I am privileged to be among the first to be reviewing the new sub US$100 SL40 studio dynamic hybrid microphone from FDUCE, the FDUCE SL40. I was immediately curious to know whether the second part of its name is based upon the Italian word duce and I was overjoyed to receive the affirmative answer from the company. That Italian word means LEADER in English. Their brand name refers to themselves as a future leader in audio. I am very impressed with the sound quality of the SL40 for the human voice when speaking closely to it. Ahead are samples made via XLR and USB and more details.
In this article:
- Included accessories
- General build quality and appearance
- Transformation with the A7WS
- Test recordings made via XLR
- Shock test via XLR
- Audio sampling (via USB)
- Direct headphone monitoring (via USB)
- Test recordings made via USB (including shock test)
- Muting function (only via USB)
- Photo credits
- Suggestions to FDUCE
The SL40 includes a windscreen (which I am excluding from my review, as explained ahead). The SL40 also includes an XLR cable, which I did not test for two reasons:
- I used the XLR cable already cabled inside of my Heil PL-2T boom.
- For esthetic reasons, I prefer that black microphones like the SL40 be used with a black mic cable which also uses black XLR connectors to match the microphone color. Although the included XLR cable with the SL40 is fortunately black, sadly its XLR connectors are silver colored. I have previously criticized this with other mic manufacturers. I recommend using these particular XLR cables only as extensions (when required) since they won’t be visible.
Finally, the SL40 includes a USB cable. I appreciate very much that the USB connector on the SL40 microphone is USB-C, for its multiple benefits. The USB cable that comes with the SL40 goes from USB-C to USB-A, with an included adapter that converts the USB-A to USB-C. However, I used a different pure USB-C to USB-C cable to avoid the use of physical inline adapters.
General build quality and appearance
Generally speaking, I love the build quality, esthetic design and feel of the SL40 microphone itself. The SL40 is mostly metal, with very little plastic.
The only exceptions are:
- The SL40’s inboard shock resistance is poor (as you’ll hear in the test recordings ahead). However, that is sadly also the case with all studio dynamic microphones I have ever tested or heard under US$399. Yes, at US$399 and more expensive, some studio dynamic mics have a somewhat better inboard shock resistance, but even those US$399 are far from perfect in that regard. The only mics under US$399 with excellent inboard shock resistance have been some very specific handheld microphones, not studio type microphones, and those handheld mics sadly aren’t nearly as attractive visually as studio broadcast mics like the SL40. Moral of the story: If you want the cool look of studio broadcast mics (like the SL40) at a reasonable price, avoid moving it while your mic is “hot”. Move it while it’s completely off or when it’s muted.
- The included windscreen with the SL40 is sadly ineffective at mitigating plosives and excessive breathing. However, that is also the case with the included windscreens or pop filters with nearly all studio microphones I have ever tested or heard under US$399 as they are shipped. However, that is not justification to spend an extra US$300 for a US$399 mic when the ideal windscreen for the SL40 is available for under US$25 as we’ll discuss ahead.
Transformation with the A7WS
As you have probably read in many of my previous articles and reviews, I frequently add or substitute the included windscreens to microphones I review and use.
As I clarify in the audio recordings you’ll hear ahead, I exclusively used the A7WS in the published recordings of the SL40. My unpublished tests with the included SL40 windscreen and even with the RK345 were insufficient. That’s why I immediately returned the RK345 and used the already proven A7WS. I am not going to demonstrate the sound of plosives in this review, just as I am not going to demonstrate burping, hiccups or sneezing. Instead, I prefer to demonstrate the SL40 (and other microphones) as it is best used to record a human voice.
I love the esthetic look and the sound of the SL40 through the A7WS. I am also happy to confirm that the A7WS fits perfectly onto the SL40, like a marriage made in heaven.
Test recordings made via XLR
Above is the completely flat recording made via XLR through the new RØDECaster Pro II. In the first part of the recording, there is no processing from the RØDECaster Pro II. Later, I alternate among different presets and announce each one.
The above is the same recording, but post-processed with RX6 mouth declicking and Hindenburg PRO’s noise reduction.
Shock test via XLR
Above is the shock test record via XLR, with and without processing, back to back.
Audio sampling (via USB)
The SL40 can sample to 96 kHz/ 24-bit. (96 is exactly 48×2.) I could only justify recording such a high sampling frequency for voice recordings if you plan to use slow motion as you edit your audio recordings (or audio/video recordings). In addition to our standard 48 kHz and the whopping 96 khz, the SL40 also offers 44.1 kHz (which I would never use for the reasons stated in 48 kHz Alliance).
Even though the SL40 is a mono microphone, it presents itself as fake stereo (dual mono) to the computer, so if you want the efficiencies of a mono recording (even if your recording is to be used in a program which will be stereo), you must make the appropriate setting in the recording app (if available), as covered in prior articles.
Audio gain for USB recordings is adjusted via the buttons on the SL40. I had to bring it up to the maximum to get a decent level, but I found the 48 kHz/24-bit recording to be very clean.
The above photo is courtesy of FDUCE.
Direct headphone monitoring (via USB)
The SL40 offers direct headphone monitoring which fortunately seems to be latency-free to a human being like me, who has previously criticized other devices which had annoyingly noticeable latency. There was also plenty of available volume, which is also controlled via the buttons on the SL40.
Test recordings made via USB (including shock test & muting test)
Above, flat audio recorded via USB.
Above, the same audio with noise reduction from Hindenburg Pro.
Muting function (only via USB)
I am glad that there’s a mute option for those who use the SL40 via USB. Sadly, I heard two soft clicks upon muting (you probably heard it too), although it seemed very clear while muted and when unmuting. I wish it could be quieter when initiating the muting.
If you are connecting the SL40 via XLR, you’ll have to mute another way anyway: on the mixer or interface, with an inline XLR mute button or in software.
The main photo of the SL40 with the A7WS was taken by Allan Tépper, who used the free Trace tool from Sticker Mule to remove the background. Use this link to get a discount on your first sticker order. The other one (with the connections on the rear) was provided by FDUCE.
Looks and build quality (SL40 mic only, without cables or windscreen)
Audio quality via XLR using A7WS
Audio quality via USB using A7WS
Zero-latency monitoring (USB mode)
If you are looking for the appearance of a studio mic, great sound for the human voice, the advantages of a dynamic for imperfect acoustic environments and the flexibility of a hybrid connectivity via XLR and USB, I find the SL40 from FDUCE together with the A7WS to appear and sound great. Just avoid moving it while it’s “hot” and instead move it while it’s muted or completely off. For more information, visit the manufacturer’s website here. The official list price is under US$100.
Suggestions to FDUCE
- If you are going to continue to include an XLR cable, please make it one that is completely black, including the XLR connector.
- If you are going to continue to include a USB cable, please make it straight USB-C to USB-C. Optionally, you can include an adapter from USB-A to USB-A, but that is less important as we go forward.
- If FDUCE is the manufacturer of the USB interface inside of the SL40, please change it so the signal appears as mono instead of stereo, for all of the efficiencies that are available in a mono recording even for a stereo program. If FDUCE is not the manufacturer of the USB interface, please choose one that delivers a mono signal.
- Please offer an XLR-only model which you might want to call the SL40x or perhaps the SL40-XLR.
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Many of the above manufacturers have sent Allan Tépper review units, including FDUCE. Some of the manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur, BeyondPodcasting, CapicúaFM or TuSaludSecreta programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs. Allan Tépper’s opinions are his own. Allan Tépper is not liable for misuse or misunderstanding of information he shares.
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