There is currently a massive buzz around the new microphone modelling platforms, and like it or loathe it, mic modelling and virtual microphones are here to stay. We take a look at the latest offering from the team at Antelope Audio to find out if you can use nothing but their microphone modelling platform in a studio recording session.
I have been trying to get my hands on an Antelope Audio Edge mic since I first saw and heard the system working at the NAMM show back in January 2018. At the time they had a basic listening station set up so you could test their different mic models on your voice. At NAMM 2018 they also told me about the upcoming Verge mic which would be a small, single diaphragm condenser partner to the Edge which has two large diaphragms.
As many of you will know, I have been a big proponent of the modelled microphone since I first saw and tried the Townsend Labs L22 mic and Sphere recording system. Fairly soon after the Townsend Labs Sphere, I got to try out the Slate Digital Virtual Microphone System (VMS) and more recently I have been able to review the new Slate Digital VMS with their new Small Diaphragm Condenser mic the ML-2. Both these systems are established and have their fan bases, which is great, but there is nothing like some good, hearty competition to push the development of a technological solution forward.
Antelope Audio Edge & Verge Microphone Hardware
The team at Antelope are clearly very pleased with their 2 new microphones and if the time it has taken to get a set of mics for this review is anything to go by, the recording gear buying public are quite pleased with them too. I have not been able to get mics for review because Antelope wanted to keep up with orders for the new mics. Not a bad problem to have in my book.
Antelope Audio Edge
The Edge is a dual large diaphragm microphone with no switches or controls of any kind. It outputs via a 5-pin XLR on the bottom (much like the L22) into the included Y-Split cable into two 3-pin XLRs, meaning that much like the L22 you have to record onto two channels of your interface when using Edge. The Edge ships is a nice solid flight case with a shock mount that features a built-in detachable pop filter. Check out the photos below and if you click on them you will get a full sized image to enjoy.
We have seen these before but it's a nice addition to the package. One less thing to fork out for later.
There are currently 12 vintage or classic mic models to choose from. You can find a full list at the Antelope Audio website, and there is everything there you would expect to find, even though I did find the naming convention a little obtuse at times, I think you will know what they are all supposed to be.
Antelope Audio Verge
The newest player on the block is the Antelope Audio Verge mic. This is a small single diaphragm condenser mic that as you would expect records to a single channel. Verge is a nice solid mic that has a nice weight to it. The shock mount is included but this mic only ships in a cardboard box. Not very pro. You could have given us a soft mic pouch Antelope.
Other than that the mic is simple to use. Put it where you want it and hit record.
Using Antelope's Edge & Verge With Antelope Audio Discrete 8 Interface & Software
A little while ago I had the opportunity to review the Antelope Audio Discrete 8 USB and Thunderbolt interface and the song that came off the back of it has been one of the most fun to write and record I have had in a while. I'm not sure what this means but maybe it's a sign of things to some. The Discrete 8 as the name would suggest has 8 mic pres. I have 6 Verge and 1 Edge mic at my recording disposal filling all 8 mic pres (as the Edge records to 2 at a time).
Have I ever mentioned I hate overly complicated software and hardware licensing systems? Well getting the Edge and Verge software installed is simple. Getting it registered is considerably more complicated. It's a case of going back and forth between your web browser and your DIscrete 8 control panel and looking for codes and such. It's a bit of a faff and not a very streamlined process. OK, I have more than one Antelope account which didn't help but it's messy in my opinion. Thanks to the support team at Antelope who managed to work out what I had broken and help me fix it.
I won't dive too deep into the controls or control panel of the Discrete 8 as this is a mic feature but Discrete 8 does have a nice party trick to offer when recording with Edge and Verge. More on this shortly.
I have 7 mics and 8 channels so I set up the following:
- Channel 1 - Kick - Verge
- Channel 3 - Snare - Edge
- Channel 4 - Snare - Edge
- Channel 2 - Hi-Hat - Verge
- Channel 5 - Rack Tom 1 - Verge
- Channel 6 - Floor Tom - Verge
- Channel 7 - Overhead Left - Verge
- Channel 9 - Overhead Right - Verge
You can see the mic models I chose for the kit below, however, I was able to record the first 8 channels into Pro Tools with the models engaged but I was also able to assign (using the Discrete 8 control panel) channels 9-16 to be the same mic inputs but without the mic models. But what use is that you are asking? Well, Antelope offer the models in a plug-in format so you can take the clean unprocessed recordings made with Edge and Verge and then run the signals back through the models in your DAW inserts. I also tried an A/B between the committed tracked models and the plug-in version and they sound the same to the point where I ran one set out of phase and they cancelled meaning that the processing is exactly the same.
In the audio example below you can hear the difference between the tracking with the mic models and the tracking without the mic models. The mics sound good on their own but the models create a totally useable drum recording with no processing what so ever. No dynamics, no EQ and no Reverb.
To record the acoustic guitar I used a pairing of Edge and Verge mics with two of my favourite models. For the body of the acoustic, I used the Edge with the C12 model and the Verge is pointing a little more up the neck with the 4006 model. You can see how this is set up in the music video of the track at the bottom of this article.
For the electric lead guitar, I used a single Verge mic inside my Grossman guitar cabinet pointing directly at the Vintage 30 speaker a little off axis. I would have liked to be able to use a ribbon mic model on this track but there are none for the Verge only a 121 style ribbon for the Edge. I chose the Berlin 184 model to give me a nice clean top end for this only a little-overdriven part.
There are few finer mics for vocals than the U67. I chose to use the Berlin 67 model on my lead and harmony vocals. You can see in the image below the Edge control section of the Discrete 8 control panel. I can tweak the polar pattern of the mic if I want to, to help reject issues from reflections or bleed from other instruments but in this case I left it in its default cardioid setting.
You can hear the vocal track with the mic modelling but no other processing below.
This track was a joy to record. The mics and mic models sound great and whether you choose to commit your mic models on the way in, as I did most of the time or leave that choice up to the mix stage the system is very flexible and very easy to use, once you have all the different aspect of the software and hardware registered.
There is one slight issue with this system as I see it. Now I'm calling this an issue rather than a problem for one good reason. I'll explain. Edge and Verge are good microphones in their own right. As I said, they are solid and feel great to use. However, if you want to track with the mic models, you HAVE to use an Antelope Audio Discrete 8 or other Antelope approved interface with their Mic Pre's and FPGA effects processing. The list of Antelope interfaces with mic pres and the FPGA effects is ever increasing so check their website for an up to date listing. This closed recording ecosystem provides Antelope with control meaning that the mic and models will sound as they state they should, but it is going to close down the potential market to Edge and Verge. If you are happy to use the DAW plug-in to apply the mic models (which is a perfectly acceptable way to work) after recording, then you can use any audio interface, but, because your interface is an unknown quantity at the recording stage, Antelope will not be able to guarantee the tone of the final recorded mic models.
The original Slate DIgital VMS with the ML-1 mic also shipped with a VMS-1 single channel mic pre but this I believe has stopped shipping and the team at Townsend Labs state 2 high-quality mic pres as their input requirements for the Sphere system. I'm going to have to conduct more tests with the Edge and Verge mics before I start recording them with my console but I'm sure the results will be equally fine.
With regard to pricing, there are a number of different options to look at. Antelope and their dealers offer a number of different configurations starting from around £786 for a single Edge all the way up to around £2600 for a complete Discrete 8 with Edge and Verge bundle. Check out the Antelope Audio website for more info on pricing and options.
You can hear a full mix of the track below. The only processing that was added was a little reverb and final limiting on the Master channel. Otherwise, it's all down to great mics on good instruments and voice.