Review: Acoustic Magic Voice Tracker III
Single beamforming mic array with a singular focus.
Review:/ Christopher Holder
It’s crazy how some products totally confound expectations, and the Voice Tracker III is one of those products.
US manufacturer, Acoustic Magic, is a pioneer of active beamforming mic arrays. The original Voice Tracker was released back in 2002 and has sold some 18,000 units. That said, it’s not a product I’ve previously encountered, so when the Voice Tracker III landed on my desk, I must confess, I wasn’t immediately impressed.
The first thing you notice is just how lightweight it is. It’s so light, in fact, that it feels like the office fan will blow it away.
The second thing you’ll notice is the lack of buttons and I/O. There’s no USB port. No on/off switch. No mute button. In fact, apart from the power input the only I/O is a minijack audio output. No ethernet port. It’s so minimal. It’s a mic array and that’s it, end of story.
With that in mind, you’d think setting up Voice Tracker III would be a doddle. Yes and no.
When I went to plug the Voice Tracker III into my MacBook Pro I realised I couldn’t — Apple deleted the 3.5mm input years ago. Thankfully, Acoustic Magic includes a little USB DAC in its packaging — the generic kind you might pick up from Officeworks for $10. So I popped that in. I’ve got to say, it all still felt really janky at this point.
But from there, the super-minimal nature of the product is an asset. Your VC sees Voice Tracker as a USB mic and away you go… And boy can you go. You can be 6 metres or more away and still enjoy great vocal clarity on your call.
BEAM ME UP
Voice Tracker III is a single beam mic array, based on eight mic elements. The LEDs on the front fascia demonstrate which direction the beam is pointing based on the direction of the primary audio source. This device is based on the original Voice Tracker from 2002 — which, incidentally, is still a current (and cheaper) product — but specs out a little better.
The single beam will switch between speakers extremely quickly. This is awesome in one sense but also mental if you have two participant speaking at once on different sides of the room.
So you get an idea of the type of applications the Acoustic Tracker is most suited to — not necessarily a boardroom situation where there’s free discussion. But if you’re a teacher, trainer or tele-med clinician running a class remotely, the Voice Tracker is phenomenal — easy to set up, and gives you freedom to walk the full width of the shot while enjoying great vocal clarity.
Interestingly, Voice Tracker is just as adept at picking up audio from the back as the front. So it’s well suited to capturing classroom or lecture theatre audio — record the lecturer from the back and the student interaction from the front.
The other application Acoustic Magic pitches hard, is voice recognition. If you’re smashing out speech-to-text for hours on end then the Voice Tracker will save you the hassle of wearing a headset — the clarity and sensitivity of the mic array means you’ll get great results from around a metre away.
Acoustic Magic Voice Tracker III
Beamforming Microphone Array
MadisonAV: 1800 00 77 80 or madisonav.com.au
Easy set up
No USB output
A no-nonsense single beam mic array for applications where you don’t need AEC, a camera or integral speakers. The results are excellent, even at 6m or more from the array.
Helping to maintain that clarity are two types of noise reduction — spatial filtering and noise reduction processing. The truth is, I still found the Voice Tracker’s noise floor to be quite high in my recordings. But your VC soft codec will eliminate the noise without any problems.
The Voice Tracker III is a no-nonsense, well-priced, mic array for your VC or streaming setup. Pop it on a table using the supplied legs or fix it to a wall or display mount using the supplied bracket. It’s also a highly capable classroom audio microphone and speech recognition mic.
I’ve come around to the stripped-back nature of the offering. I can see why there’s no webcam, no onboard AEC, no web config GUI or even loudspeakers onboard — it all helps to keep the price down and are unnecessary for many applications. But I think Acoustic Magic is going to have to consider adding a USB output — I’m not the first to suggest this. For now though, the Voice Tracker III deserves your attention. The results speak for themselves.