You can read more reviews like this, listen to Tony’s productions, purchase synth patches and more at his personal site -> Tony Long Music.
SE REFLEXION FILTER - INTRODUCTION
Recording vocals at home is usually a challenge, mainly because you may not have a vocal booth or an appropriate space to create one. The trouble is that even if you've not got the right space, you're probably not going to want to settle for a sound that doesn't have that professional dry quality.
To solve this problem, the company sE Electronics designed something called the Reflexion Filter just over four years ago, which is a portable device that mounts on a mic stand and acts as an effective acoustic absorber surrounding the mic. sE Electronics was founded in March 2000 by Siwei Zou from Shanghai and they are well known for their extensive and very competitive microphone range.
SE REFLEXION FILTER - WHAT IS IT?
The sE Reflexion Filter is a portable vocal booth and reflection filter. It has been designed to sit behind the mic and connects to a mic stand with the clamp provided and its purpose is to remove unwanted reflections in an untreated room that you may be recording in, so it is ideal for home studios.
sE Electronics state that since the release of their original model there have been many copies of their design but none of them use their patented multi-layer technology. Some of the cheaper copies do not work and some are so bad that they actually make the recording worse. sE knew that they wanted a device that would not just absorb one band of frequencies and they wanted audio to be able to pass through it and/or reflect it as evenly as possible - hence its name.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="sE Electronics Project Studio Reflexion Filter"]](https://www.absolutemusic.co.uk/store/recording-47/mic-accessories-4710/other-mic-accessories-47104/se-electronics-project-studio-rf-reflexion-filter-4416)[/caption]
Comments made on some of the copies indicate that people like the sound. However, these people are missing the point because an acoustic device like this should not have 'a sound'. The Reflexion Filter is designed to eliminate unwanted acoustic artefacts caused by the recording space, whilst keeping the main sound as natural as possible. therefore, a filter that colours the sound (even in a pleasing way) is not doing its job properly! The ideal scenario is to record a sound that is as dry and true as possible and then to be able to colour it later with effects and plug-ins if you wish.
sE Electronic's multi-layer technology is the reason that the Reflexion filter is advertise a being the best on the market, as the build and materials used in the Reflexion Filter help absorb frequencies evenly across a huge range.
With nearly 200,000 sales sE Electronics know they have a clear winner and currently have three models; the sE Reflexion Filter Pro, the Project Studio Reflexion Filter and the Instrument Reflexion Filter. At NAMM 2010, sE Electronics brought out a cheaper, lighter filter and I have got my hands on one. It is called the Project Studio Reflexion Filter and I will be testing it out on some vocal recordings.
SE REFLEXION FILTER - DIFFERENCES IN MODELS
The main difference between the Reflexion Filter Pro and the Project Studio Reflexion Filter (apart from the price - the Reflexion Filter Pro is more expensive) are the layers.
With the Reflexion Filter Pro, there is a layer of punched aluminium that has a layer of acoustic grade wool on the back, covered by a very high-grade aluminium foil with strengthening ribs in it that you can tension. On the inside, you then have a framework of rods that separate out an air gap to form a very efficient acoustic barrier. You then have another layer of acoustic grade wool, then a layer of punched plastic. Then you have another layer of air-gaps with four polyester acoustic fibre boards, which are very high density. All this provides a really effective filter. However, some of the main problems with this filter are due to its weight and difficulty securely mounting it on a microphone stand.
With all the competition that sE were facing from poor, cheaper models that were flooding the market, they decided to go back to the drawing board to try and produce a lighter, more cost effective filter that still did a great job, but could still proudly wear the sE logo... the result was the Project Studio model.
The Project Studio Reflexion Filter has the same basic design as the Pro version and you will notice that its metal frame is lined with the same polyester fibreboard. It is then lined again with a high grade, high density crystal foam with a unique curved ridge cut, which performs far better than standard acoustic foam. sE state that: 'While it can never be fully as effective as its more expensive big brother, it easily outperforms copies and for project studio use is just the job and it is now the second best filter on the market'.
The sizes of the filters are much the same, so although the Project Studio model is referred to as the 'baby' model, it is not in terms of its size.
SE REFLEXION FILTER - ASSEMBLY
You'll probably need the small manual to help you set up the Project Studio Reflexion Filter. It details how to get up-and-running in five steps, which starts by confirming that you have all the parts that make up the filter itself; the stand assembly, the support rod and the spanner.
To put everything together you simply fit the stand assembly to your mic stand, fit the support rod to the filter and then insert the rod (which is now attached to the filter) into the stand assembly and give it a tighten. You can then adjust the vertical and horizontal positioning.
The last page of the manual tells you how to achieve the perfect position. It starts by saying you should position the mic completely centrally within the filter (both vertically and horizontally) and that it should be roughly level with the front edges of the filter where the curved wall ends. It adds that you can try different positions to create different effects.
SE REFLEXION FILTER - TESTING
I carried out a simple recording in Sonar X1 by simply speaking a couple of sentences into my microphone both with and without the Project Studio Reflexion Filter. However, before I did this I thought that it would be an interesting experiment to try recording 'nothing'! By that I mean that I just set my DAW recording and just sat there in silence, before listening back to what had been captured.
On the recording without the Project Studio Reflexion Filter I could here my compter's fan, a car outside, the boiler coming on, birds singing outside my window, etc. - so much for the sound of silence! I then tried the same experiment with the Project Studio Reflexion Filter and I was very pleased to hear a significant reduction in the level of these sounds - in some cases, sounds that had been audible in the first recording were non-existent in the second one as far as I could tell! Clearly the filter was isolating my mic from other sounds in my room...
Playing back the recordings of my voice clearly demonstrated that the first recording (with no filter) introduced all the acoustic artefacts of the room, including reverberations that could be heard bouncing off my walls. I am convinced that this recording would be difficult to mix were I to attempt to place it into a proper track.
On playback of the second recording with the filter however, I realised that the recording did not have most of the unwanted ambience, including the worst of the reflections, leaving me with a nice dry sound that sounds just like my voice, and a recording that is much easier to mix. Excellent result - the sE Project Studio Reflexion Filter does exactly what it claims it can do. I can only assume the Pro version takes this a stage further, eliminating almost everything that is unwanted.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="sE Electronics Project Studio Reflexion Filter - Inside"]](https://www.absolutemusic.co.uk/store/recording-47/mic-accessories-4710/other-mic-accessories-47104/se-electronics-project-studio-rf-reflexion-filter-4416)[/caption]
I then experimented with the mic position in relation to the filter. I found that if I placed my mic too far back into the filter, it changed the sound very noticeably, but I did get a better reduction in the unwanted ambience.
I then carried out some singing over an existing track that had no vocals, with a view to test what it was like to mix. With the track without the filter, I felt that it needed some EQ, whereas the track with the filter did not seem to need it. For me, the end result was exactly what I was looking for - perhaps this also highlighted that I need to make some improvements in my room.
I should possibly also take into account that there is a very small amount of colouring to the sound with the Project Studio Reflexion Filter - not much but I am sure this will be less of the case with the Pro model. I know you may be thinking that the last thing that you want to happen is for the filter to change the tonal character of your favourite microphone but I can confirm that this is almost unrecognisable and the recording was definitely better than the one recorded with no filter at all.
If you wanted to improve things further you could put some form of treatment behind you as well, for example - a Duvet. I realise that this detracts from the meaning of a portable vocal booth but the idea here is to stop unwanted sound elsewhere in the room reflecting from the wall into the live side of the microphone.
It may also be sensible to mention that most vocal recordings have effects applied such as compression. If you record unwanted sounds along with your vocal take, have a think about what the compressors are doing with those sounds. The idea is therefore to record in an environment that is as quiet and dry as possible.
SE REFLEXION FILTER - CONCLUSION
At the end of the day, whether you are a singer or a person that does any form of vocal recording work, the sE Electronics Project Studio Reflexion Filter can make a great difference to the mix you are able to achieve. How much of a good job it does really depends on your room and whether you have any treatment already as it cannot really keep everything out as you will always get something reflected from the wall behind the singer.
Deciding upon which model you should get really comes down to your budget. Personally, I think vocals are the hardest part to get right and I therefore would go for the Pro model, which is still a good price and can be seen in many professional studios today. After splashing out on a quality mic, the Reflexion Filter Pro should be your next purchase. Yes, you could spend more on other hardware such as better preamps etc, but in terms of the cost compared to how much the Reflexion Filter can improve your vocal recordings, it really does offer excellent value.
If you want something portable (perhaps you do voice-overs and travel to different locations) then the Project Studio model is ideal. Whatever decision you make, I would also take sE's advice and definitely not purchase any of the poorer imitations out there.