Review: Universal Audio SC-1

A large diaphragm condenser with ‘one-size-fits-all’ versatility when partnered with the UA Hemisphere mic modelling plug-in.


6 May 2024

Review: Preshan John

Traditionally a studio owner has a locker full of microphones because it lets them match the characteristics of the mic to the characteristics of the source being recorded.

Versatility is the predominant advantage of a modelling microphone. Especially so if your recording process looks more like stacking several tracks with a single mic rather than recording a heap of inputs simultaneously (like a drum kit or a live band). If you fall mostly in the former category, one could see why it’s attractive to own just a handful of do-it-all microphones capable of a wide range of voicings to match different sources. I understand the appeal, and with the SC-1 being my first experience with a modelling microphone, I was genuinely curious to see just how broad its use cases are – and whether the modelling offers a more profound change to the mic’s character than simply slapping an EQ curve on the track.


The SC-1 comes packaged in a sturdy soft shell zipper case with a handle on the side and a moulded cutout for the microphone and included ring mount. UA hasn’t cut corners in designing and building the SC-1 which sports a refined finish and feels solid in the hand. No switches can be found on the mic body, which is a shame because a low cut will have helped enormously… more on this later.

Instructions for downloading the Hemisphere plug-in are on the simple user guide that greets you when you open the box. Acquiring the plug-in was straightforward. Go to the URL on the guide, download and install UA Connect, enter the SC-1 serial number into the software, then download and install Hemisphere.

The SC-1 is a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser. Sensitivity is -39dB with a typical frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. The two standout specifications are the extremely low self noise of 12dB and the high maximum SPL handling of 145dB.


Any fears that the SC-1 ‘needs’ the Hemisphere plug-in to sound usable were quelled the moment I first recorded my voice into a DAW. Even without fancy modelling, the SC-1 sounds detailed, present and clear, with all the sonic refinement I’d wish for if I spent $850 on a mic. Interestingly, the microphone’s ‘stock’ sound is not flat and uncoloured as you might expect from a modelling mic. Rather, the SC-1 has a forward tone with understated low mids, an extended top end, and a push in the presence range that gives vocals a polished edginess – think U87 over C414.

Before exploring the SC-1’s performance with the Hemisphere plug-in, I have a couple of observations about the SC-1 itself. Firstly, the self-noise of 12dB is ridiculously low and very reassuring when recording quiet sources that need lots of preamp gain. Second, the cardioid polar pattern is focused without losing a sense of space. Room reflections were pleasantly represented in my recordings and, when I wanted less of them, a reflection filter behind the mic tidied things up. The off-axis response is natural and tapers quickly from around 60°. Thirdly, a niggle: the mic’s lack of a low cut filter. It’s not uncommon for a cardioid condenser to come ‘as is’ without any switches or controls, but I point this out on the SC-1 specifically because of its sensitivity to low frequency rumbles when coupled with the included ring mount. Footsteps from metres away would audibly transmit through the carpet in my room, up the mic stand, and into the mic, in the form of bassy thumps in the recording. An elastic shockmount is another way of dealing with this problem, but I certainly missed an 80Hz HPF switch to quickly deal with it.


Universal Audio SC-1
Modelling Microphone



    CMI Music & Audio: (03) 9315 2244 or sales@cmi.com.au

  • PROS

    • Mic sounds great out of the box
    • Super low self noise
    • Hemisphere modelling adds tonal variety

  • CONS

    • No shockmount or built-in HPF to kill rumbles


    The Universal Audio SC-1 microphone is, by itself, a fantastic all-rounder in studio applications. Partnered with the Hemisphere mic modelling plug-in it becomes incredibly versatile on a range of vocal and instrument recordings and, if used tastefully, will certainly result in better and more interesting mixes.


The Hemisphere modelling software runs as a plug-in in your DAW. Which means there’s no direct ‘communication’ between hardware and software; the mic doesn’t talk to the software over USB. You simply record a track with the SC-1 into your DAW then insert the Hemisphere plug-in on that track to create an emulation of various famous microphones on that track.

The list of mic emulations is modest but finely curated. The line-up consists of a Sony C-800, Telefunken ELA M 251, AKG C414, Neumann U87 vintage, Neumann U67 NOS, Neumann U67, Neumann TLM 103, and AKG C12. If you didn’t notice, all eight are large diaphragm condensers. The Hemisphere/SC-1 combo can’t be used to emulate mics that aren’t in this category, like a SM57 or Royer R-121. Universal Audio separately sells the SP-1 small diaphragm condenser and SD-1 dynamic microphone which, when used alongside Hemisphere, can emulate mics in their respective categories.

Hemisphere is more than a gimmick. As I bounced between different mics, the changes in character were subtle but unmistakable, and certainly reminiscent of the flavour imposed by each mic being emulated. Being that the SC-1 already has a forward tone, it felt to me that some models accentuated the SC-1’s inherent character (like the C-800, TLM 103 and U87), while others reined it in (like the C414 and U67). That’s an oversimplification, of course – you’ll find nuances and sonic particularities to each unique mic that go beyond a mere EQ curve – but the SC-1 doesn’t sound like a completely neutral starting point.


Universal Audio has built a few extra useful controls into Hemisphere. There’s a phase switch, output level slider and high-pass filter options which change depending on the mic – some include a pad as well. More interestingly, the proximity and axis knobs let you virtually manipulate microphone positioning. I tracked an acoustic guitar with the SC-1 quite close to the boomy soundhole. By winding back the Proximity knob, the low end cleared up beautifully much like how the mic would respond if it retreated 10cm or so. I don’t know exactly what geekery is taking place in the plug-in to pull this off but I’m convinced it’s more than a low shelf EQ. Conversely you can wind up the Proximity knob to bring the mic ‘closer’, and it’s perfect for spoken word or a thin sounding source. The Axis knob emulates the rotation of a source around the mic from 0° to 180°. It’s arguably less useful than the Proximity control but interesting nonetheless. When used sparingly I found it can effectively mellow out a strident or harsh sounding source.

Across a range of sources, the different Hemisphere mic models can add varying depths and characters to the tracks in a session and becomes a great mixing tool to find an optimal starting point for each track before you reach for EQs. The differences in mic models compound in large sessions and can account for huge improvements in the overall flavour of a mix. As a do-it-all large diaphragm condenser, the SC-1 partnered with the Hemisphere plug-in truly is a powerful way of achieving mic locker-flexibility without the price tag or footprint.


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