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Bird sounds recording: Windjammer & external microphone for Olympus LS-P4?

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Old Friday 13th September 2019, 13:07   #1
mskb
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Bird sounds recording: Windjammer & external microphone for Olympus LS-P4?

Hello Everyone,

We are interested in recording bird sounds and some ambient sounds as well with lightweight equipment when we go for birdwatching & digiscoping. To start off, following some of the threads here, we purchased the Olympus LS-P4 recorder.

We are now wondering what else we need to complete the setup, lightweight and minimalism still being priority. We are not after the greatest of recordings. Cursory internet research suggests a windjammer, and an external mic can go a long way with recorders in general. If you think the same is true with the LS-P4 as well, could you make a few product suggestions for mic, windjammers, that you might have experience with? Also, would you strongly recommend a shockmount as well?

Thank you,
Kumar
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Old Friday 13th September 2019, 15:29   #2
iveljay
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A brief selection of thoughts.

My way of using them is to clamp them on to something solid and leave them in situ. For this I use small clamps, rubber bands etc. The battery life is fine for my uses and I tend to return after two hours or so and find plenty of life left for further use, in fact I rarely worry about power with several sessions in one day.

Not sure about a shock mount - these are very small and not the sort of thing I would handhold. If I was using an external shotgun mic I would strap them on to the mic.

Be aware that to attach them to a standard tripod screw they supply a very small plastic screw in adaptor, I am amazed that I havn't managed to lose one.

Windjammers are very small for the built in mics, I imagine the performance differences between the ones made for this can't be that great and it may be just getting whatever you can find. I know one of the ones I own was made by a company called Gutmann.

As for external mics, these recorders are no different to any recorder with the same size input jack and can be used with anything you will find recommended in threads on this forum with that fitting. Typically the ME66/K6 setup with a suitable cable.

Personally I use them the same as bigger recorders, but more frequently as they can always be with me and can be used for targets of opportunity, a bit like a street photography camera.

Each one has a suitable small case so they can be thrown in with anything else I have with me.

They are set up much as a point and shoot camera, if I feel that I will spend time doing a lot of menu accessing I use something bigger.

As ever I always carry some lightweight headphones.

As I may have mentioned, I found them a bit small at first, but found I was using one so much I now carry two.
They sort of grew on me.

Realisticly they are precisely the same as other 'handheld' recorders, but in miniature and with an excellent battery perfomance.
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Old Friday 13th September 2019, 22:04   #3
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Hi @iveljay, Thank you for your insights.

We have an Olympus OM-D EM10 III with which we will be digiscoping. We thought we will combine the LS-P4 with the OM-D using appropriate Olympus components if needed. From your pointers, I think I can go for an Olympus WJ-2 windjammer, mount the LS-P4 directly on camera (like how Olympus's OM-D + LS-P4 ad suggests with a tripod to on camera flash mount). The 3.5mm K333 compacticord they use to connect the LS-P4 with the OM-D is probably overpriced at ~$18. May be, I could pick something else cheap.

Thank you for reminding us to take some lightweight headphones to monitor audio.

That leaves the mic. You suggest ME66 / K6, and that's pretty much what I have been seeing in our forum threads. Do you think something more smaller and cheaper from Olympus might work? Models like the Olympus ME-31, ME-34 etc.,. https://www.getolympus.com/us/en/acc...crophones.html

Thanks,
Kumar

Last edited by mskb : Saturday 14th September 2019 at 02:01.
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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 08:25   #4
marcsantacurz
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Kumar,

For the mic, go with the K6/ME66. I've tried a few others and they do not compare.

There are two types of sound to record: ambient and source. Ambient can be captured with most any low noise mic. it is what is around you. Source point sounds require either a directional mic or a parabolic mic. A directional mic does not "zoom", it just has higher gain in one direction and lower gain in all the other directions, so you can boost the gain on your recorder without getting sounds you do not want. That is what the ME66 does very well. A parabolic mic will "zoom" in a direction -- it is a whole different level of recording from a directional mic.

You want the highest gain and lowest noise you can get. Birds are faint noises that our ears can lock on to, but when you try to record it all the things our ears tune out are very loud. The ME66 is 50 mV/Pa sensitivity and 10 dB noise (DIN) or 21 dB (CIR). That is really hard to beat.

The ME34 is 37dB (CIR) noise level (16dB = 40x) is way way noisier than the ME66. It will not be directional. If you want to record ambient with it, maybe, but I think it is a very noisy mic that is meant for close sound recording on a gooseneck. Not for low-level ambient.

The ME31 has a sensitivity of -31dB (I assume relative to 1 V/Pa), which is the same as 15 mV/Pa. Compare that to the ME66 at 50 mV/Pa. Not even close.

I got my K6 ($130) and ME66 ($120) for $250 on ebay. Shop around, you can find it.

I use the Auray WSS-2018 windshield and the Azden SMH-1 shock mount. The SMH-1 has a 1/4-20 thread on the bottom so you can securely put it on a boom or mount or use it's cold shoe to put in a flash mount.

You want a completely silent lens. Many lenses are quiet, but when you have the ME66 on your camera, you will hear them, even though it is not in the "direction". You need a silent lens or use an off-camera mount or a T rail from the camera to mount the mic on.

I am not familiar with the Olympus recorders. I'd personally go with the Zoom H5, but the Olympus might be just fine. If I were serious about it, I would use a Zoom F6 w/ SMPTE time code generator and an Atomos Ninja for video from a Nikon Z6 or Z7 for 10-bit 4:2:2 output. The F6 noise floor is -127 dBu.

This review shows how amazing the F6 is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4oNd1RgGL0

Marc
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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 10:33   #5
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That’s a fantastic and thorough set of suggestions Marc! Thank you as always!

I will check eBay for the ME66//K6 module.

There is a zoom setting on the LS-P4 for its internal mics. I am sure it doesn’t match up to the much more expensive ME66, otherwise, users of P4 wouldn’t bring along an ME66/K6. Ok then, may be we have to make our minds to carry the relatively (to ME31/34) non-compact ME66/K6.

Thanks,
Kumar
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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 12:28   #6
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Most shotgun mics are designed for close up work, this may sound counter intuitive, but the Olympus ones are great for dictating in a noisy office environment or getting a clear recording of someone presenting. They reject the extraneous noise around them. Bigger shotguns can be seen used by news soundmen for the same reason getting a clear recording of someone being interviewed with minimal crowd noise and again inside a 'film' studio.

Very few shotgun mics are great over long distances - the suggested Sennheiser is a rare exception.

The zoom feature on the LS-P4 is quite similar in performance to some office type shotguns, it excludes peripheral sound. When recording anything a long way away the sound gets fainter over distance (inverse square law anyone?), which means that less sound is there to record so ther poor old pre-amps get a bashing and generate noise.

The recommended mic as Marc points out is better than most at providing a strong signal.

The zoom feature on the recorder can be used in emergency - but you will get noise from the pre-amps at max gain, the good news is that the noise pattern is better than some for removing using Audacity.

I have had evil thoughts on using one of these in place of the microphone in a parabolic reflector, but never tried it.

I tend to use manual control of the input recording level as if you have periods of low noise, the auto level tends to crank itself up to full and takes a short while to come back down again potentially leaving pre-amp noise at the start of your bird song.

I have a Zoom H5 amongst my various bits of kit, but it gets used for different things to the baby Olys and certainly if you are thinking of mounting it on a digiscoping OMD EM10 its far too big. The LS-P4 is ideal as it was designed with half an eye for use with ther bigger EM1 series for high quality video soundtrack purposes.

Don't get me wrong, the Zoom H5 is an excellent bit of kit and I use it with shotguns and other vocal mics because it can take the audio cable connectors I use, but lightweight it isn't, which is why I take my LS-P4s everywhere and not the very much bigger and heavier H5. Also I can get away with cheap lightweight Chinese clamps etc., that would be far too flimsy for a normal handheld recorder.

Its the same as my cameras, I can get an adequate shot from my lightweight one I carry with me, I could get better shots with one of my much bigger ones - but they definitely aren't with me all the time and the best bit of kit is always the one you have to hand. In the case of the LS-P4, the quality of recording is actually better than some of the bigger units I use, simply because it uses more modern technology, so in this case size is less important than the underlying design. N.B. The Zoom H5 also uses recent components and is among my recommendations for the heavier 'handhelds'.

Last edited by iveljay : Saturday 14th September 2019 at 12:51.
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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 13:16   #7
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Hi @iveljay, thank you! so ... do you recommend checking out the Olympus me-31 / me-34 then if size of the ME66 is an issue? Or are there better competing, more current models at similar price ranges worth looking at?

I was pinging Marc about this too!

Thanks!
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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 18:46   #8
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If you have an angled scope, you won't have the mic on the camera. You will need a "C" mount that goes on the scope foot and the has a cold shoe above the scope. So the mic on the camera is a non-issue, I think.

The ME66/K9 breaks down to a 9" condenser and 5" batter/power module. They are about 12" when combined. Plus the XLR attachment length.

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Old Saturday 14th September 2019, 19:13   #9
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So the thing to remember about directional microphones is that they do not amplify in the direction, they attenuate in other directions. This lets you turn up the gain on your preamp to get more useful signal. A lot of shotgun makes are normally used at just a few feet. They do not have a very high sensitivity, as that would pick up a lot of background sounds beyond your subject.

Some mics, like the Rode videomic pro has a +20dB amp in them because they are meant to be used with poor DSLR amps, so doing a low-noise gain at the mic is better than doing it at the camera. I am not sure how good that would work compared to an actual recorder like your olympus or a Zoom. I've not used the Rode mics.

The ME66 has a super high sensitivity (50 mV/Pa or -26 dB re 1V) and very good noise floor (10 dB). This means you do get to hear fainter sounds at longer distances and can add more gain at the amp without getting a ton of noise. The ME66 has more sensitivity but higher noise than the MKH 60 ($1500), which is -28dB sensitivity and 8dB noise (i.e. almost 66% less noise for 66% less sensitivity).

The Rode videomic pro, for example, is -34dB sensitivity, or 8dB less sensitive, which is about 1/7th the power or 1/3 the amplitude of the ME66. Also its noise floor is 14dB, or over twice the noise power.

Also, if you can get a mic with a good high pass filter that can help a lot too as you can cut off under 100Hz or 80Hz. That helps get rid of wind and some automobile sounds. Most bird calls are 1kHz - 8kHz.

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Old Sunday 15th September 2019, 16:22   #10
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If you do not want to use a "C" mount, here are some other ideas.

1) Use along arca swiss QR plate, so some of the plate will stick out in front of the scope's foot. Then clamp gear on to that. THis allows the mic to keep following where you point the scope.

For example, the Induro PU-120 ($37 new)
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ..._In_Quick.html

And then use a dual flash bracket, like the Vello CB-600 Straight Flash Bracket ($10) https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...h_Bracket.html

And use this to attach the bracket to the long foot: Desmond DAC-25 25mm Mini Clamp ($17)
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...mp_with_3.html

2) Like above, but there are some long arca plates that will have a 1/4-20 thread at the front and back so you could skip using the mini-clamp.

3) Use something like the SmallRig 2161 Multifunction Crab Clamp ($20) to grab on to something and mount the mic on that.

4) Use a rubber clamp, like for a fire extinguisher, around the objective ($13) and then figure out a way to get the mic attached to it, like with the Small Rig in #3 or something else: https://www.amazon.com/Quick-Clamp-m.../dp/B007HOKW50

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Old Sunday 15th September 2019, 20:55   #11
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Ah thank you Marc for all the suggestions!

Your strong recommendation has now sold me on the ME66/K6! If only I could find a good used price now!

Thank you so much Marc!!!
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 03:30   #12
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Hey Marc,

I am liking the SmallRig idea! I must say for their great performance, they are priced extremely well!

Please correct me if I am wrong, but it appears like with their "ballhead-like" flexibility, they can be used with no problem for mounting mics OR the recorder to the digiscoping camera's hot-shoe at any desired tilt/angle. This means mounting to an angled scope is not a problem at all.

1. Mounting a shot-gun mic to the hot-shoe: https://www.amazon.com/SmallRig-Univ...h_dss_sdp_ce_1
2. Mounting the recorder to the hot-shoe: https://www.amazon.com/SMALLRIG-Came...P6XHPGFS0&th=1
3. This is quite neat as well. https://www.amazon.com/SMALLRIG-Ball...XP4JB3X155CQY1

Cheers!
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 10:28   #13
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One thing to consider is that the OMD-EM10 is very compact too, the Sennheiser shotgun is quite long and relatively heavy. Trying to mount it on the camera hot shoe is probably not the way to go. Marc has the more practical approach, you should be able to find a hot shoe mount for the recorder that will point it in the right direction and keep it clear of the viewfinder, but using an external microphone will need a different approach in my view.
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 10:46   #14
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Makes sense @iveljay! Thanks!
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 20:54   #15
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Hi there!

About a year ago I also had to choose the right gear for recording faint bird calls from a distance.

Lots of questions and answers, endless nights of reading reviews, tests and suggestions made me starting with a budget setup: Tascam DR-70D w/ Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun mic (around 600,- EUR in Germany).

Especially when I tried to get faint bird calls the results were anything but a satisfactory solution. Poor signal - too much noise. I had no idea how to improve that but getting better gear with a much better signal/noise ratio.

So I sold the DR-70D and MKE600 and acquired the best recorder and shotgun I can get (and I was willing to pay) in hope that will be a once-in-a-lifetime investment: a Sound Devices Mixpre-3 (-128 dBu max (A), Gain = 76 dB) with a Sennheiser MKH-70 (noise 5dB(A), 50mV/Pa) and the Rycote Windshield Kit 6 (this setup is around 3.400,- EUR in Germany)

Well, the new gear delivered much clearer and crisper bird sounds than before, as long as I did not have to amplify these faint bird calls too much. Recordings from birds more than 20m away were still not loud enough to get really low noise results.

Compared to those super crisp and almost noise-free recordings known from bird song media.. I felt that I didn't choose the very best way to get there.

So my very last try: I ordered a 21" rollable parabolic dish w/ a high sensitivity four mic array from Italian maker Dodotronics.. (around 550,- EUR) and THAT was the very best choice I made since starting with bird recording.

Directionality and increase of faint bird calls with a parabolic dish is MUCH more efficient than with any setup I used before.

Even if You connect it directly to your smartphone (plug-in-power plus a good recording app required) the parabolic dish delivers better bird sounds than my 3.000+ shotgun setup.

So my advice: If you focus on distant birds sounds, use a good parabolic mic and plug it in ANY recorder. You can increase quality and better control with a high end recorder, but you will NEVER get comparable sounds with a shotgun mic.


Cheers, Vollmeise)

Last edited by Vollmeise : Tuesday 17th September 2019 at 20:58.
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 23:50   #16
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Mounting stuff on the camera hotshoe: Up to a certain weight / torque it is ok. But you don't want to damage the camera. You have an Olympus OM-D something? I'd be careful about the weight. I put the ME66 on my Nikon, but not a recorder. Personally, I find having that on the camera really gets in the way of using it. When I use a longer lens, I have a C clamp from the arca foot to a cold shoe and I put the mic there.

Parabolic: Yes, this is truly the way to go for best reception. I think anything 18" (46cm) or above is good for 1kHz or above. You should watch the Cornell Macaulay Labs video on them. Very helpful pointers in choosing a good one. There are some issues with frequency-dependent amplification (higher frequencies get more), but one can correct that.

https://www.macaulaylibrary.org/how-...r/microphones/

I found an 18" DirectTV dish for $36 that I'm going to try and use with the ME62 or ME66. From what I understand, if you put a mic where the LNB is you get good sound amplification. Not the best for outdoor use because the focal point is so far in front of the dish, but kind of fun and for $40 good amusement for an afternoon. Almost cheaper than two of us seeing a movie!

Marc
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Old Sunday 22nd September 2019, 01:19   #17
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Marc, you will be relieved to hear that the LS-P4 weighs in at 75 grams inc battery as opposed to something like a Zoom H4N Pro, which is 294 grams. Most of Olympus advertising for it shows it mounted on various M4/3 cameras.

I wouldn't want the ME66/K6 on an EM10 though.

Personally I still stick with an elastic band attaching the recorder to the shotgun mic/power unit which then means both mic and recorder are using the same shock mount (assuming you use one).
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