sE Electronics guitaRF
By Phil O'Keefe |
Mini gobo and dual mic stand that's useful for much more than guitar amps
When sE Electronics released their original Reflection Filter® in 2006 (now known as the Reflection Filter PRO®) they launched the mini gobo craze and created a whole new product category in the process. Originally intended primarily for use on vocalists when recording, sE Electronics later expanded their Reflection Filter lineup to include the more affordable Reflection Filter X (or RF-X), and two generations of smaller "instrument" Reflection Filters - the original Instrument Reflection Filter and the IRF2. Now the IRF2 has been replaced with a new model in sE's catalog. Called the sE Electronics guitaRF®, it was developed as an improved instrument-oriented model after sE learned about how IRF2's were being used on amps in live performances on-stage with artists like Tom Petty, My Morning Jacket, Paramore, and others. How does it measure up to the previous models, and more importantly, is it something you'll find useful in your studio and at gigs?
What You Need To Know
- The sE Electronics guitaRF is a combination dual mic stand and acoustical shield. It won't give you the same degree of isolation as a dedicated isolation room, but is intended to help keep some of the room reflections and ambience from being picked up by the microphones.
- Like the earlier IRF models, there is a pass-through hole built into the screen for inserting small diameter pencil style condenser and instrument style dynamic microphones like the Shure SM57. It also works great with similarly styled ribbons, such as the Beyer M160. The pass through hole is lined with rubberized fins that flex around the body of the microphone and hold it securely - an improvement over the previous design.
- Unlike the earlier IRF models and the original RF PRO, the guitaRF forgoes the aluminum shell in favor of a composite one that is similar to the RF-X model.
- A "hanging" style mic holder allows you to mount a second, larger microphone (typically a large diaphragm condenser or ribbon mic) and then align the two microphones for phase coherence.
- The design's acoustic screen uses a multi-layered approach to provide a degree of isolation and acoustical control around the microphones. The four layers include a hard outer polycarbonate shell, a wool fabric layer, an air gap and an interior layer of convoluted acoustical foam.
- A steel base is provided, which measures 2.75" high and nearly 8" wide and 11" long; the tip of it can tuck under most guitar amp cabinets easily. It can also be inserted between two cabinets, or between a head and cabinet and hung upside down in order to mic up one of the top-mounted speakers in a 4x10 or 4x12 cabinet. The chromed arm that connects the steel base and the main screen is about 5" long and can be adjusted with a set screw so that the bottom of the screen is anywhere from 7.5" to 5.25" above the floor, allowing for some modest height adjustment. The screen itself is 8" tall and approximately 10.5" at its widest, with a dish depth of about 4.25".
- The hanging mic holder's L-bracket can be positioned at various angles relative to the screen, and the height of the mic holder can be adjusted up or down by about 2.25" maximum.
- A wire clip on the back of the acoustic filter is included to help hold your mic cables and keep them out of the way.
- The relatively compact size of the unit restricts the maximum size of the microphones you can use with it. In particular, very large condenser microphones may be tricky to hang from the guitaRF, especially if they rely on a larger shockmount. Fortunately, the insert ring's design makes mounting pencil style condensers and many dynamic microphones much easier than with earlier Instrument Reflection Filter models.
- There is relatively limited height adjustment available from the included stand. If you need more, you can detach the stand base and put the guitaRF screen on the end of any mic or boom stand, which provides great placement flexibility. However while the guitaRF is relatively lightweight, be aware of the weight at the other end of the boom - with two microphones and the guitaRF out there plus the leverage of the boom, you may need a heavier mic stand, sand bags or other suitable counterweights to keep things stable.
I've been using the first generation Instrument Reflection Filter for some time now, primarily on snare drum to help keep the spill from the hi hats from bleeding into the snare mic as heavily, (as seen in the photo to the right) and it has worked well for me with a variety of pencil type dynamic microphones; even better once I started using the right-angled Granelli Audio Labs G5790 along with it, but there's not many right-angle microphones, and relatively little space behind the screen, so you're limited in terms of the microphones you can use with it. I also hate the first generation IRF's gooseneck attachment. Enter the guitaRF. It's a big improvement over the earlier IRF models. It's a bit larger, and you can use not one, but two microphones with it, including some rather large and heavy models. Aligning the microphones is simple. The guitaRF much easier to mount to a stand than the first generation IRF, and more compact than the models designed for vocal use, making it easier to fit into tighter locations like near snare drums or in front of guitar cabinets.
Is it effective? It depends on your expectations. You can't reasonably expect this to give you the same results as sticking the amp into another room, but it will help isolate it from the effects of the room's acoustics a bit and help reduce the amount of off-axis spill you'll pick up. It's particularly useful with bi-directional ribbon microphones. You may like what the front of the mic is picking up with such microphones, but not want the amount of room ambience they give you. Putting a guitaRF behind the ribbon mic will definitely help cut that down.
While I do see where a slightly larger model would be nice in certain situations, for most of its intended purposes, the guitaRF hits the sweet spot in terms of its basic design and size. What some might balk at a bit is the price. While the unit uses a similar screen design as the RF-X it's priced notably higher, and more than the earlier IRF models. Still, the design makes using it on amps and instruments much easier and it's a lot more flexible than its predecessors. You can even use it for tracking vocals too.
The main things I'd like to see offered or changed is an optional larger-sized top L bracket and hanger adjustment that allowed you to use even larger microphones with bigger shockmounts while providing greater vertical adjustment range, and possibly a larger model with more depth to the screen's dish, which might be useful for applications like kick drums and bass cabinets, or for other applications where larger and longer microphones are more commonly used. Still, even with large and heavy microphones like an RE20 or a Rode NT1 mounted on it, I was pleasantly surprised by the stability of the guitaRF, and it's certainly easier to use it with larger microphones than the earlier instrument-oriented Reflection Filter models. I also love that it can be removed from the base and attached directly to any mic stand.
The sE Electronics guitaRF not just a studio-oriented product. I can see these becoming popular for live use too since they do such a good job at helping to keep extraneous stage noise away from your microphones. This is a really cool product and many touring musicians and studio owners will find it to be a useful addition to their setups. I need at least three more of these things for my own studio. Two would immediately go up on my overhead microphones to help keep the splash from a lower than I'd like ceiling out of my drum recordings, and one would go on my second guitar amp. Another for use in front of the bass amp, and one for the kick drum would also be nice to have. Okay sE, I'm sold. When are you going to offer these in a six pack at a discounted price?
sE Electronics guitaRF Reflection Filter ($249.00 MSRP, $199.00 "street")
sE Electronics product web page
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.