When the little package containing the review product arrived, and I saw that Schoeps logo, that old excitement about anything Schoeps reawakened in me. I confess to a career-long love for the products made by the House of Schoeps and master designer Joerg Wuttke. Upon investigation, its new microphone preamp lived up to expectations.
From the moment you open the box, the VMS 5 U ($1,705) speaks to you with authority. Not surprising is the immediate awareness of the build quality. It is tough, but sleek, a 21st century little bunker of a preamp. As I flipped through the well-written documentation, I knew that Schoeps was in the house. This is a very high quality little box.
The VMS 5 U microphone preamp includes a switchable M/S matrix and provides 48 V phantom power to the microphone. The unit features nothing but the best in switches and gold-plated connectors, all well protected in a lightweight, “built like a tank” metal housing.
In addition to powering standard 48V phantom powered microphones, an input for the Schoeps Colette active Y-cable/Colette capsule system is included. A switch on the back of the unit is used to select the desired input.
Specific gain settings – 4, 10, 20, 30 or 40 dB – can be chosen on the front of the box. There is also a balance control, headphone level, switchable low cut filter, control of the M/S monitor width, an inversion switch for M/S polarity, and a phantom power switch. The main outputs can be switched between the preamp and the M/S stereo out. Its headphone output is switchable both before and after the M/S matrix as well.
The box runs on six AA batteries accessed by a coin-turn screw. The circuitry is fuse-protected, with a spare fuse mounted inside as well as a honest-to-goodness analog battery level meter near the power switch. There is also a low battery warning in the form of a flashing LED. The company recommends alkaline batteries, but allows for NiCd or NiMH rechargeable cells as well.
The preamp will accept external power from 5.5V to 15.5V. The grounds for audio and power are separate, thus protecting against ground loops. Also, if external power is interrupted, the unit will automatically and noiselessly switch to the internal batteries.
On the film The Majestic, starring Jim Carey and directed by Frank Darabont, I used the VMS 5 U with a pair of Schoeps MK4 microphones in XY mode and an MK8 over an MK4 for M/S mode. I used the rig for recording ambience, period vehicle effects and a variety of other props and environmental effects.
Seamless and transparent, the VMS 5 U was virtually inaudible in the chain, and it performed gracefully under pressure as we had many wet days in the inclement Northern California locals. There was never a hiccup.
Combining such a high quality M/S matrix and preamp together in one portable little (6.23 inches by 2.3 inches by 6.75 inches) box has produced an elegantly simple tool for creative sound work. Initially designed for application in the film and television industry, I suspect this will become a popular tool for music recording as well. Bravo, yet again, to The House of Schoeps.
Contact: Schoeps/Redding Audio, Inc. at 203-270-1808; www.reddingaudio.com.