Monday, December 23, 2013

Shure Triple Threat Shotguns

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

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

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Audio-Technica System 10

Even though I am very impressed by its 24-bit, 48 kHz, APTx compressed audio quality, I've been skeptical of the Audio-Technica System 10. Wireless on 2.4 GHz? Up there with Wi-Fi and consumer wireless phones? I still am not sure how fierce a Wi-Fi environment System 10 can prevail in.

Right now System 10 offers a maximum of eight units running at the same time. As the environment crumbles, I'm told, you lose mics and/or operating range. I'd like to push the envelope to find out when and where things crumble using eight units running in a dense Wi-Fi environment while getting at least 100 feet for a start. 

At 2.4 GHz, 10 mW is not a lot of power. What about absorption. How robust is the system when you have to bury the transmitter on someone? As I mentioned in the above video, I got 75 feet with the body mic transmitter in a pocket of my cargo shorts. When I took the mic out of my pocket I was back on and got another 120 feet. So, almost 200 feet, unblocked, line of sight. There are five or six Wi-Fi enabled houses visible on my iPad when I take it outside, so it's not like I'm in the middle of the desert, plus I'm running a 2.4 and a 5 GHz system in my own home.

5/2015 Addendum: While the System 10 works quite well with the Audio Technica 830 Lav, I found digital RF problems and noise when using Audio Technica's BP892 and AT 896 mini lav and headworn mics. It's apparently a shielding problem. More on that as it develops.

If you were using the hand held mics for a walk and talk or live music performance, line of sight isn't much of a problem, but for most video work, you don't want to see the transmitters and the deeper you hide them, the shorter the range. A lot of video is shot with location sound mixers within 20-30 feet. To test that, I'd want to try four buried mics simultaneously at 30 feet for starters.

At only $300-$400 a set, though, depending on which set you get, the "get in" price is pretty low. You can do your own envelope pushing. Oh, there's a small rebate available if you buy before 12/31/13. Here are the rebate details.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rode NTG8 - The Big (Shot) Gun

The long shotgun microphone is something you don't see in a lot of kits. I have one, but haven't used it in years. But then most of my work is inside. I remember playing with the long shotgun soon after I got it to find out what it would give me. 

I was on the front lawn in a quiet neighborhood in Baltimore. A short block a way, across the street, one of my neighbors approached his car. This was back in the day when you had to unlock your car with a key. I put on the headphones, aimed the long gun at him and cranked the input on the mixer. To my great surprise, I head the tinkle of his keys. Then a car came up the street, driving between us. It would have deafened me had I not ejected the headphones straight off my head.

You see long shotguns outside in sports, nature and some feature film work when wireless lavs are frowned upon and wide shots have dialog. Not used as often as hypers or short shotguns, they remain part of the audio tool kit, along with the wind gear that's usually required to keep them happy.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Neumann RSM 191 Stereo/Shotgun Mic - Going, Going, Gone!

Neumann RSM191
The Neumann RSM191 is on the endangered species list because the factory only had fourteen of them left a few weeks ago, when I asked. After they are gone, Neumann says they have no plans to make more. The RSM191 will then fade into history as one kick-ass, remote controllable stereo/shotgun microphone. If you want one, it will probably be a special order. Why bother to post this review? It's just a great sounding microphone system.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

TASCAM DR-60D Four-Track Digital Recorder for DSLR and other uses

As long as DSLRs continue to be designed by video people and photographers, audio problems will probably remain. 

I had heard that the Canon 5D Mark III audio was OK and proved it here with the DR-60D by sending audio from the DR-60D to the 5D Mark III. 

The trick was using very little gain on the Mark III and using the line output gain on the DR-60D to do the heavy lifting. 

4/2014 Update: We also found that you could get a better feed into a BMCC camera this way. Line out from the DR60 to the mono 1/4" inputs of the BMCC. Set the BMCC to MIC instead of line and set the BMCC input level to 15% and the Line out of the DR60 to 3. Faint noise but more than adequate for a scratch track. 

TASCAM, and parent company TEAC, to their credit, have always empowered people to be able to do creative audio production at a fair price, especially at the pro-sumer level.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sennheiser SK 5212-II and EK 3241 Wireless - Less Is More

Sennheiser SK 5112-II and a nickel
Shrinking spectrum and challenges to hiding a body pack transmitter are driving location and studio audio people to find better solutions. One of these solutions is the Sennheiser SK 5212-II transmitter. 

The retail price is $2,349, for just the transmitter and another $2,100 for the EK 4231 mono receiver, for a total of $4,400. 

I found a $3,750 Bundle Price online for both transmitter and receiver that also includes the AA battery power kit for the EK 4231 receiver (batteries not included). 

There's a big price difference between these pieces and a Sennheiser G3 transmitter and receiver kit for $629.95 at B&H. Read on to discover why.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Audio-Technica BP4025 Stereo Mic - In A Field Of Its Own

Audio-Technica BP4025
You don't think about it much, but good stereo ambi - ambient sound - can add a lot to the feeling of a video sound track. But how do you capture it? There are many stereo mics and the cost range varies significantly; from several hundred to several thousand dollars. 

The Audio Technica BP4025 is a relative newcomer. B&H lists it for $649. It's a professional X/Y patterned mic and requires phantom power. It has a five-pin XLR output connector, 10 dB pad and low frequency roll-off. The BP4025 comes with a five-pin to dual three-pin XLR Y-cable that plugs into any professional mic input. 

A simple foam pop filter is included, but for serious outdoor work, you'll need something more wind resistant. The significant difference between the BP4025 and other stereo mics is that the BP4025 has relatively large diaphragms; about an inch in diameter. These larger diaphragms grab sound with less selfnoise than mics with smaller diaphragms. Selfnoise exhibits as high frequency hiss and can really spoil the sound. 
Audio-Technica BP4025 Grille Removed

Friday, August 23, 2013

Rode Reporter Dynamic Interview Microphone

The first mental image I get of a dynamic Omni stick mic is of NBC’s Al Roker trying to remain standing for a live standup during a hurricane. We always hear him just fine, even in 60 mile an hour winds. It’s been a while since anyone has taken a shot at this category of mic. How well would the new Rode Reporter compare?

The Rode Reporter is a classic hand-held, end-address, dynamic omni stick mic in a long-handled form factor. It comes in a designer box with zipper pouch and mic clip. The 10.7 inch shaft is three inches longer than the industry standard ElectroVoice RE50, allowing a few more inches of reach for inquisitive video journalists. A two-sided clip-on flag holder is provided for station logos. Unlike square flag holders, this requires the user to make sure the mic is held with the flag broadside instead of on edge to the camera so the flag can be seen. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Greg Hanks BA-660 Tube Microphone Preamp aka "Monster"

Greg Hanks BA-660 Preamp/Limiter

OK, here's the deal. I've been communicating with Greg now for about a year and we have had many deep conversations, parts of which make my brain hurt. 

Yes, I do know a reasonable amount about audio engineering and manufacturing and I have good ears. Enough to hear some very subtle differences and ask questions that sometimes embarrass me and sometimes embarrass the person I'm asking. 

The only reason I ask questions is because of the reader; the person reading what I've decided to write. If I can't convey the information properly, I'm wasting my time and your time. I say this because I want you to know I'm thinking about YOU as I try to make sense of every piece of equipment.

When Greg first sent me the BA-660, there were some issues. There was something strange in the output section, the meter was a little wacky and there was fan noise from the cooling fan. He found solutions very quickly. The fan thing was a request from me. I told him that many recording environments today don't have separate control rooms and studios. Even if they do, I find  fans distracting in a control room. So, there’s a new multi-speed, temperature controlled fan that, at its lowest speed, I can't hear unless I put my ear within four inches of the BA-660. When planning where to put the BA-660, leave a little extra breathing room and the fan will run slower (and quieter).

The BA-660 is very different for a number of reasons. Yes, it's a tube preamp and limiter; nothing too different there except that it's very, very quiet and very, very clean. Greg chose tubes not for color but for capacity and how well he can get them to do what they do. For example, the preamp path has a frequency response of 7Hz to greater than 28kHz (+0/-3). 

The Line In path (so you can use the BA-660 just as a limiter) has a frequency response of 6 Hz to 36kHz. You may never need it because your mics and other sources may not have that kind of response, but it's there, waiting like a impeccably-dressed chauffeur in a yet to be imagined super car, ready to take you somewhere special.

Phantom Power (well, voltage really). While the BA-660 is designed to provide 48V DC, it can also crank out 300V DC @ 5mA for your Bruel and Kjaer mics. The BA-660 can handle balanced from minus 90 dB to +40 dB. This is possible due to a very complex input stage with relays, pads and transformer that are employed as needed to keep things under control.

BA-660 Rear Panel
The rear panel is simply laid out; IEC power connector, signal ground, chassis ground, balanced line level out via XLR, a -10 balanced Insert Send that can also be operated unbalanced, an Insert Return that runs at +4 and follows the preamp and line in circuitry, a Side-chain Input that runs at +4 balanced, the input to the dynamics control system linking multiple BA-660s, a balanced Class A floating solid state output capable of +34 dBv and will drive loads as low as 150 Ohms.

The front panel (see above) is populated by a wide-ranging input selector covering mic and line levels. The wide range is achieved by a combination of relays, resistive termination and a transformer. An input overload LED activates when the output of  either the first or second input stages exceeds +34 dBv internally. 

An Insert Bypass switch allows manual bypass of the Insert Points accessible on the back panel. These allow you to hard-wire bypass anything you may have plugged into the Inserts instead of making you crawl around behind the rack. When the jacks are unused the Insert circuitry is automatically bypassed. A continuously variable Input Trim pot allows +/- 10dB of range to establish proper gain staging. After that, the fun begins.

A Polarity Reverse switch is provided for the Mic and Line Inputs and is implemented between the Insert Return and Gain Cell. 

There are two (Three?) metering systems with the unit; LED Type Audio metering which measures the audio signal at either the input to the gain cell or at the output of the unit as selected by the input meter select described below. This meter combines VU type metering which shows up as a ‘dancing dot’ around the threshold control and Peak type metering which uses the same LED’s as the VU but shows up as a moving bar and measures in 10 db increments. 

There is also a mechanical (analog) Gain Reduction meter in the center of the front panel. A Meter Zero adjustment allows for calibration of the Gain Reduction meter. A Limiter Tip In adjustment is provided to accommodate different vacuum tubes properly. 

The Input Select switch toggles the audio meter between Gain Cell input and the final output. A Gain Reduction Bypass button provides a hard bypass of the Gain Cell responsible for the limiter.  

Not too well-versed with compressor/limiter settings? No Problem. The BA-660 has both fixed and variable presets, five of each. According to the simple but well-written manual, these presets emulate a Fairchild 660, LA-2, Neve Console Bus Limiter, SSL Quad Limiter and RCA BA-6. You can trim the attack, release and ratio of the variable presets or use the fixed values and make changes with the input level, threshold control and make-up gain control with 20 dB of gain.

The biggest dial on the front panel adjusts the threshold of the limiter from -40 to +20. There is a Gain Cell Clip LED to the right of the threshold knob. If you see it blinking and don't think the audio sounds bad, congratulations, you're a punk outlaw with no regard for fidelity. That's not a defamation, just an observation. 

Although you can adjust the attack time from 3ms to 35ms, it'll sound pretty gnarly at the fast settings. So for the second time in a few sentences, I'm saying it's not particularly difficult to make your audio sound really bad. It's a choice!

Release time varies from 45ms to 1.8 seconds. Faster is louder and pumps more. The Ratio control varies from 1:2.1 to a little over 9:1. A maximum of 18 dB of Gain Reduction is possible before the circuit behaves like a fixed attenuator. At that point many of your clients who don't care much about dynamics or fidelity will be thrilled...and probably flattened by the sheer density of the sound. This is where you, as the recording engineer, leave the room for a few minutes to protect your ears, turning up the monitors as you go, to let your clients bathe in their own reverie. Actually, it's healthier if you have a remote control for the monitors so you don't have to be in the room when you GO LARGE with the volume.

Is the BA-660 too much of a beast for you? Concerned that you're too much technology? Greg has written elegantly simple setup directions and posted them on his web site. Here they are. Not as simple as a dbx 160, but not so scary either.

Here are some links to audio clips recorded with various mics and the BA-660.

AT5040 > Greg Hanks BA-660 Kick Drum

Gibson Les Paul>FenderAmp>AT5040>Greg Hanks BA-660

D28S Martin>TLM103>GregHanks BA-660

You won't find the BA-660 at Guitar Center. As of this posting, there are BA-660s at DSP Doctor, Calistro Music and Vintage King Audio

For more details, reach out to Greg Hanks at Greg Hanks Design.

Technique, Inc. © Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 9, 2013

Audio-Technica AT5040 Quad Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Studio Mic

Four capsules are visible
inside the two-layer grill
For years, Audio-Technica has brought solid, economical workhorse mics to market for broadcast, video/film and recording. If they have any cross to bear, it's that they frequently have stayed away from the spotlight. Yes, they get street, live and studio cred for many of their mics as solid performers; just not a lot of of icing on the cake. I think those days are over.

The new Audio-Technica 5000 Series has begun. First out of the chute is the AT5040 electret cardioid condenser mic and accompanying AT8480 mic clip. It's an electret. If that makes you wince, it might help you to know that on several occasions over the years, I was assured by people who had been making top-shelf mics for major companies, that there was no reason that electret mics couldn't be made as good as externally polarized condenser mics.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sennheiser MO 2000 Industrial Optical Analog Microphone

Sennheiser MO 2000 Optical Microphone
This is not a review of a studio toy. It is, however, about audio; industrial audio. I had been hearing about a Sennheiser optical mic. Was this for studio use? Is it analog or digital? How does it work? I reached out to Sennheiser and within a week it was on my door step.

The Sennheiser MO 2000 system consists of a smallish half-rack-space box, a two-way fiber optic cable capped with an omni element. The system is powered by a wall wart power supply. There are both coarse and fine gain controls on the front of the chassis and a simple, lighted Off/On button. The omni mic element of the MO 2000 has a frequency response of 20Hzto 40kHz (+/- .6dB). 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sony M10 Pocket Recorder - Nice!

The Sony M10 came out in 2010, or so. It deserves continued attention. It's a little thicker than an iPhone and comes with 4GB internal memory and a microSD/Memory Stick Micro™ (M2™) slot for expanded memory. It fits comfortably in the hand. 

I was able to work it immediately. After inserting two AA batteries and holding down the power button, the M10 sprang to life, indicating the sample rate and bit depth, amount of recording time left and that it was in STOP mode. Hitting the REC button put the M10 instantly into record-ready with the yellow back-lit PAUSE button flashing and meters showing level. I tapped the PAUSE button, and was recording. Nice.

Fast Facts
Applications: Recording audio anywhere.
Features: Dual, on board condenser omnis, discrete record level, easy access to most controls, multiple sample and bit rates of MP3 and .WAV
Price: $329

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Audio-Technica High Sensitivity AT 4080 Ribbon Mic

Two Audio-Technica AT4080 in Blumlein
Ribbon microphones have been in service since the 1930s. RCA mics like the 44B and 77DX are now considered vintage. You can spend $1200 to $1500 or more for one. The trick is finding one in good shape because the original ribbons are relatively delicate. Not because of age. That’s just the way they were originally designed. Or, you can try a new Audio-Technica AT 4080 bi-directional (figure of eight), dual ribbon mic that streets for about $999. Seven years in the making, it boasts a 150dB SPL level and the sensitivity of a studio condenser.

Why bother with a ribbon? Well, for one thing, it sounds fundamentally different than dynamic or condenser mics. That’s why recording engineers have continued to use ribbon mics all along. Ribbon mics use a different principle of physics to capture sound than dynamic and condenser mics. Ribbons are rectangular strips of metal, usually aluminum, in a magnetic field. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sescom Adapters Keep RF Out Of Audio - OR NOT!

Nothing hurts your location audio day more than cell phone warbles. You can tell clients and crew to turn them off, but more often than not, they don't until you hear THAT SOUND and have to tell the producer you can't use that take because someone's cell phone got polled from the mothership.

I have a client with an iPhone that used to cause interference. I wired a Neutrik EMC XLR on a cable and "Poof" RF-BE-Gone!

[Update: 8/31/2013 The RF was blocked going into a Millennia Media STT-1 and Greg Hanks BA-660. It was not blocked when going into my GML preamp. So soldered on EMC connectors help prevent RF from getting into your audio, but the front end of the preamp also needs to be designed to block RF.

Now Sescom has them as inline adapters; one with the filter on the male side, the SES-INLINE-EMCM, shown directly below. Before you buy, read on!

and one with the filter on the female side (SES-INLINE-EMCF). 

Two days after I got these my client came in and we tested them under the same conditions in which the XLR connectors were working. The Adapters were NOT able to block his cell phone's interference. I"m breaking away from our session right now to report this. It may be because the the shields are lifted on the adapters. I have contacted Sescom to see if they can find a solution. [Update: They seemed disinclined to take any action.]

So, RF blocking is apparently the result of soldered on EMC connectors and the design of the preamp they are plugged into.

Technique, Inc. © Copyright 2013 All Rights Reserved

Ty For may be reached at

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sescom TRS to TRRS Adapter for iPad & iPhone


If you have audio gear with an 1/8" mini TRS output, like a Rode VideoMic, that you want to get into your iPad or iPhone, how do you do that?

With the IPHONE-ADAPT-1 adapter cable from Sescom! A foot-long cable that does a simple job to get your audio from Point A to Point B.

I couldn't really write a lot about it. What is there to say about a simple piece of gear that solves a problem. You probably won't see it mentioned as a MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH, but it may be just what you need unless you're very handy with a soldering pencil.

Look for it at about $22 at all the usual places.

Here's the cable working with a Makayama Movie Mount for iPad mount with wide angle lenses, MicroPro LED light and Rode SVM. The IPHONE-ADAPT-1 allows the mini 1/8" stereo Rode SVM mic to be connected to the iPad.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Schoeps SuperCMIT DSP-steered Digital Shotgun Mic

Schoeps Super CMIT
I just started seeing the unmistakable Schoeps blue shotgun recently on TV during some media circus press event. It was probably the earlier analog version, but the point is, since no other mic has this blue metallic finish, Schoeps gets “recognition points” for daring go other than grey or black. Actually, putting out a shotgun mic, regardless of color, was some thing that Schoeps had not considered until they received solid input from the US market that one would be well received. That’s how the first CMIT came to be.
In another daring move, Schoeps released the SuperCMIT digital shotgun with a two-position, DSP circuit to tighten the pattern and lower ambient noise.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tascam iXJ2 Multipin Audio I/O for iPhone and iPad

TASCAM iXJ2 Audio Adapter for iPhone and iPad
seen here with a Sennheiser G2 receiver.
It just showed up this morning. For $79 at places like B&H, there's another way to push 16-bit/44.1 kHz audio into your iPad and iPhone.

There are two mono input jacks, one on the top and one on the side. The Sennheiser G2 receiver shown to the left plugged right in.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rode iXY Stereo Mic unlocks 24/96 Audio for iPad and iPhones

Rode iXY Stereo Mic
My Rode iXY just came in recently and I plugged it into my iPad 3 right away. I downloaded the Rode recording app from iTunes and began reading the manual to find out which gestures did what. Do that first and you'll get a lot more fun out of yours.

Not that there's a lot to read, but knowing that spinning your iPhone or iPad 180 degrees puts you in and out of edit mode is not something you might think of.

The iXY supports 24/96 recordings and also lower sample rates. More on this $199 wonder as I have time to work with it. 

Rode NTG-3 Shotgun Mic

NTG-3 and MKH 416 open for close inspection

A $699 USD street, the Australian-made Rode NTG-3 seems extremely well-placed for its price and performance. Like the Sennheiser 416, the NTG-3 is an RF-condenser that combines a somewhat sophisticated RF circuit with the capsule to reduce the deleterious effects of high humidity. Tricky to design, but worth the effort. That design element has contributed greatly to the 416ʼs “bullet proof” reputation and should do the same for the NTG-3.

The RF environment is growing significantly more hostile, though, and Rode seems to have taken shielding a bit farther than Sennheiser did back in 1974 when the MKH 416 came to market. Attention to the mechanical and electronic lay out of the NTG-3 including the surface mount technology (SMT), PCB layout, component selection and dual chamber design of the internal brass tube that appears to separate most of the circuitry from the tunable RF section and capsule, all contribute to RF resistance and mic performance. Sennheiser has also gone to SMT and other upgrades with all of their later model MKH 416 mics.