Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Microphone Test

So, I finally decided to get a Schoeps CMIT 5U shotgun microphone ($1800). I figured, it was time to move up.
I thought though, why don't I A/B it against my Sanken CS-1 (about $750) first? You know, just to be prudent about my buying of expensive stuff.
I'd posted earlier about my suspicions (which, as a word, always looks misspelled to me) regarding these microphones and those suspicions turned out to be basically true.
The Schoeps shotgun is much nicer, more pleasing to the ear. Aaaaahhhh.... The Sanken rejects more sound off-axis it's true, but that sound (albeit at a lower decibel level) is less pleasant to listen to.
So: Schoeps shotgun wins.
But... but then...
I thought "What about the Schoeps shotgun versus a regular Schoeps with a hypercardioid pattern?" The "regular" Schoeps, which virtually all Hollywood sound mixers use as their base mic is a CMC-6 body, with an MK-41 capsule (about $1600).
Ooh. I wasn't expecting this: the MK-41 is much smoother than the CMIT shotgun. I figured it would be smoother, but not this much smoother. Of course, you hear off-axis stuff at a higher level. But not only does all that noise seem less annoying, but I believe the noise is a tad more editable too.
This contradicts another thing I usually think: that the production sound mixer, listening to the "reality" on set, ends up having a different idea of what sounds "good" than the dialog editor/re-recording mixer does. That still might be true but I certainly think I understand why Jeff Wexler favors the Schoeps MK-41 over any kind of shotgun even outdoors.
So I'm all ready to buy the Schoeps CMC6 with an MK-41 when I think "I really should A/B it against my Octava."
The Octava 012 is a funny microphone. For under $200 with a hypercardioid capsule, it's made in Russia and individual units have wildly differing sound quality because obviously the quality control ain't so good. I have had the best success buying at The Sound Room.
So I did a double-blind test and...
The two microphones sound very similar. Justin Marinoff and I listened back and forth and neither of us had a real preference. Then we asked Rich Topham at Professional Sound to A/B them blind. He found the Octava to be "warmer". Eric Perez however thought the upper mids on the Schoeps was nicer. Weirdly, no clear winner. And I'd have quite a bit of trouble if a boom op put up one rather than the other, telling which was which. Certainly by the time we get to post it's going to not even be the least of my troubles: I'm just not going to care.
Obviously, I'm not feeling any motivation to buy a $1600 Schoeps microphone when the $200 Octava microphone I already own is doing the "thing" for me. (And I have to admit it sounded great on our last picture so there ya go.)
Now note that the Octavas do sound different from one another. I may have just gotten lucky with mine sounding so good. Your mileage may vary.

Next up? Testing lavalier microphones.
I listened to Tram, Sanken COS11, Sennheiser MKE 2, PSC Millimics, Countryman B6, and the Pin Microphone.
The Pin sounded pretty bad. It needs a de-esser and almost gave me a lisp. I wish it sounded nicer 'cause I suck at mounting hidden lavs on people and not having clothes rustle.
The COS 11 and the B6 I felt kind of sounded similar to one another actually. They sound "open" compared to the Tram and the Millimic, which are more "isolating". For dialog, I think the "isolating" is good, and the Millimic kinda wins for price/performance.
The MKE 2... I've used them for nigh on 20 years now and they sound... OK I guess.
But I needed a lapel microphone. So the COS 11 won out. The Millimics I have in my kit are too weird looking (square) to live on someone's lapel. So I got a COS 11 wired for Lectrosonics and an Ambient Lectro 5-pin to XLR power supply/adapter (which is, in this particular sound world, the greatest thing since sliced bread.)
One last observation: almost all the mics sounded OK in open air, but when you put them against a body the phasing and such made them sound vastly more poopy. The Tram and the Millimic held up being against one's chest much better. That's... interesting... 'cause I never A/B'ed mics like that before. (Hey, I was busy before now.)

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