Archive for November, 2009

Speak it through a Mic.

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Recently, I have been exploring the world of audio equipment thanks to the New Media guru Andy Rush here at DTLT. After spending some time working through mediacollege.com’s material on audio, which is totally deserving of its own post, I started looking into a number of microphones that we have available here in the office. Before digging into all that rich audio goodness, I want to jot down what my basic set up was. Another student aid, Shannon Hauser, and I read a short excerpt from Paradise Lost, only about a minute or so long.  Andy Rush smartly suggested having both male and female voices for the recordings.  In order to test the microphones I needed to get a solid recording, so I used the small (but extremely powerful) Edirol R-09 connected to a small mixer to record 16 bit wav files. While you can easily do a recording in a high bit mp3, it makes more sense to use a file with all of the information left intact. Mp3s will truncate your information through compression. So while this works well for podcasts, when testing a mic you want the best recording possible.

So with that set up in mind, I went about testing three brands of mics (not all of them were the same model mind you!)  I used the shure, studio project, and the audio-technica microphones.  Each microphone has its own uses that makes it perfect for some tasks and not others.  On the whole, each of these mics are solid and come from a range of prices.  We will be starting with the core microphone for almost any job.  That of course is the Shure Microphone Dynamic.  It’s an absolutely solid mic which can survive just about anything.  For purposes of doing a good recording, it will pick up the sound, but leaves a lot to be desired.  However, floating around different shops and talking to performers, the Shure dynamic really stands out when you need to do live work.  The Shure’s strength lies not only in the live aspect but also how well it works for vocalists.  Shure dynamic, in its own light, is a great and very versatile microphone, but when you start to compare it some of the audio-technica equipment it just can’t compare.  I tested audio-technica’s condenser mic with a cardioid polar direction.  Condenser mics have to be powered by a sound board but are extremely sensitive.  The best way to describe what these types of mics sound like is warm and nuanced.  For the purposes of conversations and studio recordings, condenser mics perform beautifully.  The polarity of the mic (where it is sensitive and strongest for picking up sound) lends focus to the recording as it gives a sense of direction.  Another intensive mic I looked at was from Studio Projects.  This specific mic has three settings which will change what parts of the mic are sensitive.  The first option, cardioid, produces a recording not unlike the audio-technica condenser.  However, the multi direction mic also has bi-directional and omni directional settings.  These two settings, although they don’t produce nearly as nice of a recording, work awesomely for when you have to record multi sources of sound and don’t have extra mics.

Finally I checked out a wireless microphone system with two styles of mics.  Frankly, you probably should not be recording with wireless mics, but the wireless system is always great for performances when you don’t want to bother with having cables all over the place.  I used a basic lavaliere and also an audio-technica head set.  I didn’t really enjoy the recording with the lavaliere, if it is set to be a little too sensitive, the mic can pick up movement and undesirable sounds.  Placement of the microphone becomes the key issue when using wireless systems.  They are often place so close that the plosives will get picked up by the mic.  So this is where the head set shines.  Not only is it close to your mouth, but is just far enough away that all you will hear is the clear audio without all of the puffs of air.

At the end of the day, having access to a full range of mics is the ideal situation, but in a pinch what should you do?  Well, if all you are looking for is live, hang out with Shure Dynamic, even pros use these babies.  If you have a lot of different types of jobs and scenarios (recording two people at once, or just the ambient sound of an entire room) shell out a little extra cash and go for the multi-directional.  You can’t go wrong.  And most of all get a good pair of headphones and start exploring the world of microphones!