Rob Nokes Special: Favorite Microphones and Recorders
The Deva-5 is the best type of recorder to use wherever possible, the recording quality and technical specifications are very good, however, when recording something that may be dangerous or difficult to get to it’s better to use a Zoom H4 handheld recorder. I also use a Korg MR-100 recorder.
The Mics I like to work with are three Neumann 190i’s and two Neumann 191 is which I use mostly for multiple recordist shoots.
This works best for car shoots where I prefer to have mic #1 a stereo car interior, mic #2 center perspective, corner mic #3 and corner mic #4 (u-turn away). If there is a fourth recordist it’s good to have mic #5 as a second center mic about twenty-five feet from mic #1.
Other shoots may require multiple perspectives: close, medium, and distant. In the case of surround style recordings, I try to separate the Neumann mics as much as possible to create the greatest depth of field between a quad or six channel recording.
Separation by length (long cables) to me sounds much better than microphones such as the Holophone that have its mics inches away from each other pointed in different directions. I don’t think these recordings translate as well to a movie theater as separation by length with multiple stereo mics. I should add that the Neumann 190i is older, heavier, and has more low-end frequency response than the 191i which seems to have a clearer more detailed stereo image.
Other main mics are two Sennheiser MKH-60’s which provide very low inherent noise, are highly directional, can handle high SPL, and have excellent bass response. I also use this microphone for ADR recoding, the MKH-60 has three toggle switches for -10 db attenuation, low roll off, and a high gain that I use when shooting ADR.
I recently got a Schoeps CMIT-5 which is similar to the MKH-60, it seems to be a little brighter and more directional, but I haven’t done enough recording with it to be certain. I also use a Neumann QM-69 (of only fifty ever made!). This true quadraphonic single point microphone has four U67 capsules. The QM-69 could be used to record ambiences like a Holophone mic (as mentioned above) but my main goal is to use the QM-69 to record loop group in quad sound. The actors perform around the microphone and give your loop group track greater definition than traditional mono loop group recordings. Specifics though, should be recorded mono (MKH-60 or similar) for placement by the re-recording mixer.
For low-end powerful sounds I am working on beefing up my-low end by using the AKG C-3000B and am looking at acquiring an EV RE-20. A large diaphragm condenser can handle a lot of SPL, accentuates low frequency response and retains reasonably high frequency response. There are many L.D.C. microphones to choose from and I am still looking for the perfect monster low end mic.
Other good mics are three Sanken CUB-01 boundary microphones. These small microphones fit into small places like the nooks and crannies under a car or in the engine compartment. I wrap them in wind socks to protect from wind and also try to block or draft away from the wind when placing these small mics. I like the CUB-01 mics because they can handle a lot of SPL and have a decent retention of low frequency considering how small they are. For example the two Countryman lavaliere microphones I use have little low-end and are only good for recording flywheels or alternators in a car, where you are specifically recording a high frequency sound.
For Hydrophones I use two DPA 9611’s which capture sounds well, however they don’t handle brisk water movement well, and five SQ26-08 Hydrophones designed for whale recording. Hydrophones are designed for drag (moving through water) and fidelity, so it is best to find the right one for your purpose. I believe that using hydrophones in an array is the best way to build underwater sounds, using only one hydrophone produces a thin short recording. Sound propagates underwater faster than in air, so when underwater the sound passes by the hydrophone super fast. Using an array allows you to build a thicker, longer sound from the array of hydrophones.
When you need to go wireless, I like to work with four Lectronics Digital Hydrid with Sony mic capsules. These are great for recording ice skates and horse hooves, sounds that can’t have wires dangling around the performer. It’s very important to learn how to setup the transmitter and receiver to minimize wireless noise, these transmitters and receivers are not perfect but they allow you to record sounds that you normally can’t run a cable to.
Mics that I mostly use as contact microphones or onboard microphones are six Sennheiser 835S. These can handle a lot of SPL (sound pressure levels) and they retain a decent dynamic bandwidth and dynamics, unlike PZM Mics which can squash a sound. It seems like the more SPL a mic can handle the less dynamics and frequency response it has.
My gear wish list is: Sony MD-1 handheld recorder (brilliant stereo recordings from a handheld recorder), EV RE-20, U87 (don’t we all want this microphone?), and better hydrophones.
It’s important to remember that recording the right sound or selecting the thing to record is more important than the microphone. Technique and microphone selection enhances a good sound.
Written by Rob Nokes for Sounddogs Blog and Designing Sound