A Tiny Pocket-Sized Recording Studio

As each year goes by, I am increasingly astonished at the small size, low-cost and higher quality achieved by companies making portable audio equipment. It was on display all over at the recent AES. Compared to only a few years ago, audio gear is now so good and affordable that virtually anyone with the talent can obtain it.

Part of the reason for this is the continuing miniaturization of electronic components, driven by advances in personal computing and the smartphone phenomenon. Now that smartphones are excellent digital recording devices, a wide range of new add-ons are appearing that make them easy to use for remote broadcasting, professional voice-overs, news interviews and natural sound recording.

The latest new device to take a giant leap in audio quality is CEntrance’s MicPort Pro 2, a small all-metal mobile recording interface that allows the best microphones to be recorded to iPhones, iPads, Android, Mac, Linux and Windows computers.

Pocket-sized and weighing six ounces (170 grams), the MicPort Pro 2 features a single Neutrik XLR microphone connector to a Jasmine mic preamp. It has a dual-stage, discrete differential design and AmpExtreme headphone amp (3.5mm connector) with a bipolar power supply. The MicPort records 16 or 24 bit resolution at a sample rate of 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.2 kHz or 192 kHz.

It is important to note that the new MicPort supplies the full 10 mA of 48 volt power to high-end microphones so they meet full audio spec. Many cheaper preamps skimp on this amperage. Preamp gain is +10dB to +53dB and input impedance is switchable between mic, line and Hi-Z. The headphone output is 400mW at 32 Ohms.

The MicPort has a Li-Polymer rechargeable internal battery that runs about six-plus hours, depending on the phantom power draw of the mic. The battery is charged from a +5 volt USB charger.

These specs set the MicPort apart from lower cost portable audio interfaces, making it a studio quality mic preamp small enough for the rough and tumble of the road. With an incredibly small kit, users can record directly to a smartphone or tablet and leave the laptop behind.

The high-quality Jasmine mic preamp, zero latency blend control and very musical, soft-knee limiter combine to create the kind of rich-sounding professional processor for the human voice only found in the best recording studios.

The soft knee limiter in the MicPort Pro 2 is very clean and unobtrusive. Designed primarily for vocal use, it removes loud peaks, but otherwise stays out of the way of the audio. It prevents “pumping,” an audible artifact of simpler or improperly adjusted limiters.

Operational controls are simple and well-designed. A white LED turns on when the input signal level is 30dB below clipping and a red LED turns on when the input signal is 6dB below clipping. To help avoid clipping altogether, a second -12 dB safety track is recorded. This feature is called dual clipping protection.

The design of this circuit is ingenious. Though the device has a single-channel, it records in stereo at different levels. While the left channel records audio at the normal level, the right channel records the same audio -12dB lower in level. This way, even if the main channel clips at the input of the A/D converter, the user still has a safety copy available on the other channel.

For voice-over artists, remote broadcasters, reporters or even musicians, the MicPort is an end-to-end mobile recording system that’s simple to operate and sounds surprisingly well, especially with a high-end microphone.

We tested a MicPort with a range of microphones, ranging from a Shure SM-58 (dynamic), a Blue Ember (condenser) and an AEA KU5A (active ribbon). There was ample gain level for each mic type with very low noise in the signal.

CEntrance’s original MicPort Pro is used by the BBC, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR and many voice-over artists. This updated model dramatically improves the quality and usability of the original.

The MicPort Pro 2 is a compact, rugged, portable studio-quality mic interface that's a no-compromise companion to the best microphones available today. It takes mobile recording to a new quality level and should be considered by every pro working on the road.  

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