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.


Ty Ford

© Copyright 2018 Technique, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

RODELink Performer Kit - Digital Wireless Condenser Mic.

RODELink Performer RS-DESK Receiver
As the RF spectrum gets increasingly devoured by big money, going wireless becomes increasingly more difficult. Many manufacturers, in addition to RØDE, have been mining the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band for the last three or four years.

Wi-Fi is a pretty busy space these days and 2.4 GHz is a lot higher than the 500 MHz to 600 MHz UHF band where so many traditional wireless mic systems operate.

Remarkably, most of these new 2.4 GHz systems work pretty well, but as with all gear, they do have limitations. Most, manufacturers, including RØDE, use some sort of redundancy circuitry to make sure the audio makes the trip. I have not encountered any of the dire reports of drop outs if someone walks between the mic and receiver. In this case, the RØDELink Performer was able to go through at least one 1954 plasterboard wall between rooms and also from the basement to the first floor without dropout.

The Audio-Technica System 10 gear I have used will also go through a wall and a floor, but perhaps not for a long walk-and-talk with the mic and receiver at great distances. So far, I've gotten at least 200 feet in clear open space. In a metal-reinforced, concrete, underground parking lot filled with cars (which might be a reflected RF nightmare), I got 120 feet.

Rode's Series II 2.4GHz encrypted digital transmission is sent on two channels simultaneously, RØDELink automatically selects the strongest signal for best reliability. If that frequency gets too busy, a look ahead circuit has already chosen another frequency and inaudibly switches both the mic and the receiver to the new frequency. After doing that, it then keeps an eye out for the next new frequency to go to if the new one goes bad. Note to some techs; this is a one-to-one 2.4 GHz encrypted system. You can't run two receivers to pickup the sound of one microphone.

The RØDELink Performer Kit includes a RØDE TX-M2 handheld wireless mic, mic clip, AC powered RØDE RS-DESK receiver, a RØDE LB-1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery, an AC power supply for the receiver and a micro USB charging cable for the RØDE TX-M2. I'm not in favor of rechargeable mics or receivers with "locked in" batteries you can't swap out on the job. Rode sidesteps the issue completely by allowing access to the battery compartment and allowing standard AA batteries to be used in case you forgot to charge the RØDE LB-1 in time for the gig. Yay RØDE!

Front Panel Display
There's a lot going on with the RS-DESK receiver. Pictured on the left, here, the front panel display shows which of the eight channels is being used. In this case, channel 5. Below that, the transmitter (TX) battery display shows a full charge. In the center is a level indicator that shows the incoming level from the mic. On the right, the receiver shows that it has a lock with the mic and that the output level of the receiver is set to 0 dB, The two small buttons to the right of the display allow you to bump the output of the receiver from -20, -10, 0, +10 and +20. The power switch is on the far right corner of the front.

Rear Panel
Around back from left to right, there's an AC jack that accepts the secure, screw-on power supply cable, a micro USB port for future firmware upgrades, a mic/line output mini switch, balanced XLR and unbalanced 1/4" TS jacks. What you don't see here are the two screw-on antennae jacks at the edges of the chassis.

I made arrangements with Mike Scarinzi, owner of AAPS Productions in Baltimore, MD. Mike has been in the trenches doing live sound since the mid 80s and now runs multiple live sound systems for hire; anything from a simple EON on a stick to large scale concert systems. His latest band in which he plays bassChubby Hoo Hoo, was playing at The Stables; a half and hour or so northwest of Baltimore in Westminster, MD. Ian Burke, one of Mike's guys, was mixing. The Stables is a typical restaurant/bar venue with a raised stage and a dance floor. I got there at 8PM. The music starts at 9PM. That night, Mike was running an Allen & Heath GL3300 console, EAW tops and KSI folded horn subs and JBL MR (15" and 1") monitors. Shure SM58s were up for all vocals except the lead vocal. For that they had a Shure PGX4 with an SM 58 head.

RODELink Performer Digital Wireless Mic and Receiver
I checked in with Ian and we swapped out the Shure wireless for the RØDELink Performer. We placed the receiver on the edge of the stage next to the snake. That put it about 12 feet from the mic. No problems with dropout. Ian did a quick check, including dipping the RØDE TX-M2 mic into the monitors to see how readily it might feedback. All good. He handed the mic to Steve Myers, the band's front man, lead vocalist and guitar player for a quick mic check before the show started. During the first break, Steve commented that he was impressed, saying it was a "good, strong mic." Ian also liked it and mentioned that he could even hear Steve's hand claps as he moved around the mic during songs.

Out in the audience, I quickly noticed the edge on all of the SM58 mics used by the other musicians. If you do live sound, you know what I mean. God bless the SM58, but they can be scratchy if you listen close enough and the mains are of high enough quality. Steve's sound on the RØDELink Performer was very clear and clean. I could hear the scratch every time the background vocals kicked in on the SM58s. Steve's voice is loud enough to crush some mics, but that was not a problem with the Rode TX-M2.

Even in a busy Wi-Fi environment we had no reception problems with the receiver at the stage and the audio coming back at mic level through the snake. I wish we had had time to run the receiver back by the console, about 50-60 feet away just to see, but it was showtime. The lead vocalist felt very comfortable with the sound he was getting back through the monitors. There was no feedback. The sound man liked the clarity of the TX-M2. All Good!

Important information about purchasing from Amazon in the USA.
RØDE Microphones does not authorize "Fulfilled By Amazon." RØDE has purchased counterfeit RØDE products using Fulfilled by Amazon and highly recommend that you only purchase RØDE products from authorized dealers. If you purchase any RØDE microphone from an unauthorized dealer via Fulfilled By Amazon you will not receive any US warranty or technical support.
You can view a full list of authorized US dealers here.

Technique, Inc. © Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Schoeps MiniCMIT - Small, Light, Superior Sound

Schoeps miniCMIT
At 5 7/8" (14.922 cm) and weighing 2.75 oz (78g) the Schoeps miniCMIT ($1,999) is proof that good things do come in small packages and my hands, although bigger than the President's, are not THAT big.

The longer Schoeps CMIT 5U comes in at $2,200. Not a lot of difference in the the big game of life. Schoeps says CMIT5 and miniCMIT sound basically identical. That's because the business end of the two mics, the interference tube and capsule, are basically the same.

miniCMIT Specs
There are, however, differences. According to the Schoeps Spec sheet above, the miniCMIT runs on 12-48 V DC Phantom Power at half the current drain of the CMIT 5. That's nice for battery consumption, but the miniCMIT pays for that with lower SPL handling when the miniCMIT uses 12 V DC Phantom Power. I'm going to guess that the EIN may also be higher during 12 and 24 V DC operation.

The miniCMIT has a fixed 70Hz, 24 dB/octave low cut. That may make you want to think twice before using it for live music recording unless your intended playback system doesn't have much low end response anyway. Frankly, after hearing the miniCMIT, I wouldn't worry unless you're after the ultimate tympani or organ pedal.

CMIT Polar Response
The Polar Response chart on the left shows that as frequencies rise from 8 kHz to 16 kHz the pattern continues to narrow. If you've been using a Schoeps CMC641 on a boom for a while, you'll have to "game up" with your boom work to keep your dialog from slipping off the shoulders of the pattern.  Two shots will require more attention.

But wait! The human voice centers around 1 kHz to 3 kHz; most of it extending down to about 80 Hz and up to 5 kHz to 7 kHz. What's the mic hearing between 0 degrees and 30 degrees each side of center that tells our ears that we've got the mic in the right spot? Upper harmonics of the voice, where parts of the consonants live. That frail feature we sometimes call intelligibility. It's also where the sibilance lives. Too much sibilance is a bad thing, but just the right about allows the voice to cut through any mud and be more easily understood.

MK41 Polar Response
Now we enter that discussion point called, "Is there really such a thing as 'reach' or did some marketing guy make that up?" Reach suggests that one mic may pull dialog and other things out of the distance better than another.

It has been said that the CMIT or miniCMIT has more reach than a CMC641. Why? Because it has a tighter high frequency response pattern? Those mid and low frequencies are still there and the lower you go, the wider the pattern. They begin to resemble the response (to the right) of the supercardioid CMC641 at those frequencies. If you were recording dialog on a hard, flat surface like a parking lot and a car or truck started up 90 degrees off-axis, the shotgun would definitely pickup the engine and exhaust mids and lows very well.

So, yes, you can use an interference tube mic – a shotgun mic – and it may have a very nice beam sometimes called a presence peak that a supercardioid doesn't have. The Sennheiser MKH 416 has an impressive presence peak. It's also a lot more sensitive than a CMC641. If you're trying to "reach" with a CMC641 and switch to a 416, the first thing you notice is how much louder (more sensitive) the 416 is. If your mixer's preamps aren't all that great, you may hear system noise (hiss) when you crank up a CMC641 to get a better level for a distant or very quiet source. I've been in a situation where the only mic I had was a CMC641. I had it running though a Sound Devices 442 on the East steps of the Capitol in Washington, D. C.. I cranked up the 442 and got great sound from over four feet away because of the 442's low noise preamps and performance.

Having introduced the beaminess of a pattern, you have to make a judgement as to whether a beam is good or bad. I have heard some nasty beams; very irregular and unpredictable. I don't hear that with the miniCMIT. Schoeps goes so far as to tell you that their shotgun pattern has a rotationally symmetrical polar pattern. That means if you could rotate the mic while using it, actually spin it in your hand, the frequencies of what you were aiming the mic at won't be changed because the capsule response is symmetrical. I have heard asymmetrical capsules and you do have to be very careful when positioning them.

What Does It Sound Like?
Words to describe sound only take you so far. Here's a short video I shot here in my studio that should give you a good idea of what the miniCMIT sounds like.

Bernie Ozol
Anecdotal Notes with Bernie Ozol
I asked soundie friend Bernie Ozol (BO) to lend his ears for a play date here at my studio. Here's what we came up with.

-At 6", the CMC641 sounded brighter than the miniCMIT.
-At 4' we heard more lows around 125 Hz from the miniCMIT.
-The CMC641 had more mids, the miniCMIT had more lows.
-Bernie's Sanken CS3e sounded more similar to the CMC641.

We both agreed that the mics were of a class that probably only other sound sensitive folks and ourselves would care which these mics mic we chose to use.

Wind Noise

The miniCMIT, like any sensitive condenser mic, needs protection from wind and boom swings. I typically leave the Schoeps B5D on my CMC641 all the time, even in the studio, just in case it slips out of my hand or the mic clip and does a dive to the floor. Here's a Rycote video to fill you in on wind gear that they say are Perfect for the miniCMIT.

My studio is very quiet. It's not unusual for me to hear things in the studio that you'll never hear on location or possibly on sound stages. I compared boom swing noise and found that my CMC641 with B5D picked up less wind noise from simply swinging the mic as you might need to do for quick dialog. I was using a common foam filter on the miniCMIT. Most of the miniCMIT noise was low frequency swishes. Not with the B5D, but that a very special piece of gear.

Gold-plated shield plate
RFI Shield
The Schoeps specs refer to the special RF shield construction and RF bypass circuitry. I wasn't in any severe RF environments during my testing and had no problems. Because there are no surface switches on the body of the miniCMIT, there are no holes in the body that might allow RFI to enter. That's a good thing. I don't have a CMIT 5U here to help me make the point, but I do wonder if Schoeps did anything in particular to shield the switch holes on the CMIT 5.

In addition to the gold-plated shield (above), Schoeps also uses RFI shunting circuitry (below) to  block RFI.

Capacitor network across the signal leads
Has Schoeps finally put to bed the old problems encountered in high humidity environments? I'm not sure. In the 20+ years I've had a CMC641, I have only had 3 incidents of noise possibly due to humidity. That stopped when I stopped taking the capsules and bodies apart for storage after shoots. I was putting them back into those cute little containers. Exposing the gold-plated power supply/body and capsule contacts to air allows schmutz to collect on the connection rings is a BAD IDEA. That schmutz eventually prevents a solid connection between the body and capsule resulting in sputtering/futzing noise problems.

What happens when you're in a rain forest for eight weeks? I don't know, but, here, the Baltimore/DC area is pretty darn humid in the Summer. The additional problem is that when schmutz accumulates on the diaphragm in a highly humid atmosphere, conduction across the moisturized schmutz can occur. That conduction over such a sensitive place creates noise. When that happens, it's time to send the mic back to the manufacturer to have the capsule and diaphragm cleaned. Anything you can do to keep the capsule clean is a good thing. Maybe leave the capsule and power supply connected and cover the capsule with a plastic baggie for storage. I wonder if, in the future, Schoeps might consider powering the capsule with an RF voltage as Sennheiser and Rode do.

In Conclusion
If you budget is tight, you need to stretch your money, and you don't need all of the features of the CMIT 5U, then the miniCMIT deserves a hard look. Oh and if the blue color is a problem, the miniCMIT can be had in grey or chroma green.

Technique, Inc. © 2017 All Rights Reserved – Please consider subscribing to this blog and my YouTube Channel. If there's a piece of gear you'd like to hear, please let me know.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thoughts On Recording Music Instruments At Home

My Home Studio
I was recently asked about how to approach home recording of acoustic guitar. How much does the quality of the gear matter? How much does the space matter?

While all of that is important, your most powerful tool is how well you understand what you hear and how you work with that to get a good recording.

People with a lot of critical listening experience will do better with gear that's not so good. You can have the bridge of the Starship Enterprise at your finger tips, but it you don't know where the SUCK BUTTON is, your recordings will suck.
Sony MDR7506

For me, the process normally starts with a good set of headphones that you can come to terms with. I like Sony MDR 7506. Are they flat? No, they are a little bright and the low end is a little big, but I understand them. They make sense in my head. 

I move mics and players around accordingly until I hear what I want to hear. Do a rehearsal of sorts until I'm happy. Provide a good headphone feed for the players and singers and then hit the red button. When I listen to playback, yes, that's what I wanted to hear!

Recording Blumlein with Mike, Dave and Van 
Jazz recording engineers used to make great recordings with the group all playing together in a relatively small space. Yes, there was bleed, but it didn't matter. That's because they understood the sacred geometrical relationship of multiple mics (mostly figure of eight ribbons) placed properly among the players.

Rudy Van Gelder from Hackensack, NJ was one of these guys. He died last year. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Van_Gelder

Reading about him taught me a lot. I had the opportunity to do some Blumlein recording with a pair of AT4080 ribbon mics a few years back. In one session, with Mike White (guitar & vocals), Dave Mattheiss (guitar) and Van Ertel (pedal steel). I had a pedal steel speaker cabinet, two acoustic guitars and a vocalist all going at the same time to two tracks – a stereo master if you will.

As you can see from the picture, I positioned the players, paying particular attention first to their guitars. Mike, the singer/player was a right hander, so the body of his guitar was a bit to the right. I put Dave, the other guitar player to the left to balance that – so their guitars were physically and electronically "panned" prior to recording. I had to do some experimentation with the right height for the pair of mics to get the voice to guitar balance level right. I also had to deal with relative loudness and had each player move in or out a half step till I got that balance right.

I put Van's Pedal Steel speaker at 180 degrees, directly opposite to Mike's vocal, so it was centered, but on the back side of the mics. I then moved it closer or farther until I got the right level. I recorded each mic to a separate track. Afterwards, I panned each track fully and added some 10k shelf and a little reverb. You can hear the clacking of the pedal steel pedals in the first few moments of the recording. Here.

Additional thoughts:

Square rooms are bad. I think there's data to prove that rooms with a 3:4:5 ratio also suck, but I can't find it right now.

Where you sit in any room makes a difference.

Windows normally are bad unless you are clever with mic placement. And even then noise from the outside can get though most single pane. Even then, enough glass can make otherwise well thought out equipment and placement a futile effort.

Your space should have the right balance of absorptive and diffusive surfaces. I'm not in your space, so I can't really tell you what to do about that here, but simple stuff like where you put a couch, what art and book cases are on the walls and what's on the ceiling all combine to make up the sound of yor space.

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Technique, Inc. © Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 16, 2017

AES - NYC 2017 Part 2

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!
By thursday, day two of the AES show, crowds were lining up at the on site Starbucks to prepare for another assault on the AES Exhibit Hall at the Javitz Center.

As I mentioned in the first of this series, NAB - NYC was in the space adjacent to the AES Exhibit Floor. Plenty to see. Next October, AES will be back at the Javitz, and will not be on the West Coast until the January NAMM show.

This year I was pleased to find a greater number of "so new we haven't even priced it yet" gear. The Triad-Orbit Starbird mic stand was one. This is a reversioning of the original George Starbird stand from the 1960s. Updated parts, new well-implemented ideas, bringing this stand into this millennium, not only for microphones but also for lights and cameras.

As demonstrated in the video below, this stand is designed with a pneumatic lift, so when you have heavier mics or other gear at the end of the boom, you just twist the clutch open on the mast and it slowly rises as a result of pneumatic pressure. Very useful and very cool.

Next is an accessory piece from Cloud Microphones. I reviewed and had some helpful design comments with their JRS34 a few years ago. Roger has a box that I'd heard about but hadn't had my hands on yet; The Cloud Lifter Zi. The Cloudlifter Zi is a phantom-powered box that incorporates variable impedance control into an active DI for low output balanced mics, guitar players, bass players, keyboard players. The Zi provides up to +25dB of gain for XLR microphones and lo-z sources and up to +15dB for 1/4” instruments and other hi-z sources, via the Neutrik combination dual-input connector and Hi-Z to Lo-Z CineMag instrument transformer. I'll let Roger tell you more about it.

Lectrosonics has been a major player in location sound for many years. Leave it to them to respond vigorously to the changes in technology and the market. One of their new systems is the M2R and M2T wireless in-ear monitor or IFB. Here's Lectro's Karl Winkler to tell you more about it. 

Now for something completely different. Still in Beta testing as of October 2017,  RackFX empowers you to hook up with a studio somewhere across the Internet and send them files to be processed by their equipment, then the files are sent back to you. This includes the idea of using a certain mic and a certain amplifier AND being able to move the mic in front of the amp to get the sound that makes your "happy light" turn on. Watch as David Jones of RackFx.Com walks me though this new concept.

Not for the faint of heart or shallow of pocket, The API Legacy AXS console begins at $200k. It's obviously for "grown up" recording facilities, or kids with way too much money. Listen, though, as Todd Humora walks us through the "High Cotton" of this great console.

From the "Ain't seen nothing quite like that" department, Here's Zaxcom's Glenn Sanders with the Zaxcom ZMT3-HH hard-wired, wireless mic that even has its own recorder. What!? A wireless hand-held mic with an XLR connector for hardwiring? Then, Glenn gives us a tour of what's new with the Zaxcom DEVA 24.  Glenn's mic was feeding a small amp and speaker in his booth and, unfortunately, you can hear some of the cancellation depending on where we were standing. (Sorry)

Zaxcom takes first and second place in the ASNQLT department with the new ZMT recording body mic. (below) So amazingly small, yet so feature packed.

Schoeps' ORTF-3D Outdoor Ambiance set up uses 8 supercardioid studio quality microphones: 4 * CCM 41 + 4 * CCM 41 in a rather amazing enclosure that creates a plug and play solution for capturing 3D ambience. Schoeps' Helmut Wittek gives a great explanation of this new array and demo files can be downloaded here.

Schoeps MiniCMIT
As I wrap up this report I need to mention a few items I saw that you should know about.

First is the Schoeps MiniCMIT miniature shotgun microphone. It runs on 12, 24 or 48 V DC Phantom Power. I haven't heard it yet but hope to soon. At $2K USD, you probably won't see many of them out there, but they may be just the ticket for some discriminating buyers with discriminating ears.

The TASCAM DR-701D is a four track recorder that also has two additional internal mix tracks plus SMPTE Time Code in and out.

It has four XLR/TRS inputs with Phantom Power, dual built-in omni mics, brackets on top and bottom for DSLR mounting. It records to SD, SDHC, or SDXC cards up to 128 GB and can be recorded at resolutions of up to 24-bit, 192kHz. 

In addition to the four XLR/TRS inputs, a 3.5mm stereo mini-jack input with optional plug-in power is provided for connecting an external stereo mic. DR-701D audio signal can be output to an external camera or recorder from the HDMI OUT or line output all for a ridiculous $449.99 USD!

sE RNR1 Ribbon Microphone
The sE booth was very interesting. This RNR1 ribbon microphone caught my eye. (How could it not!)

It's the first mic Rupert Neve has designed and will be part of the sE Rupert Neve Signature Series. It's a straightforward figure of eight pattern with a high-pass filter. It's touted as having a frequency response approximately 3 times wider than competing ribbon mics, giving it a performance similar to a condenser mic. Again, I did not hear this mic but would very much like to. By comparison, The Audio-Technica AT4080 ribbon microphone that came out several years ago has the sensitivity of an AKG C414 condenser microphone.

Taytrix Stackable Gobos

You don't think of Gobos until your ears tell you that you need them. Stackable Gobos by Taytrix just seemed to make a lot of sense. Every studio should have a few of these around to make your life easier and make your sound tighter. 

Taytrix Stackable Gobos
That's about it for me for AES 2017. As usual, it was a great show and I enjoyed meeting old friends, making new ones and learning once again that there's ALWAYS something new out there.

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