"Virtual Microphone Systems"

USB headsets to digital audio workstation software...
jj2013
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:35 am

"Virtual Microphone Systems"

Postby jj2013 » Sat Apr 07, 2018 7:56 pm

Hi,

I posted this in another sub-forum, but am re-posting here, adding a link to one of the companies that offer these "Virtual Microphone Systems" (sorry for the redundancy) as per suggestion by Scott. Also, I added a link (immediately below) that may help better understand what the difference is between a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and a VST Host ("VST" is just one Plug-in "standard" and there are others). Scroll down about half-way (or a bit more) on the page till you arrive at "Main VST host specification."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_S ... #VST_hosts

Full disclosure: I don't own any of the products of the company below nor am I a "spokesperson" for products of theirs but I did trial their "Virtual Tape Machines" or VTM Plug-in that actually positively affected my audio in an "other-worldly" fashion.

It may seem "counter-intuitive" to employ Plug-ins like VTM in an increasingly digital world, but I find the "marriage" of digital and analog intriguing ;) . That said, like someone who I respect a lot told me, audio isn't an exact science but more like Art. One of the reasons why I find the world of audio so fascinating.

RE-POST (+ link)
I am new to this forum and I see discussions relating to microphones with preferences expressed for this and that type of microphone. To me, right or wrong, the amount of money one wants to "splurge" on mics is also an individual preference. On principle, I would still want to invest in a "decent" mic especially if using an SDR platform such as the ANAN which is quite attractive. I find Pure Signal to be of particular interest in regards to how engaging it helps clean up the transmission in the RF domain.

http://slatedigital.com/virtual-microphone-system/

Just out of curiosity, has any of you given "virtual microphone systems" an attempt (in your DAW or VST Host)? These systems employ an "extremely transparent condenser microphone" and digital processing to recreate the tone of classic microphones (read, VERY expensive mics) and preamps. And yes, this circuit would no doubt call for the use of a sonically "neutral" (whether that has any relevance in ham radio is another discussion) hardware pre-amp.

Cheers,
Juha
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w-u-2-o
Posts: 1304
Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:47 pm

Re: "Virtual Microphone Systems"

Postby w-u-2-o » Sun Apr 08, 2018 6:12 pm

The whole concept of "virtual microphones" is based on the premise that the primary difference in microphones is one of frequency response. This is a premise that I wholeheartedly subscribe to and agree with.

The desire to use different microphones comes from the desire to essentially do your EQ in the microphone. In the old days, when microphones were cheaper than equalizers, this made sense. Nowadays, when every channel in your DAW can have a highly sophisticated, infinitely variable parametric equalizer, it doesn't make as much sense. Similarly, with radios now incorporating mult-channel equalizers on the transmit audio path, the need to buy a mic from Heil so you can have the "Heil sound" is rapidly disappearing.

"Virtual microphones" do not and cannot address the issue of the physical sensitivity of a microphone to sound waves, nor a microphone's acoustic pick-up pattern, but these are generally unimportant in communications voice work, unless it your intention to pick up room effects (reverb, reflections) as part of your "sound". However, once again, processing is now cheaper than microphones. If you need reverb, add reverb. If you need reflections, add reflections.

I never cared about having a microphone that sounded like another microphone. I do care about achieving a sound that is the way I want it. To that end I bought a Behringer B1, which has a very flat response. Then I simply EQ it to the extent required to get the sound I want. I'm doing my EQ in the EQ, not in the microphone.

However...once I was happy with the B1 and EQ, I did not want to go through the same exercise with my AKG C555 head-worn microphone, nor with my cheap USB headset that I use for remote operations. So I used an EQ VST plug-in that lets me obtain a differential EQ curve. It compares the mic in use to the reference mic, the latter being input on the EQ side channel, and develops and EQ curve that makes the in-use mic sound like the reference mic. Once you have the curve you save it and disconnect the reference mic. This way, when I use the C555 I actually process through that EQ first so it sounds like the B1, then through the normal EQ curve so I get the sound I want without having to reinvent the wheel on the C555.

This entire process works beautifully. Nobody on the air can tell what microphone I'm using or if I'm remote or not. I sound the same every time. Note this is not to say that, when monitoring carefully on headphones with full audio bandwidth, you still can't tell the difference. But the differences are so small that by the time they go through a bandwidth constrained HF channel they are immaterial. Indeed, the $1 mic element in the cheap USB headset sounds as good as the $99 B1.

73!

Scott
jj2013
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Mar 18, 2018 1:35 am

Re: "Virtual Microphone Systems"

Postby jj2013 » Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:50 pm

Hi Scott,

I sure appreciate your response and with regard to virtual microphone systems and their incapability (in fact, like you say, it wouldn't be possible) to recreate anything other than the frequency response I agree with.

Processing (EQ for instance) and where in the audio-chain it can be done these days I also understand although I still like to use a "fancy"-looking mic :lol:

I particularly enjoyed your description about how you go about EQ'ing or processing any mic to sound the way you want you to sound over the air, presenting the "persona you want to the listener" as someone said. Software processing is seeing more and more applications due to - not only - the increasing processing power of CPUs and DSPs but decreasing cost of processing of bits (unless you are one of those who must always have the very latest technology to hand). Also, like you said, it is very difficult to detect the sometimes minute differences in on-air audio given our bandwidth limitations (even those of AM) when you keep in mind the range of frequencies that you have in the audio frequency realm (in a studio). That said, I can easily tell the difference between the audio straight out of the mic, comparing dynamic versus condenser, Again, that doesn't necessarily "translate" to ham-radio. Interestingly, I have detected the difference in the signal of someone who engaged and disengaged Pure Signal for an A&B and I really liked what I was hearing.

With regard to processing, inexpensive mic+processing for a desired result, this discussions reminds of the "battles" that guys in the professional recording industry have in regards to use of traditional analog hardware as opposed to software "emulations" of that hardware ;) . Emulations - depending on the level of emulation - tend to have a significant knock-on effect, increasing the latency plug-ins introduce and some of them (some Limiters or Tapes for instance) can easily add hundreds of ms of latency, with the amount varying depending on the processing power of your PC. From what I understood from a fellow who is designing a VST Host (not a full-fledged DAW "sequencer"), the Host isn't really the part that would slow you down, but rather the algorithms the plug-ins are built around. Well, that would be a whole other conversation and I am not either a VST Host or plug-in designer so I can't claim to any expertise, but I see and hear the difference when using plug-ins inside different Hosts.

Cheers,

Juha

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