Interview setup

I’ve recently invested in a paintball gun bag, which is proving surprisingly useful.  I even managed to carry my entire kit for an interview (with Dame Helen Mirren, no less) in it yesterday.

Inside the main compartment, I’ve got a vdb doco pole, Manfrotto 5001b light stand with boom buddy, magic arm, mic suspension and clip and 3 XLR cables.

In the front I’ve got a Sonosax SX-R4 recorder, headphones, 2x AKG C480 mics with various capsules (in peli case) and my lavelier microphone kit including 2x DPA4071 with hardline adaptors.

When running more complex setups, I’ve got this doubling as my boom case, where the Sennheiser MKH8060 setup can go in the front compartment

As another note, a Rycote WS4 will fit in the front compartment too

Microtech Gefell KEM970 Cardioid Plane mic

After talking to John Willett (Sound-Link Pro Audio) and Elisabeth Kuenhast (Microtech Gefell) at BVE a few weeks ago, after just spotting this mic and saying ‘what’s this?’ I’ve hired one out this week for a couple of days recording a play.

It’s a really interesting design, it effectively works like a line array – essentially meaning it will pick up sound with only a 3dB loss from a doubling of distance, rather than 6dB from an omnidirectional mic.  The pickup pattern’s also interesting- it works like a cardioid in the horizontal plane, but lobar in the vertical.

I decided to give it the cruellest test possible in my flat by recording my voice from the other end of the bathroom, our bathroom’s quite long- it’s about 4m away.


It wasn’t all good though, the internal noise was considerably higher than the Sennheiser MKH and AKG ULS mics I’m used to, 15dB(A) (DIN EN 60 651 scale)- however not surprising, considering there’s 8 capsules in there.  Another thing which is frankly scary is the price to buy it- however, this will probably do the job of 5-6 mics for me this week.

Another thing is it requires mains power for the matrix/powering box, so wouldn’t be suitable most situations I find myself in


Cleaning / Circuit board porn

Well, last weekend during a couple of not particularly pleasant night shoots on a low budget feature, this happened after an SFX shot:

Anyway, I got the worst off straight away and all my gear continued to work without any problems for the rest of the shoot.

The exterior was easy enough to clean with spray on isopropyl alcohol, but the stuff that could get into pots/switches cause damage would be inside

Here’s the inside of the mixer:

SX-M32 interior top


SX-M32 underside
SX-R4 Top

I was slightly amazed how little dust had got in (although there was a bit, mostly at the back) however, I cleaned all the switches and pots with IPA and a toothbrush .  I’m also amazed how they pack so much into these small boxes.

The bag and harness were soaked in warm water with a bit of washing powder in, they’re currently drying in the bath:


Re-tuning radios

So, it’s illegal to use channel 69 now, but what if you’ve still got some gear tuned to that region- or is it worth your while picking up second hand gear tuned to other frequencies?

Almost all these modifications require swapping out components in the systems, some are cheaper than others.  Let me know if you’ve got any info on other brands/models (Micron?, Zaxcom?)

Sennheiser price list is up here: [PDF] (prices are ex VAT)

Lectrosonics here: [PDF] (US prices, ex VAT)

Audio Limited 2040’s are around £750+ VAT per TX/RX pair, older models (2020, 2000 series can’t be modified)

Sony DWX series- I’ve been quoted £558+VAT for the DWR-S01D receiver last year.  However I’ve also seen warranty packs in the states for US$215 or so (although not to CH38)

It’s also been pointed out to me that there’s another list on the IPS site (from December 2010):


I’ve been having a bit of a look round at cases- Most of my jobs are with a reasonably light kit and I’ll get there on public transport.  I’ve been looking at Peli cases, which are made to withstand environmental extremes, but I could probably do with something a bit lighter.  For the last couple of years I’ve made do with a backpack, along with having my sound bag on but there’s the odd time where ‘I could have really done with that’.  Also something where I can use dividers should also help finding things quickly, instead of having to root around at the bottom of the bag for that obscure adapter.

Stuff I’m having a look at:

Lowepro Pro Roller X300  – A self-shooting director I work with bought one of these for his C300.  Being able to use the inside as a backpack’s nice.  It’s got 35L capacity, which is only a bit more than I’ve got now.  Weight 6.1kg

Petrol PA1003 – Really like the 2 layer design, *looks* quite big although the interior specs seem to say otherwise (30L, maybe only counts 1 layer as main compartment?).  It’s also quite heavy (8.1kg) There’s a video up here:

Kata FlyBy-77   – Lightest of the lot (4.1kg) and pushes 40L capacity, although some of that is from being a bit deeper.  Is also good as airline carry-on.  Wonder if reduced weight= less protection, though?

Lighting bags? Petrol PL2003 etc
They’d need extra dividers to cushion stuff, but they’ve certainly got enough space in.  You can also put a whole boompole and/or mic stand in lengthways on the longer ones.

Also as an alternative to Peli cases, I’ve been pointed at B&W cases, they’re made in smaller sizes and are considerably cheaper with dividers.

Anyone used any of these, or have any other ideas?

Here’s a comparison table

int L(cm) W(cm) D(cm) vol (L) Weight (kg) ££ (inc VAT)
Peli 1560 51.6 39 17.8 35.82 9.07 252.91
Peli 1610 56.2 43.1 21.6 52.32 10.2 328.62
Peli 1650 74 46 22 74.89 16.1 373.94
B&W Type 66 53.5 36 19.5 37.56 6.6* 180
B&W Type   70 67.5 42.5 22 63.11 9* 252
Lowepro x300 37 17.5 55.5 35.94 6.6 338
Petrol   PA1003 58 27 20 31.32 8.1 186
Kata FB77 53 33 22 38.48 4.175 215
Petrol   PL2003 (+trolley) 73 35 21 53.66 7.77 238.77
Petrol   PL2004 (+trolley) 88 35 21 64.68 8.6 262.21

*no weight with internal dividers given (expect to be similar to Peli cases)

3 channel / compact mixers

A couple of months back I had a bit of a discussion with someone looking to put together some interviews and was after a small 3 channel mixer.  I just thought I’d put some of my thoughts together on what’s out there, which I’ve used.

Sound Devices 302
Solid workhorse mixer, really compact, practically indestuctible.  I’ve used quite a few of these and they sound clean and fine, although some other preamps have a bit more ‘niceness’ to them and a little less noise.  They sound the same as the mixpre, 552 and 442 so are certainly broadcast standard.  It’s also possible to feed an extra 2 channels to the mix bus on the return (minijack) and adjust them independently.  3 channel direct out is possible, but a bit of a bodge- send ch1 and ch2 to left and right, leave ch3 faded down and monitor it pre fade on the headphones.

Fostex FM3
I’m really surprised I haven’t seen more of these about.  I tried one when I went for the Sonosax and there wasn’t much in it preamp-wise.  It’s got more flexible outputs than the Sound Devices.  It’s got 2 pairs of balanced outputs, which can be set at different output levels and an aux out which sends 2 of the 3 channels (selectable), pre-fade.  Loads of the I/O are on full size XLR’s too (including a 2ch balanced Bus in)  Only thing which I found a let down was the “fake” digital VU meters, which I didn’t find easy to read.

Sonosax SX-M32
I went and bought one of these, mainly because of the sound, and that I could also use it as a high quality preamp pair for chamber music recording.  Good points- it sounds fantastic, both preamp-wise and on the input limiters.   The analogue to digital converter is also as good as some expensive studio boxes.  The layout’s great and it’s got loads of output options (I’ve got the direct out option’B’ with hirose 10pin).
Bad points:  It’s expensive, and some settings (like limiter threshold) have to be changed at the factory.  I’ve also had a couple of niggles with meters on mine.  I’m starting to suspect it may be because I’ve been running unregulated power to it, I’ve just got a regulated distro and it’s been fine since, but it’s been back to the factory twice now for a thorough check out (and Sonosax have been great with this).  The A/D converter also makes it maybe a bit greedier on power than some of the others (the Sound Devices will last longer on 3 AA batteries, compared to the Sonosax’s 6).

SQN 4S Mini
Here, instead of 3 channels- you get 4 in a similar sized box.  There is a small caveat though, channels 3 and 4 don’t have phantom power or as much gain as 1 & 2, so are oly really suitable for radio mics (I can’t think of may situations where they wouldn’t be used for that) .  Channels 1 and 2 are good though, bags of gain and great limiters.  There are also direct outs for all channels and and an umbilical connection on tajimi 10pin.  The ergonomics are a bit quirky (like all SQN’s) with switched gain and HPF controls on the bottom (along with most of the manual!) and pan assigns on the right hand side, but you get used to them pretty quickly.  Something I can’t see is any way of routing additional inputs to the mix bus though, so multiple mixers can’t be ganged.

I’ve never seen one of these in real life, and was certainly interested in it.  Unlike the others it’s a digital mixer, with 3x direct outs and digital in and out (including on optical and USB).  It also comes with a fixed internal battery, which I’m a bit less keen on- AA’s can really get you out of trouble and are available almost anywhere..  The umbilical output’s on a neutricon and is designed for wireless tx and rx (I think this is standard for French broadcast) and the pin out also has DC in and out, so you may be able to power a camera hop from the mixer- this is also an option on the Sonosax.

Future Stuff
There have been a couple of announcements of products to be released including Zaxcom’s Maxx which is a 4 channel digital mixer/recorder, with a option for a built in wireless transmitter.  Also Audio Developments have a small 3 channel mixer with 2 channel recorder coming out soon.  Fostex have the DC-R302 out already, which is a 3 channel mixer with 2 channel recorder, however it only has unbalanced outputs- making it awkward for straight to camera jobs (but perfect for DSLR ones).  There are also quite a few rumours floating around that Sound Devices may bring out a similar (sound) device…
Any of the mixers above can also be paired with a small, basic recorder (I use a Sony PCM-M10) for transcription or DSLR work without adding much weight or size.


DIY Windshield Protectors

After a couple of mentions from other soundies- I thought I’d make something to protect my windjammers, my old one’s got a bit squashed in the back of a backpack going to and from jobs.  So to protect it from knocks and keep its shape I thought putting it in some kind of tube could help.

I bought 1m of 4″ waste pipe for £10.  I found, after a lot of struggling with a hacksaw that heating them up with a heat gun lets you cut through them with a knife with ease.  I cut lengths a bit longer than the total length of the windshields, and then around an inch out lengthways along the pipe.  At the moment they’re a tight fit (especially on the newer Rycote) and require stretching a little to get them on and off, although they seem to work.

Protip: Don’t use the microphones with the drainpipes on.  They’re far from acoustically transparent and quite heavy.

Tiny Shotgun

I’ve also got a new boom mic for general purpose doco work.  I’ve had a couple of minor issues with the AKG- although they sound fine (especially the hypercardioid), they have had a few crackles and pops when in humid conditions, such as being outside all night.  They’re also a bit heavy with the shotgun capsule for one handed doco booming.

Mics which use an RF condenser principle (Sennheiser MKH series and Rode NTG-3) are more resistant to moisture and will work in more extreme conditions.  I’d also heard a lot of good things about Sennheiser’s tiny MKH8060, so tried one out and decided to buy it.

It’s got a little bit of a high frequency boost (as shown on the mic’s frequency response chart), which seems to bring out dialogue a bit more and gives the sound a little ‘sparkle’.

With that I needed to get a windshield sorted.  After looking at the measurements, even though Rycote suggested a WS3 windshield kit, I’d also seen the WS2-MZL kit (with an MZL connbox, which will work with this mic).  However with no additional modules or filters the 8060 will fit in a WS1 with the MZL connbox.  I phoned up Rycote to make sure this was correct and they even made up a new part number: 086067 (WS1-MZL kit).  I also bought a ‘Tac!t” cable, which contains a steep 18dB/octave high pass filter at 60Hz, which should eliminate low frequency handling noise.

It’s also considerably smaller and lighter than the AKG CK69 setup which fits in a WS4 and weight about 850g, while the 8060/WS1 weight a bit less than 500g.  This will make a lot of difference at the end of a long pole.


New Recorder

I’ve just gone and purchased a recorder- a Sonosax SX-R4.  A rare second hand example came up and I thought I couldn’t really miss the chance to get it.

It may be small but can record up to 8 channels on HDD, plus a 2 track mix on CF card.  It’s also got 4 excellent Sonosax preamps (the same as in my 3 channel mixer), although less precise control over LF cutoff points.

I’ll be looking to make some additions to it in time, I still need to make up cables for timecode and the accessory port, so I can use the digital in. And I’d like to use a passive mixer to allow greater control of my mix, feeding that back into the M32 mix bus. I think I’ll look into putting one together myself.  There’s also a serial bus in the accessory port – I’ve sent Sonosax an email to see what that can do (possible remote commands?).

Stuff for sale

Clearout time…  Here’s some stuff I find I just don’t really use, if you don’t think the price is right, feel free to send me an offer:

RME Quadmic, older design front panel, same specs £175

Neurosky Mindset EEG headset- can be used to send brainwave signals to MIDI etc £100

Sony MDR-CD1700 headphones £100 SOLD

Philip Rees MM5 Midi foot controller £75 SOLD

AKG SE300B/CK93 hypercardioid mic  £130 SOLD
CK98 short shotgun capsule (broken)- offers

Yoga EM-268 Stereo mic.  Cheap electret mic for field recorders £5, or a beer

Peavey PC1600 Midi fader controller.  Couple of faders a bit dodgy, no PSU included- offers

Sony BC-1WA NP1  battery charger (NIMH).  Broken.  Take it.

Glyph FW400 Hard Drive (320GB), fan’s a bit noisy. £20

Tascam HD-P2 £300 SOLD

Marian ADCON £100 SOLD

Edirol / Roland R-44 £500

Rycote G3 short boompole £100

and.. although I love it, it doesn’t get used enough so:
Dave Smith Poly Evolver Rack £650 SOLD

Moog MF107 Freqbox £220