Handhelds: Microphone Shootout Part 2
At the end of our studio announce mic shootout we plugged-up a few popular handheld mics used for interviews, to get a sense of the different sonic character of each mic. For this particular test, to eliminate other variables, we stayed in the large, soundproofed room at indre Studios in Phladelphia. So this test does not address how well each mic would behave in a more typical, noisy environment, we merely focused on the sound of a voice on each mic. In the interest of keeping the recording levels as consistent as possible, all mics were plugged into the studio’s SSL board, rather than fed into a more typical field recorder. Nonetheless, these recordings should give an idea of the different characters of the mics.
When recording the examples, we identified the mics only by letter code, to try to avoid preconceptions about which mics we preferred. We’ll reveal the mics’ identities at the end, but we suggest that you listen first, and decide which you like before checking the key. (And no, we didn’t do it the order the mics are lined-up in the photo…)
For this test the handheld microphones were indeed hand-held, with the interviewer holding the mic approximately 6 to 12 inches away from the subject’s mouth, slightly off to the side. The exact distance was adjusted by the interviewer by ear, he was listening through Sony MDR7506 headphones, and moving the mic as needed. Some mics sound better closer-in, others a little further back. Finding the right position for any individual mic requires some trial and error. We tried to present examples recorded at something near the ideal position for each mic, rather than some arbitrary distance that might not be appropriate for some of the mics.
Thanks to our interviewer, John Diliberto, and interviewee, Elinoar Astrinsky, for great autobiographical ad-libbing, and to Bob Leedom and Larry Josephson for contributing mics to the test. Special thanks to Indre Studios for their generous donation of their facilities, and to AIR (The Association of Independents in Radio) for logistical support.
We recommend listening to these audio clips on good headphones or studio monitors, the different character of each microphone will be hard to discern if played through standard computer speakers.
When you’re done listening, and have made notes about your likes and dislikes, you can see names, pictures and details of the mics.
Handheld versus Lavalier
A common question about handheld mics is whether to hand-hold at all: we see people on TV every day with lavalier mics clipped to shirts or ties, and that sure looks a lot easier. And there certainly are times when a lavalier is the right tool for the job, but from a pure audio quality standpoint, they’re almost alwasya a comprimise. To test this hypothesis, we clipped a lavalier to a concerence attendee, and also hand-held a shotgun mic, and ran each mic into a different channel of a recorder. We then toggled the playback, so that the continuous conversation switches from one mic to the other. The difference is pretty clear. Listen:
|Lavalier (Sennheiser K3U/MKE2)||Shotgun (Sennheiser K6/ME66)|
|:00 – :04||:04 – :18|
|:18 – :32||:32 – :36|