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Take a step forward with the recording equipment (1 Viewer)

Avetarda

Active member
Spain
Although I have always been interested in bird sounds, I recently had an Olympus LS P4 and I`m happy with the results and that I would keep it.
But thinking of going further, I´d like buying a Sennheiser ME66 microphone to get better recordings. I think is better to have a recorder with xlr, that plug it in Olympus LS P4 and and I will have better results from what I read.

I have read a lot in this forum about the multiple possibilities that exist with recorders. I´d like, perhaps, a ZOOM H5 (which is not badly priced, althought I have my mind open to another recorders) combined with the ME66, what do you think? It would not be for professional results, only for my enjoyment and upload it to Xenocanto, because I don´t practice photography and I work in the country.
I also understand that you wouldn't need the K6 module, right? I'm a bit lost yet ...
Thanks!
 

Jon.Bryant

Active member
The ME66 is the short shotgun mic option for the K6 system, so I am afraid you will either need the K6 or K6P module as well. The K6 takes a single AA battery for powering the mic, which saves having to provide power from the recorder. The K6P has no battery compartment and the mic will need to use phantom power from the recorder, which will drain the battery on your recorder a bit quicker.

The Olympus LS P4 has a mic min-jack connection, so it would be possible to use the ME66 with the LS P4, but in this case I think you would need the K6 (not the K6P) power module as a don't think the Olympus LS P4 cannot provide phantom power to a mic. That said, I have found connection problems with min-jacks that can create noise - I have tried taping connections to stop movement, but it doesn't always work, so a recorder with a XLR connection would be a more positive connection and less problematic.

The ME66 is a fairly sensitive directional mic, which also means that you may have problems with handling and wind noise, depending on how you intend to use the mic and the conditions where you record - if you are looking to fix the mic on a stand and work in a sheltered area you may be OK - alternatively if you are looking to stalk birds and hand hold the mic, or you record in a windy area, you will almost certainly have problems with handling and wind noise. I would therefore recommend that you also think about a mic suspension system, and wind cover. I use a Rycote suspension system with pistol grip, and a shaggy dog cover for the the ME67. It works well, but unfortunately the kit is not particularly cheap.

I don't have direct knowledge of the H5, so can't really advise too much about that recorder. I think however that, most recorders with XLR connections are reasonable quality and good enough for making nice recordings of birds, so there is lots of choice. I do have an old Roland R26, which is a recorder with built in mics (a bit like the detachable mics on the H5). I mention this in passing, as I concluded that that recorder was targeted at recording fairly loud sound sources. I note that the gain on the H5 is 52dB and that the detachable stereo XY mics can take 140dB input, which suggests that this device may be for a similar purpose. This may have an impact, particularly if you also want to use the detachable mics for recording soundscapes (such as a dawn chorus in stereo). Also if you want to use the ME66 to record distant birds you may want more gain from the recorder. That said, I think birders tend to focus too much on mic sensitivity and amplifier gain - environments are frequently noisy places, and directional mics have limitations, so In my view the best recordings will always be made by getting the mic as close as possible to the bird - I have a SoundDevices MixPre recorder that can provide 76+20dB of gain, but I I ever had to apply that level of gain to my ME67 (same sensitivity as the ME66), then I think I would conclude I was simply too far away, give up, and try to get closer!

There is a bit of a buzz about new 32 bit float recorders. These recorders have bags of head room, so are very tolerant of incorrect recording levels, which can be useful for bird recordings - If something unexpected jumps up in front of you and belts out a song, there is a good chance you can get a recording without worrying whether the recording levels are too high and the recording clipped. I have the SoundDevices MixPre II recorder, which I have only just started to use, but seems to work well - I think the only other (semi) reasonably priced 32 bit float recorder (with XLR connections) is the Zoom F6. On the downside these 32 bit float recorders do not have built-in mics (so can't be slipped in you pocket as a handy carry everywhere option), and the recorders tend to chomp through batteries when set to maximum recording levels and bit rates (there are other battery sled options to add battery capacity on the MixPre). Also you will probably need to invest in software to change recording levels and save at lower bit and sampling rates for distribution (I don't think Audacity can do this, but I stand to be corrected). If you are willing to go that far, then I think the SoundDevices recorder is a nice and very capable piece of equipment (but so it should be at three times the price of the H5!)
 

Avetarda

Active member
Spain
Thank you very much for your answer! At the moment I'm not interested in buying a SoundDevices recorder :).
My "modus operandi" is to stalk birds and hand hold the mic, for what I will need a mic suspension system, and wind cover. I don´t know which type of suspension mic I need, I haven´t seen any. Wind cover I´ve for my Olympus, is essential.
Another thing I´ve in mind, one day, is to buy a dish, but I´m not clear with the types of mics (mono, stereo). I saw something from dodotronic. Step by step...
 

Jon.Bryant

Active member
Sorry can't help with the recorder.

Several mic suspensions systems are universal, so will fit a range of mics. If you go for zeplin type wind shield and shaggy cover, then the most important thing will be the overall length of the ME66 plus K6 powering unit. I think that most mics are similar diameter, so should fit the same holding rings at the center of the suspension system - but worth checking compatibility with the manufacturer when you have found a product. As I say, Rycote do a range of systems that may be worth looking at.

The good thing with the ME66 and K6 is that you can expand of change your system as required. Some time in the future you may therefore look at getting ME62 and ME64 capsule to use with a universal parabola (i.e. one that accepts an independent mic) - you could use this with the same K6 powering unit. I think that the ME66 couldn't be easily housed in a universal parabola and would have too narrow a focus - a lot of reflected sound would reach the mic off axis and be attenuated thereby defeating the purpose of the parabola. The ME62 is an omni mic, so would be less directional, but would directly pick up lower frequency calls outside the pickup of the parabola. The ME64 is a cardiodal mic - this would be a more directional mic, but would only be good for higher frequency sounds reflected by the parabola.

Hope someone else has direct experience and can advise on the H5.
 

Avetarda

Active member
Spain
Thank you very much again. I read somewhere that the mics of the dish should be omnidirectional.
I will continue to inform myself and read the forum to resolve doubts and gain experience, and reading other users, because doubts continue to arise, as this hobby is not so common, such as photography.
Maybe first try to test the xlr mics on my Olympus.
 

iveljay

Well-known member
The Zoom H5 is fairly state of the art for a reasonably priced hand held recorder with xlr connections and useable phantom power. If you use the built in phantom power it will clearly have less recording time per set of batteries and having the powered module for the ME66 is a good idea and gives you greater flexibility in using it.

Each recorder has its quirks and older second hand recorders may have older components that provide a less 'clean' recording than their current versions and are best avoided.

A good first step might well be to get the hang of your chosen microphone with your LS-P4. The K6/ME66 combination will work with a suitable cable and represents minimal financial investment or risk.

You correctly note that audio is nowhere near as 'point and shoot' as photography these days but it can be considerably cheaper.

Reading around the subject so you understand why things do what they do, will simplify things in future. Such as understanding why many xlr to 3.5 mm connections will only record to the left hand channel of your LS-P4 when used with a typical shotgun microphone.

Wikipedia describes exactly what a balanced xlr connection is and why it can produce a stronger, cleaner audio signal than other connections amongst other useful information.

If you get really stuck help is on hand - but baby steps usually save money in the end.

Sticking with a well known workable solution such as the K6/ME66 combination makes enormous sense - obviously a parabolic solution will provide some benefits over a shotgun solution in some ways, but it has its own downsides, both have their uses. Its a bit like comparing a garden fork with a spade, both useful but in very different ways and they are not completely interchangeable. The Sennheiser K6/ME66 setup will work with almost any audio recorder ever made with the correct cabling.

So go and have fun - but the microphone is the most critical component - its what people keep forever, whether you stick with your LS-P4, upgrade to a recorder such as an H5 with XLR connections or keep going through field recorders such Sound Devices MixPre II with its useful floating point recording capability.
 

Avetarda

Active member
Spain
Thanks! It's normal that when more I read, more doubts I have. Maybe before buying the recorder, I will test the mics on my Olympus and familiarize myself. The doubts I have now is about "It is normal that the more I read, the more doubts I have. Maybe before buying the recorder, I will test the microphones on my Olympus and familiarize myself. The doubts that I've now, are about the "recorders channel in the Olympus", I'd like record on both channels (left and right) with de mic ME66...
 

iveljay

Well-known member
There are cables you can buy that will allow you to connect your xlr shotgun to your LS-P4, however with simple free software you can do it post recording very easily. I just did it in under a minute that included mixing down a streo track to mono and copying it into two blank stereo tracks.

It is important to make sure that the supplier knows what you intend to do with your xlr to 3.5 mm jack so they can advise you correctly on your purchase.

This link from Amazon UK appears to do precisely what you want without the need for further computer work. I havn't tried it but it appears to tick all the boxes.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Microphone-Unbalanced-Camcorders-Computer-Recording/dp/B083R482GW/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?crid=IS2MT6AN46ZG&dchild=1&keywords=xlr+to+3.5mm+jack&qid=1609199822&quartzVehicle=819-211&replacementKeywords=to+3.5mm+jack&sprefix=xlr+,aps,245&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExTTcxMkoxS0JDMThaJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMzY2OTUwMVdXV0ZWN1VJOE5MQSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwMDM1MTg4VkJWSkxFRlVRTUJXJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

The ME66 is a mono microphone it provides a single mono audio channel for recording purposes, it employs technology that splits the signal into two to cancel out extraneous electronic noise, that coincidentally need the same number of individual wires as a stereo cable to function, but remains a mono signal.

One of the biggest problems with audio is that there are many ways of achieving much the same thing - hearing every possibility is just confusing.

Be assured that if you eventually get an H5 it has a facility to produce a stereo output by duplicating your mono input while you are recording.

By the way the free software is called Audacity besides being free it is one of the easiest to use from the point of view of a beginner, it is also very popular that means whatever problem you hit someone can help you. You might as well get it as it can cancel out noise and a whole lot of other useful things!

It is normal to be confused at this stage, hopefully later the things that confuse you now, will become so obvious that you have time to be confused by other audio related matters until they become simple - it happens to all of us at some stage, some just prefer to forget that it ever happened to them!

Its like swimming - you know the theory - but you need real water to actually do it, and yes, I sank the first time I tried that too.
 
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iveljay

Well-known member
For your reassurance I have ordered one of those cables as my stock is low in this area and with any luck have it plugged into one of my LS-P4s with the nearest handy shotgun with self power plugged in probably Friday or Saturday. I don't expect any problems except the occasionally badly soldered connector which regrettably does happen but very rarely.

I would strongly recommend getting some useable but inexpensive headphones or ear buds as they allow you to point a shotgun more effectively and also allow you to check what you have just recorded as most built in speakers are next to useless. They will get wet and battered - hence the inexpensive while you get started.

To date my LS-P4s have been used only with their built in microphones clamped to trees, tents, bits of theatre etc., as they are handy for ambient sound for mixing into video sound tracks. They also have superb battery life, but of course cannot produce 24/48v phantom power. Some people reasonably get a bit confused when they see it can provide 'plug in power' this is only in the 3 - 5 v range and is used for microphones that use this very low voltage, it is not phantom power.

Most of my main recording is done using a variety of recorders - most with xlr inputs from Olympus, Tascam and Zoom, but with a few others from Sony, Olympus and Yamaha with 3.5 mm connectors.

To my discredit I either own, have owned, or have access too, most of the hand held audio recorders you might consider purchasing.

Above portable/hand held, I tend to go for multi track studio recorders, useful for making sound tracks or music recordings + computer gear that does the same thing but differently. The bigger stuff looks impressive but is next to useless for much bird recording.

While I have had a yearning to purchase something like a MixPre II mentioned by Jon Bryant I can't really justify it until someone asks me to do something that really needs that capability.

To everything I say someone, may come up with an 'Ah but: 'kind of statement as there are many ways of achieving the same thing - they may well be right - however, I suggest we stick to what most people do as it is simplest and easiest to supply you with any support you may need. If I agree they have a superior approach I will gladly revise my advice. We all learn from each other - even others bad habits!

As most of my recording was for other peoples benefit, up to Covid when almost everything stopped, failure was never an option. With the quality of equipment available today there is no reason why that shouldn't apply to you. But just remember - you are limited by the laws of physics!

Above all don't get to stressed this is meant to be fun!
 
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Avetarda

Active member
Spain
Thanks again. I'm really enjoying reading to you and learning. I've read practically the entire subforum and I'm a sea of doubts with mics, phantom energy and mono and stereo ... but I'll continue reading and reading ... and maybe ... asking. Thanks!
 

Borjam

Registered User
Supporter
I would always recommend a recorder with XLR inputs. That means it's ready for professional microphones and you will avoid nasty surprises.

What about mini jacks? A mini jack can be a mono balanced connection (you would want that) or a stereo unbalanced connection (bad and you would be really wasting the advantages offered by a pro microphone like the ME66). Or maybe it's just a mono jack?

As for mono or stereo that is mostly irrelevant. I mean, if you are using a mono microphone and turns out you want it on both channels later, do it when editing the recording. Note that some recorders (at least the Marantz PMD661-mk2) do a nice trick with a mono microphone, feeding the signal to both channels but using different preamplifier gains. So if it turns out you underestimated sound level, you have a secondary channel with 15 or 20 dB less gain. A lifesaver :)

So, best advice is:

- XLR means you won't have surprises. (Well, there is a corner case I saw once but I won't mention it! ;) )

- Don't worry about a mono microphone recording only on one channel. Almost all of the pro microphones except some specialized stereo ones are mono.


And now, the suspension. You need to solve two problems. First, handling noise if you are hand holding. Second, wind noise which can be a real nightmare.

The solution is to use one of those microphone covers known as zeppelins (shaped like one) with a handle. Inside that tube there is a microphone suspension system that helps to avoid handling noise. The zeppelin creates a volume of steady air around the microphone and for stronger winds you can add an additional cover. It's one of those furry covers some guys call dead cats.

Options: I think you can consider three realistic options.

The industry standards are Rycote and Cinela. As Cinela is really expensive I won't mention it further. Rycote is, I think, the best known brand. They offer a really good suspension system called Lyre, and their zeppelins have a very flexible range of sizes so that you can find a good fit for your microphone.


According to Rycote's website you would need the WS 5

Rode, the young Australian microphone manufacturer, is selling a more affordable zeppelin system: Rode Blimp.


It licenses the Rycote Lyre system (and I think the parent company of Rode acquired Rycote later) and it includes the furry cover. All of it for 200 euro.

Rycote is much more expensive but it offers some advantages. First, they are known for suplying spare parts in the long term. Second, they offer several Lyre components with different degrees of stiffness, so that you can adapt them better to a given microphone. Rode doesn't offer that option, but it's easy to buy Rycote Lyres (I got some from Audiosense.be in Belgium) and adapt them using a couple of stiff plastic blocks.

In such a setup it's important that the microphone fits inside the straight tube portion not getting any part of it inside the domes at the ends. So make sure it is long enough. Rode sells an extension kit with an additional tube extension and a longer fur cover which is 65 euro.

So, my opinion? I own a Rode Blimp mk2 with the extension and I think it offers very good value for money. Certainly if offers the right bits which are:

  • Zeppelin
  • Suspension system
  • Fur cover
  • A system to help decouple cable handling vibrations from the microphone

A Rycote is a bit more compact and it's better supported. The Blimp looks a bit like a half backed product, it would be trivial to make it compatible with Rycote spare Lyres. But it works. I have used it successfully with an AKG SE300-CK98 combo and, later, with a long shotgun: Rode NTG8. For the latter I had to do some hacking to replace the Lyres with stiffer ones.

I have seen cheaper blimp options looking very similar to the first version of Rode's Blimp. I believe that the first version was just a Chinese OEM which uses a much more cumbersome rubber ring mount for the mic and later Rode decided to use the same Chinese tube and fur but with their own Rycote licensed Lyre suspension system which makes a huge difference if only in durability and convenience.

I would not recommend the cheaper OEM versions, I think the Rode is the sweet spot.

If you happen to be near Bilbao in Spain I can show you the blimp in person.
 

Avetarda

Active member
Spain
Thank you very much, Borja. Very clear to me the stereo mono concept mics.
Bilbao is 4h away, if it´s near of me, I´d gladly come and let you teach me. At the moment, my idea is to continue with the Olympus and look for a pack of second hand mics and gain experience. The "zeppelin" is expensive for me at the moment ... I don't know, they are things that I will be valuing little by little. I´m also in the process of making a parable with a lavalier mic...
ANd if everything goes well, I´ll buy de Zoom H5.
 

Ruff-Leg

Member
I'm only one step beyond a beginner, but moved from an Android phone with a Rode VideoMicMe mic to a Zoom H5. The Zoom ticked all my needs for bird song recording as it was very portable with a wide range of recording modes, and best of all were the interchangeable mic capsules. Attaching the SGH-6 shotgun capsule to the H5, I have a recorder which fits easily into an outside pocket, can be used one-handed, rejects side sounds pretty effectively, producing good enough recordings that I'm proud to upload to xeno-canto or Macauley. All for about 450 USD.

Photo attached.

Does it make as good recordings as an ME-66 - I doubt it, but again, I was looking for something very portable and useful for one-handed operation.

The H5 has enough flexibility that I could move to a better mic at a later date without too many work-arounds,

Beware, the H5 does eat AA batteries - I always carry a spare set of rechargeables.

All the best!
 

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iveljay

Well-known member
There are many answers, none of them 'wrong'. It just depends on how much you want to spend, over what period and what you want to achieve. The cable I looked at is good and unlike some I have tried, the 3.5 jack is a good fit and does the job intended, unlike the inexpensive shotgun I first tried it on which was rubbish. (The cable produced a nice clean twin mono recording with another mic). You will find many folks who happily use an ME66 with just a 3.5 mm connector, and get results that suit their particular needs. It is the minimum cost solution to get started with a good microphone that will grow with your experience and not need replacing, and is the easiest to use, but definitely will not get the best out of your microphone.

As Borjam points out recorders with xlr connectors will in general be better, they all have pros and cons, in the most recent round of upgrades Zoom upgraded its pre-amps in its latest H4N Pro, Tascam with its DR40X elected not to. Thats one reason why the Zoom H5 is popular its in roughly the same 'affordable' price range, has the better pre-amps and is a more modern flexible design., but there are other options with their own advantages as Borjam has illustrated. I can also support his liking of Rycote accessories - I buy from them as well - but they are not cheap.

Best of all is the opportunity to gain experience from seeing the equipment in action, that way you will be able to decide what you need.

As for recorders that eat batteries - you can often attach a rechargeable battery pack to them and they will run for ages, or in the case of the Tascam DR100 Mk III have a recharegeable battery as a primary source with a seamless failover to additional AA batteries contained in its casing. A bit heavy for a 'handheld', but another of my favourites. Whatever you want to do, there is a fair chance some one has built it.

So if Borjam is willing to spend time explaining things in more depth I would make the most of it. You can then decide what you want to do and how much you need to spend when you feel more confident.

As for Ruff Leg he has a solution that meets his needs - I use the H5 with the SGH-6 mono shotgun module for some jobs and it works well. Zoom also produce a stereo shotgun microphone module (SSH-6) , but it is not really designed for the same use as it takes ambient side stereo sound and mixes it with its mono shotgun input. It has its uses, but in either case the H5 will take input from its modular mics or from its XLR inputs and produce a mono stereo track or several other combinations depending on what you tell it to do. Its all a bit like Lego.
 

Avetarda

Active member
Spain
Thank you for your responses, Ruff-leg for your experience with the H5, and iveljay. When I decide to take the step, I'll write it here to share it with you. Thank you, really, because all the answers are useful to me.
 

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