Microphones, Part One: Handhelds, Shotguns, and Other Wired Mics
Posted Mar 2, 2007

In this, the first of a two-parter on mics and audio gear now available for pro videographers, we'll look at some new products for on-camera and "no-camera" audio acquisition.

The need for a "no-camera" audio recording solution is driven by the popularity of "he said, she said" wedding interviews—and some remarks recalled from an award-winning videographer's seminar about how to create them.

An unobtrusive, intimate interview setting really helps put folks at ease, we heard in this seminar, and a comfortable bride and groom—or for that matter, comfortable parents of the bride or members of the bridal party—will speak more openly, more emotionally, if they are not surrounded by intimidating video gear.

We heard how turning the lights off, even pointing the camera elsewhere, could help put folks at ease—if audio is all you need to record for some later voice-over editing.

Even less threatening would be no lights, no camera—and one of a number of new USB microphones that plug directly into a laptop computer. (OK, sure, a dedicated device like the M-Audio or Zoom podcast recorders could work, but the new mics serve multiple uses and functions.)
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Samson's Q1U USB Dynamic Microphone (left), for example, looks just like any other handheld microphone. But it features a built-in mic pre-amp, analog-to-digital converter, and USB PC output, for good fidelity on spoken word (and acoustic instrument) recording. It comes with a convenient little desk stand and carrying case, and with a street price around $70, is a pretty good deal.

Samson's C01U USB product is a studio condenser mic that can be used in a voice booth setup, but also on location. The C01U works with a Mac or PC computer, and with a number of dedicated digital audio workstations or software programs.

Like other USB microphones, it's a handy way to do laptop recording with devices that have no other audio input method. The C01U condenser microphone is based on Samson's popular C01 mic, and features 16-bit resolution, support for several sampling rates, and a frequency response of 40Hz to 18 kHz.

figure 1SE Electronics
SE Electronics is now shipping its new USB2200a condenser mic (announced more than a year ago), with 16-bit, 48kHz specs—and a slightly higher price of around $400. It, too, has headphone monitoring, and adds a mix control function for live monitoring, as well as a 10dB pad, and a neat analog switch that lets the mic be used via an XLR connector with 48 V phantom power where appropriate.

SE says its mics have special shielding to protect against current noise, which could be a concern with less robust products.







Rode Podcaster
Rode's Podcaster mic has a handy headphone output for monitoring purposes, and its 18-bit resolution delivers very high-quality digital audio (again, several sampling rates are available). The unit comes with an LED indicator, and a nice 30" USB cable. Optional extras include a shock mount and a table mounting arm.

figure 1Rode VideoMics
For more traditional uses of microphones and video cameras, Rode has unveiled the VideoMic (left) and companion Stereo VideoMic products; both are professional-grade shotgun mics that can attach to standard camcorder hot-shoe fitting.

Using just a mini-jack (or stereo mini-jack output), the mics nevertheless deliver pretty good sound. The super-cardioid units offer 40Hz to 20kHz frequency response, a -10dB pad, and a high-pass filter to reduce low-end rumble.

The VideoMic is powered by a standard 9 V battery and offers a Low Battery LED status (batteries are said to provide 100-plus hours of use due to a low power draw of 5.0 mA). Both mics can be used on a stand or boom pole as well, so they match well with a number of video applications including Electronic News Gathering (ENG), weddings, sports events, and interviews.

Rode has designed the Stereo VideoMic (SVM) to provide true "studio" stereo recording in the field. The X/Y configuration enables the SVM to capture the true ambience of the recording space, while still offering a high level of rear rejection and low noise. Fitted with a shoe mount, the SVM has the same low noise circuit design as the VM. The SVM offers 9 V battery operation, an LED battery status indicator, a high-pass filter switch, and a -10dB pad switch, which allows for the mic to be used on most cameras with perfect level control.

The VideoMic is street-priced around $150; the stereo version is available for about $200.

On the topic of capable shotguns (uhh, for video, not hunting purposes), Sanken has unveiled its new five-channel surround-sound mic, the WMS-5.

The compact and lightweight mic (about half a pound; about nine inches long) is designed for location, multi-channel audio recording, and captures realistic surround sound when mounted on a camera, boom pole, or pistol grip. Five discrete, phase-appropriate output signals are available from the unit (L, C, R, LS, RS) for HDTV and DVD delivery options.

figure 1Azden
Azden's SGM-1X ($225) (left) is a hyper-directional super-cardioid shotgun mic with a compact (11.8" long) design suited to the smaller cameras used by professional videographers (longer mics run a greater risk of appearing in the shot).

The mic runs on AAA batteries (Azden promises 1,000 hours of battery life with Alkaline batteries), ships with a windscreen and a proprietary shock-mount mic holder designed to prevent the mic from picking up camera motor noise. The shock-mount holder can be adjusted for both hot-shoe and mic stand mounting.

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In closing, with the possibilities of a new mic in your audio kit, here's a quick word about a new choice for audio monitoring and control on location.

BeachTek, a company whose products you are already probably familiar with, has recently released its MVU1 (left) microphone monitor. It provides phantom power and attenuation control as well as metering, monitoring, and control of mic- or line-level feeds.

Convenient indicators show recording levels at a glance, and a built-in headphone amp provides plenty of volume for monitoring.

It runs on a 9 V battery, and provides switchable 48 V phantom power out. It's priced around $299.

Lee Rickwood is a media consultant and freelance writer.