thoughts and decisions for a creative edge

Mobile Studio

Super Sennheiser September

It’s been a great month of getting new toys in this September. After a quick projection on the work in progress, we’ve acquired a list of mics needed in the studio to get the field job done. And you’ve read it – all of them happen to be from Sennheiser.

Sennheiser EW122p G3

We started our month with the Sennheiser wireless lavaliere EW122p G3 series. The frustration from not being able to mic up an interview clearly due to the fact that that last project was in a crowded space helped us make this decision to pick up a wireless lav. The main difference with the EW122p is that it comes packaged with a cardioid ME4 mic. Some folks reckon it might be a hassle to use a directional mic on a lavalier system, but I want to be able to direct the capsule to the talent in a controlled space. If I know that I will be capturing audio from the talent in the open but not in a sit-down-interview situation, then the ME2 mic (an omni) would do best. We got in the T+R packs along with spare BA 2015 batteries and the optional L2015 Dock Charger that should enable us to transmit continuously.

Sennheiser MKH 416 p48

This one is the industry standard. The go to mic that Hollywood or ADR studios would use to make overdubs. It’s a phantom powered hyper cardioid shotgun mic thats been used for over 2 decades and trusted by many ENG works.

I’ve heard so much about it and in fact never planned to buy this mic. Never thought I’d be able to afford one really.. But I got really lucky and found somebody here in Holland that was selling it at a pretty affordable price after giving up an old hobby of sound collecting.. Pretty strange I thought that he used the MKH416 which is mostly best suited for collecting dialogue for TV. No rules in audio they say..

I tested the mic thoroughly when I was there to collect it. I had my Roland R-26 close to be sure that it is able to power the 416.. This way I’d also be sure that my R-26’s circuitry works fine with the mic. It’s the only way that this mic can be powered. Interestingly the guy selling it had a Fostex FR-2LE CF Field Recorder, so we’re happily comparing gears over microphones and tea.. yes microphones.

One conversation led to another, so I asked I asked since he was into ENG and EFP, what else does he have in his collection. At this point he was reluctant, but he finally said he has this vintage shotgun that he is actually didn’t intend to sell. Didn’t intend to sell?? What does that mean.. What was it he had? A pristine 20+ year old combo still-in-box Sennheiser ME80+ME40 with a working K3U preamp.

The ME80 have been a workhorse for some documentary producers. The newer version of this mic is the ME66 which uses the K6 preamp instead of the K3. Click on picture to see what folks of Gearslutz think about it.

Sennheiser K3U pre with ME80 + ME40 Capsule

Wait. Isn’t that the original electret that’s replaced with the new ME66+K6 module?? Yep. That’s the holy grail… I’ve actually read about these. I didn’t know I’d stumble into one.. while purchasing the MKH 416.. what luck. But was he planning to sell it or not was the better question.

Since it was there, I asked his permission to test both mics (or 3 mics considering that there’s the ME40 cardioid capsule there too). And I loved them both!! Instantly with the ME80 you could tell that its got a long throw of pick up. Not as warm as the MKH416 but its clear, crispier in its higher end peaking at 8KHz thus giving it that brighter response. But if you’ve seen the difference in this mic to the newer ME66, that’s where it gets interesting.

With the ME66 you need to use it in close proximity or the mic is not going to pick up frequencies from 2Khz and above. But that’s not the case with this ME80 which has an even response throughout the 10dB difference. SO which one is better you think? Well depends.. If you need sound rejection from the rest in the crowd, keeping this mic close to the voice will keep it isolated while rejecting the background noise further away from the mic. But for Field Recording, the ME80 will give you a gorgeous response in all registers.

The accompanying data sheet (published in 1987) reports the following specifications:

K3U:
Electrical impedance: approx. 130 ohms

ME80:
Frequency response: 50 – 15 000 Hz
Sensitivity at 1 kHz: 5 mV / Pa +-2.5 dB
S/N ratio according to DIN 45 405 and CCIR 468-2: >67 dB

The most important difference between the K3/ME80 and the K6/ME66 is the much higher sensitivity of the ME66 (50 mV/Pa vs. 5 mV/Pa). Thus, the ME80 would require a quieter preamplifier. The equivalent self-noise level of the K3/ME80 is about 6 dB higher than the K6/ME66. The specified S/N ratio of 67 dB corresponds to an equivalent (CCIR
468-3 weighted) noise level of 27 dB (which would be about 16 dBA)

Why yes, you guessed it. I ended up coming home with a bunch of mics. I have to thank Han for trusting me to take over his precious collections. I’m sure he had more in there but I wouldn’t be ready for Schoeps CMIT 5 U. This is bad enough for now.

I’m looking to see if we should enable customers to rent out this mics.. But if you really do need them while in Holland for your shoots, do drop us a note about it.

Next blog will be about our new upgrade for a friendly mixer for both Audio and Video – Avids MC Control v2, the Artist Series

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Bluetooth Speakers

Almost here. Hidden Radio & Bluetooth Speaker

I finally backed on something I liked on kickstarter last Christmas. Since I’m always in search of a good mini speaker(s) to lug around when I travel, I figured there’d be something in there that could improve the way we listen to audio coming from our smartphones apart from being attached to cords of headphones and such. Notice how I said audio and not just music? You see, music this days are primarily still mixed in stereo (and I say so coz music engineers rarely do Mono testing compatibility this days) and if your hardware only supports Mono, chances is that you’re only listening to the Left channel of the audio mix. I sure hope that’s not the case with the product we’re gonna be talking about here..

Hidden Radio & Bluetooth Speaker

I’ve been using Singapore-produced X-Mini Max II where ever I roam; to the beach, the park, in Bali, on the boat or just right in the living room with an iPad to listen to webcasts. But last Christmas, when I saw the design from John and Vitor… I thought it’s about time I try something untethered, and a pretty looking one to boot.

What John van Den Nieuwenhuizen said about their design made me want to try their speaker out.

“Radios and speakers are often large and obtrusive, we created the HiddenRadio + BT Speaker using simple, unassuming, intuitive design so it can be loved in any home.”

This is true.. The thing that never got emphasized though is that this radio is an FM based receiver. So I don’t know if it’d receive all stations when you bring it with you across different hemispheres. In Europe the stations are spaced at 9kHz intervals, and in the US they use 10kHz spacing. Most modern radios won’t let you tune between these spacings. Since there is no AM then no problem. Smartly enough, the unit uses simple 2-button Up/Down Scan function to lock on to any good FM transmission available. You’d have to guess what station you’re listening to as there’s no LCD indicator on the frequency you’re on.Thus the name is true, there is a ‘Hidden Radio’ built into the Bluetooth speaker. Something to add about the FM radio, you’d have to plug in an external FM antennae for better reception. Curious why they didn’t use the knob itself as a brushless antennae.

THE LOUDNESS WAR AND IT LOOKS METALLICA

The Bluetooth Speaker would crank audio up til just over 80dB . Pretty loud claim for something its size. There’s a video comparison on the audio quality compared against well known Jawbone speaker. But seeking deep into HRBS site, there’s no where in tech specs that they mention the speaker’s range for Frequency Response. Proprietary 360° sound diffuser.. that’s all that’s written under Audio Specs.

No buttons, just one giant knob to lift and turn. The higher you lift the cover, the louder it gets. That simple? Not so.. Two things..

ONE..

I’m curious how the mechanism is designed for this to work smoothly. They claim that it should be effortless to lift the lid without having to hold the base. There’s gotta be some sort of gummy rubber placed on the base to create friction from the base to spin as you turn the top cap. And if I’m right, then you’d need a little practise to actually do the twist-to-turn-on-and-raise-up-the-volume functionality. Eitherwise it’d be a grab and turn like what I saw on SlashGear’s video review. And notice how the lid is twitsted clockwise to lift? Its counter intuitive on how we always twist anti-clockwise to open a lid.

TWO..

Its a gimmick I think. If you don’t turn that knob all the way up, the sound is bound to be muffled. Looking at the picture again, you see that the speaker grills sit all around under the knob casing. You don’t adjust the volume of a speaker by blocking the face of the tweeter or cones do you? Even when you lower down the volume, that speaker cone needs to be free and unblocked to continue reproducing the full frequency range of audio that you’re listening to. So I’m curious how they’d overcome that issue based on their design. I believe you just have to keep it wide open to get the full range and adjust audio from the playback device. If this falls true, then there’s a huge design flaw against the aesthetic idea. Well even I fell for it!

With AirPlay enabled on the iOS device and paired via bluetooth, HiddenRadio will now appear as one of your external audio device. Switching speakers is effortless.

Hidden Radio Select

Built-in battery is claimed to give about 15hrs of play time. Which I hope is made easily replaceable when shelf-life is reached. I can’t even remember what their final decision was.. as to whether a wall plug would be delivered with the product or not.

Looking further into the design itself I think all is good except for two critical items..

ONE: They forgot to add in a microphone. Kinda defeat its purpose if you have to run back to the phone to speak and listen back via HRBS. It should work fine for Skype and FaceTime video chats fine as you’d have to be close to your phone for video framing anyhow, thus using the mic on mobile device is inevitable.

TWO. I wish they had a Call Answer or Call Reject button. Think about it. It’s almost a ‘speakerphone’ but you can’t talk into it or stop the phone from ringing when somebody dials in.

WHAT ABOUT QUALITY AUDIO

Alternatively, if you’re looking for quality speakers that offer wireless bluetooth functionality which focuses on sound quality as well as functionality apart from clean looks, checkout Soundmatters’ foxL v2.2 speakers. Claimed as worlds best bluetooth stereo speaker, which comes with a hands-free microphone that enables better speakerphone / conferencing. And with no surprise, foxL also comes with one-touch answer/reject/end-call button. Batteries lasts only about 8 hours it makes sense as you get full fidelity stereo sound. Shame I only learnt about Soundmatters’ foxL after pledging for HRBS! Aarrghh!!!

Shame that I cannot do any audio comparison of Foxl against the HRBS right now. But come the time, you bet that I will do back-to-back referencing on the audio spectrum from HRBS. I sure hope it stands to its competitors even if its not a stereo speaker.

We’re just days away before receiving our Hidden Radio and Bluetooth Speaker here in Holland.. and with the new announcement of iPhone5 yesterday, audio is triumphantly one of the most focussed enhancements in recent comm tech developments. High Fidelity audio is the way forward. Not just about being wireless. Not just about sitting pretty. For now, we wait, see and listen.


iRig goes 2.0 with Multi* Track Recording + Master FX

Much hyped IK Multimedia’s iRig iPhone app just got updated to version 2.0 today. This update which enables a single track recording plus track export capability in .WAV format is probably IK’s reply to Peavey’s Ampkit. There’s more to the calling, v2.0 allows you to record as you play (and do it a 4 Track recording if you pay for the additional unlock fee* of €7,99). Since the audio is recorded dry + wet in the FX chain, the unprocessed guitar audio can be “reamped” through a different amp setup later on.

Amplitube iRig v2.0 VOLUME

Amplitube iRig v2.0 PAN
This picture was taken before the in-app purchase to unlock the 4 track + Master FX

Amplitube iRig v2.0 INSERT FX
This picture was taken before the in-app purchase to unlock the 4 track + Master FX

What I think could be the BIG WINNER here is the option to use iPhone’s built-in mic. You can now enable this from the SETUP page. This opens up endless possibility of recording vocals or guitar via mic (think acoustic guitars) thus enabling you to add FX at the same time or later. I’m not too sure if the use of Blue Microphone Mikey would work with iRig v2, but if it does, all hell can now break lose. You just don’t need to bring that amp when you’re on the road anymore.

Amplitube iRig v2.0

Of course when you think the recordings about perfect, the MASTER FX layer now enables you ADD REVERB, EQ and a COMPRESSOR to finalize and bounce down your masterpiece into WAV format. Again its something I gotta try out, curious if its bounced into stereo interleaved at 16bit / 44.1KHz. No additional information is given as to what kind of compressor is being used, but IK being the maker of T-RackS3 Mastering Suite, I would be pretty certain that they’ve thrown an Easter Egg on this one.

Amplitube iRig v2.0

Amplitube iRig v2.0

PROS:
Multitracking is a huge plus to this update. The fact that you can add Master FX and BOUNCE the tracks afterwards would be a definite YES for serious guitarist / musicians on the road. It may not be good enough for the CD but as an idea imprinting tool, its pretty wild.

You can safe different songs session in hidden folders by naming the tape. When your boss walks in, you can quickly safe the session and open it up again later when you’re home or jam out in the train on your way back. I got to go try it out further..

Mic Recording option, if compatible with the right condenser mic like the Mikey would mean everything to the tone seekers. And heck, you finally get to sing into your phone and place crazy FX on it.

*
CONS:
TO enable the built in 4 Tracks Recorder + Master FX, that’s an additional €7,99. Not too shabby if your phone can handle the CPU* processings.

Its a CPU hog. If you’re like me, still hanging on iPhone 3G.. Still waiting on my iPhone 4, this app will cause you bits of stutter. But once with the iPhone4 and I’d definitely place that extra tracks on. Its worth the fun. ; )

No option to safe session. It would be even crazier if you can safe different songs into different session folders. So when your boss catch you, you can quickly safe the session and open it up again later when you’re home or jam out in the train on your way back. Or is this already a possibility? I got to go try it out..

Mixed WAV file from a pocket mixer is totally alien technology. But an additional option to convert the bounced track into bite-size MP3 or AAC so that you can eMail it to your band members across the Atlantic would be a bonus feature to come I bet.

CONCLUSION

Version 2.0 update adds even a sharper edge to an already incredible app. Given to the right hands, this could be some serious songwriting, or God forbid, a Lo-Fi production tool. Using the MUTE buttons after the session is done, you can bounce down individual tracks that can be imported into your DAW for further tweaking or arrangement edits. This is just the beginning of a pocket studio. When you’re done, you can call your mom and say “Mom listen to this!” And bet that she’d be proud of you for leaving those amp loads at home.

IK Multimedia, you rock!!

Hasan Ismail
www.rastAsia.com
The Netherlands

* Multi Track + Master FX is only unlocked at an additional fee of EU7,99