Monday, June 15, 2020

CEntrance MicPort Pro 2 -- A Powerful Solution



CEntrance Mic Port Pro 2
I reviewed the first Mic Port Pro in December 2012. I liked what CEntrance was doing. It wasn’t the cheapest piece on the market, but it had a nice feature set and brought more to the table than the others.

I saw MicPort Pro 2 ($279.95) and wanted to check it out because things have changed since 2012. Smart phones have gotten smarter and there are more apps. Last year, in 2019, I ordered my iPhone 11 Pro Max with 512 GB of memory. Not because I knew what it would be used for, but just because. You know how that is, right? Expect change. I took all of the pictures in this review with the iPhone 11.


As 2020 has progressed, because of COVID-19, my narration clients have been asking about recording at home. They had been able to get by with any gear for auditions, but were being asked if they could provide high quality finished tracks. My clients are not highly technical people, but at the same time, they had been around microphones, computers and audio interfaces for a while. Cheap mics, cheap interfaces and bad acoustical environments can be noisy. How much bad audio will their clients accept? There are some wonderful de-noise software solutions, but that’s just one more step to add to the workflow. Their clients didn't want to add clean up to their work flow.


The question became, how could they record audio with a good microphone as a 24-bit .WAV file for auditions as well as for real work? There are three major consideration -- quiet mic, quiet interface and nice room acoustics. Any variation from these and you have a problem. I’m happy to report that CEntrance’s MicPort Pro 2 is a quiet, well-featured way to record tracks into a desktop, laptop or (in my case) iPhone 11 Pro Max.


CEntrance Mic Port Pro 2 XLR Input
Let's look at the feature set. A sturdily-mounted XLR connector that includes a 1/4" input. You can plug just about anything with those connectors. 

While there are USB mics all ready to hit a variety of your USB ports, maybe you have an XLR mic that fits your voice better. Maybe you'd like to record with other mics for instruments. Maybe you want to plug in your guitar pickup, electric bass or Theremin. Maybe you want to take a feed from a mixer and the only connector you have at the moment has a 1/4" plug. 

Top To Bottom

CEntrance Mic Port Pro Front Panel
Let's check out the main controls from top to bottom. That small switch in the upper left-hand corner labelled Hi-Z is normally switched off, to the left. You'd move it by using something like a bent paperclip to nudge the switch to the right if you wanted to plug in a high impedance (Hi-Z) device like most electric guitars or basses, provided they have standard high impedance outputs. 

But WAIT!! CEntrance even includes a little metal thingee taped to the inside of the box to use on the switches. They think of EVERYTHING!
Switch Thingee
You can't hurt the MicPort Pro 2 by having that switch in the wrong position, but the audio may sound wonky. The upper right-hand corner is labelled HPF. That's a High Pass Filter. It passes the high frequencies, but blocks the low frequencies.Maybe you're outside and the wind is a problem, maybe the microphone you're using is too bassy, you can't get the 47 pedals on your pedal board working right, you can roll off some of the low end with the High Pass Filter. It's pretty tame, but it will make a difference. 

The top knob is for Input GAIN adjustment. The Shure SM 58 and Sennheiser MD 421 mics I tested are Dynamic Mics. They're great mics, but they are not as sensitive as condenser mics, To get them to the right level for voice work, I had the GAIN knob almost all the way up. For the Neumann TLM 103 I tested, I had the GAIN control up to about 2PM, or just over half way. Th

There are two LED lights to the left of the GAIN knob. The yellow one indicates that the MicPort Pro 2 is receiving signal from the mic. The red one is a peak flasher and lights when the signal goes above -6 dB. That's a warning light, but it's also very functional. The best use of it is to adjust the GAIN knob so your voice (or other audio source) makes that red light flicker just a little. That means your audio level is not distorted, but isn't too low. The sweet spot!


The middle knob, IN_USB,  is for adjusting the balance between the audio coming in to the MicPort Pro 2 with the audio coming back out of your recording device. That's very important if you are stacking tracks and need to hear what's already been recorded. Because of the circuitry that audio went through, it will be heard slightly later than the input. That's called latency and if you're doing VO and hearing yourself directly as well as from the recording device in real time, the sound in your headphones will be a little weird. If it's too disturbing and you're just tracking your voice, turn the IN_USB knob full counter-clockwise. Then turn it counter-clockwise to hear playback.


The third knob, MONITOR allows you to vary the volume in your headphones. I tried Sony MDR 7506 and cushier Audio-Technica ATH-M50 and found the headphone output of the Mic Port Pro could be raised to uncomfortably LOUD levels. Plenty of gain.

There's a lot going on on the bottom, so let's zoom in for a look. Under the MicPort Pro 2 logo are a USB port and a 1/8" stereo headphone jack. That LEFT USB port is for moving audio back and forth between the MicPort Pro and your recording device.


CEntrance MicPort Pro 2 Bottom Control Panel
Below those two are the 48 VDC Phantom Power switch you need to power externally-polarized condenser mics, some electret condenser mics and a handful of new ribbon mics that use Phantom Power to power a small piece of circuitry inside the mic. You can leave it off with the use of any other mics.

Moving to the right/top there's the LIMITER ON/OFF switch. If you tend to like to push the levels high as you can, this soft-knee limiter will save your butt. It's mostly engineered to keep the human voice from pushing too high and distorting. If you have talent with uneven, peaky voice levels, I'd use the LIMITER even knowing that the red Peak Flasher LED was set to -6 dB. 


Under the LIMITER is a second USB port. Use this port to power the MicPort Pro 2 or to charge its battery. Battery? Yes an internal rechargeable battery that should last about 5 hours, less if you're using Phantom Power on a condenser mic like the Schoeps CMC641
 (BTW, the Schoeps CMC641 is now available in Chroma Key Green!

Phantom Power may also be needed to power some Electret Condenser microphones and a few of the newer Ribbon mics that need power for an onboard amp circuit. 
Bottom right is where you'll find the On/Off button. Press and hold. The LEDs next to the button will wink a few times during power up or power down. If the battery is fully charged, you see all three LEDs. They'll go out as the charge level goes down. 

That's it, right? NO! CEntrance slyly put a threaded nut on the back side of the MicPort Pro so you can mount it on a camera stand or other device with a 1/4" - 20 mounting bolt. Why? As sturdy as it is, after plugging in a mic, a USB cable or two and headphones, MicPort Pro 2 can easily skitter in a lot of directions unless it's held in place. You may not have a camera tripod, but having something to keep the MicPort Pro 2 steady is a good idea.
                      
CEntrance MicPort Pro 2 on Camera Tripod

For some time now, audio gear makers have been finding ways to engineer in safe guards to keep inadvertant increases in input levels from going into distortion. CEntrance has done it three ways; with their -6 dB peak flasher, their on board LIMITER and by designing a two track USB output with one track 12 dB lower than the primary track. So if things go really crazy and you overdrive the Left Track, you've automatically got 12 dB of headroom to save your recording. Nice! While this makes the MicPort Pro 2 virtually unclippable, you can overdrive the Limiter and get some pretty gnarly audio, but you have to be very clueless to do that.

I like the sound of the preamp in the MicPort Pro 2. I'd characterize it as clean and quiet. 

SPECS
If you're a tech, here are the specs for the MicPort Pro 2. With the Gain knob cranked all the back, the max input on the XLR connector is +5.8 dB V (+8.0 dB u). With the GAIN knob cranked back, the 1/4" balanced TRS input takes a whopping +27 dB V (+29.2 dB u). The maximum current for +48V is 10mA. I don't know a mic that uses that much current for Phantom Power. OK. Fine. Everything looks set? What's next? 

Because I wanted to use the 512 GB of memory in my Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max, I had to find a way into it via its Lightning Connector. I had the Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter from a previously failed experiment. Although the description did NOT say anything about audio, it did say this,

“The Lightning to USB Camera Adapter supports standard photo formats, including JPEG and RAW, and SD and HD video formats, including H.264 and MPEG-4.”


That almost worked. I could hear my voice in the headphones during record, but I couldn't hear playback unless I unplugged the Lightning cable from the iPhone and listened to the iPhone speaker; an inelegant solution.
DO NOT USE THIS ADAPTER!

Apple Lightning to USB 3 Adapter 

Instead, use the 

Apple Lightning 

to USB 3 

Camera Adapter 

shown on

the left 

< -----here!

THIS ONE WORKS!!

The other one

DOES NOT WORK!

The specs for the Lightning to USB 3 Adaptor offered this, “Transfer your digital camera's photos and videos to your iPad with Apple's Lightning to USB 3.0 Type-A Camera Adapter. This adapter plugs directly into your iPad's Lightning port, providing a USB Type-A port for your camera's data cable. Your iPad will automatically open its Photos app so that you can choose which media to import. Additionally, various USB-based peripherals, including Ethernet adapters, audio interfaces, and card readers, can be connected through the USB port when the adapter is connected to power via its female Lightning Connector.

The Lightning to USB 3.0 Camera Adapter transfers data at USB 3.0 speeds on the 12.9" iPad Pro and at USB 2.0 speeds on other compatible iPads. It supports standard photo formats like JPEG and most RAW files as well as SD and HD video formats such as H.264 and MPEG-4. The adapter is compatible with all Lightning-enabled iPad models, including iPad mini.” 

I used the short mini USB to Type A USB cable that came with the MicPort Pro 2 to exit the MicPort Pro 2 and plugged it into
 the Type A connector on the Apple Lightning to USB 3.0 Type A Camera Adapter. 

I plugged the Lightning to USB 3.0 Camera Adapter into my iPhone. Immediately, a window opened and asked me if I wanted the Adapter to be updated. I clicked on "yes" and it was quickly done.

For Android users the CEntrance manual offers this: "For Android devices, an "OTG cable" or USB micro B to USB C cable is required. For Windows devices, download an ASIO driver from the CEntrance website."

Because my first effort would be to get audio in and out of my iPhone 11 Pro Max, I checked with CEntrance to see if they had a list of iOS apps that worked with MicPort Pro 2. Here it is.

Audio Evolution (iOS/Android)
Auphonic (iOS -- Android Recorder)
Auria Pro (iOS)
BandLab (iOS/Android)
BeatMaker 3 (iOS)
Cubasis (iOS)
Field Recorder (Android/iOS)
FL Studio Mobile (iOS)
Garage Band (iOS)
Luci Live (iOS/Android)
N-Track (iOS/Android)
Tieline Report-IT (iOS/Android)

Some of these apps are pretty simple. A few are free. Others have a lot more going on. If you work in audio, you'd probably learn some things just by visiting these sites.

I had other iOS apps to try as well. Rode Reporter, for example. It's very simple. For my clients, I like simple. Unfortunately, Rode Reporter glitched the audio every time the iPhone screen got dimmer or brighter. I reached out to Rode and they thanked me for the info and suggested that die-hard Apple iPhone users can use the following work-around.

Go into the iPhone 11 Pro Max Settings > Displays & Brightness and set the Auto-Lock to NEVER. The main Rode Reporter Record window with the timer and meters stays lit and the audio doesn't glitch. By the time you read this, Rode may have already fixed the problem. At present, their software provides 48 kHz, but not 44.1 kHz. I suggested that they have both. The MicPort Pro 2 supports 24-bit, 192 kHz, btw. This is no bargain basement chip!


How do you get the recorded audio off the iPhone? One of my biggest pleasant surprises was Apple AirDrop. You can go to the recorded audio files on you iPhone, select one or more files, click on the small "arrow up" icon and if there's an Apple product that supports AirDrop close enough, the iPhone will see it. Touch the right AirDrop logo for that Apple device and BOOM the file is transferred. Most excellent!!

Further Into iPhone
Trying to use Garage Band for iPhone was a miserable experience. Maybe if you’re an ADD gamer and have multiple thumb twitch disorder the app will appeal to you. For me, it was just a jumble of things and no fun at all. The regular version of Garage Band, for your desktop or MacBook Pro is different, and a lot easier. 

After a bit of looking around I found Auphonic. It looked free and seemed to be able to do the job. The specs even mentioned that it records 24-bit wav .caf files. Just like the QuickTime .mov container, a .caf container can contain many different audio formats, metadata tracks, and data. It is not limited to a 4 GB file size and a single .caf file can theoretically save hundreds of years of recorded audio due to its use of 64-bit file offsets.

GarageBand, Soundtrack Pro, and Logic Studio use the .caf format for their loop and sound effects library. 
I’m pretty sure my iPhone 11Pro Max doesn’t run Quicktime as most of us (me included) know it, but OK. Not being limited to a 4 GB file size is also a plus. But, would MicPort Pro 2 work with the Auphonic iPhone app?

YES! There’s an orange gear wheel in the upper right corner of the Auphonic screen that allows you to configure the recorder. I could choose from among the three iPhone mics or the CEntrance MPP 2. It also provided for Format (AAC or PCM), Sample Rate (Default, 44.1 or 48), Channels (Default or mono), Precision, (24-bit or 16-bit) Input Gain (-12, -24, -36) and Headphone/USB Monitoring adjustments. After making my selections and hitting “Done” in the upper right-hand corner, I began hearing something weird in the headphones. 

Oh, right, MPP 2 passes two channels. One is the main and the other is -12. When I set the iPhone down and it went dark, the audio returned to dual mono mod, but didn't glitch as the Rode Broadcaster software did. When I picked the iPhone back up again and swiped to return to Auphonic, the split track was again obvious. Turning the Input_USB knob on the MPP2 fully counter clockwise allowed me to hear only the input and that was less distracting. 

The Chapters feature is also a nice touch. There’s an image labelled “Add Chapter” just below the digital time readout that allows you to add chapter markers as you go. That may be helpful to mark different takes. You can also click on the current chapter and change its name or remove it. Cool! Any level above -12 causes the record level meters to show red. 

Nice! Then, not so nice. With Auphonic, you need to log in and create an account. After that your productions are uploaded to their servers and you pay as you go. There are six levels of membership. With "Free" you get up to two hours per month. 100 hours a month (Auphonic XL) is only $89 USD. 
Auphonic does have some nice features, but not today, thanks! 

TWISTED WAVE
Twisted Wave’s free version went well. Their "export by email link" export feature is pretty cool. It uploads your recorded file to Twisted Wave servers and sends a link to an email address. I quickly received an email with a link. Clicking on the link resulted in me getting a page from which I could either play the audio directly from their web site or download it. I downloaded the file and pulled it into Pro Tools 11. There was one very small tick about 1:19 into the clip, but not as bad as with the Rode Reporter software.

GARAGE BAND (not iOS)
I connected my Neumann TLM 103 to the MicPort Pro 2 and connected the MicPort Pro 2 to my Mac tower via a long USB 2.0 Repeater Cable. I opened a session in Garage Band ’11 (6.0.5),  went to the Garage Band Preferences panel, chose Mic Port Pro for both input and output. Below that was a box to click on that offers, “I want to hear my instrument as I play and record.” I chose it and clicked on “Create.”

I added new stereo track by going to the Garage Band Track tab and clicking on New Track. I was presented with the choice of Software Instrument, Audio Microphone or Audio Instrument and Drummer. With the “Details” drop down menu I could choose Input 1, Input 2 or Input 1+2 or none. Although I was after a mono voice track, I chose Input 1+2 to allow me to record both the main and the -12 dB track.

Instantly I heard the mic in my left ear. I swung the IN_USB knob on the MicPort Pro 2 from full clockwise to the center and heard myself in both ears with a slight delay due to the trip through the MicPort Pro 2. Then I clicked on the small orange icon on the Garage band track panel to disable throughput and heard myself from the MicPort Pro 2 input without the latency. 

I set the gain knob on the MicPort Pro 2 so that the TLM 103 was just barely lighting up the red LED flasher. That level showed lower on Garage Band's metering, but I remembered that the MicPort Pro 2 flasher fires at -6 dB. I readjusted the MPP 2 headphone output to my liking and hit the red record button on the Garage Band transport and recorded a voice track.

I got a good take, but while I was recording, the waveform levels in Garage Band indicated that both left and right tracks were the same level. When I hit the Mac keyboard space bar to stop recording, the wave forms instantly showed the 12 dB level differences. I hit return on the Mac keyboard and hit the keyboard space bar again to hear playback. I was still hearing my live mic in my headphones as well as playback until I turned the IN_USB knob on the MicPort Pro 2 full clockwise.  

After recording a two and a half minute track and making sure it had no glitches, I then set about to export it so that I could bring it into Pro Tools on the same desktop computer. Under the Garage Band “Share” tab, I could Send Song to iTunes, Send Ringtone to iTunes, Send podcast to iWeb, Export Song to Disk and Burn song to CD. I chose Export Song to Disk. I was offered the choice of compressing the file or leaving it in its original quality. I chose NOT to compress and clicked on EXPORT. A window popped up allowing me to name the file and export it to anywhere on my computer. It also indicated that the file was an .AIF file. No big deal today, but I thought I was going to get a .WAV file.

PRO TOOLS
Importing into Pro Tools 11 was a snap with the two track file on the timeline, no glitches and all good! For a section of one file, I purposely drove the Input GAIN knob so the left channel was in the red. I used the LIMITER. You can hear what that does to the audio on my test files. 

Apple Logic Pro, both on my Mac Book Pro and Studio Mac worked well, but how about Pro Tools? I've been using Pro Tools for over 15 years. It's still my "go-to" app for audio. With Pro Tools, there’s another principal at work.

Companies like Avid/Digidesign/Pro Tools, until recently, operated with a very closed system. In other words, you needed Pro Tools software running on a computer that was attached to Pro Tools hardware. Anything else just wouldn’t work or wouldn't work very well. While parts of their libertarian user base complained about the approach, I understood why Pro Tools wanted to limit access to third-party hardware, but w
ithout all of that proprietary handshaking, what would happen if I tried to connect MicPort Pro 2 to Pro Tools 11? 

I did learn one new trick. To get Pro Tools to see the MicPort Pro 2, I needed to press the "n" key on the computer keyboard when starting Pro Tools 11. This brought up a window that let me choose different I/Os. I had already connected the MicPort Pro 2 to the Mac tower via the long USB 2.0 powered cable. Pro Tools saw the MicPort Pro 2 and after I chose it, a production started up after a screen that informed me that things were different than when using my DIGI003R. 

I added a stereo input track, selected MicPort Pro 2 for a input, clicked on the record ready button and it worked just fine. No problems. I was actually a little surprised that it was that easy. I have that file, using the Neumann TLM 103, the MicPort Pro 2 and Pro Tools 11 on my DeskTop Mac. 

I have WAV file samples using a TLM 103, an AEA R84 ribbon mic and an original Sennheiser MD421 dynamic mic. You can hear what happens when I insert the LIMITER and HPF. 

Here's a link to a playlist of MicPort Pro 2 files using TLM 103, Sennheiser MD 421, Shure SM58 and AEA R84 mics, softwares, three different recording softwares on three different devices. 

The MicPort Pro 2 Manual is right here in case you ever need it. 

IN CONCLUSION
The CEntrance MicPort Pro 2's heft tells me that it's a solid piece of gear. It has a lot of well thought out features. Yes, there are cheaper devices that sort of do what it does, but there's usually something missing at the lower price points. It's a mic or line level device. You can run it on its rechargeable batteries, although you can also power it from the USB port on the right.  

BONUS INFO
I go back to my original thought. With enough memory in your iPhone (and memory is cheap these days) you can have your own quiet little studio set up. No spinning drives or fans.

People have a tendency not to think about the importance of having a proper acoustical environment. 
I want my clients to feel confident about their work. It's a two-parter; no noise from the outside and no reflections inside. I have my clients send me a short WAV file of their best effort, so I can hear what they're doing. If I can hear the room, or the neighbor's dog or lawn mower, we have to come up with solutions. 

Technique, Inc. © 2020 All Rights Reserved
Contact Ty Ford at; www.tyford.com

NOTE: I am honored to say that I have an Affiliate Relationship with B&H Photo/Audio/Video. If you buy something from them after clicking on one of my links, I am paid a small commission. Not much, but it helps to keep the lights on. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Deity S-Mic 2 Shotgun Microphone - Third time's the charm

It's been interesting to watch Aputure, ostensibly a company that manufactures professional video lighting fixtures, push its way into the location audio market with microphones. Andrew Jones' work to bring the Deity S-Mic 2 Shotgun to market has been impressive because, in meeting him, he obviously cares about audio, knows about it, has additional "outside the box" experience and perhaps most importantly, he listens to and responds to the market.

The Deity S-Mic 2 is a shotgun microphone with pop filter and simple clip in an extremely sturdy road case for $359 USD. If you think it looks familiar, from the outside, it's almost a direct copy of a Sennheiser MKH 416 that sells for $999 USD.

Deity S-Mic 2 Shotgun Microphone







The S-Mic 2 is the third iteration of this mic. Each iteration has been the direct result of listening to the market. Lower selfnoise, more LF response and cautions about moisture and RF sensitivity have been heard and responded to. If you watch the video below, you'll hear what the S-Mic 2 sounds like. I also compare it directly to a Sennheiser MKH 416.



Then, with permission of Deity, we did the Dunk Test.




And then there was the results of the dunk test!



Without water damage, the low frequency response of the S-Mic 2 is slightly less than the MKH 416. As demonstrated in the video, while the difference is noticeable if the mic is within the proximity range, at farther distances of a foot or more, the difference on the human voice (mine) is negligible.

The S-Mic 2 doesn't have the presence peak that the MHK 416 has. That world known peak is great for pulling dialog out of the mud, but if you're mudless and your talent has any excessive sibilance, the MKH416 can be edgy and you'll have to do some de-essing in post.

S-Mic 2 EQ Curve





Watch and listen to the first video with a focus on the high frequencies. While graphs can sometimes be dollied up to look better than they are, what is obvious is that on the two graphs above and below, the S-Mic 2 starts to drift downwards at 2 KHz. The 416, on the other hand, begins to rise at 2 KHz. This reflects fairly accurately that the MKH 416 is brighter than the S-Mic 2. 

MKH 416 EQ Curve

As can be heard on the first video, the patterns of both mics are very close. The S-Mic 2 either has a wider pattern or the shoulders of the pattern are a little softer. Not by much, but a little.

In the RF Resistance Department, like my MKH 416 (an old one with point to point soldering), the S-Mic 2 has a well grounded brass tube. Both Deity and Sennheiser are now using Surface Mount Technology (SMT) on the circuit boards. This can result in reduced RF problems because the leads of the components are so short that they can't really act like RF antennae.

RF or DC?
There are insulative areas on the capsule between the diaphragm and the backplate and/or ground. When the moisture and dirt bridge these insulative areas, current flows where it's not supposed to. That causes noise.
One of the main selling points of the MKH 416 is that the diaphragm is polarized by an RF voltage rather than a DC voltage. Rode copied this attribute in their NTG-3 shotgun microphone. The use of an RF voltage seems to eliminate the problem.

Here's more from Wikipedia: "RF condenser microphones use a comparatively low RF voltage, generated by a low-noise oscillator. The signal from the oscillator may either be amplitude modulated by the capacitance changes produced by the sound waves moving the capsule diaphragm, or the capsule may be part of a resonant circuit that modulates the frequency of the oscillator signal. Demodulation yields a low-noise audio frequency signal with a very low source impedance. The absence of a high bias voltage permits the use of a diaphragm with looser tension, which may be used to achieve wider frequency response due to higher compliance. The RF biasing process results in a lower electrical impedance capsule, a useful by-product of which is that RF condenser microphones can be operated in damp weather conditions that could create problems in DC-biased microphones with contaminated insulating surfaces. The Sennheiser "MKH" series of microphones use the RF biasing technique."

Got it? No? Go back and re-read it...slowly. Savor it. This is an important point. Going forward, the Deity S-Mic 2 does not use RF voltage on the diaphragm. The Deity S-Mic 2 uses DC voltage. Problem? Probably not because of what else Deity has designed in, but I guess we won't know for sure until a number of them go into the Amazon, or Washington, D. C. in the Summer.

There are some who claim this as the "sometimes" problem with Schoeps mics. My own experience with two Schoeps CMC641 is that the problem is not the diaphragm, but the connector rings on the capsule and body. If you regularly unscrew the capsule from the body, you allow schmutz to build up on those surfaces and that causes noise problems. Once I cleaned those contacts and left the capsules screwed on to the bodies, I stopped having noise problems. 

Deity S-Mic 2 peeled open
What else has Deity done to prevent these problems? On the left here are the guts of an S-Mic 2. The first thing we notice is the splayed metal screen from top to bottom with two slight indents to allow the set screw to secure the brass shell to the internal tube. This conductive screen shield wraps around the mic body, shielding the innards from RF.

Next there's the "inner veil", a papery like sheet that wraps tightly around the tube. The lower section, below the screen, is the chamber in which the XLR leads and plug sit. (see below)

Deity's point man, Andrew Jones, says, "We have 1/8" of pure solid brass around our PCB and capsule. We've tested it against a 100mw Zaxcom ZMT3, transmitting within an inch of the microphone and zero RF signals could be heard."

That's a good, solid test, but (sorry to be a bit conservative here) experience has shown that RF can be tricky.

As another hedge against moisture, Jones says the boards inside the mic are treated with a coat of clear epoxy to prevent moisture penetration. Below is a shot looking under the metal screen at the circuitry and back end of the XLR connector.  You can't see the epoxy because it's clear, but it's there. OK, all of these things make me feel better about the moisture issue.

Inside the S-Mic 2 Circuit Boards and Connections
The Deity S-Mic 2 is a backplate charged electret mic. Let me stop right now and say, you can hear or read stuff that says "True Condensers" are better than "Electret Condensers." If someone hands you that crap, kindly stop listening to them. You can continue to bob your head as though you were listening to them, but DON'T LISTEN! 

I have discussed this with a number of German Tonmeisters over the years who worked for AKG and Neumann. In every case they responded by saying that, certainly, electret microphones can be made as good as externally polarized microphones. So, good electrets are better than bad externally polarized mics and good externally polarized mics are better than bad electrets. 

Juice Use
You could take the position that, in the field, when you're running on batteries, the S-Mic 2 will eat your batteries more slowly than an MKH416. That's because the S-Mic 2 is an electret with a charged backplate. Looks at the specs. The S-Mic 2 will run at 24 or 48 V DC and pulls 1.5 mA. That's probably 1.5 mA at 48 V DC and even more current at 24 V DC.

That's the thing about Phantom Power. Power is voltage times current. P = I x E. Sure you may be able to run a mic at a lower voltage, but it will make up for it by drawing more current or by added distortion because you're starving the mic.

The MKH416 pulls another half a milliamp more than the S-Mic 2; 2.0 mA. Not a major difference since mics like the Schoeps CMC641 pull a hefty 4.0 mA when powered by a 48 V DC Phantom Power supply and 8.0 mA when running at 12 V DC, but still more battery consumption.

The Deity S-Mic2 is also available as a kit with foam windscreen, mic stand clip, Rycote pistol grip/suspension mount and furry and very rugged case.

Deity S-Mic 2 Kit
In Conclusion
What we have here is a very ambitious offering from a company not as steeped in microphone history as Sennheiser or Neumann, but coming up fast.

Although you should always make your own judgements about the sound and operation of your gear, if you're a solid MKH416 user, an S-Mic 2 could begin life for you as a very good sacrificial substitute when you don't want to put your MKH416 in peril and then allow it to earn its stripes. In the short time it's been here, I personally think it deserves at least that. If you've been using a Sennheiser ME66/K6P, I think this will be a step up for you.

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Technique, Inc. © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved.
More at www.TyFord.com


Monday, July 9, 2018

Klover Parabolic Collector Microphone Systems - The Latest Dish.


Klover Products 26" Collector Dish
As I ambled through the Las Vegas Convention Center during the most recent National Association of Broadcasters' Convention (April 2018), I came across Klover Products of Janesville Wisconsin, home of three models of parabolic collector dish microphones; the 26" Mik, 16" Mik and 9" Mik.

Paul Terpstra, Klover Products President, was manning the Klover booth. Like many people, I have seen mics like this, mostly at football games but never up close. I had no idea what they might really sound like or where else to use them other than sporting events.

I talked to Paul Terpstra about a demo. After the NAB 2018 dust settled, the three dishes arrived. The 26" was loaded with a Sennheiser MKE2. The 16" had a DPA 4060 and the 9" had a Countryman B3, specially EQed by Chris Countryman for a more natural sound.

Brian Glock with the Klover 9" dish and hand-grip
In fact, in listening to the three different dishes, the 9" did have the most natural sound, but, due to its size, not the range. The 26" and 16" captured more, but were peaky. Fine for a live broadcast sporting event with grunting footballers, but too peaky for movie dialog unless the scene called for surreptitious surveillance audio from a dish. Maybe with some EQ......? Hmmm.

Attached to the 26" and 16" disks are tubular, segmented, black, carbon fiber brackets that are easily assembled and hold the mic slug in place. The dog-leg in the bracket allows the mic to reach the dish's best focal point. The support brackets are attached to the dish with bushings to reduce handling noise and are made of carbon fiber which crumbles safely if hit. Some dish makers use PVC pipe which can break into body-penetrating pointed shards.

The Klover 26" is the largest and heaviest of the three, weighing 7.5 pounds. It has hand grips and a neck strap. I would think a monopod would be a much better support solution but Paul Terpstra says the networks have a safety concerns with using monopods on the sidelines. If you're not working for the NFL, or don't have bodies hurtling at you, get a monopod or tripod.

The Standard 26" Klover collector dish has a flat slot at the top for mounting transmitters. There is also a 26" Tactical Version with a triangular top that's made to fit into Pelican cases for shipping and transport. Terpstra says FOX Network uses the MKE2 and that some of their mixers prefer a Neumann KM183 omni. My first thought was to switch to a cardioid pattern to reduce picking up unwanted nearby "front" sounds. Terpstra says a cardioid fails to capture the last few inches around the rim of the dish which results in lower overall sensitivity level and that the sound you get from the focal point overpowers any ambient noise an omni would pick up. I'm not done with this thought, but.........
Schoeps MK 21 Wide Cardioid

I became curious about what might happen if an exceptionally wide cardioid were used. The Schoeps MK 21 capsule, for example. According to Schoeps, this type of capsule has a directional pattern between omni and cardioid. The basic idea in designing this capsule was to combine the advantages of the cardioid with those of the omni. This results in a pickup pattern which blends the two sets of characteristics. It has a fuller and more extended low-frequency response than a cardioid, with less proximity effect, while picking up more room sound than a cardioid. There is a version with a high-frequency lift, the Schoeps MK21H, but given the response of the dish, we didn't need that. Redding Audio's Scott Boland forwarded me the MK 21 capsule for the trials. I swapped out my MK 41 for the MK 21 on my CMC6 body and went to work. In the Klover 26", the MK 21 is a noticeable improvement over the MKE2

I was interested not only in outside performance, but also what the MK 21 capsule would provide inside. So, down into the studio I went for a little experiment. I rolled video on it so you could see and hear what I experienced. 

In the studio with the Klover 26" and Schoeps CMC621.

Some might say that a 26" (much less a 16" or 9") dish is simply incapable of capturing low frequency sound because the wavelength of the lower frequency sounds -- say the low A on an 88-note keyboard -- is 41.1 feet long. If you're one of these, you need a refresher in the difference between transverse and longitudinal wave propagation. All three of the dishes picked up a lot more low frequencies than I expected, especially outside, but not as much on voice.

Victor Martin dodging the rain with the 26" dish and MKE-2.
Our first exterior session was during a light rain. Our second session was a dry day. Then a short session in which we compared the Klover 26" dish to a Sennheiser MKH 416.

Even using the lavs, the ambient low frequencies sounded very big in the headphones. They were still there when I took the headphones off, but significantly less obvious and more distant. I guess part of this is how our amazing brains process what we hear. At one point, during our first tests, a low frequency wave rolled through like a gigantic tumble weed, lasting for four or five seconds. Was that due to wave propagation in the rain; maybe a distant thunderclap that, like a tidal wave, came rolling across the terrain? Dunno. Our second day was quieter; no rain and fewer birds. All of these ambient sounds need to be considered when deciding if a dish is right for your kit.

Looking up to the house. 84 feet from manhole to the mics.
The process was simple. Walk down the driveway to the manhole 84 feet away. Slowly move back in and listen to the differences. We found that the dishes picked up more when we had black top between the voice and the dishes. When we moved to the grass, the sound wasn't as bright. The brightness differences were not as obvious over speakers, but were with headphones.

Looking the other way.
Head turns or even looking down also reduced the level to the dishes. We did a number of "walk and talks" and later added EQ to show what might be done. Boosting some 80 Hz to 200 Hz warmed things up, but I had to roll off below 80 Hz sharply to control the outside ambience. Click on the links below to hear and see what we came up with. As my pal Bernie Ozol notes, I have a pretty big baritone. If your talent speaks softly, you just won't get the range. My advice is to use your headphones for critical listening to the following files.

This first walk and talk uses the Klover 26" dish with Sennheiser MKE2 lav. As with the next two, I applied some EQ just to give an idea of what might happen in post. Keep an eye on the screen to see where I popped in some EQ.

26" Klover with Sennheiser MKE-2

You can hear the rain and slight breeze in the following clip, along with a distant train whistle and the large low frequency tumbleweed that rolled through. Vic Martin heard it in the cans, and it was very obvious to me just standing there. Head turns make a difference, as does looking down toward the ground while speaking or moving from hard black top to grass. After I reached the manhole at 84 feet, Oh, there's an airplane!!!

16" Klover with DPA 4060

The Schoeps MK 21 capsule arrives and, below, Bernie Ozol and I do another walk and talk. Everything sounds better with the Schoeps, just not as much chest tone as we'd like. As Bernie says, "It could be used for long lens dialog, as is." Car starts, wind chimes ring, cars leave, all while Bernie tracks me with the Klover 26" dish all the way out to the 84 foot manhole cover and back across the lawn. Again, I popped in some EQ from time to time. Keep an eye on the screen. The Schoeps B5D was not quite enough to catch some of the wind puffs. 

26" Klover with Schoeps CMC621

Heads-up DSLR shooters and birders. As mentioned above, the custom EQ done by Chris Countryman on one of their B3 omni lavs sounds noticeably more natural than the MKE2 or 4060 used in the bigger dishes. Again, this was our first day of recording. As you can plainly hear, both Victor Martin and I heard rain, lots of birds and the occasional Light Rail passing by during these tests. The Light Rail tracks are about 200 feet away through the back of the neighbor's backyard. Because of the rain, we kept the dish in the alcove. You can hear some resonating, especially when I'm up close and my voice goes past the dish to bounce around in the alcove. Would a directional mic have worked better at ignoring the bounce? Hard to say.

We had the dish attached to the hand-grip and the same tripod that we used on the larger dishes, but the larger dishes had better isolation hardware. Because of this, there's more rumble in this track. The hand-grip might be better when hand held and not conducting tripod vibrations to the mic. You can hear me say that I'm engaging the Low Cut filter in at 80Hz at 2:45 in, and then sweeping it up to 120Hz. That pulled out a lot of the low end noise, but also thinned out the voice a bit. I rolled the low cut back off just before the ned of the clip. I'm not sure how much bandwith tailoring YouTube does. If you can't hear the low end go away during that time, then there's more YouTube roll off than expected.

If you have time to set up a camera-mounted shot and hold still enough, you'll get better results, but as with any camera-mounted mic, the 9" is susceptible to camera handling noise and perhaps some zoom motor noise.

The 9" Klover with the custom Countryman B3

Finally, I set up on a third day, far enough away from the porch alcove and recorded both the Klover 26" and a Sennheiser MKH 416. When I listened to the playback, I could hear some phasy wonkiness in the 416. I think that's due to aiming the 416 down the driveway with it parallel to the driveway and picking up some sound bouncing up into the interference tubes.

26" Klover with Schoeps compared with a Sennheiser MKH 416


IN CONCLUSION
I got more than expected from these three mics, but more work needs to be done on choosing lavs, or EQing mics. Even the Schoeps CMC621, which sounded best of all, needed a little EQ help. 

For more details, visit the Klover web site:  
KM-26, KM-16, KM-09 or KM-26, KM-16, KM-09.

Big thanks to Victor Martin, Brian Glock, Bernie Ozol and Kathy Phelps for helping me get the sounds I recorded on my Sound Devices 664.

Technique, Inc. © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved. More at www.tyford.com

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

NAB 2018 Las Vegas, (Baby)



Main Entrance of the LVCC
Nothing says "big" like Las Vegas and NAB 2018 was no exception. I hadn't been in more than a few years due to work. I could either go to NAB and spend about $1500 for three days or stay home, work and make $2000. It was an easy choice.

This year turned out differently so off I went. I picked up my press pass at the Paris Hotel, where I was staying, a new and appreciated feature, and headed for N247, the press room at the Las Vegas Convention Center. It was Monday morning and the Press Room was buzzing with about 100 people sucking down coffee, working online or on their own computers and fiddling with camera and audio gear. Any snacks put out had already been devoured, but the coffee was hot and in good supply. Thank you NAB!

Where are all the press kits?
Where were the press kits? There used to be a substantial corner of the big room set aside with a number of alphabetized bins in which you could find all of the current press releases; some paper, some CDs, DVDs and USB sticks. I was surprised to see that it was a shadow of its former self; one small table with a dish of USB sticks and a few papers.

A day or so later there were a few more, but nothing like in years past. Now, to get press kits, you had to go to the individual booths and ask. That meant more walking and finding for the press, or you just didn't bother. That meant some vendors just got lost.

My self-imposed assignment was to concentrate mostly on audio and wait for other gear to catch my eye or ear. The Exhibitor Program lists vendors alphabetically and also has a floor plan layout to help you find them. For some reason, the booth numbers never follow a linear sequence. This year, squishing the floor chart for an entire hall into a two page spread meant that I could just make out the booth numbers if I took my glasses off and used them as a magnifying glass.

I sat amidst multiple foreign language chatter (people from 160+ countries attended this show) as I  checked off the obvious vendors and keeping an eye out for new ones. Fortunately, most of the audio vendors were in the Central Hall, but that's still a very big space.

There are four halls, each larger than a football field including sidelines and end zones. This year that meant over 1700 exhibitors and just over a million of the two million square feet offered by the LVCC. After scanning the alphabetic list and jotting down booth numbers, I headed to the floor.

One of many aisles that go on forever at the LVCC
Even though the aisles I worked though were busy, I read reports that attendance was down from last year, by 5000 to 8000 people, coming in somewhere around 96,000 people. I recall one year in the past in which attendance hit 113, 000.

ATSC 3.0 and 4K video were the main technical drivers, combining to create the future Next-generation TV. Both are tweaked create a better TV experience for the consumer. Content also seemed to be important, but was it just lip service? But even as these pressures push forward, losses in spectrum for production audio continue to cause concern. One mixer I spoke with said ESPN is now heavily requesting that audio use less wireless and more hard-wired gear. A sign of the times?

From the "Expect Good Things" Department, Sound Devices' purchase of Audio Ltd. in February of this year brought a smile to many US faces. Audio Ltd. who has long been held as makers of some of the best sounding analog wireless mics in the industry, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sound Devices and will be distributed by Sound Devices in North America.

The debut of the Audio Ltd. digital 1010 systems several years ago was good. Here's my review.  Their new offering, the Audio Ltd. A10, is expected to be even better due to the collaboration between the two companies. Having heard the Audio Ltd analog 2040 and digital 1010, I'm excited to hear the new A10, if for no other reason than to hear the 2 mS latency, new unclippable analog limiter, the time code generator and the recorder built into the A10-TX transmitter. At the moment, these last two features will not be available in the USA due to patent issues.

Sound Devices acquires Audio Ltd and distributes in North America

Sound Devices MixPre-10T

In addition, Sound Devices caught a Cinema Audio Society (C.A.S.) award for their 32-bit MixPre-10T, a ten-track mixer/recorder with stereo master mix file that can also double as a USB audio interface. Using that as a strong base, Sound Devices retooled the Mix-Pre-10T for the MI market and now offers the MixPre-10M for musicians. The MixPre-10M's eight preamps are virtually unclippable.
Sound Devices MixPre-10M right side
Sound Devices MixPre-10M left side

The MixPre-10M lets you record to an SD card, playback, mix, monitor, layer and overdub up to 12 track and includes pans, solos, reverbs, EQ and more. The unit can also be used as a very high quality 12in/4out USB audio interface. In fact, you can record to the internal USB card and simultaneously stream via USB. Battery or AC-powered, the MixPre-10T and 10M are extremely portable and have a professional feel and heft.

Sennheiser Memory Mic
Companies like Sennheiser dominate the pro sound market, even more so since AKG left the game, but they are also aware of the consumer and prosumer markets and to be truthful, many pros also use consumer gear it the situation warrants it. In white, as it is to the left here, the Sennheiser Memory Mic could be clipped onto some bride's dresses. to solve that perennial problem. Sennheiser's Memory Mic, due out later this year. Sennheiser's Tobias Von Allwoerden explains below.




Sennheiser also showed their new G4 wireless rigs, built upon the success of their ubiquitous G2 and G3 series. The EW 500P Film includes the EK 500 camera mountable or bag receiver, SK 500 bodypack transmitter, MKE 2 omni lav, SKP 500 (G4 500P) plug-on transmitter with Phantom Power, cables, camera adaptor and four AA batteries and can transmit at 10/30/50 mW. The G4 uses the Sennheiser HDX compander. I contacted Sennheiser to ask about battery life with a Phantom Powered mic at 50 mW. They figure five hours or less depending on how much current the mic requires, so YMMV. Without the drain of Phantom Power, 8-10 hours. The G4 100P series Plug-on does not provide Phantom Power.

The EK 500 receiver offers a maximum of 3520 receiving frequencies, adjustable in 25 kHz steps, 20 frequency banks, each with up to 32 factory-preset channels, no intermodulation, 6 frequency banks with up to 32 programmable channels.

Here's a list of frequency ranges for the different G4 models:
AS: 520 - 558 MHz, K+: 925 - 937.5 MHz, JB: 806 - 810 MHz,
GBw: 606 - 678 MHz, Gw: 558 - 626 MHz, Bw: 626 - 698 MHz, Cw: 718 - 790 MHz, Dw: 790 - 865 MHz, Aw+: 470 - 558 MHz, Gw1: 558 - 608 MHz

All ew 100-p and ew 500-p components are also available separately, so that users can build their best evolution camera system. For example, they can choose their favorite handheld to go with the EK 500 G4 camera receiver – or they can add the new SKP 500 G4 plug-on transmitter to their existing ew 100-p system, benefitting from the compatibility between the different Evolution wireless series.

Sennheiser EM 100 G4 receiver
The EM 100 G4 AC-powered receiver is also part of the new G4 line. It's a metal chassis, half-rack unit with up to 20 compatible channels and 1680 frequencies and is a true diversity receiver with two rod antennas, rackmount, power supply and RJ 10 linking cable.

Countryman is known for their incredibly small B6 mic, perfect for hidden mounting for film projects where mics can not be seen. While I visited their booth, I was also taken by one of their long time stock pieces, the Type 10 S Direct Box. I was struck by the self-explanatory, hard-working simplicity of this perennial problem solver. 
Countryman 10S Front Panel
Countryman 10S Rear Panel

It's a pad and an isolation box. The front panel quickly shows that this is a stereo device that accepts unbalanced 1/4", RCA or 1/8" inputs. It has 1/4" through jacks for each channel and is capable of handling -30 (mic), -15 (consumer line) or 0 dB (pro line) inputs. You can pad down a line level signal to semi-pro or to mic with the flip of a switch.

The output side on the back panel shows ground lifters for each channel. The Type 10 S runs for about 130 hours on one nine volt battery or from any Phantom Supply that's 1.5 mA or more. The Power Test Switch checks the battery power or condition of the incoming Phantom Power.

Got a nagging ground loop buzz between your computer and audio monitors? Chances are this will get rid of it. Out on a shoot and getting gnarly audio from the house mixer? The Type 10 S could make that audio quite usable and it's built like a tank.

A few years ago, KLOVER PRODUCTS redid the math and came up with new designs for Parabolic Collector Microphones. I stopped by their booth and met Paul Terpstera to get a better idea of how these discoveries may have changed the way parabolic mics sound.

On the floor of the LVCC, with the demo din coming in from all sides, there was a slightly distracting "under water" edge to the sound. Not so much on the voice, but on the background. Paul suggested that I step outside and since the doors were right across the aisle, out we went. In the Spring air outside, the bubbly underwater background went away. I don't recall which dish we had out, but KLOVER has them in 26", 16" and 9" versions; the smaller ones targeting DSLR shooters. Paul says that the range for the 26" collector is 500'-600'. That caught my attention. Keep an eye out on this blog for a more thurough, hands-on review of KLOVER parabolic collector microphones.

Steve Oakley operating his custom 26" sandwich KLOVER
Handling noise can be an issue with parabolic collectors. the KLOVER collectors are designed with isolation bushings to damp that noise. I ran into long time audio recordist/mixer Steve Oakley at the show and he mentioned that he made a custom collector to deal with the relatively loud ambient sounds at an airshow; specifically getting rid of the sounds of some of the planes that he did not want to record and the sound of the announcer over the PA. Steve found that using two dishes and putting a layer of foam between them reduced the sound originating behind the collector from exciting the main collector. Brilliant!

Stand by, I'm trying to set up a sound person's get together to see how well these collectors do against long-time , long shotgun mics like the Sennheiser MKH 70, Neumann KM82 and Sennheiser 816.

The Audio-Technica booth is always worth a visit. And with AKG sadly gone, Audio-Technica has more than filled the spot. They span the market, offering entry, mid level and high end audio mics and headphones. Their AT 5000 series mics are amazing microphones. I reviewed the AT5040 when it first came out. Here's that review. The cardioid-only AT5047 came out last year. it was as mind-altering as the AT5040.

Audio-Technica bayonnette mount headphone plug
Audio-Technica ATH-M60x on-ear headphones
One of the things I like about Audio-Technica is that they listen. That's led to features like three sets of cords with some headphones; (1.2 m - 3.0 m coiled, 3.0 m straight, and 1.2 m straight). They have also invented bayonnette-style locking plugs that plug into the ear cup. Snap a cable? No worries, just get another cord. 

This year Audio-Technica showed new headphones. Don't like the ear-covering ATH 50 series? How about the new on-ear ATH-M60x? They use the same 45 mm large aperture drivers as the ATH-M50, but have a lower profile and a closed back. Although they look smaller than the M50, I had no problem with them on my larger than average head. They come with the three cables, 1/8" to 1/4" adapter and storage pouch. 

Audio-Technica ATH-R70x
And for the rest of us, there's the new Audio-Technica ATH-R70x Open-Back Reference Headphones. These are the flagship headphones and they come with a two-year limited warranty. They are supported by the two pads you see in the picture instead of a headband. The earpads are covered with a breathable material to allow for longer sessions. I'm often asked what headphones to use for mixing. I normally recommend that headphones not be used except to check for how whatever effects I'm using stand out. Maybe the ATH-R70x will find a spot able be usable for "real mixing."

Audio -Technica ATW-T6001S Body-pack transmitter
Adding to their 6000 Series High-Density Wireless Systems, Audio-Technica showed its ATW-6001S body-pack transmitter with advanced intermod suppression that enables 31 simultaneous channels within a 4 MHz bandwidth, remote transmitter setup with IR sync, headphone jack (for the receiver), ethernet connection for remote monitoring and configuration, switchable 2 mW, 10 mw and 50 mW transmitter power, rugged cH-style connectors and easy to read displays. The battery fuel gauge can be set to Alkaline or NiMH batteries. 

This system runs in the 944 MHz to 952 MHz band. This band is used in the Aural Broadcast Auxiliary Service, the Fixed Microwave Service, the Low Power Auxiliary Service, and the Multiple Address Service (MAS). Operation of unlicensed Part 15 Devices is permitted between 944 and 960 MHz.

There are no bag-mount receivers for the 6000 system yet. The new ATW-R6200S full-rack, AC-powered receiver houses two receivers per unit. Each receiver has a balanced XLR male connector, Ethernet port for computer monitoring, 1/4" headphone jack with volume control for monitoring and full rack metal chassis with reinforced mounting ears. A 470-99 MHz UHF antenna distribution system is optional. There are Two 1:4 active splitters; two 1:2 passive splitters/2:1 passive combiners; +12V DC power switch for antenna input jacks.

The ATW-T6002xS handheld transmitter supports six different capsules.
ATW-C510 cardioid dynamic microphone capsule (ATM510 equivalent)
ATW-C710 cardioid condenser microphone capsule (ATM710 equivalent)
ATW-C4100 cardioid dynamic microphone capsule (AE4100 equivalent)
ATW-C6100 hypercardioid dynamic microphone capsule (AE6100 equivalent)
ATW-C3300 cardioid condenser microphone capsule (AE3300 equivalent)
ATW-C5400 cardioid condenser microphone capsule (AE5400 equivalent)

This is one of the reasons I like going to NAB. Seeing a company respond to the market like this is quite a charge. You can pick something up and ask questions. It's hard to do that from home. It's also about the people you meet. While strolling the aisles, I encountered Marty Pietz and Randy Strong of CNK Engineering in Mesa, AZ. With spectrum issues mounting, they have created a nationwide company that offers an RF scanning service and a lot of FCC Part 74 help.

Are RF and wireless mic management not in your wheelhouse? CNK Engineering provide spectrum survey and frequency planning, licensing your frequencies, identifying and avoiding interfering signal sources, properly maintaining and servicing your equipment and help with upgrading antennas, cables, filters and distribution equipment for better performance. Once set up, they can monitor your area remotely and provide assistance. Check them out on Facebook.

Q5X Wireless Mics for sports
I first heard of Q5X out of London, Ontario, Canada about eight years ago. Wireless mics used by the NBA. The word was that the transmitters could take a beating and still work. They were slightly off the beaten path at NAB this year. By dumb luck I turned a corner and there they were. 

Here's a quick look at some of their products, by Nathan Schurmans, one of their engineers and co-worker Nancy Mathis.









Looking to work for the CIA or some other organization whose members talk up their sleeves and wander around taking orders from earplugs? The N-ear  STEALTH360
promises the "most covert earpiece on the market." Direct from Denmark, you too can play spy for real or for sport and look genuine while doing it.  It's also positioned for IFB users.

N-ear is going after an earpiece you can wear all day and not suffer ear rash or any other downside. Maybe you're a shooter who also has to pay attention to audio. Headphones are clumsy and bang into your camera body when you've got your camera on your shoulder. I have not heard this device yet, so I can't really say how linear the sound is. if you're using one, why not pop on the web and let me know.

Last year I met Andrew Jones from Aputure. A lighting company that was also putting out  a shotgun mic aimed pretty squarely at the Sennheiser MKH 416, the Aputure Deity One. He sent me one, I listened. We talked. Yes, it was priced substantially less than an MKH 416, but there were issues; higher selfnoise, lacking low frequency response and DC polarization rather than RF polarization.

The Aputure Audio booth at NAB 2018
I didn't expect to hear from Aputure after that. I thought they'd realize that making great mics was a bit more involved than a lighting company wanted to pursue. I expected them to fade and die. Not only did this not happen, Aputure brought in more audio gear designers and not only corrected the problems, but thought outside the box to do so. They epoxy-coated the circuit boards and wrapped the parts internally allowing the Deity 2 to be completely submerged without killing it, as Andrew Jones explains below. (side note: check out the young men who walked through the background. It's a whole new world of film makers.)


For DSLR shooters, Aputure has an interesting mic with (again) out of the box features. One of the big problems with feeding audio to DSLR cameras, is getting the levels right. It's just impossible with some small format cameras. The manufacturer simply didn't design a proper audio section. Others can be worked with, but only if you can figure out the gain staging to give the camera what it wants. The last thing a shooter wants is to add another piece of gear (a mixer) to his or her package. Andrew explains. Check it out.


Aputure A.Lyra Digital Lavasliere Mic

Aputure also showed lavs or personal and semi pro applications. I forgot to ask if they were as smart, connectivity-wise as their smart mic. The A.Lyra Digital lavalier mic for Apple devices, capable of 24-bit 96 kHz capturing.

Aputure A.lav








The Aputure A.lav, with an omni condenser element. The A.lav comes with a rechargeable lithium battery, power status indicator, separate mic out and headphone out features. This mic supports IOS and records to FourTrack, Multi Track Song Recorder, StudioMini® Recording Studio, StudioTrack, Multi Track Song Recorder Pro, AV for Digital Performer 8 101. For android users, the Aputure A.lav supports the All That Recorder. Included are the mic with 10 foot cable, a small roll of duct tape to aid in mounting, a fuzz ball wind shield and a hard zippered storage case.

Aputure A.lav ez

The Aputure A.lav ez is a broadcast quality omni lav with a condenser capsule for Apple or Android phones. It comes with a fuzzy windshield, mountable carrying case and cord clip. 

Saramonic also had an impressive booth in the South Hall. I spoke with Sales person Sheila Gou, and though her English was better than my Chinese, communication was difficult. 

Saaramonic Booth at NAB 2018



















A quick trip to their web site confirms the rumors I have been hearing that they are an audio company to be watched, especially for their RX9, TX9 digital series with two channel receiver.

Saramonic audio offerings

It's hard to ignore Sony, but they never quite put themselves out there as an audio leader and they could so easily if they turned and shined just a little more light on their audio capabilities. 

Sony digital wireless

The Sony DWT-B01/n digital body mic runs at 1, 10 or 50 mW in the 566 to 607 & 615 to 638 MHz ranges. The DWT-P01N  plug on transmitter runs in the 556 MHz to 607 MHz and 615 MHz to 638 mHz ranges. It has Phantom Power and supports mic or line input and provides 188 usable frequencies. The Sony Hand-held DWM-02N digital wireless come in three frequency ranges. One model supports two frequency ranges; 566 MHz to 607 MHz and 615 MHz to 638 MHz. The other two models each support 470 MHz to 542 MHz or 638MHz to 698 MHz.

The Sony DWT-B03R is the third generation of Sony's digital DWX series for live sound applications including theater and concerts, as well as studio based TV production and ENG/EFP. 27% smaller than its DWT-B01N predecessor, the DWT-B03R features a tough magnesium body that's resistant to rain, spray and sweat.

Sony's digital audio processing, encryption and RF transmission technologies have latency ranging from 2.8 to 3.7 mSec, depending on which of the three modes it's operating in. It can transmit at 2 mW, 10 mW or 25 mW. The DWT-B03R supports up to 21 simultaneous channels per 8MHz TV band and is compatible with Sony Wireless Studio control software for PC (Ver 5.0 or later), allowing flexible remote operation of up to 82 transmitters using the Cross Remote™ function combined with the RMU-01 remote control unit (available separately).





There was more that I just didn't have time to get around to. If I find more, I'll amend this post or fire up another one. Hope you got something out of it. Please subscribe to my Blog and YouTube channel.

Thanks!

Ty Ford

© Copyright 2018 Technique, Inc. All Rights Reserved.