The contents of your microphone locker can say a lot about your studio. Ask any engineer who walks into a place with a wide-ranging collection of large diaphragm condensers, ribbons, and dynamics, how they feel about working there. More than likely, they'll say, "Inspired." Ask the same to an engineer who has to deal with a bunch of broken microphones that were used at your last house show. I'm sure they'll feel differently.

So if you're looking to slowly build up your collection and have some options along the way, a modeling microphone can be a really attractive tool. With the power to emulate some of the most iconic mics of all time (all within the few clicks of a mouse), modeling microphones are one easy way to pull together an arsenal of legendary sounds at a great price.

There has been a recent explosion in the modeling microphone market with contributions from Slate Digital, Townsend Labs, and Antelope Audio. In this blog, we’ll break down the benefits of using this style of microphone and go over the various models that are out there for you to use.

A New Way To Record

The art of recording certainly is changing. Decades ago, engineers would spend hours in the studio trying to capture perfect sounds by A/B testing microphones on audio sources. Thanks to modeling microphones, the process can be a little bit more simple today.  These hyper-accurate condenser mics can capture an almost perfectly linear recording, which can be modified to emulate the sound of virtually any microphone.

Most modeling microphones can process signals in real time with zero latency or in post-production, giving you the flexibility to choose the perfect mic type before or after recording. Now, it's totally possible to set up a modeling microphone, capture the sound pristinely, and then sit at your computer testing out different modeling emulations without ever actually having to switch out a physical microphone.

Another benefit to modeling microphones is there extremely reasonable prices. Most modeling microphones land right within the $800 to $2000 range and the market tops out at around $3000. For the price of just one microphone,  you'll receive a treasure trove of classic mic and preamp sounds, enabling you to have a much larger color palette to work within during your recording and mixing process.

Will modeling microphones one day replace Neumann U47s and other classic mics? To be frank, they won't. This isn't to say that the current crop of modeling microphones aren't fantastic, they are incredible. It's just a matter of apples and oranges. Some engineers want the tangible feel of a vintage large diaphragm condenser mic in their hands, while others are extremely satisfied with digital emulations. As long as there are both types of engineers, there will be a place for all different kinds of microphones to coexist.

Modeling Microphone Options

Slate VMS-ONE and ML-2

Slate Digital kicked the modeling microphone revolution into high gear three years ago with the release of their Virtual Microphone System. The Slate Digital VMS-One includes the extremely transparent ML-1 condenser microphone, the pristine-sounding VMS-One preamp, and a state-of-the-art digital processing suite that recreates the tone of classic microphones and preamps.

With your initial purchase, you'll be able to choose from eight legendary microphone emulations, including the Neumann U47, U67, M7, M 269, Telefunken ELA M 251, two versions of the Sony C-800G, and an AKG C-12. The VMS-ONE system also includes emulations for two popular preamp models: the Neve 1073 and the Telefunken V76. The options don't end there though...

Slate Digital currently offers two microphone emulation expansion packs for the VMS-ONE system. The Classic Tubes 3 Expansion Pack includes emulations for five vintage tube microphones and the Blackbird Mics Expansion Pack offers emulations for five of John McBride’s favorite microphones from Blackbird Studio’s unparalleled mic collection.

In addition to the VMS-One, Slate Digital has also released the ML-2. As the least expensive modeling microphone on the market ($149), the ML-2 is a small-diaphragm microphone that is perfect for fitting into tight spaces. This modeling microphone comes with 18 emulations, featuring many classic dynamic and condenser mics, including the Shure 57, Royer R-121, Electro Voice RE-20 and much more.

 

Townsend Labs Sphere L22

The Sphere L22 microphone system from Townsend Labs models the characteristics of the most sought-after large-diaphragm condenser microphones with amazing accuracy. It all starts with the L22, a high-precision dual-channel FET condenser mic. The L22 includes a custom stereo XLR cable and can be used with any two-channel preamp or audio interface. By utilizing two channels, Sphere is able to emulate a microphones pickup pattern and even proximity effect.

When paired with the Sphere plug-in, which runs on any major DAW as well as Universal Audio’s UAD platform, the L22 is capable of emulating over 20 different microphone models. Choose from rare vintage tube mics, classic ribbon, small diaphragm condensers, and even popular dynamic microphones. Sphere is even capable of combining multiple mic models simultaneously, allowing you to blend signals to achieve the perfect tone with zero phase issues, which is perfect for tracking guitar amps! Or turn the L22 sideways and capture stereo recordings for acoustic guitars, piano, drums and more.

 

Antelope Audio Edge Series

Antelope Audio offers an entire family of modeling microphones, perfect for any situation. When paired with any of the brand’s cutting-edge interfaces, these mics can emulate the sound of over a dozen classic mics, including condensers like the Neumann u87 and the AKG C-414, ribbon mics like the Coles 4038 and Royer 121, and dynamics like the Shure SM-7b and ElectroVoice RE-20.

Here are the microphones that makeup that Antelope Audio Edge Series:

Edge Solo: A large-diaphragm condenser mic specifically designed to recreate the sound of cardioid-pattern single capsule microphones.

Edge Duo: A dual membrane large-diaphragm condenser mic that emulates on- and off-axis response and various pickup patterns.

Edge Quadro: A stereo microphone with two dual-membrane capsules and a rotating upper head designed for stereo recording techniques like M/S, X/Y, Blumlein, and even 3D sound.

In addition to these microphones, Antelope Audio recently introduced the first bus-powered USB modeling microphone, the Edge Go. Simply connect the included USB cable to your laptop and start capturing studio-quality recordings with classic microphones, preamps, and signal processors. All of these Antelope Audio microphones include access to the FPGA FX suite, which includes hardware modeled plug-ins for dozens of your favorite EQs, compressors and more.

 
No matter what kind of project you’re working on, modeling microphones offer an affordable solution to producing professional-sounding records. Try one and see what you’ve been missing!

Navon Weisberg
If you're interested in any of the modeling microphones mentioned in this blog or have questions about how they work, contact a Vintage King Audio Consultant via email or by phone at 866.644.0160.