Primacoustic’s latest incarnation of its VoxGuard, the VoxGuard VU, features a clever Plexiglas window embedded within its proven nearfield vocal screen design. I’ve long found Primacoustic—the acoustic materials firm birthed from Canada’s respected Radial Engineering—to be a rich source of absorptive and diffusive materials for improving the many lackluster environments we must often use in audio capture and monitoring. Not only are its foam products attractive, fire-resistant and well-made, they boast well-chosen sound absorption characteristics for most residential, commercial and institutional (read: non-acoustically designed) spaces.
Years ago, I reviewed—and subsequently purchased—Primacoustic’s Broadway Series of acoustic products during a complete refurbishment of my primary audio workspace. With design guidance from Primacoustic’s Jay Porter, it was a major improvement overall, both in monitoring accuracy and overall sound. Since then, I’ve moved my mixing location twice, with the Broadway panels along for the ride, proving to me their resilience and flexibility.
On the most affordable side of Primacoustic’s offerings, I recently checked out the VoxGuard VU ($99 street), a microphone-surrounding ambient noise attenuator from the company’s IsoTools acoustic accessories series. It is comprised of a durable polypropylene shell with eight strategically-placed slit openings; scalloped, hard foamcore absorptive material on its “performance” side; and a 3-inch x 7-inch Plexiglas window, better enabling vocal cues and group tracking collaboration. The VoxGuard VU mounts directly to any standard microphone stand; it can be used with a side-address studio microphone, a front-address microphone, or a studio mic with large boom extension; each configuration is detailed in the VoxGuard VU’s user guide. Also included is an extension bar to adjust the distance between microphone and the Vox-Guard VU’s absorptive side.
In use, I was impressed by the VoxGuard VU’s effectiveness. Most notably, it excelled in ensemble applications, where a vocalist can be captured via microphone while surrounded by other instruments; while it couldn’t isolate the preferred sound source completely, it did significantly reduce some “make or break” bleed from other sources, ultimately allowing the signal to be cleaner, more direct and a useful bit less reverberant. The “VU” aspect of Primacoustic’s VoxGuard upgrade is significant; for vocalists and brass/wind instrumentalists, I can’t imagine using it without the window after having access to the VU model. While the window isn’t exactly needed on drum applications, I loved using the VoxGuard between hi-hats and a nearby miked guitar amp; Primacoustic offers a purpose-built product for this very app (CrashGuard, essentially a “micro-VoxGuard” for drums and percussion).
I also applied the VoxGuard VU in non-musical applications, recording spoken word and phone tree messages in the kind of cinderblock-walled room often found in commercial and institutional environments. Using a large diaphragm condenser with a tight cardioid pattern, the “VoxGuarded” recordings were far more usable and “more professional” sounding than those captured without, for direct comparison. I’d recommend a VoxGuard for HOWs, schools, and other applications to reduce springy “bad room” reverberation in daily announcements, for just one example; at less than $100, it’s worth the cost as it would likely find uses in other institutional A/V applications, too.