The exhibit floor at AES was awash with microphones: elegant classics by Neumann and Microtech Gefell, tiny head-worn models from AudioTechnica, Steampunk-looking creations from Cascade, and lots of unique designs from tiny boutique companies. But the one that really caught my eye was probably the least-expensive mic in the room: the Little Square Mic by Studio Projects. It’s little, it’s square, it comes in fun colors. But there are three more important attributes: convenience, price and sound.
It’s hard to imagine a more versatile mic: it has dual outputs, both XLR and USB, so it can be plugged straight into a computer, or a conventional audio recorder or mixer (or use both USB and XLR at the same time!) Just plug the USB jack into your computer, and the mic can be selected as an input source for your Digital Audio Workstation, or for Skype, or iChat, or most any audio program, no interface required.
It has a yoke that acts as either an adjustable mount for a microphone stand or as a prop for tabletop use. It’s so small and flat that it could slip comfortably into a laptop bag, or even a coat pocket.
Its street price is about $179. Most important: it sounds great. Despite its small profile, it’s a condenser mic with a large-ish 33mm diaphragm, which means it’s very sensitive and produces a detailed, warm sound. It requires phantom power, which can be provided via the USB cable, or the XLR analog cable.
We’ve been fans of the Studio Projects B1, a very inexpensive large diaphragm condenser mic, and all of the company’s microphones sound better than their price tags would suggest. The build-quality seems more solid than many similarly priced mics.
We’ve previously been reluctant to recommend USB microphones, just because that single output limits them to only recording straight to a computer. If it’s a good-sounding mic, there may be circumstances where you’d want to plug it into a recorder, or a mixer, and most USB mics do not allow that.
There is one catch: because the mic is so small, the mic jack on the back is a mini-XLR, so you can’t use a conventional mic cable, you have to use an adapter cable. One is provided with the mic, along with a USB cable, but spare mic cables with those connectors are not very common, so plan ahead if you’re moving the mic around and might need an extra.
There are never any concrete rules for the exact right mic for every voice, but the LSM is so handy, it’s hard to imagine that you wouldn’t find a use for it.