Saturday, December 1, 2012

Centrance MicPort Pro - 24/96 Audio On A Stick

This product has been out a while since my review, but people keep asking for this type of solution, so I thought it worth bringing it back to the surface. In my never-ending search for neat audio toys to talk about, Centrance’s diminutive MicPort Pro caused an instant smile. 24/96 audio from any mic level source you can put in your pocket; all for $150.

Product Capsule Centrance MicPort Pro
Mic level 24/96 USB Converter-Works with any XLR mic or mic level
-Phantom Power
-No latency-No power required

Friday, September 21, 2012

Not Your Father's AKG C 414 XLS and XL II

For the last ten years, established microphone companies have had to find a way to fill the product lines with low cost mics to meet lowball trigger prices. 

Something has to get lost when you're forced to make mics that cost 1/2 to 1/4 of the standard line. It's not all bad though. 

That challenge teaches you how to economize and streamline manufacturing procedures. But in the end, you're making hamburgers and hotdogs instead of steakI'd like to think we're coming out of that dark period and that the lessons we learned will result in better microphones. 

I see these two new AKG C 414B mics as evidence that this is true. Technically, this new breed of C414B is more sensitive, has less selfnoise, has better capsule isolation and has more features.

Application: Studio and live recordings or PA.
Key Features: Five patterns, multiple roll-offs and pads, low selfnoise, high sensitivity, includes suspensionmount, pop filters and hard case.
Price: $999 for the XLS, $1,099 for the XLII

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Non-backlit Lectrosonics Transmitters On Sale

Looks like B&H is moving three Lectrosonics non-backlit transmitters at a savings. Check them out if you've been looking. No way to tell how many they have left.

The HM Digital Hybrid for $915

  • Digital Hybrid System Avoids Noise
  • Superb Audio Quality
  • 5, 18, & 48 Volt Phantom Power
  • Powerful Range - 100 mW Output Power
  • Works with a Wide Variety of Receivers
  • Backward Compatible With 100, 200, & IFB
  • Made in the USA

SMQV Super-Miniature with pouch for $1179.95

  • Variable, Selectable Power Output
  • Dual Battery
  • Includes Pouch
  • Digital Hybrid Technology
  • No Compandor Noise
  • Servo Bias Audio Input
  • 256 Frequencies
  • 200, 100 and IFB Series Compatible
  • Frequency Block 23

SMV Super-Miniature with pouch. $1099.95

  • Frequency Block 21
  • 50 & 100mW Selectable RF Power
  • Single Battery Housing
  • Includes Pouch
  • Digital Hybrid Technology
  • No Compandor Noise
  • Servo Bias Audio Input
  • 256 Frequencies
  • 200, 100 and IFB Series Compatible

Thursday, August 16, 2012

iPad 3 As Teleprompter

Datavideo TP-200
The Datavideo TP-200 Teleprompter system with prompter software turns an iPad, iPad 2 or iPad 3 into an through-the-lens teleprompter and can also be used as a below-the-lens prompter. What about the eye line when the text is not in front of the lens? I was on a shoot with the talent a little over seven feet away from the lens. Even though the iPod they used was held below the camera lens, the eye line was acceptable. 

Pro: Economical, Lightweight (4.2 lbs) through the lens prompting on an iPad 3

Con: Only fits cameras with 8.5 inches between the nut and lens. Software is very basic or slightly buggy.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sescom Audio Adapter Cable For iPad 3

I finally got an iPad 3 and, of course, instantly began looking for ways to connect it to audio. Sescom is a very reliable manufacturer of audio problem solvers. I discovered them years ago while writing my first gear reviews for Radio World. I wouldn't mind having one of everything they make just for those  situations where you need to get from here to there and can't.

I don't have an immediate need to get audio into my new iPad 3. I got it so I could use it as a teleprompter. It does have an onboard mic for simple things, but what about things that aren't so simple? Maybe an interview for broadcast or podcast. Because the iPad 3 has a surprisingly good camera; maybe audio for an online video. What about connecting professional mics with XLR connectors? While specs on the 30-pin connector on the iPad 3 show both USB and Fire Wire, I'd still need an easy connection and a USB or Fire Wire adapter. Enter this handy little Sascom cable, the Sescom IPHONE MIC 1RA.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Event Opal - Bearing down on a gem

Event Opal Monitors
I’ve had the pleasure of using some great sounding monitors over the years and there does seem to be a price/performance ratio. When you start throwing dollars at linearity, low distortion, wide bandwidth, high frequency dispersion, transient response and stereo imaging, the bill adds up quickly. There are only so many ways to steal from the laws of physics, but there is always room for innovation. 
My initial impressions of the Opals, in order of their occurrence, were; heavy, almost 54 pounds a piece due to the large-ish torroidal mains transformers, large aluminum heat sink back-plate and high pressure injection-molded aluminum cabinets. Well-packed for shipping, Clean of line and accessible controls. These are bi-amped, two way monitors; Class AB, 600W Peak on the bottom, 140W Peak on top. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Gefell M 900 - The Arty Condenser Mic

There is not a more exotic looking mic than the Gefell M 900 ($995). Part ray gun, part Venutian gynecological instrument, the cardioid condenser M 900 (and its hyper-cardioid cousin the M 910), are striking in their appearance. 
The M 900 is a transformerless, large-diaphragm condenser microphone with a single cardioid pattern. The membrane is a standard 1-inch gold sputtered Mylar membrane. The capsule was designed and computer-modeled at NIKFI in Moscow. According to GPrime, the US distributors, it has a ceramic backplate that is more stable to temperature changes than the often used brass. The conductive side is then chrome-plated. Over that is evaporated a one micron coating of Teflon. The Teflon acts as an insulator between the membrane and backplate and prevents damage as a result of incidental contact between the two. 

* Studio/Live Condenser Mic
* Cardioid Pattern
* Next to imposible to find

Sound Devices MixPre-D Two Channel Mixer with Analog, Digital and USB Outputs

Sound Devices MixPre-D
In the field, in the studio or in post, there are times when you don’t need or don’t want a big audio mixer. Maybe you’ll only be working with a mono or stereo source, but you want something better than camera microphone inputs. In some cases, the devices you’re asked to feed have no reliable balanced, analog audio inputs; computers, iPhones, iPod touch or iPads.

  • Transformer-balanced mic/line selectable inputs
  • 48-volt or 12-volt phantom power
  • "Unclippable" input peak limiters, dual-mono or stereo linked operation
  • Input panning to Left, Center, or Right outputs
  • Mid-Side Stereo (MS) matrix with width control and front-panel channel flip
  • Return can be used as ch3/ch4 aux-level inputs, selectable pan and level control
  • High-pass filters, 80 Hz or 160 Hz
  • Slate microphone and tone oscillator
  • Mic/Line/AES digital selectable outputs, digital SR of 44.1 , 48 , or 96 kHz
  • 24-bit, class-compliant USB streaming output for interconnection with Mac OS, Windows, Linux, and select iOS devices, computer audio in MixPre-D headphones
  • Dedicated mic-level output on locking TA3 connector for unbalanced camera inputs
  • Headphone monitoring of program audio or external return audio
  • Sunlight-viewable, 16-segment GaN LED output meter with adjustable brightness
  • Internal battery-power from two AA
  • External power input, 10-18 VDC
  • High-strength, extruded aluminum chassis with metal connectors

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

AT835ST AT815ST Are Now BP4029 and BP4027

Audio Technica BP4027
This review was written about the AT835ST and AT815ST. The models were changed slightly in 2007 before being renamed the BP4029 and BP4027, respectively. In the rapidly changing world of pro audio, taking things for granted is not a good idea. If you think you know what to expect from a stereo shotgun mic, you might accidentally dismiss Audio Technica’s 9-inch AT835ST ($899) and 15-inch AT815ST ($999) mics. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Audio Technica 4047/SV FET Borrows From The Past

Audio Technica AT4047
In today's overcrowded condenser mic market, a neutral mic easily gets lost. To stand out, you need some attitude. That's what the other mic makers are doing, and Audio Technica is now following suit. The AT4047/SV FET cardioid condenser microphone ($695 with mic, vinyl case and suspension mount) is a marked departure for Audio Technica. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 Firewire Interface

Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 Front and Back Panel

I’m running Mac Lion and Pro Tools 10 on a 2 x 2.4 GHz Quad Core Intel Xeon Mac with 32GB of RAM. I make my living with this and other Macs. In the past, I have run into problems by trying to be too close to the cutting edge. Just before I began the installation of the Focusrite Saffire MixControl and driver software, I did a search to see if there were any problems. I called the US offices of Focusrite in California and asked to speak to someone who could talk to me about any conflicts. I spoke to Raul Resendiz, who assured me that there were no worries, but pointed me to the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 download page to get the latest version of the driver and MixControl. The install was easy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Neumann TLM 103D - Intelligent Mic with A Memory

Neumann TLM 103D
The Neumann family of Solution D digital mics currently includes the TLM 103D, the flagship D-01 and the KM D series (KM 183 D, KM 184 D and KM 185 D). The TLM 103D has an internal 24/192 kHz A/D converter and channel strip DSP. The TLM 103D may be used by itself without the channel strip, if used with the connection starter kit that provides power to the mic and a simple AES output. The full blown three-part system is comprised of one or two TLM 103Ds, RCS software and the two input DMI-2 digital mic interface.  

The channel strip is accessed via high-functioning, Mac and PC-compatible RCS software. From it you can see each mic’s, pattern (if adjustable, which pattern), pre attenuation (-6, -12, -18dB), gain (0-63dB), variable low cut, de-esser, test signal with tones, comp/limiter, peak limiter, mute, polarity reversal, LED on-mic light intensity, sync, AES 42 info and other features. Settings are stored in the mic. The TLM 103D, then, is an “intelligent mic with a memory.” The DMI-2 interface can support two AES42 digital mics, each of which with it’s own preamp and channel strip.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rode NTG-3 Shotgun Mic - Ready For Action

This Australian-made Rode NTG-3 microphone ($699) seems extremely well-placed for its price and performance. Like the Sennheiser 416, the NTG-3 is an RF-condenser unit that combines a somewhat sophisticated RF circuit with the capsule to reduce the deleterious effects of high humidity. It's tricky to design, but worth the effort. That design element has contributed greatly to a "bullet proof" reputation for similar mics and should do the same for the NTG-3. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Neumann TLM 102 - The VolksMikrofon

Neumann TLM 102

The Volkswagen is named so because it was designed to be "a car for the "volks" or people." Neumann makes world class microphones that typically cost more than most personal budgets can support; until now.

Should you wonder, after a very quick listen, the TLM 102 and TLM 103 sound very different. The TLM 102 is relatively flat with a closer focus on the midrange than the TLM 103. What does that mean? It means that the TLM 102 can be less problematic in environments that aren't designed as recording studios. 

The TLM 102 is considerably smaller than the TLM 103, but that difference in size does not mean the TLM 102 is a proportionally lesser microphone.

I really like that Neumann has taken a leadership position in swinging the pendulum back from the years long industry trend of making mics brighter and brighter. Brighter is not better, especially when you start using dynamics plugins aggressively or record in a non-optimal acoustic environment.

Friday, March 30, 2012

MCA SP-1 Cardioid Condenser Mic

MCA SP-1 Cardioid Mic
A few years ago, a friend sent me one of these MXL MCA SP-1 mics so I could evaluate it. His thought was that it sounded like it should cost a lot more than $39.99, which is what it streeted for back then. Lately I've seen it for $52.99 at B&H.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sanken CS-1 Short Shotgun -- But Is It A Shotgun??

Sanken CS-1e
The Sanken CS-1, and for that matter the Sanken CS-3, were both modified shortly after they came out. The new versions are the CS-1e and CS-3e. It's been some time, but I recall the modification had to do with lowering the noise figure on each mic.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sennheiser MKH 418S: Stereo/Shotgun Mic

Sennheiser MKH481S Stereo/Shotgun Microphone

The Sennheiser MKH 418 S stereo/shotgun mic is an obvious and welcome extension to Sennheiser's industry standard MKH 416 shotgun. Sennheiser has lengthened the interference tube of a standard MKH 416 to accommodate a figure of eight capsule positioned directly behind the front facing mono capsule and created a Mid/Side (MS) stereo mic.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Rode Pin Mic

I had the original PIN mic from Ricsonix years ago. Peter Freedman and Rode liked the idea so much that they picked it up and buffed it a bit, making it the Rode Pin Mic.

I used the new Rode Pin Mic today on a shoot and was very pleased with the results. You can see it here between the buttons. Even though this is the buff silver color, it blends in very nicely with the blue denim shirt. I had a Schoeps cmc641 on the boom and the Pin Mic on the other track. They matched very nicely.

No problem with clothing noise. If I wanted to, I could have "replaced" the second button on his shirt with the mic to make it less obvious, but I wanted higher placement because we were in a pretty slappy kitchen and I wanted to get the voice as clean as possible.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

NYC Mic and Mic Preamp Demo Room

People within a daytrip of NYC are pretty lucky. B&H has a positively scary mic and preamp demo suite at their Manhattan location. If you are mic and preamp hungry, how can you not say yes to this?

Non-shotgun boom mics for interiors (and exteriors)

I get a lot of repeat questions about which mic other than a shotgun to put on a boom, especially when working inside. The answer is a hypercardioid or supercardioid. You can also easily use these mics outside and they work very well in outside situations with hard surfaces, e.g. streets, buildings, walls, windows.

Here's a little video that explains why. Listen with really good headphones or on good monitors.

BTW, cardioid is pronounced like cardiac, but with an oid at the end. Car-Dee-Oyed. The name comes from the root cardio and in this case refers to the heart-shaped pattern the mic makes if you're looking down over it and it is positioned parallel to the ground.

I have listened to the others including the Sennheiser 8050 and, while it is a very nice mic, I didn't care for the EQ curve on it for boom work. My choice of these mics from the best down are:

Schoeps cmc641

And get the more expensive B5D pop filter shown here.

Sennheiser MKH50

Audio Techica 4053b

Audix SCX-1 HC

Oktava MK012 HC

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Analog? Digital? Solid State? Tube? Who Wins?

Neumann M150 Omni Tube Mic
Neumann M150 in a Decca Tree Configuration

At $5,300 (including suspension-mount, vintage-style power supply, multiconductor cable and aluminum flight case), the Neumann M150 small-diaphragm, transformerless, tube condenser microphone will probably not be found in many basement studios. Perhaps more relevant than its cost, the M150's fixed-omni pattern makes it a less than desirable choice for recording in small spaces with challenging acoustics — the mic is quite capable of “hearing” exactly how good or how bad a room sounds.
However, Neumann's operating instructions for the M150 note that the mic is especially suited for Decca Tree recording (see below). Because that configuration requires three M150s, anyone whose microphone budget is less than $15,900 can stop reading here. But, if you're looking for a reliable method for producing a stable stereo image that will hold up throughout the application of Dolby and other surround sound matrix systems, the Decca Tree technique is worth examining.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Schoeps CMIT Analog Shotgun Mic

Schoeps CMIT Analog Shotgun
Yes, there is now a Schoeps Digital shotgun mic. But this analog version came first in 2005 after some arm twisting and it's a great sounding mic. I'll post my review of the digital SuperCMIT later.

Imagine the surprise of shotgun mic users everywhere to find that Schoeps finally caved after twenty years and made a shotgun microphone. At the 2005 New York AES Convention, there it was, in blue anodized aluminum. No other mic on the planet looks like it so they get marketing marks for that alone. What took them so long? What are the implications? What are the features? How does it sound? We can only guess what changed their mindset from, “We don’t want/need to.”

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Recent History of Ribbon Microphones

Audio-Technica AT 4080 and 4081
Ty Ford (written sometime in 2005)

The BBC cites 1933 as the year pressure gradient ribbon microphones were introduced. It also notes that RCA's Harry Olson applied for a patent on January 31, 1941 that was granted May 9, 1944 for ribbon microphones that converted sound pressure to electrical energy using a strip of aluminum between two magnets. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Shure 24-bit Digital Wireless - This could be a game changer.

This just in! Shure has just popped a 24-bit digital wireless system with encryption. I haven't had a chance to play with it yet, but this will be the first real digital wireless response to Zaxcom. Check here for the details. More later.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Getting Good Sound On The Street

Rycote Pistol Grip and Softie Wind Cutter
How do you get good audio on the street? Unwanted noise can come in from anywhere; people, cars, trucks, animals, planes. 

If you don't want to stick an RE50 into the frame (which sort of freaks some people out). The Pistol Grip Suspension Mount used at a distance is a very good solution for this type of work. Yes, it's another piece of gear, but it really makes the job easy, comfortable and effective.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Microphones & Preamps - The “chicken and egg” of audio.

Image by Simon Howden
Want to start a discussion among audio folk? Ask whether mics or preamps are more important. Later I'll interview George Massenburg and John Hardy to get their take on transformer as well as transformerless preamps and solid state versus tubes. That’s the the main course. But before we get to them, here’s a few appetizers.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Neumann TLM 67 - Everything Old Is New Again, Or Is It?

Neumann’s most recent mic, the TLM 67, was a welcome visitor when it arrived. The mic is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum, and constrained within a riddle. To wit. How can a mic with no vacuum tube or transformer be positioned as the evolution of a mic with a tube and transformer? Is this not heresy? Let the impassioned fist-pounding arguments begin about how close to the original U 67 (or prototype U 60) this TLM 67 could be. Leave it to the Neumann marketing department to find a way to brew a controversy.

Audio-Technica AT4050ST Stereo Studio Condenser Microphone

A nekkid AT4050ST

With a list price of $1,625 and a street price of $1,299, in this economy, you have to remind yourself that this is a stereo condenser side-address mic with two separate capsules under the grille; a cardioid and a figure of eight. Well, you can sort of see that in the picture on the left.

The AT4050ST came out in September 2009 along with three or four other significant A-T mics. In the land of microphone manufacturers, Audio-Technica is a giant. They make so many microphones that when they decide to release three or four at the same time it’s easy to lose track of them. The AT4050ST is part of Audio-Technica’s top of the line 40 Series. In that line alone there are about fifteen different microphones.