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Posts Tagged ‘Sennheiser MKH20’

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Storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) is a seabird in the northern storm petrel family, Hydrobatidae. It is the only member of the genus Hydrobates. The small, square-tailed bird is entirely black except for a broad, white rump and a white band on the under wings, and it has a fluttering, bat-like flight. The large majority of the population breeds on islands off the coasts of Europe, with the greatest numbers in the Faroe Islands, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Iceland. The Mediterranean population is a separate subspecies, but is inseparable at sea from its Atlantic relatives; its strongholds are Filfla Island (Malta), Sicily, and the Balearic Islands.
The storm petrel nests in crevices and burrows, sometimes shared with other seabirds or rabbits, and lays a single white egg, usually on bare soil. The adults share the lengthy incubation and both feed the chick, which is not normally brooded after the first week. This bird is strongly migratory, spending the Northern Hemisphere winter mainly off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia, with some birds stopping in the seas adjoining West Africa, and a few remaining near their Mediterranean breeding islands. This petrel is strictly oceanic outside the breeding season. It feeds on small fish, squid, and zooplankton, while pattering on the sea’s surface, and can find oily edible items by smell. The food is converted in the bird’s stomach to an oily orange liquid, which is regurgitated when the chick is fed. Although usually silent at sea, the storm petrel has a chattering call given by both members of a pair in their courtship flight, and the male has a purring song given from the breeding chamber.
The Storm petrel cannot survive on islands where land mammals such as rats and cats have been introduced, and it suffers natural predation from gulls, skuas, owls, and falcons. Although the population may be declining slightly, this petrel is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as being of least concern due to its high total numbers. Its presence in rough weather at sea has led to various mariners’ superstitions, and by analogy, to its use as a symbol by revolutionary and anarchist groups.
See more information at Wikipedia, eBird and Fuglavefurinn.
Largest colony of Storm Petrel in Iceland can be found in Elliðaey Island, near Vestmannaeyjar island, south of Iceland, but they can also be found in small numbers in two other places in south and east Iceland.
When I and Bob McGuire and Marino Sigursteinsson arrived in Elliðaey the 5th of June 2018, we were not sure if the Storm Petrel had arrived. It was almost too early for their breeding season.
So it was a big success when suddenly at midnight the air was filled with flying Storm petrels. I never saw this tiny bird, even though they were all around my head. They flew extremely fast like bats and disappeared in holes in the ground, and in the load wall of the old shelter.
I started recording inside the shelter because it was like hundreds of birds were heavily busy in conversation inside the wall, but outside and behind the shelter was a low lava cliff, named Skápar also with interesting soundscape. So I started to recording with other recorder there too.
Sadly I spent to much time talking in too short distance behind the rig, so most of the recording is spoiled with human talking. It is sad because this fabulous Storm petrel soundscape did not last more than two or three hours before they all flew to the sea again.
The following recording is what is left of the recording without the human chat. So the best part of Storm Petrel is sadly missing. Instead other bird, very similar is common in this recording. It is Leach’s Storm Petrel which is audible throughout all the recording. More info in Wikipedia, eBird and Fuglavefurinn
Background noise is a rumble noise from a trawler. It was almost constant noise all the time we stayed on the island. Even though I did not see any ship around the island, the air was vibrating with this deep rumble engine noise.
It seems like I need to spent much more time in this remote island and record its biological soundscape. It change over the day, every months, spring, summer, autumn and winter. So just 24 hours is not enough. Same as with other nearby islands, which host different bird species and different soundscape.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

( mp3 256kbps / 27,6Mb )

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 AB40
Pix. LG G6
Location:  63.466924, -20.175122
Weather: Calm, misty & light shower, ca 12°C
Listen to the recording Elliðaey part1

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It is rear now a days to discover new places without traffic or engine nose. I found one in June 2019. It was at Fellströnd, in the northwest of Iceland. That means I have natural silence for more than a one hour. It is a south part of a peninsula which only have gravel roads and no shopping service so motorist are normally not driving there for pleasure.
Less human traffic means more biodiversity. It thrives better in places with less farming and fast driving cars. One roadkill can as well mean a death of the whole family. Car covered with smashed bugs means less food for birds… and so on. This is clearly visible and audible in those areas which have „industry“ farming and lots of fast driving traffic.
No traffic, or engine noise, means more natural silence and more transparent soundscape. Therefor it is very interesting to listen to this recordings. It is even possible to hear sheep footsteps far away and detect what bird species are in the area, even far away. In fact it is possible to analyze the situation of the biodiversity.
This is a high gain recording, recorded at +50dB. Gain was then increased in post about +25dB, normalized at -8dB and gently NR.
This is a part of 10 hour recording. This part was recorded between 7 and 8 in the morning at 21st of June.
Many bird species are audible in this recording. Black tailed Godwit, Common Redsank, Whimprel, Red necked Phalarope, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Ringed Plover, European Golden Plover, Dunlin, Raven, Redwing, Purple Sandpiper, Meadow Pipit, Geylag Goose, Whooper Swan, Red Throated Diver and Common Eider. I am almost sure I have not counted them all.
You can hear sheep footsteps which was though far away, also birds wing flaps as a low rumble noise.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low or medium level.

(Mp3 256Kbps / 48Mb)

Recorder: Sonosax SX-R4+
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pix: Canon EOS M50
Location: 65.169836, -22.404601
Weather: Calm, cloudy ca 13°C

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Imagine, It is 3:30, mid summer morning. You are within five kilometers from the arctic circle and two and a half kilometers from the north Atlantic ocean. It is calm, and dry and the sun which has never goes completely down this night, gives a silk smooth light through thin layer of clouds. The biosphere is remarkable. It is visible everywhere. From bugs in the grass, fish in the brook to the birds in the air or in the field. All living species seems to be busy to live in beautiful harmony with Mother nature,
You are located at Skinnalónsheiði (heathland) which is close to Hraunhafnartangi peninsula, northern most part of Iceland.
Just a few weeks earlier this place was frozen under ice and snow, extremely quiet and almost a lifeless place.
The following recording is quiet, even though it’s biological busiest time of the year. Bird songs and call’s are mostly in the distance, but sometimes something catches the attention, like the wriggling fish in the brook, or different uncommon songs from different bird species.
Background noise is mostly surf from the ocean two and half kilometers away or sometimes swarm of midges.
Many bird species are in this recording. Whooper Swan, European Golden-Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Whimbrel (European), Black-tailed Godwit (islandica), Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Common Snipe, Common Redshank, Parasitic Jaeger, Great Black-backed Gull, Arctic Tern, Red-throated Loon, Meadow Pipit, Snow Bunting, Rock Ptarmigan and Great Northern Diver, Great Black-backed Gull, Graylag Goose, Long-tailed Duc.
Another recording was made that same night several kilometers away, nearby Hraunhafnartanga peninsula. Listening here.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

(256mbps mp3 / 74Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40)
Pics: LG G6
Location: 66.513116, -16.149781
Weather: Calm, dry, light clouds, 11C°
Recording date: 29th of May 2018

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Ásbyrgi has a fantastic soundscape. It is one of the wonders of nature, a forested horse-shoe shaped canyon in Oxarfjordur. Asbyrgi is a part of Jökulsárgljúfur, within the Vatnajökull National Park.
I was there recording over night for ten hours 1st. of June 2018 . I don´t know if it was the time of the year, or something else, but the cliffs were very quiet this night. Usually I have been there later in June and July and the Fulmar in the cliffs have been noisier.
It was around 8 o´clock in the morning, just before the tourist traffic arrived that the soundscape in the canyon changed. It was like the whole biosphere woke up with lots of birds and insects activity. The following recording is the last 30 minutes that day before the soundscape was ruined by traffic noise and yelling tourists. Several bird species are in this recording. Northern Fulmar, Common Snipe, Eurasia Woodcock, Whimbrel, Red-Necked Phalarope, European golden Plover,  Pink footed Goose, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Redwing, Common Redpoll, and Snow Bunting.
Here you can also listen to older posts from Ásbyrgi: Fairy in Ásbyrgi and Botnstjörn pond in Ásbyrgi.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at medium level.

  (mp3 256kbps/62,3Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40 setup)
Pix: LG G6
Location: 65°59’56.6″N 16°30’44.9″W
Weather: Clear sky, light gust, 5°C

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Kirkjubæjarklaustur (Klaustur) is a village in the south of Iceland on the hringvegur (road no. 1 or Ring Road) between Vík í Mýrdal and Höfn. It is part of the municipality of Skaftárhreppur and has about 500 inhabitants.
Even before the time of the first Norse settlement in Iceland, Irish monks are thought to have lived here. Since 1186, a well known convent of Benedictine nuns, Kirkjubæjar Abbey, was located in Kirkjubæjarklaustur, until the Reformation in 1550. The names of the waterfall Systrafoss („waterfall of the sisters“) and of the lake Systravatn („water of the sisters“) on the highland above the village refer to this abbey. Folk tales illustrate the history with stories about good and sinful nuns. The Systrastapi (sister’s rock) is where two of the convent’s nuns were buried after being burned at the stake. One of the nuns was accused of selling her soul to the Devil, carrying Communion bread outside the church, and having carnal knowledge with men; the other was charged with speaking blasphemously of the Pope. After the Reformation, the second sister was vindicated, and flowers are said to bloom on her grave, but not that of the first nun. Systravatn also has a legend relating to the convent. The nuns traditionally bathed in the lake, and one day two nuns saw a hand with a gold ring extending from the water. When they tried to seize the ring, they were dragged below the water and drowned.
The village became well known in Iceland during the Lakagígar volcano eruptions in 1783. The pastor of the local church and dean of Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla, Jón Steingrímsson (is) (1728 – 1791), delivered what became known as the „Fire Sermon“ (eldmessu) on July 20, 1783. The legend says that this sermon stopped the lava flow, and the village was spared at the last moment. The current church, constructed in 1974, was built in memory of the Reverend Jón Steingrímsson.
Today, the village is an important service center for the farms in the region as well as for tourists and weekend visitors. (Wikipedia)
During summer time many bird species are nesting close to the village and the river Skaftá which flows beside the village. Arctic Terns have a big colony almost in the middle of the village, so many other migrant birds are nesting there too.
The recording was captured early morning 7th of June 2016 and is a part of 7 hours long recording
Many bird species are in this recording, Arctic tern, Red wing, Common Snipe, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Red-necked Phalarope and probably many other species. What I love most in this recording is in the middle of the recording, is a „special song“ of Eurasian Wigeon which is not a common bird in my recordings.
Quality headphones are recommended while listening at low to mid level, or in speakers at low level. Be careful, sometimes the level goes high when birds fly by.

(mp3, 265kbps / 59Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices 788
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20
Pic: Canon EOS-M

Location: 63.787049, -18.050793
Weather: Cloudy, Calm, around 7 °C

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I spend almost 4 days late June 2017 recording in Þjórsárver area, which is a tundra southeast of Hofsjökull glacier. It was shortly after the road administrator open the Sprengisandur route across the highland, so there was still not much traffic. It was very early this summer so it was possible for me to record birds activity in nests.
When I arrived at Eyvindakofaver I saw an Arctic fox sneaking around a stone cairns and an angry Snow Bunting flying around. It was a clear message for something interesting to record.
The weather was boring for recording. It was cloudy, the temperature about 4°C and the wind was SW, 5-10 m/sec. But the stone cairn was a suitable cover for the microphones. So I put up my gear and started recording just before midnight and then went to sleep.
At 3:40 the wind suddenly went down for about 30 minutes which was the only minutes with calm weather this four days in the area. Calm weather means normally better detail recording for the birds’ activity and deeper listening to far distance sounds.
Usually Snow Bunting lay eggs two times during the summer so this was likely the previous nesting time.
It is necessary to listen to the whole recording but suddenly something happens in the nest which we humans can guess was probably a brutal rape or other domestic violence.
If you think this was something else, feel free and leave a comment below.
Quality open headphones are recommended while listening in silence at low level, or in speakers at low level.

(256 kbps / 59,4Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20 NOS
Pics: Canon EOS-M
Weather. Cloudy, around +3°C, SW, 2m/s
Location: 64.613944, -18.575462

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This two midsummer recordings were made around four o´clock in the morning 15th of July 2017 nearby Arnarholt farm in Stafholtstungur, in west of Iceland. It is recorded on two stereo channels with two different microphones because usually every time I recorded in this place the recordings has been disturbed by traffic noise all night long. But somehow for some unexplained reason no car went around nearby road for more than two hours, so I got a wonderful recording this morning.
I placed those two microphone rigs very close to each other and pointed them toward north. Afterwards I could not decided which of those recordings were better so it is yours to decide which you like.
There are many bird species in this recording. Common Snipe, Golden Plover, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Black Taled Godwit, White Wagtail, Black headed Gull, Winter Wren, Northern Wheatear, Snow Bunting, Rock Ptarmigan, Common Starling, Redwing, Great Northern Dever, Whooper Swan, Graylag Goose and probably other species. Birds like Starling and Redwing are flying between branches in nearby trees.

My favorite microphones for nature recordings are Sennheiser MKH20 an omni-directional condenser microphone and Rode NT1A (slightly modified), a large capsule cardioid polar pattern studio condenser microphone. Both these mics have lowest self-noise available on the market.
I am used to use MKH20 in AB setup which mean the mics are in 40-45cm spaced parallel position (AB40). Then I turn the capsules 2-5° outward which gave me sometimes slightly „wider or more open space feeling“. This setup give me a stereo recording, 360° surround the rig.
My second best omni-directional ultra low noise mic for nature recordings is AT4022 but it does not sound as „musical“ or „natural“ as MKH20, so it is not as often in my tool box,
Cardioid mic detect sound mainly from one direction. so I use NT1A in different circumstances.
Lets say I like to record a birdsong. At the same time it is disturbed with unwanted noise, coming from another direction like waterfall, river flow, surf or traffic noise. I can place the backside of the cardioid mic to the noise source which mean I will get less of the unwanted noise and more of the birdsong.
In last two or three years I have not used NT1A in ORTF or NOS setup for outdoor recordings. But instead use AB4, same as for MKH20, which seems to give less phase error for the sound behind the rig.

These two recordings are NOT good examples for this two different mics in critical circumstances because no car passed by behind the rigs and most of the birds activity was also front of the rigs. But it gives a nice insight how this two different mics sounds and how the self-noise act in „quiet“ nature recordings.
NT1A was inside Rycote Cyclone + fur. MKH20 was inside Rycote WS2 windshield + fur. Both rigs are in AB40 +3°
I use MixPre6 in this recording. There is no doubt, the new Sound devices Kashmir mic preamplifier is ultra low noise and a sweet step forward to get better field recordings.
The HPF was at 40Hz and the gain was at 50dB for NT1A and 43dB for MKH20. The gain settings mainly get this arrangement because then both rigs sounds have equal level in the headphones while I was recording. In post the gain was increased almost 30dB on both stereo channels, up to -10dB.
Specrogram shows „all“ frequencies was bellow 8Khz so to lower unwanted mic self-noise I pull everything above 10Khz down with EQ (-5db @ 11Khz & -30dB @ 15Khz) .
This is a „quiet“ recording which mean you should listen to it at low level in quality headphones or speakers in quiet place.

NT1A recording
(mp3, 256kbps / 50,6Mb)

MKH20 recording
(mp3, 256kbps / 50,6Mb)

Here are two shorter version of this recording but now without high frequency cutoff and the gain level is normalized up to 0dB, so it should be easy to hear the mic self-noise in low quality headphones and PC amplifiers.
It is also easy to notice that MKH20 is covering 360° of the surround soundscape, while NT1A is only covering 180° with less bird songs and other activity.

NT1A. Without high freq cut off, normalized to 0dB
(mp3, 256kbps / 11Mb)

MKH20 Without high freq cut off, normalized to 0dB
(mp3, 256kbps / 11Mb)

Recorder: Sound devices MixPre6
Mics: Rode NT1a and Sennheiser MKH20 (AB40 setup)
Pix. Canon EOSM

Location: 64.673460, -21.629304
Weather: Calm, cloudy, ca. 7°C

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