Field Recording Mic Recommendations?

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Professor T
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Field Recording Mic Recommendations?

Post by Professor T » Thu Mar 05, 2015 2:51 pm

I'm looking to go out and do some ambient recordings of natural and urban surroundings. I've got a Zoom H4N, and I'm looking for some recommendations for decent microphones that might be suited to this task. I plan on experimenting with XY, ORTF, and binaural setups. What do you think? Small diaphragm condensers? Specific recommendations welcome.

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Post by I'm Painting Again » Thu Mar 05, 2015 5:51 pm

one thing is that a true binaural recording involves a dummy head, etc.

Some of the mics we use for location sound for film and TV are

Sennheiser MKH's , Schoeps cmit-5u , Sanken CS-3e, the Neumann KMR81i and KM185

these are some of the standards and they might be too pricey to buy for personal use..they are all SDC IIRC..reporters do use different mics for interviews like the re-50 or the very specialized Coles 4104PTT ribbon..but this does not seem to be your application..

once outside there are a bunch of things to deal with like, of course, WIND

I was taking a cassette recorder out with a dynamic to do similar things a few years ago because it sounded really cool..so there are no rules to what you can use..

also don't sleep on an M/S setup..like you know..a figure of 8 and an cardioid in the center (or hyper-cardioid)..this can be more forgiving and more versatile a way to make stereo recordings..

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Post by JWL » Thu Mar 05, 2015 7:36 pm

What's wrong with the mics built in to the zoom?

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Post by hogfish » Fri Mar 06, 2015 4:23 am

Shure VP88 single point stereo mic. Not expensive on the used market. Does MS. Has 3 stereo width settings. Can be powered by batteries. Sounds great. Makes getting stereo field recordings much easier. Get a windscreen.......

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Post by Jim Williams » Fri Mar 06, 2015 8:07 am

I use a Tascam DR-70D with four AKG 460 mics, I have different capsules. It's an excellent field recorder, quiet, 48 volt phantom, 4 high pass filter settings, M/S matrix, limiters, the works. It also has built in mics.

$299 from B+H. It's like a poor man's SD744 for 1/10th the price.
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Post by Professor T » Fri Mar 06, 2015 8:36 am

Thanks for the replies everybody. I will investigate these options.
JWL wrote:What's wrong with the mics built in to the zoom?
I think the built in mics are great for pretty much everything. I am just wondering if there are better options out there. I am very happy with the H4N.

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Post by JWL » Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:06 am

Professor T wrote:
JWL wrote:What's wrong with the mics built in to the zoom?
I think the built in mics are great for pretty much everything. I am just wondering if there are better options out there. I am very happy with the H4N.
I agree. For field recordings, ie, tromping through nature, I can't imagine the extra encumbrance of additional equipment to be worth it in terms of sound quality improvement.

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Post by Jim Williams » Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:54 am

You might think so until you use world class mics and hear what you've been missing. An AKG, Schoeps or KM will crap all over those cheapo built in mics. There is a reason people pay so much $ for those things. Add a windsock and go.

A stereo pair can be mounted on a bar and easily carried. I use mine on a Cannon DSLR for HD video with 24 bit 96K audio tracks.
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Post by I'm Painting Again » Sat Mar 07, 2015 1:37 am

Professor T wrote:Thanks for the replies everybody. I will investigate these options.
JWL wrote:What's wrong with the mics built in to the zoom?
I think the built in mics are great for pretty much everything. I am just wondering if there are better options out there. I am very happy with the H4N.

there aren't really better options..just different..

you can buy a portable sound kit for as much as a honda civic if you like..it will be more high fidelity and have more features, etc. than the H4 and its built in mics..

check out the Nagra reel to reels they're some of the most beautiful sounding tape machines (to me) ever made and you can wear em on your shoulder..

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Re: Field Recording Mic Recommendations?

Post by tonewoods » Sat Mar 07, 2015 10:12 am

Professor T wrote:I've got a Zoom H4N...
I like that machine, and it is indeed handy to have the option of recording with both the onboard mics and whatever mic you choose, and compare them later....

I've successfully used a Rode NT4 with the H4...

For binaural, I've used one of these...
Kinda fun...
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Post by JGriffin » Sat Mar 07, 2015 4:31 pm

hogfish wrote:Shure VP88 single point stereo mic. Not expensive on the used market. Does MS. Has 3 stereo width settings. Can be powered by batteries. Sounds great. Makes getting stereo field recordings much easier. Get a windscreen.......
I used to use one of these. I got some great recordings with it. I'm currently using the Audio-Technica BP4025. I find it a little thick in the low mids sometimes but overall it's cool.
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Post by JWL » Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:19 pm

Jim Williams wrote:You might think so until you use world class mics and hear what you've been missing. An AKG, Schoeps or KM will crap all over those cheapo built in mics. There is a reason people pay so much $ for those things. Add a windsock and go.

A stereo pair can be mounted on a bar and easily carried. I use mine on a Cannon DSLR for HD video with 24 bit 96K audio tracks.
I imagine they probably would sound better, but I would question whether it's "enough" better to justify the extra zero(es) in the budget, the fragility of the mics (carrying in urban areas or through nature).

For field recordings, convenience is huge, and with units like the zooms you can be up and recording in about a second.

And I bet with some post processing, you could manipulate the sound such that it would be difficult to tell which were the zoom mics and which were the Schoeps etc.

Please don't get me wrong, I love great mics and gear, but for field recordings in the budgets most of us are working with.... just don't think it's needed.

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Post by Gregg Juke » Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:45 pm

Yes, I would agree with JWL from the convenience aspect, as well as the cost vs. benefit ratio aspect, i.e. how much do you have to spend to markedly improve sound quality and yet still have something rugged enough to take environmental conditions?
It depends on where you plan on going, but you could be dealing with rain, dew, frost, very hot or frigid temps, lots of dirt or sand, etc., etc. Then you might need a boom pole, a special shock mount, extra cable, possibly phantom power (does the H4N have that?), a "dead cat," and a "blimp" type cover and maybe even a rain guard or umbrella.

I took the Zoom H1 to Africa with a pistol grip and some headphones and it was fine. If all you need is stereo ambience or sound effects, and you're not looking for a shotgun to pick-up dialogue, I'd say go internal. Quick set-up, quick take-down, and it will sound fine.

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Post by ubertar » Sun Mar 08, 2015 6:06 pm

Sheep in Punk Clothing wrote:a true binaural recording involves a dummy head
A pair of "tape op omnis" or the like inserted in your own ears will work. Even if you're a Rhodes scholar.
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Post by ott0bot » Sun Mar 08, 2015 8:10 pm

for quality field recordings it's all about the noise floor. those Zoom units do a nice job, but the headroom on those guys aren't that great. for louder sources they are fine, a bit thin and bass inacccurate for my taste. a pair of transformerless omni's kill in this scenario. really, and decent omni mic will do. I love the OktAva modded mc012's because they are already pretty gain heavy and you can pad them for louder sources. had great success with afformentioned akg's but also with cheaper stuff like Studio Projects c4's as well.

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