Sunday, March 5, 2023

the Stellar X2 large diaphragm mic & the Focusrite Scarlet Solo - the perfect high-fidelity recording set up...for stupidly little money

Seriously folks, you can buy half a dozen 'meh' usb mics that cost more than this set up - and this set up is brilliant, I'm truly blown away by how good it is.  It cost 1/10th of my set up (which itself is in imitation of gear that runs more like 5k), and is close enough in quality, noise-floor, timbre etc. to my own studio, than I can have cast members from Dream the Rogue Planet record using this gear, and get a perfect blend into the soundscape of the podcast.

The Scarlett Solo has been on people's radar for several years (Sound on Sound review) - though i only found it on this most recent hunt for Good Mic For Our Peeps.  But the Stellar X2 is a dark horse that's really only being discovered now, to judge by the couple of folks on youtube who are losin' their freakin' minds about this mic.  With good damn reason.

When Oktavamod went out of business (the owner changed his business to focus on meditative sound and it's amazing), I was a bit alarmed - I mean, what if I ever needed a replacement for one of my Neumann U67 emulating microphones??  Was anyone else out there retrofitting mics in a similar way?  Well, now someone is :)  

When I got my mic, there was a fantastic blind shoot-out on the website, between Oktavamod's Neumann-sounding-mic, and the real thing; 3 different tracks if i recall correctly.  I'd come across his website in a roundabout 'searching everywhere' way.  I knew nothing about him or what he did, but I knew what I needed and exactly what sound I was searching for.  So i downloaded the .wav files and listened to that shootout over and over...and the mic I chose as 'the best one' did indeed turn out to be the Oktavamod modified microphone.  I got two.

I know how good my stereo pair sounds, what it was made to emulate, how Michael modified them even further to tailor them to my particular voice, and the fantastic quality of gear he put in my studio.

Imagine my glee when I discovered there's a small biz out there approaching the same sound exploration on a small scale of production: can you emulate a Neumann U87 or U67 microphone with mic mods, and capture a multi-thousand dollar mic sound, with a mic that cost hundreds....and (as Oktavamod had proven for many years), yes you can; you can get damn close.

The Stellar X2 is a fantastic large diaphragm mic, I have nothing but praise for it!  It's a little hotter than my mics (probably the U87 rather than U67 profile, I'm guessing?), but has almost all of the depth of detail and color I'm used to expecting from my own set up.  I'm super impressed!  I would recommend this mic for anyone!

The Scarlett Solo audio interface has excellent sounding preamps, a super low noise floor, is dead-easy to use - and small, a little metal mini-lunchbox sized package :D

In the process of testing several different gear combinations to eventually recommend to the cast of the podcast, I became such a fan of the Scarlett Solo and the X2, that they are permanently mounted to a Røde swing-arm next to my bed (wrapped in a pillow case when not in use, which is a funny look!), so that I can record very high quality sound for all kinds of purposes, even on days when getting into the studio feels overwhelming.  

It is such a luxury to have so much amazing gear available at a budget these days!  Nothing makes me happier than to record something beautiful or moving or hair raising or subtle or mind blowing...on high fidelity equipment that will transmit my work as transparently as glass, with a slight magical shimmer like glitter dust in the air :)