Vocal isolation shields are excellent tools when recording in less-than-ideal environments. They work by minimizing the vocal sound wave reflections that hit the reflective surfaces of the room as well as the reflections that travel back toward the microphone. Isolation shield work wonders in unsoundproofed rooms when clean microphone signals are required.
A vocal isolation shield is basically a shell or sheet of absorptive material positioned around and behind a microphone. The shield does not interfere with the direct sound from a vocalist to the mic, but greatly reduces the amount of indirect room reflections that could enter the microphone.
So what are the top vocal microphone isolation shields on the market? Here are my top 3 recommendations:
- sE Electronics RF SPACE: The
sEElectronics RF SPACE (link to check the price on Amazon) is a large, durable, high-quality isolation shield. It's the largest and most effective sEacoustic shield, spanning 9.4 inches deep by 13.8 inches tall by 19.7 inches wide and consisting of top-of-the-line sEmulti-layer technology. SPACE's full-bandwidth absorption, isolation, and diffusion make it my top recommendation for a microphone isolation shield.
- CAD Audio AS32: The CAD Audio AS32 (link to check the price on Amazon) is another excellent acoustic shield that is quite popular in home studios. This shield is very versatile with its 6-way adjustability to best suit a variety of different microphones. The 53mm high-density acoustic foam of the AS32 effectively absorbs and diffuses the sound waves that hit it, helping to isolate its microphone in less-than-ideal acoustic environments.
- Neewer Portable: The Neewer Portable Microphone Acoustic Isolation Shield (link to check the price on Amazon) gets my top “budget” recommendation for an acoustic shield. Neewer makes their isolation shields in 4 sizes to accommodate different microphones, spaces, and customers. These inexpensive shields have great isolating properties and are a perfectly fine choice when considering an acoustic isolation shield.
Before talking about each of these shields in details, let's quickly go over the specifications that make for a top-of-the-line acoustic shield.
What Makes A Great Acoustic Shield For Vocal Microphones?
- Absorbability: Choose an acoustic shield that will effectively absorb and dissipate the sound waves that it encounters. This reduction of the power of sound wave reflections is, after all, the main purpose of an acoustic shield.
- Large curved area: Select an acoustic shield with a large absorptive area that curves around the microphone. This will help greatly in reducing the initial reflections along with the other early reflections of sound within the room.
- Stable: Pick an acoustic shield that is stable and will stay in its set place during vocal tracking.
- Portable: It's highly beneficial to choose a portable and adjustable acoustic shield for use in different environments. Move the mic and shield around an acoustic space to find the sweet spot for vocal recording and adjust the shield to optimize it for the specific vocalist, room, and microphone.
With these criteria laid out, we'll get back to the recommendations.
The sE Electronics RF SPACE
sE Electronics' Reflection Filter Specialized Portable Acoustic Control Environment (RF SPACE) is an incredible industry standard isolation shield with a large surface area and absorption across the entire audible frequency range. This isolation shield will effectively mount to most microphone stands or drum hardware and allows for optimal maneuverability in the horizontal and vertical planes, capable of any practical tilt. Each RF SPACE is hand-made with unmatched care and precision.
Let's get into a more detailed discussion of the sE Electronics RF SPACE here.
Absorbability Of The sE Electronics RF SPACE
The sE Electronics RF SPACE is designed with sE's original patented multilayer technology. Each layer of the RF SPACE acts to absorb and diffuse different portions of the audible frequency spectrum, filtering out reflections in an uncoloured fashion and allowing the microphone to capture the original sound source.
The layers of the sE Electronics multilayer technology include:
- Seven Vertical Bass Trap Pillars
- Punched Aluminium Diffusor
- Acoustic-Grade Wool Absorber
- Tensioned Aluminum Foil Membrane Diffusor
- Isolating Air Gap
- Tensioned Aluminum Foil Membrane Diffusor
- Acoustic Grade Wool Absorber
- Polycarbonate Diffusor
- Asymmetric Isolating Air Gaps
- Patented Polyester Acoustic Fiberboard
That's a lot of layering in one reflection shield, but it's well worth it for strong neutral filtering of sound wave reflections in less-than-ideal environments.
Curved Area Of The sE Electronics RF SPACE
I find it quite strange that sE Electronics does not include the information of the RF SPACE's dimensions on their website. That being said, the outer dimensions of the RF are 9.45″ () deep by 19.69″ () wide by 13.78″ tall and the isolation filter is shaped in a semi-circle.
The inner circumference of the RF SPACE is roughly 27″ () and so the curved area of the RF SPACE is roughly 368 square inches or 2.56 sq. ft. This is fairly large and will absorb a great amount of direct sound from a vocalist and block much of the potential reflections that are directed toward the microphone.
Stability Of The sE Electronics RF SPACE
The sE Electronics RF SPACE has an adjustable high-quality durable metal clamp will attach to the vast majority of professional microphone stands and drum hardware.
The issue is that the RF SPACE weighs 7 lbs () and so it must be positioned safely on these stands. That means either directly above the centre of the stand's base or not far off in the horizontal plane. Utilizes sand bags for better stability when necessary. The last thing you'd want is for the isolation shield to tip over especially when it's being used in conjunction with an expensive high-end microphone.
Portability And Adjustability Of The sE Electronics RF SPACE
Though the sE Electronics RF SPACE is relatively large for an isolation shield (which is a huge benefit in its performance), it remains fairly portable.
Attaching and removing the RF SPACE from stands is as simple as tightening or loosening its clamp. It doesn't weigh a whole lot (7 lbs.) and isn't overly bulky (though I'd recommend a road case when travelling with the RF SPACE to protects its absorptive layers). Moving this portable shield around a studio space is very easy.
As for positioning the RF SPACE once it's mounted on a stand, the mounting hardware allows a full range of motion. The RF SPACE is adjustable and lockable horizontally, vertically, and is capable of being tilted at any angle.
The CAD Audio AS32
The CAD Audio Acousti-shield 32 (AS32) is another great high-performance microphone isolation shield. It is made with high-quality 16 gauge perforated stainless steel shield mated to 53mm high density micro cell acoustic foam and does an amazing job reducing reflections and attenuating the natural sound of less-than-ideal acoustic spaces.
The AS32 provides a dry recording environment in pretty much any situation. Its design allows it to mount to any practical mic stand and accommodates a variety of microphone shapes and sizes. This portable isolation shield is definitely worth your considerations as a professional or as an amateur.
Absorbability Of The CAD Audio AS32
As mentioned, the CAD Audio AS32 is constructed with 53mm high-density micro cell acoustic foam with an additional high-quality absorptive wool layer. These materials are responsible for the absorption of sound waves from the direct sound source (ie: vocalist).
Note that the shield, overall, will absorb much of the direct sounds, stopping them reaching reflective surfaces. On top of that, it will also help to prevent the sound waves that do end up reflecting around the acoustic space from reaching the microphone.
Curved Area Of The CAD Audio AS32
Like the aforementioned sE Electronics RF SPACE, the CAD Audio AS32 does not have a specified curved area. Since the absorptive material is laid out as panels, calculating the true area wouldn't that useful.
However, we may calculate the outer curved area with the given dimensions of circumference (19.75″ or 50 cm) and height (12″ or 31 cm). The result gives up roughly 5.17 ft2 or 0.48 m2. This curved area combined with the absorptive qualities of the inner material make the AS32 highly effective at absorbing the direct sounds around the microphone.
Stability Of The CAD Audio AS32
The CAD Audio AS32 is very stable. Its advanced mounting design yields excellent positioning stability even when mated to economy mic stands. This 7 lbs. (3.2 kg) acoustic shield holds up nicely and is stable in nearly all positions .
The AS32 is also designed with mounting hardware to adapt to nearly any professional microphone. This flexible mounting provides easy variable mic placement and a safe and stable microphone position. Adjust the mic position to best suit the absorption of the vocal performance and room reflections.
Portability And Adjustability Of The CAD Audio AS32
The CAD Audio AS32 is easily detachable from mic stands, and with a a weight of only 7 pounds, is very portable around a studio.
Once mounted, the AS32's positioning is pretty much dependent on the mounting stand. That being said, there's practically only one position we'd want these isolation shields to be in while recording vocals.
The Neewer Portable Acoustic Shield
The Neewer Portable line of acoustic shields is an awesome series that features the following shield sizes:
- Small: not recommend.
- Medium: not recommend.
- Large: recommended
- Large+: recommended
Neewer's portable acoustic shields are superbly designed, inexpensive, and have many positive reviews. If you're looking for an effective shield at a competitive price, look no further than the models of the Neewer Portable series.
Absorbability Of The Neewer Portable Acoustic Shield
The Neewer Portable Acoustic Shields are designed with fairly thick high-density acoustic foam to absorb much of the sound waves that encounter their interiors.
Though the polyurethane foam may not be as absorptive or flat as the more advanced system of the aforementioned RF SPACE, the Neewer shields are very absorptive and are perfectly fine in most situations that call for them.
The small, medium, and large shields feature vertical strips of acoustic foam while the large+ features a grid of foam pyramids to both absorb and dissipate incoming sound waves.
Curved Area Of The Neewer Portable Acoustic Shield
Curved areas are not specifically given and are difficult to measure exactly due to the irregularities of acoustic foam. However, I'd only recommend the large and large+ for most practical studio recording situations.
The small and medium just don't have enough curved area to be overly absorptive and effective.
The large model works great and resembles the size of the previous two shields.
The large+ model takes things a step further and even has a tri-fold design. Two foldable end panels allow for a flatter, more open shield, or a tighter and more deadening shield that almost wraps around the microphone in question.
Stability Of The Neewer Portable Acoustic Shield
The medium, large, and large+ Neewer Portable shields are all very stable and mount directly on a microphone stand. When mounting on a vertical thread, there should not be any stability issues.
The small version, however, clamps to a mic stand or boom arm similarly to a pop filter. The gooseneck of the small model is very weak and cannot be relied on to hold the shield in place. I would not recommend this model.
Portability And Adjustability Of The Neewer Portable Acoustic Shield
Since I'm only recommending the large and large+, let's only discuss the portability and adjustability of these two versions.
Both of these models feature a continuous slide to adjust the distance between the microphone and shield. This helps to tune in the amount of room sound in the mic signal.
The large+ also features the aforementioned tri-fold design. This helps to further adjust the and “fine tune” the shield to the specific room. This folding also helps to make the large+ small for better portability and storage when not in use.
As for portability, neither of these models are too heavy or large for moving around the studio. I'd always recommend finding either a good case or protective blanket when moving these shields from one building to another.
So these are the best vocal microphone isolation shields in my opinion and the reasons for my choosing them. Once again, they are:
- sE Electronics RF SPACE: Top recommendation for an acoustic shield.
- CAD Audio AS32: Close second acoustic shield recommendation.
- Neewer Portable: “Budget recommendation” (only large and large+ models).
For all the My New Microphone mic/gear recommendations, please check out my page Recommended Microphones And Accessories.