Slate Digital VMS (Virtual Microphone System) by kyzer
Virtual Microphone System (VMS)
Slate Digital's Virtual Microphone System, by simple virtue of its introduction, was set to turn the audio engineering world on its head. Combining the analog and digital worlds, Slate set out to create a revolutionary kind of microphone. One that could, not only change to fit your needs, but even give you access to highly sought-after sounds that would otherwise, likely be out of most people's budgets. (And variations of those sounds that literally don't exist anywhere else)
The concept was genius, and the price point carried the product uncomfortably close to "too good to be true" territory, for some.
Is the Virtual Microphone System the real deal?
Here are my thoughts.
The Virtual Microphone System is comprised of three parts. The Hardware, The Microphone Emulations, and The Preamp Emulations.
ML-1 Microphone and VMS One
The microphone comes in no-frills packaging along with a case and shockmount, along with 2 extra elastic bands. (and PSU of course!)
The shockmount is impressively sturdy. Solid construction.
The PSU has a power switch on the cable, actually really neat and handy!
The VMS One preamp has sturdy switches and a smooth gain knob (not stepped). It is also extremely light. To be honest it feels a little cheap, because it's so light. Cables connected to the back, if hanging, will tilt the preamp easily.
The ML-1 microphone is nice and big, and has a healthy weight to it. It looks pretty slick in all black. The paint on the grille and bottom piece are glossy, as opposed to matte, which looks a little bit plastic-y compared to other high end microphones, but it's really not a problem at all. Among glossy paints its actually probably nice. I'd rather the sound quality remind me how high end my microphone is, not the paint and price tag. And even the ML-1 by itself WILL remind you (which is good for direct monitoring).
Virtual Microphone Collection (VMC)
VMS comes with VMC, which has 3 microphone emulations. Every single one of these sounds awesome. They are each unique, and cover a variety of tones. They even have unique proximity effects.
Unfortunately, I do not have real-world experience with any of these mics to draw comparisons to. But I do have an ear for microphones in general, as Im sure most eyeing this microphone do.
FG-47 - Based on a particular vintage Neumann u47, this microphone is full-bodied, and big.
In my experience this microphone sounds really good pretty often. It has more low end than the other two microphones, and its nice and fat. It can even sound a little smoky when you push it.
FG-800 - Based on the Sony C800G, this is a modern microphone that cuts through modern mixes. Very detailed, airy, and crisp.
In my experience this microphone has some bite, and doesn't work nearly as often as the other two mics. But when it does, it does really well, not requiring much EQ afterward. I think this microphone has a kind of scooped sound, where the highs and lows are more pronounced than the mids, but maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about.
FG-251 - Based on the ELAM 251, this has a nice top mid and bottom, sounds bright and mellow, really great mic!
Great all arounder, sounds very smooth and nuanced, sounds great every. single. time. Very balanced tone.
Each of these microphones also has a feature Slate added called Intensity. It starts at 100%, but if you go higher you can get unique saturation and harmonics that change for each mic. Very cool!
Virtual Preamp Collection
FG-73 - Based on the Neve 1073 pre, this thing nails the 73 flavor. I have a Great River 1NV and have used all sorts of other 1073-likes and this one gives that same exact flavor, its the real deal hands down.
FG-76 - Based on the Telefunken v76, I believe, this tube preamp smooths out the top end and adds a nice saturation to sources that make them pop.
Whether or not this thing can serve as a 1:1 replacement for a $20k Neumann u47 or $9k C800G has yet to be seen, and unfortunately I'm not the guy who can tell you. Maybe, maybe not.
The great thing though, is that it doesn't matter. The quality of this microphone is high end. Every emulation stands right up to my real Neumann TLM 49 and even surpasses it in most situations.
The value here is absurd. The quality. The versatility. (Think about using other microphones, experimenting with running signals through VMS, the possibilities are endless, trust me I'm abusing the hell out of it and getting awesome results.) Also, adding plugins via virtual mix rack doesn't add noticeable latency, so the signal chains get even deeper.
And there's still more mics coming? Slate Digital was clearly going for the throat with this product.
This is a must-own. I would rather have VMS than the other, far more expensive microphones I was shopping for, hands down.
Too be honest I was a little overwhelmed at first, getting three mics and 2/Pres (more like 4 and 3...) At once is a little crazy! Not to mention hype and curiosity through the roof. Like, I'm about to hear what a $10k microphone sounds like with my own voice and instrument?
Take your time. Appreciate the nuances of each emulation, compare them to your own microphones. Try them in different mixes. There's a LOT to take in. And therein lies the awesome power of this product. I can't believe it's only $999.
Not only is it a must-own, but its a huge leap for mankind in a brave new frontier of technology, innovation, and value.
It's like it's too good to be true, except its totally true, and the only monkeys paws are stupid things like my preamp is too light!
This thing is huge. It's the real deal. And it's a big deal. And it's just the tip of the iceberg of a new era of audio engineering.
This is going to change everything. It'll be hard for it not to.
Great job, Team Slate.