Feeds:
Færslur
Athugasemdir

Archive for janúar, 2020

IMG_2200

When using a cardioid microphone in nature recordings Rode NT1a has been my favorite for a years. With its ultra low noise and sound clarity exactly on the bird song frequency ranges. But it also has a several bad futures. It is mainly made for studio recordings, so it is bulgy, heavy and sensitive for humidity. It has also a rather „flat sound“ and worst of all it is very sensitive for handling noise, so it is sensitive for wind noise and other vibrations, mainly through the microphone stand. All of these flaws has given me a good reason to use more often omni mics and AB setup rather other arrangement with cardioid mics
Searching for the perfect cardioid microphone for nature recordings can be difficult. They usually have higher self noise than omni or/and many large capsule microphones. But some of them have low handling noise and some work better in humid environment than other.
Here is a comparison of three cardioid condenser microphones which give an insight on how they detect the finest details in silence which is often very important issue in nature recordings, especially natural silence.
Sennheiser MKH40 has been well known for a many years as one of the best microphone available for field recording. But since Sennheiser offers the smaller brother MKH8040 at affordable prices, then that microphone has been its successor, especially because of its high frequency ranges up to 50Khz.
It is nearly two years since the Russian company Nevaton introduce their new compact microphone MC59 with two capsules omni (O) and cardioid (C).  It is made with similar modular system as Sennheiser MKH8000 series with an independent amplifier and capsule. One type with integrated 3-pin XLR connector and a smaller version “S” with a break-out cable.
As my previous comparisons this was made in the countryside in a 50 m² garage, in as much silence as possible. Gain on all channels was at 50dB and HPF off.  To focus on a sound source in this silence, I used a pocket radio and two ticking alarm clocks.  (See picture)

_______________________________________________________________________________
First three audio samples are straight from the recorder so it sounds in very low level. *
MKH40   RX6 spectrogram   RX6 WAV

MKH8040  RX6 spectrogram  RX6 WAV

MC59C  RX6 spectrogram    RX6 WAV

_______________________________________________________________________________
Same audio samples again but with +20dB added gain to the original recording, combined 70dB of gain. *
MKH40  RX6 Specrogram    Spek spectrogram

MKH8040  RX6 Specrogram    Spek spectrogram

MC59C  RX6 Specrogram    Spek spectrogram

______________________________________________________________________________
Audio samples goes through 100Hz HPF and normalized up to 0dB which increased the gain between 18 to 20dB, or combined 90db *

MKH40  RX6 Specrogram

MKH8040  RX6 Specrogram

MC59C  RX6 Specrogram

_____________________________________________________________________________
Audio samples in more silence with +30dB added gain to the original recording, combined 80dB of gain, no radio or traffic noise. *
MKH40   RX6 Specrogram at +12db added gain

MKH8040   RX6 Spectrogram at +12db added gain

MC59C   RX6 Spectrogram at +12db added gain

_____________________________________________________________________________

The comparison

MKH40 was in this comparison connected to the additional Sonosax SX-AD8+ mixer which was connected to the SX-R4+ recorder. When I put the recording through spectrogram I saw a strange buzz noise around 11Khz and above. I have seen this several times before on spectrograms, usually only when I have used the Sound devices 552 mixer. But not always and different from this one. I was not happy to see this happens on the SX-AD8+ mixer, so I checked if I could see this noise if I connected other microphones to the mixer. They all passed that test with success, even MKH20. But both MKH40 and MKH30 fail with this high frequency buzz. I am still not sure what is exactly going on. But I think it is some kind of ground problem in the microphone, not the mixer, even though it does not appear when using preamps in SX-R4 or MixPre recorders. I can change the shape and the frequency of this buzz by just putting a contact lube under an assembling screw on MKH40 and tie them again firmly.
This must be fixed. So I will continue testing and look into this issue with different microphones, recorders, mixers, cables and power supplies.
Except this high frequency buzz MKH40 sounds surprisingly nice. It sounds even more transparent than MKH8040 which surprises me because I have always thought it was the opposite. Saying that it might be because my ears barely hear anything above 11Khz anymore, so I can for example not hear the loudest part of the MKH40’s self noise which is between 12 and 23Khz, with highest level at 18Khz. That means I can only hear the self noise below that frequency range which anyway is a very important frequency range, because most of the nature sounds I record are below 8 Khz (at least in Iceland). So ultra low self noise at the midrange is more important than self noise on higher frequency range. This is what I noticed between MKH40 and 8040. The MKH40 seems to have slightly lower self noise at mid range and therefor the silence is more transparent with better fine details and better focused.
MKH8040 is a wonderful mic and one of my favorites, especially after Sennheiser fixed the noise problem which seems to have appeared in many MKH8000 mics some years ago. This pair comes nicely matched from the factory, it is suitable to record anything and as far as I know seems to withstand humidity as well as MKH40. For most recordings MKH8040 and MKH40 sound identical, These two mics have almost the same sensitivity and same characteristics. But the MKH8040 frequency range goes up to 50Khz which is useful for sound design and/or bat recordings. The 8040 self noise is not high but is the highest in this comparison. The self noise starts around 15Khz and is strongest around 50Khz. The sound quality seems to be a bit „gray“compare to the other two.
Nevaton offers MC59C sound samples of concert recordings to download. It was something in these recordings which told me that MC59 could be an interesting microphone  So I ordered four matched pieces of MC59C, from Bluetone mainly for music recording, but as well to keep it in mind to use them for surround nature recordings. This microphone is wonderful for music. It was confirmed after I did a concert recording last November. But that does not necessary mean it is as perfect for nature recordings. So here was a good reason to make a comparison to other well known microphones.
What surprises me in the comparison is the low noise and how clean this Russian wonder sounds above 10Khz. I just wished I was 40 years younger to hear this upper frequency clarity because I can mostly or only see it on a spectrogram which shows this microphone is outstanding compare to other small condenser microphones I know, as MKH´s. The mid range noise level is similar below 10Khz as in MKH40, or slightly more. But it has no additional self noise above 10Khz as most or all other microphones. In fact the self noise seems to be at same level through the whole frequency ranges up to 65Khz when it starts to increase.
Nevaton says the frequency range is 20-20Khz, but on the spectogram the frequency range seems to go much higher. When I recorded a noise from switching power supply it detect sound up to 30Khz almost as clearly as MKH8040 and without mic’s self noise.

Conclusion

In the sound world where it is possible to make a noise reduction with only several mouse clicks in a software it seems like microphone self noise does not matter. But it is not true. No NR software is so good it will not affect or harm the sound quality. So low noise microphones are important, especially at mid range (>8khz) for quiet nature sound and upper frequency (<8Khz) for music recording.
All three microphones in this comparison seem to have similar „low“ handling noise
MKH40 seems to have the lowest self noise at mid ranges and MC59C overall lowest self noise.
MKH8040 is a very versatile mic which can pick up sound up to 50Khz and is always a nice sounding microphone.
The MKH40 behaved strangely by creating this frequency buzz in individual frequency ranges above 10Khz. It is something I need to figure out as soon as I can and add information about it here in this blog.
MKH40 is anyway a good work horse. It is possible to rely on this mic in high humidity, record everything and always get highest quality you can get from a cardioid microphone. In my opinion, the MKH40 sounds slightly better than MKH8040 probably because it has less mid range noise than 8040. I have owned mkh80 for some years now, but not used it much. It is worth keeping this mic in action again.
MC59C is on the other hand the big success in this comparison. It has outstanding sound quality for classical music recording. Saying that, it must be kept in mind I have only used it once in a concert. In this comparison, sound quality seems to be the best I’ve heard or seen before on a small condenser microphone. It can clearly record the weakest sound effects between 10 KHz and 20 KHz without drowning that sound in the microphone’s self noise. The comparison did not exactly show which of these mics was the best to stay in a windshield, record everything from a birdsong to falling snowflakes, but MC59c is definitely an outstanding microphone and ready to record everything.
There is some rumors about MC59 can’t withstand high humidity. I have not tested it, but I think that humidity is not be a problem in Iceland.
It is a surprise to me how equally they sound compared to the price ranges. Nevaton MC59 is only half price of the MKH8040 and the MKH40 is more expensive**. But price is not everything because they all have a tiny specific difference.

See the whole picture gallery
* All audio samples above are mp3 at 256kbps 44kHz.
Original recording at 24bit/48Khz
** Update: Just overnight 18th of January 2020 the price of Nevaton MC59 microphones increase about 50% which is very strange price policies.
For one mic, both XLR or S version price was last week at €620 excl. VAT
But now is XLR at €868 and S version at €898

Read Full Post »