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Mics recommended for nature/field recording Condenser Microphones
Old 17th August 2017
  #1
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Smile Mics recommended for nature/field recording

Hi guys I´m putting together some recording equipment to be able to record and produce professional sound libraries. These can include ambiences but also thematic SFX and/or foley sounds. I already have some synths and feel comfortable producing stingers and ambient music but also synthetic SFX. What I would need is the ability to record real world sounds e.g. blacksmith sounds or combat foley but also diff. animal sounds for film or games. So far I've invested in a SD Mp6 as my mobile recorder and a RME Fireface for editing and local recording. Now my mic selection isn't particularly great:
Got a MKH 418s for all my shotgun needs. I can easily just use the M signal which is kinda cleaner than the classic MKH 416, but still in that range. If I want to use it to record some close-up foley I would use the M8 setting on the Mp6 which gives me a bit of stereo information and still sounds nice (given the fact that the S capsule has a self-noise-level of 22 dBa vs. the M capsule that has only 14 dBa).
Then, I still keep a SE Electronics 2200t I once bought where I changed the tube as my main vocal FX mic for creature sounds particularly loud screaming sound or stuff that will be processed as a radio/walky-talky vox later on.
Need to add a voiceover/foley mic like the Neumann TLM 107 or 103 too...
I read about some Beyerdynamics MC-930 cardioid mics on the creative field recording site. They have been recommended there and I really liked the versatility of them. Unfortunately they are quite noisy (16 dBa) and really not suited for quite sources. I was planning to get 4 of them in a surround IRT-cross setup hooked up on the Mp6 for surround ambience recordings. Given the fact that they are noisy I need to search for an alternative. I will still keep them however, since I like how they sound in rooms and for choir or instrument recordings. I guess they really shine if you position them at critical distance. Also for really loud sources like busy city ambiences or thunders etc. I imagine they will be of great use with that -15 dB pad and that bump at 12 kHz.
Now I've been researching on low-noise profile mics to record ambiences outdoors and found many suggestions:
First one would be the Rode NT1a with a self noise of only 5 dBa. They are widely used among natural sound recordists. My question on these would be: How detailed are they sounding? Can they take the piss weather out there if you put them let say in a rode blimp (saw some pictures of people doing that). The main setup I see with these is AB20 and AB60, so i`ll guess I would do that too. Feel like they are a bit to clumsy for my planned IRT 4.0 rig. But at least this would keep me going with my ambient recording plans on a professional level. It would be (just) stereo and I feel that the market is saturated with these kind of products.
Another well known stereo mic for field recording ambiences would be the AKG BP 4025. It has some self noise (14 dBa) but many people out there are using it. Don't know if I will be able to deliver the quality of other professional ambience recordings with that mic? But again I still had the problem that it would only be a stereo ambience.
A very interesting mic in that regard would be a small diagphram condenser from AKG, the C480 with the CK61 (cardioid, 11 dBa) or CK62 (onmi, 11 dBa, free field optimized) capsules. Being a modular system this would give me the possibility of setting up the IRT cross 4.0 surround rig with cardioids or omnis. The obvious downside of that mic at first sight is it´s dimensions. With a length of 17 cm it is more than double the length of the MKH 8040/8020 and therefore will not fit in any windscreen/blimp. The other thing that concerns me is that I can't find any reference of that mic being used in a field recording context. Maybe someone can tell a little bit about the sound of that mic, how it would perform in the dizzy weather etc. But just specs wise it looks really nice.
Other than that there are the usual suspects for this job like the already mentioned MKH 8040(13 dBa)/8020(10 dBa) (could try and search if I find them used, otherwise too pricey… remember that I would need 4 of them). Or the Schoeps MK4 (14dBa)/ MK 2 XS (14dBa) which are too pricey and a little bit noise from what I can see, to use them primary for nature ambience recordings. An alternative to the Schoeps would be the Haun MBP 603 with the KA 400N (cardioid, 11 dBa, speech optimized could work nice in the field) and KA 100DK (omni, 14dBa, free field optimized). Obviously the problem here would be size and power consumption in a mobile recording situation. The alternative here would be the MBP 648, but then you would sacrifice a little bit of performance. If anyone has used the Hauns for field recording please let me know!!! Otherwise any experiences with them are appreciated, maybe I can put that perspective in context. Guess I´ll call them anyway since I´m located in Germany.
Old 17th August 2017
  #2
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You seem a little vague about what you are trying to achieve here. Do you absolutely need surround, and if so, does it absolutely have to come from a spaced array? If so that's going to severely limit your options in terms of portability and so on.

If I were setting out to do this I'd probably look into single-point mics that can output B-format signals for later decoding. The obvious choice is the SoundField but I suspect that's out of your budget range.

If the main priority is operating in wet or humid conditions then the Sennheiser RF condensers would be the natural way to go.
Old 17th August 2017
  #3
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Ok let me explain a bit: Surround would be a nice selling point for the product, since many movies/games use surround these days.
And yeah it has to be a spaced array. Nothing beats run time stereophony when it comes to unspecific ambient beds. I find single pont recordings (MS or B-Format) quite boring in that context.
Old 17th August 2017
  #4
Old 17th August 2017
  #5
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The Schoeps Double MS and ORTF Surround sets are tailored to this type of work.

For post, the free Schoeps Surround plugin (VST and AU formats) allows finer adjustment and with some automation allows comprehensive ambience manipulation within the scene.
The only downside is that it only supports up to quad, and 5 channel fixed width.

For more elaborate ambiences, a combination of the above, alongside Sennheiser MKH8020, MKH8040, MKH8060 mics are employed which are placed much further away from the source (depending on location and acoustic signature of that location), as they handle wide ranging temperature and humidity conditions. Some projects, for ambience and effects Busses, are comprised of up to 80 simultaneous tracks, with a balance and depth being manipulated in post depending on the scene.
Old 17th August 2017
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
The Schoeps Double MS and ORTF Surround sets are tailored to this type of work.

For post, the free Schoeps Surround plugin (VST and AU formats) allows finer adjustment and with some automation allows comprehensive ambience manipulation within the scene.
The only downside is that it only supports up to quad, and 5 channel fixed width.

For more elaborate ambiences, a combination of the above, alongside Sennheiser MKH8020, MKH8040, MKH8060 mics are employed which are placed much further away from the source (depending on location and acoustic signature of that location), as they handle wide ranging temperature and humidity conditions. Some projects, for ambience and effects Busses, are comprised of up to 80 simultaneous tracks, with a balance and depth being manipulated in post depending on the scene.
Thx Reynaud. Great advice there :D
Old 17th August 2017
  #7
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I´m a graduaded sound designer who just left university and finished my practical work year at a game developer doing game audio, so budget is an issue... can invest about 2k in euros however. That`s why I want to start out in this configuration: IRT Cross - SCHOEPS.de
4 clean inputs with limerts on the SD Mp6, a nice portable stand with a manfrotto cube that has suspensions for the mics mounted and blimps/windshield on the mics. I also want to keep it kinda portable, since the best recorders are those you have with you and ready to use without the need of long setups.... Ideally I want to go out with a bag pack and the recorder bag. Would use the 4.0 for ambiences and pick out single species on channels 5+6 with the 418s hooked up to a mp-d.
Old 17th August 2017
  #8
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Remember: a library should be multifunctional for the users, so a surround ambience should preferably be rotatable to follow camera pans, without attracting attention with phase shifts. No time delay stereo, please. It's a selling point to be able to mention your ambiences can be pan-rotated.
Old 17th August 2017
  #9
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Smile

The gun capsule of the MKH 418S is exacty the same as the MKH 416 - they are identical. If you think the 418 is cleaner, then you must have been comparing it to an early version of the 416.

For outdoor recording, I would suggest the MKH 20/30/40 series (or the 8000 series) as these are RF condensers (like the 416/418) and work well in damp conditions where other mics go noisy.
Old 17th August 2017
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
The gun capsule of the MKH 418S is exacty the same as the MKH 416 - they are identical. If you think the 418 is cleaner, then you must have been comparing it to an early version of the 416.

For outdoor recording, I would suggest the MKH 20/30/40 series (or the 8000 series) as these are RF condensers (like the 416/418) and work well in damp conditions where other mics go noisy.
Strange. The MKH 416 has noise level of 16 dBa. I know for a fact that is sounds more bassy and less tamed. Had both on set.
U msut be refering to the MKH 416 U3. But that has a noise level of 13 dBa vs. the MKH 418s that has M14dBa/S22dBa. You can look that up. This tells me that the M capsule on the 418s is not the same.
Old 17th August 2017
  #11
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I tested several surround options last year, including an IRT Cross using four Neumann KM184-D Digital mics. (See attached pictures.) Rycote kindly loaned me four of their windshields for the test, but it was pointed out by Chris Woolf that in windy conditions, each microphone would react slightly differently, so it's not an ideal system for exteriors. That said, the results were rather good, although the cost and the necessity of having a recorder with AES inputs makes it an expensive option.

Have you considered using smaller mics like the DPA4060, or the much less expensive MicBooster Clippy XLR EM172 set-up? You can get a four-channel set of those for UK£204, which shouldn't break your budget. Build you own mic-holder, add the Manfrotto lightweight stand and you're good to go, although I'm not sure how well omnis would work in that set up. Their website is here: 4 Matched Clippy XLR EM172 Microphones - micbooster.com

The main reason people are looking at Ambisonics for game and VR sound, is the ability to transcode to binaura with fairly decent and adaptable results, and with Blue Ripple's Harpex upsampler to third order, you can get even better spacialisation and manipulation possibilities. O3A Harpex Upsampler VST | Blue Ripple Sound

My test results so far with the Sound Devices MixPre-6 are very encouraging for a lightweight option, although you do have to do some menu digging to get to a sensible four channel only operation.

Let us know how you get on, regardless.

John
Attached Thumbnails
Mics recommended for nature/field recording-dsc_5353.jpg   Mics recommended for nature/field recording-dsc_5416.jpg  
Old 17th August 2017
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
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Thx johnsound! Really nice setup of yours. The thing I personally don't like about ambisonic mics is that is has the perspectives kinda baked in the recording. When you import that inside an engine or middleware you can set it up that it moves/rotates with the players camera or you have it static. Both options are artificial when you have a moving character in the game world. That´s why I like decorrelated signals. Gives you a bit more freedom when positioning you ambient emitters. That`s maybe just my way of doing things... But I have to admit that ambisonic mics work great on static shots in film or interactive media.

Getting the Dpas would be super versatile and mobile but it would be yet another noisy mic not really suited for quite sources. The EM172s have a lot less self noise, but also lack detail from what iv´e heard. I´m still very intrigued by the Akg´s c148/ck61 or 62 combo.
Another thing i´ve heard is that you can call the guys at Haun and they will tune your mic for your need free of charge. They are handmade, sound close to Schoeps and are really affordable.... They are very well respected in music recording, but i haven´t heard of somebody using them out in the field yet.

Last edited by TJP; 17th August 2017 at 02:53 PM..
Old 17th August 2017
  #13
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TJP View Post
The EM172s have a lot less self noise, but also lack detail from what iv´e heard.
Why not test one? You can get a bare EM172 capsule for the princely sum of £10.50...They might not be Sennheiser MKH 8020s, but they are very useful for all sorts of purposes, from mini ambient/SASS type set ups to binaural etc., and are so handy for experimentation irrespective of more expensive mic choices.

Cheers,

Roland
Old 17th August 2017
  #14
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How quiet are the sources you will want to record? Chris Watson's used 4060s to record ants and they're pretty quiet. Why not borrow/rent a set and see how they perform? I've had an elderly pair of ex-west-end musical 4061s pinned up outside our apartment for ten years now and they do a pretty good job of recording the local birdsong. Unless you're going to record in super-quiet locations, you may find that they work well. As for pin-point location of wildlife, a parabolic will give you better results than the 418. A centre mic like an MKH8020 in a Telinga set-up will give you low noise and a much more focused sound, and the dish rolls up for transportation. I found very little use for my 418 except for recording aircraft, but the results from an MKH60/30 M/S pair were much better, so I sold the 418.

Regards,

John
Old 17th August 2017
  #15
Gear Nut
 

You could have a look at the AT4022 mics. They're quite low-noise and not too expensive.
Old 17th August 2017
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound View Post
How quiet are the sources you will want to record? Chris Watson's used 4060s to record ants and they're pretty quiet. Why not borrow/rent a set and see how they perform? I've had an elderly pair of ex-west-end musical 4061s pinned up outside our apartment for ten years now and they do a pretty good job of recording the local birdsong. Unless you're going to record in super-quiet locations, you may find that they work well. As for pin-point location of wildlife, a parabolic will give you better results than the 418. A centre mic like an MKH8020 in a Telinga set-up will give you low noise and a much more focused sound, and the dish rolls up for transportation. I found very little use for my 418 except for recording aircraft, but the results from an MKH60/30 M/S pair were much better, so I sold the 418.

Regards,

John
Here is an example of a noisy ambience recording I made with two mc-930s for demonstration purposes. They noise is really annoying...

Maybe I can find some examples of the 4060s, but I´m afraid they will be too noisy.
Old 18th August 2017
  #17
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No attachment?

John
Old 18th August 2017
  #18
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Sry my bad. Was a bit overworked yesterday I guess.

https://soundcloud.com/danny-garcia-...ain_pass_bywav
Old 19th August 2017
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJP View Post
Here is an example of a noisy ambience recording I made with two mc-930s for demonstration purposes. They noise is really annoying...

Maybe I can find some examples of the 4060s, but I´m afraid they will be too noisy.
IMO your are overthinking things. Some of the best sound effects libraries were recorded with a mix of all sorts of mixed gear and mics some even lofi recorders. The "what" is far more important than the "how" when it comes to recording sound effects as a business model.

No one needs mountain air recordings at -9dBFs when they will be played at -70dBFs in a film mix so don't worry too much about recording with highest possible gain.

Especially as a beginner rent before you buy. Gather experience in both sound editing and recording so you know how stuff is used and what people need.

Don't trust noise specs too much. The mgf always pick the best possible measuring method so the number shines as much as possible. Even if the A-weighted number reads great it can still mean that it has a lousy noise figure in the lows etc.

There's no fortune to earn with sound effects and a it's a lot of work. Don't waste your money on pointless purchases based on specs numbers.

Don't get too obsessed with finding the quietest mic. You will still need to wind protect and suspend it. A great IRT-cross with top notch mics and wind protection will cost you easily about 7-8k€. You need to sell A LOT of ambiences for that to be an actual business model.

Therefor: Rent, gather some experience, see how it goes and THEN buy what you really need.
Old 19th August 2017
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJP View Post
Here is an example of a noisy ambience recording I made with two mc-930s for demonstration purposes. They noise is really annoying...

Maybe I can find some examples of the 4060s, but I´m afraid they will be too noisy.
Beyerdynamic MC930s are fairly quiet mics, not Neumann quiet for sure, but they are not noisy as far as mid-grade SDCs go. I would suggest staging your gain differently. I use MC930s with an Earthworks QTC40 as a close mic or "point of interest" mic, which is far noisier but still made for quieter sources.
Old 21st August 2017
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJP View Post
Sry my bad. Was a bit overworked yesterday I guess.

https://soundcloud.com/danny-garcia-...ain_pass_bywav
Well the main problem with that recording is that you're just too far from the source: even the quietest mics would struggle with something that far away. You need to get closer and create distance later. The creative bit very often happens in the studio, rather than at the coalface.

John
Old 21st August 2017
  #22
Gear Maniac
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound View Post
Well the main problem with that recording is that you're just too far from the source: even the quietest mics would struggle with something that far away. You need to get closer and create distance later. The creative bit very often happens in the studio, rather than at the coalface.

John
Yes, you're right. But I just wanted to demonstrate the noise of the mic, without actually trying to do a proper recording. It was really just a quick demonstration thing.
But I can tell you, when I was in the woods trying to record some ambience, I really had to bump up the preamps and the noise was just too much. Ultimately I want to be able to deliver something like this:

https://soundcloud.com/boom-library/coniferous-forests

The level is super high and the recording super clean! I just don't see me doing this kind of clean recordings with the MC-930ties. I will try the NT1As inside a blimp in a big AB config and just stay stereo for the moment. I ca maybe grab a pair of used 8040ties, or if not I´m considering getting a AT BP4025 or check out 4 of those AT 4022....
Old 28th February 2018
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
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Check out this little field recording diary I wrote for Lewitt

Quote:
LCT 540 S Field Recording Diary | Lewitt Audio

[img]//cdn1.lewitt-audio.com/sites/default/files/styles/wide_cover_small/public/news/2018-02/Footstepsmobile_setup_540s_boom_2560x1024.jpg?itok=NhS_lmNs[/img]

My name is Daniel Meuser and I’m a fully qualified audio engineer and sound designer from Mainz, Germany. I’m specialized in interactive audio, sound design for games, and field recording. The last project I was involved in was “Crytek’s Hunt: The Showdown”, which will be released as an early-access title somewhere around the first quarter of 2018.
Old 12th March 2018
  #24
Gear Head
 

Crown SASS P MKII. Love listening to anything on the microphone. The imaging is astounding.
Old 17th March 2018
  #25
Judge the self noise vs output level. That's what will make/break the noise floor. A really quiet mic preamp will prevent adding any additional noise. Look to -129 db EIN at 150 ohms.
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