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Review: Sound from around The Globe
The Globe Microphone from Violet Design

July 2007 - Violet Design, Ltd is a microphone manufacturer in Riga, Latvia EU, producing some uniquely styled new microphone designs using time-honored techniques and elements to craft some innovative products. The microphones are all hand-made in Latvia at their factory and are distributed around the world by a variety of wholesalers. Violet Design, Ltd produces all of their products in their Latvian factory. A photo tour of the facility is detailed on their website. In the USA, Violet recently announced that the line has been picked up by FDW-Worldwide, of Middleton, WI, a sister company to popular pro audio cataloger Full Compass.

Roses are Red, Violets are...?

If Violet microphones have a familiar air about them, it's likely because you've seen other microphones on the market that their founder, Juris Zarins, was involved with the design of some time ago. Much of the talk about Violet Design, at least prevalent in the US pro audio media, has unfortunately centered on a dispute with that microphone manufacturer, Blue Microphones. Blue, or initially B.L.U.E (which once stood for Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics) is simply referred to by its acronym these days, along with its other line, Red. We can't and won't comment on the validity of either company's position in their dispute, that's not our place as publishers reviewing equipment, but we try to be friendly to both companies and not take sides. For the record, Violet Design, Ltd is an advertiser, and Blue frequently releases news stories to our readers here on AppleProAudio.com. We are equal opportunity news publishers and reviewers. We will publish both sides of any issue or evaluate either's products. Unfazed by the legal press release battles, when we were asked to try out Violet microphones, we were happy to do so. If there is one thing we love as much as our Macs (aside from cool guitars), it's cool microphones.

Going Around The Globe

Violet Design's The Globe was shipped to us directly from the factory in Latvia and is the first put to the test in our publishing company's project studio while still in California,and then completed for this review in our new home, located just outside of the Nashville, TN area. The Globe is not an entry-level microphone for the beginning home recording hobbyist, since its price range puts it up there in the lower-end of high-priced, serious studio equipment, with a $1779 US MSRP (street price is around $1400 US). That's a pretty big investment, so for the price, it had better sound good.

Outside the Box

The one thing I've noticed about some of the microphones thrust onto the market the past decade or so since the home recording revolution really took off is that a few manufacturers are guilty of putting a $200 mike in a $300 case to give the impression that they are selling something more special than you really are getting. Violet is not guilty of that. I'd say this box is actually just right. Violet isn't trying to fool anyone with extra fancy packaging, but neither did they skimp on the case. The microphone came in a handsome, deep purple-colored wooden box with a latch on each side to keep it shut, and the Violet logo embossed in silver on the top.

The spherical Globe sat safely on a cushioned pad of cream-colored velvet, covering custom-cut foam designed to help securely house the microphone, top to bottom, and keep it from harm's way should the box take a tumble in the studio. Certainly you'll be proud to have it on the shelf, it's a nice little box, but fancy boxes are window-dressing. A case is ultimately for protecting your microphone investment.

Nice to look at, Nice to hold...

The microphone is very beautiful to look at, appointed with rich purple, gold and silver colors that make it look more like some kind of sculpture at first glance. The unit they sent to us was meticulously flawless in appearance, and obviously a handcrafted, quality microphone that was not slapped together in a mass-production facility. There was not the slightest hint of stress to the heads of the assembly screws; everything was uniform and perfect in appearance.

Its cosmetic characteristics were so impressive it was sure setting itself up for a hard fall if its sound didn't measure up. It would be very disappointing to have something so pleasing to look at lose its luster when put to the test in the studio. But as everyone knows, looks are not everything, especially when it comes to something as crucial in the recording path as a microphone.

On the Ball....

Violet says The Globe, which has a unidirectional cardioid pattern and large size dual-diaphragm capsule, ”is designed for a detailed and neutral sound—with transparent highs, smooth midrange with minimal presence and close to flat low-end response.” So named for its round capsule housing, The Globe is an elegantly simple design, with a multi-layer brass mesh grill designed to try to reduce plosive sounds, breath, pop and wind noise, minimize internal resonance, and keep high frequencies and sound transparency unaffected. The capsule contains a 6- micron Mylar film active diaphragm, with a mixture of gold, tensioned on a brass back-plate There are no pads, so what you see if what you get. It is powered by 48v phantom power supplied from your own choice of power sources, be it your DAW, solid-state or tube mic-pre, etc.

The Direct Approach

I decided to try it out through a couple of different recording channels in our project studio, running the microphone directly through a Pro Tools 002R, then using it with a choice of a Groove Tubes Vipre, an Focusrite Octopre LE, and a Focusrite Platinum Penta, signal paths one could easily find in a home studio or professional facility.

Using the most direct path, straight into the Pro Tools 002R, I armed a track in Pro Tools LE7 on the studio's G5 Dual 2Ghz machine and positioned The Globe around the 8th-10th fret of my recently re-strung Gibson J200 jumbo acoustic guitar, about 10" to 12" away from the neck. Placement of any microphone on this guitar is especially important, as its large body size produces a beautiful tone in just the right spot, but a big booming tone in the wrong one.

As I set the record level, I started to realize that the sound was really just amazing. The clarity of this instrument really shined through The Globe, without any colorization or EQ, just a straight, clean signal. It sounded like the guitar sounds. It was really responsive, and with the levels slowly increasing, the sound got better. The sound of the guitar through The Globe made me want to play. A great sound always inspires a better performance. Nice!

The cardioid pattern wasn't so narrow that I had to worry about too much movement when playing, but it was a good idea to keep pretty still as to not upset the balance of sound. I'll blame that more on the shape of the guitar than the overall pattern width, since this particular instrument can be challenging to record. Positioned correctly, The Globe was doing exactly what it should do; capture my J200's natural tone without mussing it up with colors. The J200 is an unforgiving guitar if you have old strings on it and are using it to record, but with new strings and a great microphone, it's a bright and sweet as a guitar can sound. The Globe gave me a natural, vivid reflection of what my ears hear when somebody else was playing this guitar in front of me with newly changed, naturally bright strings. The only thing I was regretting was that I didn't have two of these microphones so I could hear this in stereo. That would have been very cool!

Real Global Warming

If The Globe sounded this good on my J200 plugged directly into the mic-pres of the 002R, it could only get better with a good microphone pre-amp. There are few better than Aspen Pittman's Groove Tubes Vipre. This unit was freshly shipped from their factory to my friend James Gabriel, a noted composer and arranger, who broke down and had to have a 2nd Vipre for his studio. James kindly lent the unit to us for the review, and it was hard to give it back. The Globe, plugged into the Vipre, was as close to the sound of heaven, as I'll likely ever hear. I don't want to turn this into a Vipre review, but suffice it to say that when you pair a quality, handmade microphone like The Globe into a top-of-the-line microphone pre-amp like Groove Tube's Vipre, well, you can expect to be very pleased with the results. Now the biggest was regret was not having two of each.

The less-expensive Focusrite pre-amps were equally as pleasing to use with The Globe,though anyone would likely prefer the sound of the of high-end Vipre mic-pre if given the choice. The solid-state pre-amps needed a little EQ tweaking to get a quasi-similar response to the tube pre-amp, and never matched its sultry tone with The Globe, but that was to be expected. The Focusrite pre-amps added characteristics to the sound overall, but the flatly-set Vipre just took the nice sound of The Globe plugged directly into the 002R and warmed it up like a toasty blanket, fresh from the clothes dryer.

Other Intended Uses

Violet says this microphone is suitable for vocals, piano, guitars, drums, percussion, strings, and woodwind instruments. I've not had the chance to try it on anything other than guitar and vocals, but I could see it being a very nice piano, strings or woodwind microphone. I don't think it would be my first choice on drums or percussion, but then again, I rarely go to large diaphragm microphones first when recording those instruments. That's my personal preference, folks. And choosing one's pallet is part of the art of recording.

The Color of Sound

Violet Design's The Globe microphone is a pleasantly airy, vintage-sounding microphone, which may have you comparing it to old classic German microphones used on your favorite recordings, but the only colors I found were on the microphone's shell and its brand name. When I tested it with my baritone voice, it was quiet, responsive and at once a comfortable, familiar sound through my headphones. I always use a pop-filter with vocals, and though Violet Designs intended for The Globe's grill to cut down on plosives, etc., its my opinion that it still requires a filter for best results, so plan on setting one up. Violet Designs does make a special optional filter for it, but it isn't necessary to use theirs, any one will do. Whether on vocals or guitar, this mic through a high-end tube pre was simply fantastic.

I didn't feel the need to make any adjustments to the EQ, and as I was able to do when recording my guitar, I simply captured a flat input signal, leaving me free to EQ tracks later during the mix, as it should be. Singing through it, I wanted to croon, I wanted to go from Bing Crosby to the talking blues styling of a mid-sixties-era free-wheelin' Bob Dylan. It conjured up thoughts of all kinds of sounds I wanted to try through it, as a great sounding microphone should do. I can't stress it enough; a great sound should inspire the performer or artist to a better performance. The Globe does that. Frankly, if I could have only one large diaphragm microphone to record with, I'd be perfectly happy if it were The Globe.

Don’t Think Twice, It’s More than Alright!

I decided to make a quick demo recording of a favorite Dylan song for this review, to demonstrate the sound that The Globe microphone captures. The Globe's manufacturers are advertisers as stated in the opening of the review, and rather than have folks think we'd just say something nice because of that, we figured the proof was in the sound. If we weren't thrilled with the mics, we would have said so, though we would have probably been gentle about it.

I went with a straight path from The Globe to the Digidesign 002R input using a Monster XLR cable, turned on the phantom power and adjusted my input levels after arming a track in Pro Tools LE 7.3 The results are, in my opinion, very nice. There are a total of three tracks that were quickly recorded for this, which were one vocal track and two acoustic guitar tracks using the Gibson J200. I used the slightest amount of a large room reverb from Pro Tool's RTAS reverb plug-in, about a 15% mix with the vocal during mixing. The guitars are recorded flat and mixed flat. After the tracks were done, I did a quick mix in Pro Tools, and a master using TRacks (stand-alone) from IK Multimedia (their gentle master one pre-set, with a boost to the stereo width), then converted the AIF file into an MP3 using iTunes. I wasn't trying to do a Dylan imitation here, but I do love playing and singing this one, and have been doing it since I was a kid. I just kind of sound this way. If you like the sound of the vocal (even if you hate my voice!) and the sound of the guitar, then know that you can get this sound directly into your DAW with this microphone with no special pre-amps or tricks.

To listen to "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" recorded with The Globe visit: http://www.appleproaudio.com/mp3/dylan.mp3

Going Full Circle

The Globe is a microphone that will add sound to your pallet, without coloring your sound. The proof is in the recordings, and this recording is exactly what that guitar and my voice sound like. The custom-shop-like quality of The Globe's construction, the wonderful sound and its price range makes it a very good-buy for any studio. I really can't imagine anyone paying the price for this microphone and, using proper recording techniques and decent mike pre-amps, coming away with anything other than stellar results and a smile. The Globe, from Violet Designs, Ltd, is Rated Excellent by AppleProAudio.com. 5 stars out of 5.

– Mike Lawson
Apple Pro Audio

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"[...] the bar was pretty high when I went looking for a new mic for my home rig. I'm now using a Global Pre with the VIN-67 capsule and it kicks ass."


- Steve Earle
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