The short answer is – yes, they are worth it. But there’s a lot of opinions about them that are much less favorable, and this mostly stems from unrealistic expectations. Let’s take a look at what these units can actually do and what you should expect when using it!
First off, there are a lot of different styles, models, and makes of “reflexion filters”. They can range from simply being some acoustic foam that forms a semi-circle around the mic to being a fully engineered metal and acoustic panel enclosure. SE is one of the more prominent manufacturers of these acoustic treatment tools, and they do a great job with each of there models in terms of functionality and price.
The biggest issue that people run into when using these filters seems to go something like this. [Standing in a garage with concrete floors and 20′ bare ceilings] “Test 1…2…3…” “I don’t know, it doesn’t really make a difference. I guess we’ll try recording something…” [A/C is running, neighbor kids next door are playing along the sidewalk and laughing hysterically, all while your other neighbor is cutting his grass for the third time this week.] “Nope, this thing does absolutely nothing. GARBAGE!”
While I certainly feel sorry for you if all of those events are happening while you’re trying to record, I must correct you in saying that these filters are garbage. No, they do not work miracles, but they certainly do a lot to make your recordings sound much tighter and more dead.
What’s the best scenario for something like this to work well? A decently dead room (maybe with carpeting or a rug, maybe a bed or a sofa to absorb even more sound), a well placed microphone (not with your back facing a reflective surface), and a quiet environment. If you’re using it in a setting like this, you will be amazed at the difference it can make in your recordings.
This isn’t to say that you need all of those things (well, a quiet environment is pretty necessary any time you’re recording with a microphone), but this piece of equipment will work best if you do. If you want to really make good on your investment, simply purchase a piece of acoustic foam or compressed fiberglass insulation and place it directly behind you while you record (possibly hanging on a wall). This will really help to keep reflections from entering the mic at the opening of the filter and make your recordings even more dead sounding.
These filters have been used time and time again on professional sessions (there are plenty of videos showing Jay-Z and Kanye West using them while recording “Watch the Throne”, as well as Drake Bell recording some music with one), and they continue to work for project, home, and even small professional studios. Wondering what it sounds like to get in front of one? Check out your local music store or Guitar Center, as they sometimes have them on display. You can see for yourself the difference it makes!