Saturday, June 03, 2006

Interview Microphones

A poster in a MicroTrack thread recently asked about microphones for interview situations, specifically those from Sound Professionals and Reactive Sounds. My reply became voluminous enough that I thought it best to post an entire article on interview microphones.

The stubby T-shaped stereo mic that comes with the MicroTrack is not convenient, since the interviewer ends up "physically passing the unit back and forth", as our poster described. There are two solutions: a pair of lavalier mics that can be clipped to interviewer and subject, or a single-point stereo mic that can be pointed in the right direction.

Lavalier mics are handy when you need something discrete, particularly for stage and TV work.

On the high end (over $400) you've got mics like the Sennheiser MKE series and the DPA 4060/4061. You can save some money by going for the slightly less exacting Sennheiser ME 102 and similar.

A good lav in the mid-range is the Audio-Technica AT899, at $275. Remember though that if you want to record the interviewer as well you will need two of them!

For impromptu situations, in-the-street interviews and the like a battery-powered single-point stereo mic like the AT822 ($250) is a common choice.

Better yet, just do like the BBC do, get a Beyer M58 ($180) and forget it! This mic has a long handle for getting into people's faces and a hot output to handle weak inputs.

I'm not going to specifically address the mics from the two companies suggested by the poster because at the lower end I do not imagine them good value, and at higher prices why not just get name-brand professional kit?

One thing you may not know is that many lower priced mics use a Panasonic WM-61A omni cap. You can buy these raw in prices at around $1. By the time companies get through with them they cost much more, but I guess that's "value added"! The best thing to do is purchase mics built from these caps from individuals on eBay. I can recommend seller micro_sound who offers a binaural pair at the fair price of $23.

A cheap set of mics like this is good as a "reference standard" in the low-end, and as a pair you can throw around and not care if they get wrecked, lost, or stolen. They are surprisingly usable for tasks like voice recording.

Disclaimer: I have not used many of the more expensive mics mentioned above, but instead have based this article on best practices recommended by others. Also, I don't know how any of these work with the MicroTrack. It's always best to test mics with the specific gear (power, recorder) you are using.

Further reading: A Transom article addressed a similar issue.

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1 comment:

Paul said...

For interviews I often recommend an omnidirectional dynamic mic like the EV 635a, which has been a standard for 30 some years. They're built like tanks -- urban myths say they've been used to hammer in nails in a pinch. They have pretty good output, and because they're omni, there's less need for the back-and-forth. They also have good insulation minimizing the effect of handling noise.

I've used them both with video cameras and minidisc recorders with great results. Plus, they cost only about $100 retail. Audio-Technica, Shure and other companies make similar mics that are fairly equivalent.

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