Review: Isovox 2 & Isomic

Bye Bye Booth!

It takes three things to work as a professional voice-over talent: training (lots of), a great mic, and a booth. Agree? Well, better think again. Because Swedish entrepreneur and Isovox founder Philip Olsson removed the need for the latter one …

When I started out in voice acting back in 2004/5, I already had some experience producing music in my home studio a.k.a. living room. Because of that, I had a healthy foundation regarding audio equipment: A large condenser microphone (a BPM CR-10 for the ones playing along at home), an audio interface, and some 19-inchers like compressor, exciter, eq, headphone amp – the usual suspects.

What I did not have back then: A vocal booth. Or any acoustic treatment whatsoever. It was hardly necessary: I was used to mixing with my headphones (yes, I do hear the screaming of all audio engineers out there). What's more, I did not bother about room ambiance/room reverberation when recording the vocals for a song because it was not audible in the mix anyway or heavily masked by the reverb I used in Logic.

But recording a voiceover, of course, is a totally different game. Room reverberation is a big no-no, so I had to come up with a solution. If I remember correctly, just around that time, a company called SE Electronics, a reputable US microphone manufacturer, presented the SE Reflexion Filter which promised a reduction of unwanted room ambiance by placing an absorber behind the microphone. It was quite a hype when it came out around 2005/2006 and I fell for it.

To cut a long story short: I was never really convinced. Sure, it did something to the sound, I guess, but if your room is not treated at all, unwanted audio reflections come from all over the place, so placing something just behind your mic will not do the trick, meaning: I ended up building myself a booth.

Fast forward a decade and a half: The SE's Reflexion Filter is still around (which I totally do not get at all), and some new products have arrived. Still pretty new to the family is the Isomic from Isovox which has been developed especially to be used together with the new Isovox 2 portable vocal booth whose predecessor has been around for some years now.

How the Isovox 2 works

First, let's talk about the Isovox 2 which looks like an oversized space suit helmet where SpaceX forgot to include the visor. The basic idea is: If you have no full-size booth at hand, they just build a booth for your head. At the end of the day, this is where all the voiceover magic happens, no?

The Isovox 2 is like a vocal booth for your head. Because it is very easy to mount and unmount, it is an ideal companion for travel-hungry voiceover talents, too!

The Isovox 2 is like a vocal booth for your head. Because it is very easy to mount and unmount, it is an ideal companion for travel-hungry voiceover talents, too!

It took me less than 10 minutes to mount the complete set when I did it the first time, and I am convinced that I can easily half that time if I would mount and unmount it regularly. A helping hand makes things easier a bit, but I am sure anybody can mount this without any issues whatsoever. The build quality is nice and looks robust as you would expect from something that was designed with the idea in mind to use the Isovox as a portable vocal booth, too.

Within the mini cubicle which is mounted on an optional off-the-shelf stand (the same type that is used for speakers of a PA; it is well suited for the job and comes in the colors black and white), there is room for a microphone, a script, and your head, of course. Tip: If you are far-sighted, you will need reading glasses as the maximum distance between your eyes and the script is limited.

The Isovox 2 has acoustic elements on all sides, even behind your head. I would argue that the latter – which is folded down once you stand in position in the Isovox – probably is not even necessary as you yourself block most of the audio reflections coming from behind with your very own head, but closing it down completely works well without becoming claustrophobic, so I played to the rulebook.

Because the acoustic elements do not only block sound but light, too, the Isovox comes with a third-party, battery-powered LED bar, batteries included. The bar is held by two cloth loops behind the microphone. It is a rather practical solution but executed nicely, so I do not mind that the LEDs are not included in the overall design of the cubicle. Tip: Remind yourself to turn off the LEDs after your session. Although, being LEDs, they last really long, I have drained two sets of batteries within a week because I forgot to turn them off …

So what is it like recording in there? Well, very "cosy". Some might have issues with the limited space, but I have found it even beneficial for several reasons: I do not use headphones anymore during sessions because I can hear myself really, really well in there, much better than in my full-sized former booth. This, of course, is due to the small size of the cubicle around the head and the effect this has on the acoustics.

Yes, within the Isovox your voice does sound a bit muffled and heavy on the bass side of things. This is to be expected and will not affect the recording – we will talk about this later. But it also sounds very intimate and warm, and I have found this helpful diving into the script I am reading. I also felt that I could easier connect with the script and concentrate better in my little voice-over world protected from the "outside".

The Isomic

The Isovox is only one half of the equation, though. While you could use it with the microphone you already own, there is now a more advanced solution available that takes into account the special Isovox recording environment and its challenges regarding sound: The Isomic.

Captures frequencies between 7 Hz and 87 kHz: Isomic

Captures frequencies between 7 Hz and 87 kHz: Isomic

Talking about the Isomic, you have to understand right from the beginning that it has been created specifically to be used in conjunction with the Isovox. Yes, this does imply that using the Isomic without the Isovox (or a similar special recording environment with very close-by acoustic treatment) will result in recordings with way too much treble. In theory, you could adjust the sound using EQ, of course, and thanks to the frequency range of 7hz to 87 (!) kHz this absolutely is possible. It's just not meant to be used like that, although many reviews I have read about the Isomic seem to be oblivious to this important detail.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes, frequencies. The extraordinary range in part comes from the triangle-shaped membrane. Pretty unusual, you think? Not for Swedish manufacturer Research Electronics AB (owner of the brand Ehrlund Microphones) who found that a membrane with the shape of a triangle features some advantages over a circular one regarding sensitivity and the ability to recreate transients. As reviews worldwide praise Ehrlund Microphones, it seems that Isovox chose their partner to develop the Isovox-compatible microphones wisely, and my initial suspicion as to why Isovox thinks they are qualified to build great microphones was based on nothing but lack of information. So there.

And, of course: The Isomic has been specifically developed to account for the special recording environment and its acoustic challenges within the Isovox 2, the major one being the dominance of lower frequencies that builds up in the cubicle.

Included in the Isomic package is a pop filter. Some might find it a bit small as it does not cover the whole microphone. During my tests I had no issues with it, though. BTW: Did you know that the best way to eliminate unwanted sounds is to not speak directly to the center of a microphone but to its side – works like a charm.

Not in the package you will find a shock mount, though, which is rather unusual for a microphone of that price range. Then again: The Isomic does not seem to be prone to floor rumble, impact sounds, and the likes.

The Isomic comes with a pop filter but no shock mount. Not a biggie: The mic is not prone to impact sounds.

The Isomic comes with a pop filter but no shock mount. Not a biggie: The mic is not prone to impact sounds.

The sound

I will not bore you with technicalities like dBs and SNR, fancy diagrams, and all that jibberish that looks important, reads horrible, and absolutely says nothing about the sound. We all have wonderful, built-in devices to judge the quality of a microphone. They are called "ears", and here is something for them.

The recording you are about to hear took place in the middle of my office, a ten-foot-high room with a parquet floor and blank walls – not an ideal environment for recordings to say the least. On the plus side: The walls are thick, so outside noise from the street is not an issue.

What is an issue, though, is the fan of my MacBookPro which kicks in for no apparent reason as soon as I start up Logic Pro X. I left it sitting on my desk less than a meter away from the Isovox 2/Isomic to see how bad it would be in the recording.

I highly recommend you now put on some decent headphones to be able to judge the quality of the audio properly. The first audio is a 100 percent unprocessed raw recording. No edits at all have been made, no effects have been used. This recording resembles exactly what the Isomic captured.

The second audio is what you heard before i.e. it is the exact same take, but this time processed using the Waves Audio Renaissance Vox Gate/Compressor plug-in with a bit of make-up gain.

Did you hear the fans of the MacBook in the first recording? I have to crank up the volume pretty high to be able to hear it in the first recording. I have no chance, though, to hear the fan in the second, processed version.

Now, let's compare this to a recording of the same piece using a rather typical setup: Studio Bricks booth, a Sennheiser MKH 416 feeding an Apollo Twin Duo. Again, you are listening to the raw, unprocessed recording – no noise gate, no compression (although it needs to be understood that the MKH 416 by design is much more in the face than a large-diaphragm condenser microphone like the Isomic).

Before we close this down, let's have a look at the price tag. The Isovox 2 comes in at 999 Euro/USD (including the stand), the Isomic at around 1.299 Euro/USD. We have not seen a set deal, but would expect to see one at a later stage, especially because buying the Isomic by itself does not really make sense.

With a total just shy of 2,300 Euro/USD for a set of Isovox 2 and Isomic, one can not say that the Isovox 2/Isomic is a bargain. But given the alternative – for example, a comparable microphone like a Neumann TLM 103 or a Brauner Phantom Classic plus a vocal booth – would come in much more expensive, the bundle from Sweden looks like a great deal with many advantages over the classic approach.

More Infos & where to buy

Interested in finding out more about the Isovox and the Isomic? Head over to Isovox where you can also buy directly or find dealers near you.


The Isovox 2 / Isomic

The Isovox 2 / Isomic

Because of past experiences with reflection filters and the likes, I was quite suspicious about how well the Isovox 2 in conjunction with the Isomic would work. I was specifically doubtful about the sound developing too much bass due to the "proximity effect" within the sound chamber. Also: Producing great microphones is not something you just do. It takes experience. A lot of experience. So I found it hard to believe that somebody with no background in building microphones would not only come up with one that sounds great but also manages to account for the special requirements needed to fight audio downfalls.

What can I say: Isovox have nailed it. Totally. After four weeks of experience with the Isovox 2/Isomic duo, I have not found a flaw worth mentioning today: Packaging: Great. Build quality: Awesome. Practicality: Check. Price: More than justified. Sound: Studio quality. Without the studio.

The Isovox 2 / Isomic bundle is a wonderful studio-quality solution. For voiceover talents with limited space, for talents that are on the road all the time, for talents starting out, for talents looking for a more practical way. If there is one thing that really, really annoys me about the Isovox 2: Where was that bloody thing when I started my voiceover journey some 16 years ago?

PS: Usually, bodalgo will not replay the PR jibberish of a manufacturer, but in this case I am happy to make an exception. Because it's funny. And, more importantly: Because it's true.

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isovox 2  isomic  review