Sunday, September 16, 2018

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

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

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

Deity S-Mic 2 Shotgun Microphone

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

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

And then there was the results of the dunk test!

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

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

S-Mic 2 EQ Curve

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

MKH 416 EQ Curve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Klover Parabolic Collector Microphone Systems - The Latest Dish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26" Klover with Sennheiser MKE-2

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

16" Klover with DPA 4060

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

26" Klover with Schoeps CMC621

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

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

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

The 9" Klover with the custom Countryman B3

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

26" Klover with Schoeps compared with a Sennheiser MKH 416

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

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

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

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

NAB 2018 Las Vegas, (Baby)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound Devices acquires Audio Ltd and distributes in North America

Sound Devices MixPre-10T

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aputure A.Lyra Digital Lavasliere Mic

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

Aputure A.lav

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

Aputure A.lav ez

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

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

Saaramonic Booth at NAB 2018

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

Saramonic audio offerings

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

Sony digital wireless

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

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

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

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


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!

8/16/18 Added Content From Rode
RØDE Microphones releases the Performer Kit’s RØDELink TX-M2 Handheld Condenser Microphone as a standalone unit, sold separately for the first time. For content creators requiring different microphone options to suit any situation, the RØDELink system – home to the Filmmaker Kit and News Shooter Kit – now has a stylish, durable, compact handheld solution, the TX-M2.

The TX-M2 gives existing Filmmaker Kit owners – filmmakers, reporters and content creators – the freedom to mix and match the RØDELink microphones in their kits: the same RX-CAM receiver works simply with the Filmmaker Kit’s Lav/TX-BELT and the Performer Kit’s handheld TX-M2.

The TX-M2 pairs easily with the Filmmaker Kit’s RX-CAM for easy to-camera presenting and  interviews. This handheld mic houses a super cardioid condenser capsule, providing low handling noise and crystal-clear audio. The TX-M2 is powered by the LB-1 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery (ships in the box) for up to 10 hours on a full charge, or 2 x AA batteries for 6 hours of use.

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.

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