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 of these mics 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.

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