Voice Processor/Channel Strip

FOCUSRITE PLATINUM VOICEMASTER($749)Professional recording engineers use the shortest route possible between source and recorder. One reason outboard



Professional recording engineers use the shortest route possible between source and recorder. One reason outboard channel strips and voice processors are popular is that they alleviate the need for a mixer channel and its many gain stages. In addition, the components in these processors are usually of better quality than the components in the average mixer. A number of manufacturers offer voice processors (a voice processor is a channel strip with dynamic processing added), and this year's winner has a lot of experience in the field.

Don't let the price of Focusrite's Platinum VoiceMaster fool you. It's a single-channel voice processor that provides top-notch sound and combines all the front-end features you need at an affordable price. The VoiceMaster has a Class A discrete transistor mic preamp with a frequency response of 10 Hz to 200 kHz (with -1 dB variance). This preamp has a wonderful transparency, with a clear high end and an evenly distributed frequency range. The VoiceMaster is worth its price for the mic preamp alone.

Once your signal is through the preamp, you can process it with a number of vocal-optimized effects, which happen to work nicely on other instruments as well. These effects are a downward expander, a tunable saturator, an opto compressor, an equalizer, and an opto de-esser.

The opto compressor is simple to set up and includes a useful treble control for adding high end back into a compressed signal. The EQ covers four important frequency areas for recording voices. The Vocal Saturator, used sparingly, can emulate the sound of older analog equipment and lets you dial in the upper frequencies (1.4 to 7.2 kHz) you want to emphasize. And the opto de-esser is remarkably subtle. Each effect can be bypassed to keep your signal as clean as possible. Even with all the effects in, your ears won't believe the clarity. The Platinum VoiceMaster delivers Focusrite's pro-level sound at a personal-studio price.

Most of our award-winning products have been evaluated in EM, either in reviews or in face-off/roundup-type features. This year, six of these reviews are still in progress, which is more than usual, but the testing of these products is either complete or far enough underway that we feel confident about our conclusions.

Note that the Korg KAOSS Pad was reviewed for the February 2000 issue of Remix, our quarterly dance-music magazine, rather than in EM. The NHTPro speakers are an unusual case in that we reviewed the A-10 but gave the award to the superior A-20, which we have thoroughly tested. The Earthworks SR77 is the same mic as the Z30X but with a body of aluminum, rather than stainless steel.

Review dates indicate where you'll find write-ups of the award-winning version. Dates in parentheses indicate reviews of earlier or closely related versions of the same product, or detailed coverage in a feature story. All articles except those in the February 2000 issues of EM or Remix are available for download from the Article Archives section of the EM Web site at www.emusician.com. The February issues will be available online next month.