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Does anybody use digital mics ("Neumann Solution D")? Condenser Microphones
Old 4th July 2011
  #1
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Does anybody use digital mics ("Neumann Solution D")?

Hi folks,

I recently bought a used stereo pair of Neumann KM-185D with a DMI-2. I am absolutely pleased with this set, it's simple to setup, seems rock solid and sounds really good to me - clean, transparent, fresh. I tested it using piano, guitar amps, some percusion and even vocals.

Although I found it a bit awkward that even some of my mikes now have a firmware I wonder why there is so little acceptance to digitial mics and the AES-42 standard. OK, there's just a few manufacturers, the prices of the microphones themselves and the interfaces are pretty high and resale value (as with mine :-) ) not THAT high. But on the other hand - you get plug and play, no huge racks of mic pres, cables, a/ds and other outboard gear. Compared to my U87 and 414 I can hear no difference in quality (in sound of course...).

So I just want to hear if anybody has more or different experience and tipps, please share :-).
Old 4th July 2011
  #2
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your premise presumes that we don't want mic pres, etc. Most of us love the sounds of our mic pres and have gathered a small collection of them for color and flavor.

My own experience with the D (very brief, at a demo) was that it was a work in progress. The possibilities are certainly impressive, but for the time being my mic pres and mic collection make me happy.
Old 4th July 2011
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
your premise presumes that we don't want mic pres, etc. Most of us love the sounds of our mic pres and have gathered a small collection of them for color and flavor.

My own experience with the D (very brief, at a demo) was that it was a work in progress. The possibilities are certainly impressive, but for the time being my mic pres and mic collection make me happy.
Thanks for your reply. I completely understand your point - just bought a bunch of stuff that is not *really* necessary as there are certainly plugins for all of that stuff (lexicon, api, spl, uad...). But thinking of running a studio for money - most people use pro tools at least as a major addition with a huge desk with 2" tape machines, reverb chamber, akg bx 20 because it's economical. I understand that having high end, "magical" tools around is also a major selling point for commercial
studios.

I always thought if it was just about getting clean signals in the box (classical recordings, jazz, world/ethno) then a 24 channel setup should be around 50 grand plus what you want to spend on pro tools. If these solution
d stuff is just not good enough or lacks the different sounds of different mics compared to a high end analog chain why are there no (bad) reviews around?

Again, I'm just curious. Neumann / Sennheiser have quite a bit of knowledge in pretty much any part of the audio chain - it is really interesting that solution d seems to be so hard to put in the market.
Old 4th July 2011
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by classicrock View Post
If these solution
d stuff is just not good enough or lacks the different sounds of different mics compared to a high end analog chain why are there no (bad) reviews around?

Again, I'm just curious. Neumann / Sennheiser have quite a bit of knowledge in pretty much any part of the audio chain - it is really interesting that solution d seems to be so hard to put in the market.
Yes, they do have experience, and a lot of people still love the sound of their old offerings.

That is the crux here.

As everything gets cleaner and cleaner, you lose the sound that people have grown up with, and grown to love. They identify with this sound, their favorite recordings have that sound.

When you take all this away, it sounds different.

Is it worse? Is it better?

Depends if you are going for clarity nd realism beyond giving the public what they are accustomed to.

You could open a restaruant serving all organic food, no impurities, reverse osmosis filtered glacier water etc., and it will certainly be true to what it is.

It will NOT however taste like what most people are used to, and have grown a taste for.

Sometimes a greasy old burger, is just what is needed.

Think of what classic rock (or even modern rock) would be without the sound of dirty compressors pumping, old classic preamps on the verge of clipping, etc.

It's just not the same thing without it.

Like Levi jeans without faded denim. That faded sh*t is what makes it cool, it's imperfection.

To wrap up the rant, I would say it greatly depends on what you are recording.

If doing orchestral work, or any classical at all, the solution d stuff is going to be great. Also, I bet in in a lot of film production and foley apps it would excel.

Rock and Roll, R&B....I don't know man.

It's like taking an ingredient out of the Classic Coke recipe. You know what happened when they tried that.

My humble opinion,
john
Old 4th July 2011
  #5
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John Willett's Avatar
 

I have several AES42 digital mics.. I have a pair of KM-D and a pair each of KK183 and KK131 capsules. I also have an MZD 8000 and a pair each of MKH 8020 and 8040.

I have a DMI 2 and two DMI 2Portable interface units.

I have also written a couple of AES papers on AES42 microphones.

I find them excellent - there are 4 major microphone manufacturers currently making AES42 microphones: Neumann, Schoeps, Sennheiser and Gefell.

There are now over 40 AES42 microphones and over 20 interfaces and recorders.

People who like their mic. pres. are liking the colouration and distortion that these give, rather than wanting the accurate and uncoloured sound that AES42 microphones give.

AES42, at the moment, tends to be used by people who want clean and uncoloured sound and by PA companies who don't want interference and noise.

As far as I am concerned, AES42 is great.

I have 4 CDs out recorded with digital mics. only and another recorded with digital mics. as the mains with a Soundfield as ambient mics.


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Old 4th July 2011
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
People who like their mic. pres. are liking the colouration and distortion that these give, rather than wanting the accurate and uncoloured sound that AES42 microphones give.



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Spot on.

And also possibly the listeners on the recieving end, depending on genre of material.

j
Old 4th July 2011
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWTON IN ORBIT View Post
Spot on.

And also possibly the listeners on the recieving end, depending on genre of material.

j
Yes - if you want natural and uncoloured, like classical music, digital mics are a great choice.

If you want coloured and dirty, they aren't.


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Old 4th July 2011
  #8
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I agree with what everyone has said. I've used the Solution-D extensively and the 184D a little bit. To me the remarkable thing about these mics is the resolution. From what I understand they use a 3-stage AD converter. Basically the low level is one converter, moderate levels another and loud the 3rd.

Anyway, whatever it is, they are amazing with stuff that has a lot of dynamic range. That's why the classical and hifi dudes really dig them (which used to be a lot of what I did everyday). It's also really cool to be able to change the polar patter remotely and see what different patterns (and therefore frequency response) sounds like.

Like anything it's a tool. If they weren't so darned expensive I'd have a pair around but not more. Regardless of the style of music I'm working on I want some "juice" and color in the sound. I once did a thing where the Solution-D was on guitar and I later overdubbed the vocal with a ribbon mic. The vibe was amazing and there was a really neat contrast for the song.
Old 4th July 2011
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by telejustin View Post
If they weren't so darned expensive I'd have a pair around but not more.

Me too. Although, if they were wayyy cheaper, and I was wayyy richer, I'd like to have a lot of them for location work with choirs, ensembles etc.

I just don't do enough of that work to justify spending the money right now...not even for a pair. Most of my work is popular music styles.

There is a Baptist church near me, with a huge congregation, tv studio etc. They have some of the solution d stuff, but it is from when it first came out. I am sure it's only gotten better with time.

Yes the detail and dynamic range is crazy good. So good you must tell the choir to be extremely quiet, and the music director had to ride them about it....more than usual.

Clothes rustling etc.

They also had some Studer preamps with the digital output. Those were very nice as well.

john
Old 4th July 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by telejustin View Post
I agree with what everyone has said. I've used the Solution-D extensively and the 184D a little bit. To me the remarkable thing about these mics is the resolution. From what I understand they use a 3-stage AD converter. Basically the low level is one converter, moderate levels another and loud the 3rd.
Neumann use a 28-bit converter made up from two 24-bit converters in a patented arrangement.


Quote:
Originally Posted by telejustin View Post
If they weren't so darned expensive I'd have a pair around but not more.
They are not actually expensive at all when you consider you don't need a mic. pre. and have limiters, compressors and EQ built in.



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Old 4th July 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
They are not actually expensive at all when you consider you don't need a mic. pre. and have limiters, compressors and EQ built in.
True, but the mic pre, compressor, limiter and eq built in only work for THAT mic. $8k is a lot for a piece of gear. As I said I'd love to have a pair if I had an extra $10k+ laying around, but I need more flexibility in the gear I use for my work. Everyone is different. If I was doing mostly classical work I'd consider it. But even then my Schoeps and MKH40's into a Grace don't exactly suck.
Old 4th July 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NEWTON IN ORBIT View Post
Yes, they do have experience, and a lot of people still love the sound of their old offerings.

That is the crux here.

As everything gets cleaner and cleaner, you lose the sound that people have grown up with, and grown to love. They identify with this sound, their favorite recordings have that sound.

When you take all this away, it sounds different.

Is it worse? Is it better?
Thanks for your reply John, I'm with you here as you probably figured from my nick .

My recent thoughts about clean recordings started when I got my new home theater system, the Teufel Theater 10 which got rave reviews for years and is really fun - supports VERY loud settings, never distorted. But I was disgusted when I listened to a lot of (cd) records, especially from the 70s. Nearly no bottom end, somehow muddy, sharp in the 2k region. I thought the setup was defective unless I used the system solely in "direct mode" (no EQing what so ever inside the amplifier, just subwoofer below 80Hz). Quincy Jones and other gods really shine, later records (even electronic/house music) sounded very well if not to say awesome. Average records sounded so so, but then again some where great issues, especially Queen's "A Night At The Opera" DVD-Audio that really blew me away in 5.1.

But no record did reach the transparency and dynamic of good blu-ray movie soundtracks for example. What did I learn in the first place? 70s mixes and/or their cd masterings often do not rock on high end equipment. (BTW: It seems a different issue with new iTunes issues of old, for example "Goodbye yellow brick road". I am not sure if they are just brickwalled louder or really sound better and more open - don't want to buy them again.. and again).

Second thing I figured: Does rock music necessarily need to be recorded with the "special" sound or wouldn't it be interesting to record it basically clean and tweak afterwards if the material *really* demands for it? I was influenced by the "massive mastering" articles, for example "You're probably tracking too hot..." (Proper Audio Recording Levels | Rants, Articles | MASSIVE Mastering) and why clean recordings are usually louder recordings in the end, which has helped me very much and made my recordings much better.

My conclusion was that if I want audiophile-like pleasure with a great dynamic range and stage set up before my eye the recordings should be cleaner in the first place so instruments have more space and can be placed in interesting locations in the soundscape. Of course an electric bass for example needs to be tamed dynamically in any rock/pop style track but I would be glad to hear some wild percussion, vocals or acoustic guitars going from ppp to fff in some more free form parts of record, which means less compression, less distortion, less effects. Am I totally wrong with this mindset (or desire ;-) )?
Old 4th July 2011
  #13
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Sorry, I'm a little bit, you know what, tonight as the wife and I are polishing off a few bottles of champers.

If you would like to read my AES papers on AES42 mics send me a PM with an e-mail address. One I gave at the European Congress in May, and the other at the UK Conference last week.


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Old 4th July 2011
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by classicrock View Post
Thanks for your reply John, I'm with you here as you probably figured from my nick .

My recent thoughts about clean recordings started when I got my new home theater system, the Teufel Theater 10 which got rave reviews for years and is really fun - supports VERY loud settings, never distorted. But I was disgusted when I listened to a lot of (cd) records, especially from the 70s. Nearly no bottom end, somehow muddy, sharp in the 2k region. I thought the setup was defective unless I used the system solely in "direct mode" (no EQing what so ever inside the amplifier, just subwoofer below 80Hz). Quincy Jones and other gods really shine, later records (even electronic/house music) sounded very well if not to say awesome. Average records sounded so so, but then again some where great issues, especially Queen's "A Night At The Opera" DVD-Audio that really blew me away in 5.1.

But no record did reach the transparency and dynamic of good blu-ray movie soundtracks for example. What did I learn in the first place? 70s mixes and/or their cd masterings often do not rock on high end equipment. (BTW: It seems a different issue with new iTunes issues of old, for example "Goodbye yellow brick road". I am not sure if they are just brickwalled louder or really sound better and more open - don't want to buy them again.. and again).

Second thing I figured: Does rock music necessarily need to be recorded with the "special" sound or wouldn't it be interesting to record it basically clean and tweak afterwards if the material *really* demands for it? I was influenced by the "massive mastering" articles, for example "You're probably tracking too hot..." (Proper Audio Recording Levels | Rants, Articles | MASSIVE Mastering) and why clean recordings are usually louder recordings in the end, which has helped me very much and made my recordings much better.

My conclusion was that if I want audiophile-like pleasure with a great dynamic range and stage set up before my eye the recordings should be cleaner in the first place so instruments have more space and can be placed in interesting locations in the soundscape. Of course an electric bass for example needs to be tamed dynamically in any rock/pop style track but I would be glad to hear some wild percussion, vocals or acoustic guitars going from ppp to fff in some more free form parts of record, which means less compression, less distortion, less effects. Am I totally wrong with this mindset (or desire ;-) )?

There is nothing wrong with doing it your way at all.

This is how new trends are started.

In the 1980's, there were some very hifi sounding rock records (for the day). John Hardy preamps etc.

In country music today, super hi-fi is mostly the norm now too, with a mix of super clean elements, and a few old "vintage" elements.

My only point was, just like there is only one way to get the sound of a Strat through an old Twin or Plexi, it is also the same trying to get classic rock or even most modern rock sound without using the equipment that has become the norm.

You can run a strat though a reference amplifier using a super clean di, and it may sound great to you. However, it will not be the same sound that people are used to.

Question is, will people like it? If they do, you did it YOUR way, and it paid off.

I say do what you feel like, and like the best. If what you like correlates with the listener's tastes, you are good to go.

This is akin to personality and empathy. Some people's personality is liked by many people straight away, and those people seem to know how they will be reacted to before they even enter interaction with others.

Others don't do this so well and aren't very well liked for it.

Then there are the 3rd kind of people...the ones who do not care if anyone likes them or not. These people may be liked by others or may be hated.

Picking your approach to production is much like this. To me anyway.

Pick your approach, see if it works for what you want to achieve, if not, either change what needs to be changed, or say "Screw it, I like it and don't care what anybody else thinks".

And roll the dice. Maybe somebody will like it somehwere, sometime.

Many people rolled the dice and hit it big with all kinds of cutting edge and whacky stuff.

Who says you won't be the next?

Keep in mind though, trying this kind of experimentation on the client's dime, in a commercial production environment is risky imho.

Especially if the client goes in wanting the sound of a whole kit miked with API's, and you hand him Neumann digital tracks.

Talk to your client first. Or if this is strictly your music, you have no worries.

Just sayin'....

eff it....do what you think is best heh

Who the hell am I?

john
Old 4th July 2011
  #15
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I've done just to opposite, in that I try to get my color with the front end rather than in the box.
Old 5th July 2011
  #16
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Plush's Avatar
I am curious about the digital mic offerings. However, I have not purchased any of them yet.

I like my mic amp colorings too much and also currently Schoeps offerings are only mode 1 AES 42 (they require a sampling rate converter at the input.)

When I asked Mr. Peus, the head of Neumann research, face to face about who was using digital mics, his answer was, "almost no one that I know of."

I'll be standing by until I again get the bug to try some of them in the field.
Old 5th July 2011
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
I've done just to opposite, in that I try to get my color with the front end rather than in the box.
Me too bill.
john
Old 5th July 2011
  #18
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by telejustin View Post
True, but the mic pre, compressor, limiter and eq built in only work for THAT mic. $8k is a lot for a piece of gear. As I said I'd love to have a pair if I had an extra $10k+ laying around, but I need more flexibility in the gear I use for my work. Everyone is different. If I was doing mostly classical work I'd consider it. But even then my Schoeps and MKH40's into a Grace don't exactly suck.
$8k?

A pair of KM-D plus KK 131 are less than £3,000 (ex VAT) in the UK.

The DMI-2 is under £900 and the portable version is £835.

So that's about £3,800 for a pair including interface. At the exchange rate of 1.6 $ to the £ that's still only $6,000.


Oh - I still use analogue microphones as well - it's just that I love the clean sound I get from digital mics.
Old 5th July 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
I've done just to opposite, in that I try to get my color with the front end rather than in the box.
No problem at all - I just like to get rid of colour and record as it is.

But I have mics to cover all eventualities.
Old 5th July 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
Neumann use a 28-bit converter made up from two 24-bit converters in a patented arrangement.




They are not actually expensive at all when you consider you don't need a mic. pre. and have limiters, compressors and EQ built in.



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This converter is external to the mic body? I think I am waiting for the digital mic to have its converter in the mic body and for this arrangement to sound good before I invest. I think convenience is the key thing for me. And having a converter to plug in is a bit like plugging my preamp / interface in. Or is there something out there already?
Old 5th July 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
$8k?

A pair of KM-D plus KK 131 are less than £3,000 (ex VAT) in the UK.

The DMI-2 is under £900 and the portable version is £835.

So that's about £3,800 for a pair including interface. At the exchange rate of 1.6 $ to the £ that's still only $6,000.


Oh - I still use analogue microphones as well - it's just that I love the clean sound I get from digital mics.
I was referring to the Solution D: Neumann Solution D | Sweetwater.com
Old 5th July 2011
  #22
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And by the way, these digital mics* - and the inclusion of the whole chain - are pretty silent on their own. In a story about an orchestral recording in a german magazine they pointed out that with that many (+100) channels going on, their noisefloor would have been considerably higher with non-digital mics. Now where is that mag that I could name the issue...

not the mentioned story but something else (in German language)
http://www.neumann.com/?lang=de&id=report&cid=report_44
http://www.proaudio.de/en/reports/10...l-mic-ndr.html

* talking about Solution D
Old 5th July 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richgilb View Post
This converter is external to the mic body? I think I am waiting for the digital mic to have its converter in the mic body and for this arrangement to sound good before I invest. I think convenience is the key thing for me. And having a converter to plug in is a bit like plugging my preamp / interface in. Or is there something out there already?
No, the converter is inside the mic. body - it's part of the mic.

It's very convenient - mic capsule - fet - ADC all in the mic.

There is no converter to plug in at all, it's all integrated into the microphone.

Neumann, Schoeps and Sennheiser (and Gefell) do the mic. body with interchangeable heads in the same way as they do for their analogue series - so can either have an analogue body or a digital body for the same mic. head.
Old 5th July 2011
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by telejustin View Post
I was referring to the Solution D: Neumann Solution D | Sweetwater.com
Ahh, now I understand.

The Neumann "Solution D" is actually the whole series - that mic. is the D-01, Sweetwater have labelled it incorrectly.

That's the top of the range, all singing, all dancing version.

Digital mics start a lot cheaper than that.

And as you can use the same capsules on the KM-D / KM-A series with either digital or analogue bodies, you have a lot of flexibility.

The Schoeps collette series are the same - you can use the same heads either digital or analogue.
Old 5th July 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frans View Post
And by the way, these digital mics - and the inclusion of the whole chain - are pretty silent on their own. In a story about an orchestral recording in a german magazine they pointed out that with that many (+100) channels going on, their noisefloor would have been considerably higher with non-digital mics. Now where is that mag that I could name the issue...

not the mentioned story but something else (in German language)
Georg Neumann GmbH - Report
Praxisvergleich von analogen und digitalen Mikrofonen beim NDR-Hörfunk in Hamburg
In English - The LSO recording at Abbey Road, with every mic. a digital mic. is HERE - this is a write-up in LineUp magazine (the link is to a pdf).
Old 5th July 2011
  #26
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I am simply unaware that there is ANY noise in the current way of working with analog mics. I do know that an increase in some kind of noise could be measured with test gear in an all analog chain as compared to these digital mics. However, I do not believe that the human ear can detect the noise.

If any noise of the system is heard, then something is broken or gain staging is wrong. This is unlikely with experienced operators.

That is the marketing and "in use" problem that must be addressed by the manufacturers. It is the elephant in the room.

I am also aware that it is a special case in Germany where the "man machine interface" is so important in the national psyche.

An all digital chain is driven by trends at government broadcast facilities in Germany.
Old 5th July 2011
  #27
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Yes, you are right.

The noise in one channel is pretty low anyway if it's a good system. Take a few dozends channels, some compression. It adds up. If I had my library here in the office I could look for the magazine, scan and upload it so you could read what was going on.
Old 5th July 2011
  #28
Noise in a mic can be all over the map. Some are very low, self noise at 6 or 7 db, some are at 20 or more. Mic output levels also determine whether mic amp noise is heard above the mic's self noise.

Same with preamps. Some popular designs reside at -124 db EIN, some best that by 10 db. Source noise becomes the dominant contributor with those designs.

With low self noise mics and very low EIN preamps, random air movement noise dominates. About all you hear down there are musicians moving, clothes wiping, pages turning, etc.
Old 5th July 2011
  #29
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converters in the mic...mmmmm..

I wonder what happens to the digital mics, more precisely to the converters in them, in ..let's say 10-12 years from now..

what happens to the converter in that mic body in 12 years when that technology will be obsolete?

I always thought that a digital mic is a very bad investment... I'm not talking about sound or quality..

If you have a 30 or 40 years old mic is still sounding amazing (if you took care of it and probably did some maintenance) and has probably increased in value..
like : Neumann U47, U67, km series, AKG C12...etc..etc.....

just my 0.02$,

Cheu
Old 5th July 2011
  #30
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I didn't know microphones were an "investment" that is to be viewed over the next hundred years.

I thought microphones were to be utilized to get achieve the best possible recordings in the present.

If the digital microphones provide stellar recordings why write them off just because they are "digital"?

For certain applications they are definitely a superior option.

Best,
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