Monday, December 23, 2013

Shure Triple Threat Shotguns



Shure VP89 L, M & S
The VP89/L, VP89/M and VP89/S are long, medium and short electret condenser shotguns from Shure. The bodies are charcoal-grey metallic painted aluminum alloy with a stainless steel screen. They require 11-52 V DC phantom power. Each interference tube capsule comes with and use its own Shure VP89 XLR-terminated power supply with high-pass filter. There is no pad.

Each mic comes in a handy and sturdy vinyl-clad hard tube holster that’s large enough to accept the mic with its included foam wind filter. If more wind protection is required, Shure has three sizes of pistol-grip based windshields, one for each length and a Rycote Lyre suspension mount.

Double Lyre Suspension
Because the system is modular, you can use the medium length windshield on the VP89/M and by removing one section. It also works on the VP89/S. The fur will be too long, but most of the wind protection comes from the cage and not the fur. The A89MW-kit runs $874.00 (typically $650 street). Shure also has Rycote Lyre suspension mounts as options with camera mount, pistol grip and boom adapters. There's also a simpler slip-over Softie for about $120.

Shure A89MW-kit
The VP89/L, VP89/M and VP89/S are light, 6.0, 4.9 and 4.1 ounces; weighing in on either side of the 5.8 and 5.9 ounce MKH 416 and NTG-3. The Shures came with those little rubber snuggies inserted in the male XLR connector which, in my case, kept them from being fully connected to a locking XLR terminated cable. I fished them out with a small screw driver and got the connector to seat properly and latch.

Selfnoise figures for the Shure mics is 2dB quieter than in my MKH 416 and NTG-3, but the latter are much more sensitive, so when you adjust gain for equal loudness, the selfnoise is slightly audible in the Shures in a quiet room, but inaudible in the Rode and Sennheiser. On a noisy street, you won’t hear it.

Shure A89LW-SFT Softie
You will hear it if you’re cranking up the gain in search of distant wildlife, helicopters and fixed winged aircraft or pets on leashes, which is exactly what my suburban neighborhood gave me while testing these three mics. These mics prefer to be in the thick of it, not in the thicket or chasing down lions on the plains of the Serengeti.

IN USE

I used my Sound Devices 442 mixer to compare the Shures with other shotgun mics in my collection; a Sennheiser MKH 416 and a Rode NTG-3. Without any wind protection the new Shure shotguns have a little more bite than the MKH 416 and Rode NTG-3. The included Shure foam wind filter takes a bit of that edge off. 

Even without the high-pass filter engaged, the frequency response of the Shure shotguns starts fading below 400Hz for the VP89L and below 300Hz for the VP89M and VP89S. I think this is a purposeful design choice. Shotgun mics use a slotted interference tube to increase their directivity. While that makes them very directional at high frequencies, they remain much less directional at middle and low frequencies. 

Especially in reflective environments, shotgun mics pick up a lot of off-axis mid and low frequencies. That’s part of why the wall and ceiling bounce of most normal interiors makes a hypercardioid a better choice. Even exteriors with highly reflective surfaces, e.g. hard flat walls and pavement, can make a good hypercardioid a better choice than a a shotgun. 

One way to solve the problem of off-axis low and mid frequency sound getting into your shotgun is to design a mic with lower sensitivity at those frequencies. That’s exactly what Shure has done with the VP89/L, M and S. By eliminating problem frequencies before they get to the mixer, you don’t needlessly tax the circuitry with harmonic and headroom bloat. 

Shure Medium Hole Softie Mount &
 Camera Clamp Adapter Lyre
This choice helps in rumbling run and gun situations, media frenzies and big venue sporting events or if you spend a lot of time on the street battling car and truck noise. The compromise is that human chest tones are in that same range and cutting them thins the voice. Perhaps not the thing you want for narrative film dialog or documentaries, but very effective for ENG. 

From long to short their main patterns are listed as 30, 50 and 70 degrees wide. That sounds about right from my tests. I also noticed that unlike some shotguns, there aren’t any nasty beams at the edges of the pattern or elsewhere as you go off-axis. The VP89/L has the smoothest edge. The VP89/S has a noticeable pattern edge and the VP89/M is somewhere in between. 

Shure A89U Turn Around Adapter
These days, with 16:9 and wide angle lenses, it’s easy to catch a camera-mounted shotgun when you pull back for the ultra wide shot. The A89U is a neat accessory for camera-mounting that shorten the length of each mic by up to six inches. It’s a simple but elegant U-turn. To use it, simply unscrew the mics from their inline power supplies and insert the A89U. Check your camera’s mic suspension to make sure it will accommodate the new configuration, but this one accessory may come in very handy.

SUMMARY

The Shure VP89/L/M/S and accessories are a solid family of tools targeting the ENG market. They are well made, light weight and simply functional. 

Fast Facts
market: ENG
salient features: lightweight, 
Shure Incorporated
5800 West Touhy Avenue
Niles, IL 60714-4608

Tel: (847) 600-2000
Fax: (847) 600-1212
Toll Free (U.S. only)
(800) 25-SHURE (800-257-4873) 

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