded the same singer several times before with other microphones (including a U47 clone made by Peluso) and have never had to use the large amounts of de-essing on the recordings that the VMS required. Also, although it is an understandable omission, some users may have liked it if Slate Digital could have included a USB interface in the VMS-ONE preamp.
Audio-Savvy Reviewer Says…
The VMS is an impressive piece of equipment that will no doubt tempt many singers who dream of recording through a high-end microphone chain that top studios use. It offers good value for money and can produce professional sounding results. That said, when comparing it to other microphones I own that cost around $1000, I did not feel that the VMS made me want to sell them and keep the VMS instead. If you are looking for your first microphone and preamp, and have a budget around $1000, then the VMS is an incredible option that you should definitely consider. That said, if you already have a microphone and preamplifier that you like (and are unlikely to be recording lots of other singers), then you might be better off just sticking with what you have. – Chris Kennedy
Manufacturer’s Website: https://slatedigital.com/
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Chris Kennedy is a songwriter, producer multi-instrumentalist and freelance journalist from the UK. He has performed extensively over Europe and written and produced over a dozen albums. Chris also has a passion for music technology and was the principal product reviewer and tech expert of the original Voice Council magazine.