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sallyK
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27th December 2012
Old 27th December 2012
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Advice from any Audio Gods, appreciated

I'm recording college interviews outdoors in a noisy environment. We're students so just learning, I'm presenting on camera while someone booms a shotgun but theres still some ambient sound even with a windshield. Can you suggest the correct low pass settings for the h4n to help things?

Using a Seinheisser 416 & only capturing teenage voices.

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27th December 2012
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You probably want to use just the opposite - ie. a high-pass filter - to get rid of ambient rumbles. I'm pretty sure there is one on the H4n, but no idea if it's adjustable or just some fixed values. In any case, I'd probably leave it off anyway and do the editing in a DAW/audio editor, so you'll get maximal control over what's happening. If that's not possible, I'd just make a few test recordings with different settings and see which one works the best for your situation.
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27th December 2012
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+1 for using a bass roll off in your daw (high pass filter)

If your doing the filtering in your DAW then play around with the roll off frequency until you find the point where the noise disappears.

Depending on the noise you may need to find a happy medium of reduced rumble against the low end in the vocals.
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27th December 2012
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As krushing said, you need to use a high-pass filter, also sometimes called a low-cut filter.

The H4N actually has a very good digital filter with a wide selection of frequencies. The higher the frequency setting , the more background "rumble" and wind noise will be removed. Unfortunately, the higher frequencies will also begin to affect the sound and character of the speaker's voice and can make it sound "thin". As mentioned, it's best to make some test recordings at various settings to get a feel for the effect.

With the H4N and an external shotgun, I'd start at 115 Hz. If that's not enough, then move up until you reduce the background noise to an acceptable level.

Post-production filtering in a DAW is fine, but is probably not necessary in your case. Plus, it's always better to remove as much low-frequency rumble as possible at the source before recording to prevent the LF noise from causing high recording levels.

If the "ambient sound" is being caused by wind, then you may want to be sure you have the most effective windshield. The simple foam sleeves often supplied with mics are only effective at very low wind velocities. Often something like a Rycote windjammer is needed if you're outdoors on a windy day. If the "ambient sound" is being caused by air handlers, or outdoor vehicle noises, then using a low-cut filter is probably your best choice.
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27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lotus 7 View Post
Post-production filtering in a DAW is fine, but is probably not necessary in your case. Plus, it's always better to remove as much low-frequency rumble as possible at the source before recording to prevent the LF noise from causing high recording levels.
Good point, although I'm not at all sure whether the filters in the H4n are applied before determining the recording level - I kinda have a feeling that it might just be applied afterwards.
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The low-cut filter will eliminate the rumble, but if you have ambient sound (other students, traffic, etc.) it will only help a little. it's more of a technical correction. So is the windshield. Minimizing ambient sound can be achieved with good mic placement technique. Keep in mind that the shotgun not only has a maximum response where you aim it at, but also a maximum rejection at it's back. So if there is a distinct noise source you can't avoid, try finding the position so that the back of the mic points at it.
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sallyK
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27th December 2012
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wow you guys are amazing, i may have to hang out here more often

Lotus I found the filter menus, do those settings work in the effect of blocking everything below the listed frequency? Sorry for the dumb question I'm really a writer and producer. But im suppose to know a tiny lil bit about everything.

Sometimes we cant get the M416 shotgun close enough and we get some spill from the sides and back which is ok for a natural effect but I hate the hiss, so i want to get the high pass filter as accurate as possible.
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27th December 2012
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You might want to consider what the cause of your rumble is. Some of it is ambient city BG (trucks etc), but I'll bet a lot of it is wind. With a condenser type shotgun (like a 416) you really need a serious windscreen, like a zepplin type with a "windrat" style cover if you are going to record outdoors in any breeze at all, especially if the mic is on an overhead boom (ie not right in front of your mouth). See if you can borrow or rent one for your boom mic, that should help a lot. Other than that, re BG noise: location location location!

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27th December 2012
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What Philper (and the others) said.
If you still have a few wind rumbles in the audio - something that can still happen even with a windjammer - you can edit it out by using Izotope RX2 Spectral Repair (the demo mode works wonders for this), rather than using an agressive High Pass filter on all the audio.
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27th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sallyK View Post
..Lotus I found the filter menus, do those settings work in the effect of blocking everything below the listed frequency?
Correct, the frequency listed is where the low-cut starts. As the "noise" frequency becomes lower the amount of "cut" increases. It's not a "brick-wall" filter effect that removes everything, but is a "slope" that removes an increasing amount of low frequency energy as the frequency becomes lower.

Remember, it's possible to apply a moderate HP filter in the initial recording and then add more HP filtering in post-production. Many DAWs have very sharp (24 dB/octave) filters which are infinitely tunable.

The suggestions about considering the source of your noise and it's direction should be well heeded - all good advice, as is Steven1145's suggestion about using post-production methods if all else fails. Sometimes you have to try several methods to find what works best in your particular situation.
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28th December 2012
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If you can boom and wire them that would help too and if you have any control over the background try to quiet it as much as possible.

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sallyK
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29th December 2012
Old 29th December 2012
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Thanks for all the suggestions guys, this seems to be a place where people really know there stuff. Being the face of team who really are only students can be challenging to say the least!

I'm in the unique situation though where alot of the sequences that we are capturing are impromptu interviews, in the middle of a noisy crowded college square or cafe. No time to setup lapels or control over environment, we have to pursue content on the street, kind of like vox pops. Wind isn't too much of an issue, its just trying to get clean natural audio from a boomed distance. Someone has suggested that the 416 isn't as directional as other shotguns in its class, I may have to look into this too.

Just thought the filter setting may help cut down a little on bird chirp or even a sudden scream by an excited teenage girl in the far distance for example.

I'll try the 115Hz maybe even try hand holding the shotgun with a foam head like an interview mic to get closer and another top boom for other dialogue.
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29th December 2012
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Unfortunately, a low-cut filter won't do much, if anything for sounds like a bird chirp or a girl screaming. Those sounds have frequencies in and/or above the normal speech range. The low cut filtering will help on stuff like wind noise, air handler room "rumble" and sounds like car/bus engines.

FYI: The typically quoted frequency range of the human voice is 80 Hz (a deep male bass) to 1100 Hz (a high soprano), but those are fundamental frequencies. The human voice has a complex harmonic structure, so there may be frequencies as high as 8 to 10 kHz present. Using a low-cut filter with a cut off frequency of 115 Hz may begin to make very deep male voices sound a little "thin", but will have little effect on most female voices.

To reduce noise within the normal speech frequency range, you may have to get your shotgun closer, (which will allow an overall gain reduction) or use a mic with a narrower acceptance angle.

Basic communications equipment, like standard land line telephones, usually have a bandwidth limited to 300 Hz to 3000 Hz (3kHz) partly to help reduce background noise. That's enough for simple communication, but obviously that amount of bandwidth limiting has a drastic effect on the sound of a voice.

What you really need to do is to hire a pro like Nicole to come in and give your crew a masterclass.
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29th December 2012
Old 29th December 2012
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I'm just curious as to why you can't get the mic within a few inches of the interviewees. To me, the strange obsession of not showing mics during an interview, particularly when it is an ENG style "man-on-the-street" type of interview, just does not compute. A -416 may not be the optimum mic as a hand-held for interviews, but get it within three of four inches of the voices and there should be very minimal ambient noise problems.
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29th December 2012
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I'm with you on that one uncle bob but depending on the piece it just dosn't help the impression of an unplanned vox pop, it looks more contrived. Depends on the story you're trying to tell.

Lotus, I'm not sure who Nicole is but if she knows MORE than you, then shes too much for our needs! I think the 115 cut for some bass rumble is all I need for some cleaner sound, I really dont mind bird chirping. The only audio that has really depressed me is aircon hum, it makes me want to cry!

I'm seriously considering whether I should study audio properly
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29th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sallyK View Post
...I'm not sure who Nicole is ...
See post #12 (Nicole Hankerson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by sallyK View Post
I'm seriously considering whether I should study audio properly
Never a bad idea if you're seriously considering a career in film/video or any performing arts since they all usually involve audio at some level. Hint: If you're mainly interested in ENG style reporting or doing documentaries, don't forget to learn about using Time Code to synchronize your audio and video. (not applicable with a H4n).

Quote:
Originally Posted by sallyK View Post
The only audio that has really depressed me is aircon hum, it makes me want to cry!
"Aircon" (HVAC) noise is something that haunts all of us who do on-location recording. Fortunately, the air conditioner "hum" is one thing that careful LF filtering (both during the initial recording and in post, and/or using adaptive noise reduction such as iZotope ANR-B or the built-in [adaptive filter] available in Adobe Audition) can help remove.

No crying allowed at Gearslutz! Although you will find a lot of whining here.
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29th December 2012
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Thanks again Lotus you're a really nice guy.

There must be a tone of other posts on the way people have dealt with aircon hum in here, right?
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29th December 2012
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The One True Audio God, also known as the laws of physics, says:

"Inverse-square is the only way to satisfactorily kill wideband noise."

Anything you do post is going to affect dialog. Even the best NR filters can only mask wideband noise, killing it when there are pauses in a specific band but hiding it under dialog otherwise... which affects intelligibility, even if it makes the track less annoying.

That's why on-the-street interviewers often shove an omni right into the subject's face. And why mic manufacturers make "interview" models with extra-long handles.

(Narrow-band noise is a different story. And while we're probably not that far away from computer-generated speech recognition and regeneration at dialog quality, I suspect your film can't wait that long. )
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1st January 2013
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So I just spent 6hrs playing with audio gear after being inspired by posts in here & and am convinced I'm not happy with the H4N in comparison with other results people have uploaded with the M416 particularly with the amp hiss. Maybe I'm fussy, maybe it was a little to do with the cheap headphones I was monitoring with but audio is now something I want to learn professionally even if it means knowing everything else on an amateur level.

Can anyone suggest a lightweight mixer & recorder for documentary/indie shortfilm format?
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1st January 2013
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Also for interviews is 44.1KHz/16-bit more than sufficient?

I did have good success in Audtion's noise sample/reduction feature by taking a few seconds of room noise/hiss when I did a long distance boom test. I analyzed & cleaned the noise twice and the final result is very clean without too much alteration in the subjects voice which amazed me. Did I fluke this, considering the sample was a low res 192kps mp3 ? Haven't ever read one person recommending this??
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1st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sallyK View Post
So I just spent 6hrs playing with audio gear after being inspired by posts in here & and am convinced I'm not happy with the H4N in comparison with other results people have uploaded with the M416 particularly with the amp hiss. Maybe I'm fussy, maybe it was a little to do with the cheap headphones I was monitoring with but audio is now something I want to learn professionally even if it means knowing everything else on an amateur level.

Can anyone suggest a lightweight mixer & recorder for documentary/indie shortfilm format?
Listening on headphones often seems to make "hiss" seem more noticeable than listening through speakers. You might try listening on a decent set of monitor speakers, and also on a typical video playback system similar to what your intended audience might be using.

Having said that, there are certainly portable audio recorders that have better (and quieter) mic pres than the H4n. Most of the range of Zoom and Tascam "hand-held" recorders are about the same and if your mic levels are being limited by the mic pre noise floor and not the microphone itself you will see an improvement by moving up to a more "pro level" recorder.

Obviously the first thing to try is getting a stronger signal in the first place by moving the mic in as close as possible for the shot and using careful aiming.

You will find that "pro level" recorders are significantly more expensive than the common "consumer" level hardware, but generally you do get what you pay for in performance improvements and reliablility.

At the "pro" entry level there is the Tascam HD-P2. Nagra makes a nice hand-held in the Nagra SD, but most people use those with the built-in mics and thay are a minor "pain" to adapt to a phantom powered, XLR equipped, external mic.

Some of the best and most widely used recorders for professional film/video are the Sound Devices. For simple interview format recording the SD702, SD 702T (adds Timecode capability) and the SD722 are very popular and have exceptional mic pres. They are very quiet and any noise you hear will be at the noise floor of the mic itself. I personally use Sound Devices recorders and have found them to always exceed expectations. As I said, you do get what you pay for.

Another less expensive, but fully professional solution is to use the very small USB powered Sound Devices USB Pre2 external interface with a small laptop running a good DAW. A small MacBook or MacBookAir running Logic Pro and the USB Pre2 are capable of truly professional level performance and will work well with any microphone you choose including the Senny 416. There are also interfaces and audio "Apps" that will work with an iPad, but that market is changing rapidly and personally, I'd stay away from it for a while.
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1st January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sallyK View Post
Also for interviews is 44.1KHz/16-bit more than sufficient?

I did have good success in Audtion's noise sample/reduction feature by taking a few seconds of room noise/hiss when I did a long distance boom test. I analyzed & cleaned the noise twice and the final result is very clean without too much alteration in the subjects voice which amazed me. Did I fluke this, considering the sample was a low res 192kps mp3 ? Haven't ever read one person recommending this??
For interviews, 44.1k/16bit is OK but using 44.1/24bit will give you more flexibility in getting a good "take" even if you are way off on setting levels. Memory is very cheap, no matter which digital media you are using, so there is really no reason to not take advantage of the expanded dynamic range of 24 bit recording. Virtually any DAW and any post processing you use will work best using a full dynamic range recording (24 bit).

Your original recording should really be in non-compressed format for lowest distortion and ease of editing. Recording in a highly compressed format like MP-3 requires expansion in the DAW before any processing can be applied, and every format conversion results in further loss of quality. If the final output is to be in MP-3, that conversion should be the very last step in your production workflow.

Whichever recorder you choose, just set it to 44.1/24bits and use those "WAV" files for your audio format. If you're considering ever having DVD's produced, then you should be using 48k/24bit as the original capture format. Don't forget to "normalize" the output level once all post processing is completed.

If you got acceptable results using Audition's post processing on a MP-3, you would probably have gotten even better results if the original recording was captured as a 44.1k or 48k/24bit WAV file.

Finally: HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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1st January 2013
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Just as a side note, hiss might also be increased by the headphone amp/output on the device, therefore not neccessarily all of it actually being in the signal.
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2nd January 2013
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About using 44.1: most post facilities are used to getting audio at 48kHz. It might not matter for some, but if there is a master clock synching a studio at 48, it could be a problem bringing in media at 44.1.
Keep that in mind for future projects.

Sent from my XT910
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6th January 2013
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"To reduce noise within the normal speech frequency range, you may have to get your shotgun closer, (which will allow an overall gain reduction) or use a mic with a narrower acceptance angle."

I'm going to have to submit to the likes of Lotus and unclebob here about the ENG application, I think the best way forward for me is to sacrifice artistic direction for the sake of superior audio which is more important than almost everything.

So I've decided to reinvest with a Electro-Voice RE50N/D-B its apparently a little hotter than the traditional RE50, my question is has anyone had any probs using one with a H4N?
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6th January 2013
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May all your audio dream & fantasies come true in 2013.

I only have 1 prob with this site, the web address looks like im in the wrong place when on a public computer!
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6th January 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sallyK View Post
"To reduce noise within the normal speech frequency range, you may have to get your shotgun closer, (which will allow an overall gain reduction) or use a mic with a narrower acceptance angle."

I'm going to have to submit to the likes of Lotus and unclebob here about the ENG application, I think the best way forward for me is to sacrifice artistic direction for the sake of superior audio which is more important than almost everything.

So I've decided to reinvest with a Electro-Voice RE50N/D-B its apparently a little hotter than the traditional RE50, my question is has anyone had any probs using one with a H4N?
Remember, the RE50 is an omni-directional mic, which allows it to be placed between an interviewer and a subject to pick-up both persons without being moved around or pointed (a plus). However, because it's an omni, it will have no background rejection, so ambient noise could be an issue (a big minus).

The output level of the RE50N/D-B is still rather low at -52 dBv/Pa and considering the fairly noisy mic pres on a H4n, you may hear some mic pre-amp input noise (hiss). If you want to stick with a dynamic mic, a N/D767a might be a somewhat better choice. It has a 2dB higher output and is directional, so will reject off-axis noise.

Since you have the option of 48 volt phantom power, a hand-held cardioid condenser mic like an Audio Technica AE 3300 is also something to consider. The AE 3300 has 10 dB more output than the RE50N/D so mic pre noise will be much less of a possible issue, plus it's moderately directional so will reject much off-axis ambient sound. It also has a switchable 80 Hz-12 dB/octave low-cut filter which could be useful in your application. The AE3300 uses the same excellent mic capsule as the very good AT4033 studio mic. IMHO, the slightly higher cost of a AE-3300 over the RE50N/D-B would be completely justified in the better overall performance you will achieve.

There are also many other phantom powered hand-held condenser mics with high enough outputs for the H4n.

If you do decide to try the RE50, be sure you have a return option.
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#29
7th January 2013
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I just saw a video review of the Sennheiser MD46 and am really impressed. Apparently they get these into noisy stadiums for max ambient rejection. I just dont know how to compare things like output and signal to noise ratio in the specs alongside recommendations like the AE3300 you've mentioned. You're turning my world upside down :( am I going to have to put the H4N on ebay?

Give me 6months & I'll be an audio God too.
#30
7th January 2013
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The MD46 is a low output mic: Only -54 dBv/Pa which is a couple of decibels less than a RE50N/D-B so is not a good match for the mic pres in the H4n. The H4n mic pres are not its strong points. The (H4n) gain is low at only 47 dB and the noise is rather high. It's not designed to be used with low output dynamic mics like a RE50 or especially a MD46. You would have to run the H4n at maximum gain to get near a decent recording level and you will have a lot of audible "hiss". The MD46 is a standard cardioid pattern mic so will reject off-axis noise (just like the standard cardioid pattern of the AE3300), but its output level is just too low for a H4n unless someone is singing or shouting into it.

A higher output mic is a better choice or if you're set on using one of those long-handled "reporter" mics, you can always add an in-line booster pre-pre-amp to raise the level. A phantom powered in-line pre-pre amp like a Triton Fethead will get the signal up to something that will work with a H4n, but with the mic will wind up costing a little more than a AE3300 and won't sound as good.

The H4n packs a lot of features for the price and does a remarkable job with the built-in mics, but unfortunately, its mic pres are not the greatest.

Audio-101: mini-tip of the day: Interpreting microphone sensitivity specifications.

The relative output level of different microphones is typically provided by a sensitivity rating which is specified as the signal level (a voltage or level in dBv) at a standard sound pressure level (loudness) which is usually 94 dB SPL or a absolute pressure of 1 Pascal (Pa). this allows us to easily make direct comparisons of relative mic sensitivity and to determine how much mic preamplifier gain is necessary for a particular mic.

Note that the signal levels are stated in (-) dBv (decibels BELOW a voltage of 1.00 volts RMS), so the larger the number the LOWER the actual signal level.

The RE50N/D-B generates a signal level of -52 dBv/Pa ( equal to a voltage of 2.4 mV) at a sound pressure level of 94 dB SPL (a very loud speaking voice up close)

The MD46 generates a signal level of -54 dBv/Pa (equal to 2.0 mV) at the same sound pressure level. We can say: "That mic is 2 dB less sensitive."

The AE3300 produces a signal level of -42 dBv/Pa (8 mV) so produces an output level that is a full 12 dB higher than the MD46.

That means the mic pre gain can be 12 dB less and the signal to (mic pre) noise (the S/N ratio) will be 12 dB better. 12 dB is a dramatic difference.
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