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Author Topic: Shotgun Recomemdation  (Read 1413 times)

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Offline admkrk

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Shotgun Recomemdation
« on: December 29, 2018, 06:06:36 PM »
I am looking for something to record nature sounds, for the most part. I have tried with my KM140s, but I end up with too much background noise; cars, plains, etc. I am hoping a shotgun will reject most of that, as long as I have something specific I can aim at. It is only going to see so much use, so I would like to stay < $200, or so. 
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Offline mjwin

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2018, 02:34:55 PM »

Sadly, these things (traffic, aircraft) are the bane of the nature recordist's life!  I don't want to discourage you, but I think you are being very optimistic if you hope that a shotgun mic will help you much.

Having said that, a shotgun mic will help you to isolate specific sounds from the general ambient background, but it won't eliminate specific aircraft/ traffic noise, just reduce it slightly, perhaps... The  problem is that, although these unwanted sounds originate from a particular direction, they then reflect off any hard surface they encounter - the ground, trees, sides of the valley, etc and end up coming back at you from all directions! No mic, not even the most tightly defined parabolic reflector will completely eliminate this. At best you'll get a reduction in the unwanted sound, but also a rather skewed frequency response. (Listen to some of the bird sounds on xeno-canto.org for an example of what you can expect). So, if you want to record specific animal sounds for identification purposes or study, this might be ok, but you won't get a "pleasing" or "immersive"  recording this way. Also, with just the one mic it will be single channel, mono.

Although this might sound counter-intuitive, many nature recordists use omni mics in various configurations (spaced or baffled, etc.) These give a very expansive sound and need not be expensive, but the trick is to find a quiet spot at a quiet time of day. That really is the only way.

So what I would suggest, if you're serious about the nature recording thing, is to spend some of your budget on a trip away for a day or two.  Aircraft don't fly 24/7 (not quite), nor is the traffic constant throughout the day. You might get lucky locally or you might have to drive a couple of hundred miles and camp overnight, but that's all part of the game. We live in a noisy world, and *the* biggest challenge for nature recordists is to find the quiet spots.  I do a lot of this kind of thing and I spend far more time looking at maps, satellite photos and aircraft flight charts than I do out in the field! Check out the work of Gordon Hempton & Lang Elliott for both inspiration & examples of what it takes.

Finally, just to answer your specific question about shotgun mics. The lowest cost mic suitable would probably be the sennheiser ME66 (or ME67)+K6. This is a low noise mic with a reasonable off-axis response, and is often used by bird recordists to hone in on single species.  But that's already double your budget and, as i said above, I don't think it will give you what you want.

Good luck!

Martin

Offline EmRR

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2018, 03:21:46 PM »
Yeah, what he said.  To add, a shotgun won't filter low frequency sounds, which is what you mainly get at distance from cars, airplanes, etc.  Many mics are omnidirectional at some low frequency, and most shotguns are cardioid below 250-500Hz.  They will help by isolating higher frequency sounds, but that may not be your problem either.   Combined with use of a high pass filter (if the sound you want allows it) you can get better isolation, but probably not as much as you might expect. 
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Offline admkrk

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2018, 03:47:34 PM »
Thanks guys.

I did not expect to completely eliminate the background, but was hoping to reduce it some. I tried recording my chickens some years ago and every time they made a sound, there was a plane flying overhead. I live near a small airport and most of the time I did not even notice, until I listened to the tape. I suppose that is the kind of thing that cannot be avoided, but is what I want to lessen as much as possible. I understand filtering better now, so maybe I will be able to get usable results now.

I was looking at the ME66 and the older ME80.
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Offline jeenash

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2018, 04:07:12 PM »
Used k6/me66 can be had in the sub 150 range on Ebay. One thing to look for is corrosion in the battery compartment. When the batteries corrode in the k6 it will corrode the contact board in the capsule as well.

Offline illconditioned

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2018, 05:25:50 PM »
I believe the K6 series has the KE14 capsule, 14mm electret capsule with built in FET.
If that is the case, these should run with a simple battery box.
I've heard the KE14 is not as good as higher end mics, but I would like to give it a try myself and find out.
I found ME66 (shotgun) capsules, NOS, on ebay.  Will report back how they work.
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Offline jeenash

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2018, 05:51:33 PM »
I believe the K6 series has the KE14 capsule, 14mm electret capsule with built in FET.
If that is the case, these should run with a simple battery box.
I've heard the KE14 is not as good as higher end mics, but I would like to give it a try myself and find out.
I found ME66 (shotgun) capsules, NOS, on ebay.  Will report back how they work.

The k6 puts out 8v so yes a battery box would work but unless you modify the body on the me66 there's no way to attach wires to it. I've done it with the me64 caps using a lathed down brass piece with a mini 3pin xlr.

Offline illconditioned

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2018, 05:54:49 PM »
I believe the K6 series has the KE14 capsule, 14mm electret capsule with built in FET.
If that is the case, these should run with a simple battery box.
I've heard the KE14 is not as good as higher end mics, but I would like to give it a try myself and find out.
I found ME66 (shotgun) capsules, NOS, on ebay.  Will report back how they work.

The k6 puts out 8v so yes a battery box would work but unless you modify the body on the me66 there's no way to attach wires to it. I've done it with the me64 caps using a lathed down brass piece with a mini 3pin xlr.
Excellent work on your rig.I'm just going to hard wire (solder) the capsule.  No mini XLR plugs needed.Oh yeah, there will be hot melt glue and/or epoxy putty.  Lots of it LOL.
Please DO NOT mail me with tech questions.  I will try to answer in the forums when I get a chance.  Thanks.

Sample recordings at: http://www.soundmann.com.

Offline jeenash

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2018, 06:02:36 PM »
I believe the K6 series has the KE14 capsule, 14mm electret capsule with built in FET.
If that is the case, these should run with a simple battery box.
I've heard the KE14 is not as good as higher end mics, but I would like to give it a try myself and find out.
I found ME66 (shotgun) capsules, NOS, on ebay.  Will report back how they work.

The k6 puts out 8v so yes a battery box would work but unless you modify the body on the me66 there's no way to attach wires to it. I've done it with the me64 caps using a lathed down brass piece with a mini 3pin xlr.
Excellent work on your rig.I'm just going to hard wire (solder) the capsule.  No mini XLR plugs needed.Oh yeah, there will be hot melt glue and/or epoxy putty.  Lots of it LOL.

Make sure to attach the capsule body to the shield on whatever cable you use and carry it through to whatever battery box shield  or it will buzz.

Offline mjwin

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2018, 06:29:24 PM »
The k6 puts out 8v so yes a battery box would work but unless you modify the body on the me66 there's no way to attach wires to it. I've done it with the me64 caps using a lathed down brass piece with a mini 3pin xlr.
That's a really impressive job & you've certainly reduced the length of the mic considerably. Now it's about the same size as an MKH8040. Just paint it with grey Nextel!

Of this series of mics I've only used the ME66 shotgun, but I think I'm correct in saying that the KE14 capsule is used in Sennheiser's new AMBEO ambisonc  mic. Maybe it's time for some of us to revisit this whole series...

Offline mjwin

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2018, 06:33:48 PM »
I tried recording my chickens some years ago and every time they made a sound, there was a plane flying overhead.
Yeah, but that's the sound recordist's  classic variant of murphy's law: "If you capture the call of a rare species, it will coincide with an aircraft overflight". But not every single time. After a few days stakeout, you'll get a few seconds of what you want (probably).

I was looking at the ME66 and the older ME80.

A used ME66/K6 is a possibility & you might find a K6P (no battery -phantom only) a bit cheaper. It's also a bit shorter so might be easier to fit into a blimp (which you will need).
 
ME80 + K3U are the predecessors to the ME66/K6, dating from around 1980. The output is lower level so there's probably a little more noise.  I seem to recall that the K3U uses a now obsolete battery type, but, again, it can be phantom powered.

But there's another approach:

Someone more famous than I, but whose name I forget, once said: "Any microphone is directional if you place it close enough". Therein lies a gem of wisdom.

Cheap electret capsules, such as the Primo EM172 can be wired up directly to the plug-in-power input on a small recorder & put in places where you certainly wouldn't want to put your KM140s or any decent mic..  Using your earlier example: inside your chicken shed, or even inside one of the nest boxes...  You'll get a different perspective and the close-up sound will swamp most of the background noise. Set up in advance, maybe overnight, record a few hours, then edit down to say 10 mins.  Chickens waking up, woodpeckers drumming on a particular tree, that kind of thing. It requires advance planning, finding  a location, some legwork etc. But it doesn't require shelling out on a mic which, as you say,  you  might not use much. Oh, and I'm speaking as an owner of an ME66: mine doesn't get used much! It's a good clean mic, does the job, and is useful for capturing sounds to be dropped into an ambient backdrop. But first you need that backdrop...

Offline admkrk

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2018, 02:44:12 AM »
I always had the impression that it was the plane that got them talking. No yard birds anymore after dogs breaking into the cage and killing my peacocks. Only have the pigs and the parrot anymore. I like the idea of getting a mic into the cage though, if I ever get chickens again I am definitely going to give that a try. I wish the owl was predicable as to when he was going to be around, I need to get a good picture of him one day also.

I ended up getting a pair of ME-80s and K3s, along with a ME-40. For $85, as long as I can get one of the ME-80s to work, I will call it good. No idea what I will do with the ME-40, but it never hurts to have more mics.
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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2018, 11:06:32 AM »
I'm eagerly awaiting the day jeenash decides to sell that custom ME64 rig  ;D
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Offline jeenash

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2018, 12:24:15 PM »
I'm eagerly awaiting the day jeenash decides to sell that custom ME64 rig  ;D

You'll have to pry them from my cold dead hands! ;D

Offline mjwin

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2018, 01:37:36 PM »
I always had the impression that it was the plane that got [the chickens] talking.

You're probably right there. I find that our european toads are also spurred into talking by aircraft flyovers. A bit like that old custom of calling a toad by humming a low note!   Sorry to hear about your peacocks btw.

I ended up getting a pair of ME-80s and K3s, along with a ME-40. For $85, as long as I can get one of the ME-80s to work, I will call it good. No idea what I will do with the ME-40, but it never hurts to have more mics.

That's cool. These Sennheiser mics are pretty reliable, that's why there are so many of them around still.

Offline admkrk

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2018, 07:21:51 PM »
From my research, it sounded like the ME-80 was very reliable, and more than once referred to as being "built like a tank". It sounded a lot like a nak300. That was the main reason I thought I would take a chance.

I have not looked into windscreens yet, but does a blimp make a substantial difference, over a regular windscreen? I have only ever had trouble with the big ass shures, for example, in situations where nothing would likely help.
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Offline mjwin

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2019, 03:40:58 PM »

I have not looked into windscreens yet, but does a blimp make a substantial difference, over a regular windscreen? I have only ever had trouble with the big ass shures, for example, in situations where nothing would likely help.

The blimp does make a big difference, but only if there's sufficient wind that you need it. You will certainy want some kind of protection, even on a still day, but the open cell foam windscreens (like your Shures) could well be fine. 

If you're reasonably competent at DIY stuff, it isn't hard to make something which is functionally pretty much as good as the original Rode blimp, although it will likely be heavier & more awkward to use & maybe rattle around a bit if you're hand holding it .  If you start by rolling a tube of fine wire mesh, the mic can be suspended inside with rubber bands. The critical components are the mic suspension & the fur. Fake fur which you can buy at a fabric store is fine, and your sewing skills don't have to be that good to make it into a loose sock which can be pulled over & secured with a cable tie. It won't look pretty, but it will work.  You can go from there. (That was the basis of my Mk 1 blimp, used with a Rode NT4, way back...)

Because there are so many types & styles of nature recording, I think that we all have to find our own way in by way of experiment in order to discover what it is that we really enjoy doing. There are always challenges, but part of the fun is in overcoming these.

Good luck with your recordings!

Martin

Offline admkrk

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2019, 06:26:24 PM »
Thanks. I think I will just go with regular foam for now. Unlike other taping events, this can easily be postponed until the wind dies down, if it is bad. I have way too many projects on hold right now to start a new one, making a blimp.   
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Offline John Willett

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #18 on: January 03, 2019, 11:56:01 AM »
I am looking for something to record nature sounds, for the most part. I have tried with my KM140s, but I end up with too much background noise; cars, plains, etc. I am hoping a shotgun will reject most of that, as long as I have something specific I can aim at. It is only going to see so much use, so I would like to stay < $200, or so.

For nature recording you really need a Sennheiser MKH series microphone as these are RF condensers and are not affected by the damp like normal AF condensers.

Personally I would go for an MKH 8060 or 8070, but the MKH 60 or 70 are also excellent (and are cheaper s/h).  The older MKH 416 and 816 have a higher self noise and I would avoid these for nature recording where you are often trying to record quiet sounds.

PS - Only just noticed your $200 price.  This is very low and the only gthing really at this price is a s/h Sennheiser MKH 600 or K6/ME60 - these are pre-polarised and you would have to be careful and *do* allow time for them to acclimatised before you press record (as with any AF condenser).
« Last Edit: January 03, 2019, 11:58:48 AM by John Willett »

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2019, 12:06:25 PM »
^ Good advice, but well above the stated <$200 budget.

Consider an electret-based shotgun as an alternate work around if AF condenser dampness is a concern.  Nakamichi CP-4 comes to mind.  Must be others, probably an AKG model? dunno.
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Offline admkrk

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Re: Shotgun Recomemdation
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2019, 05:59:16 PM »
Well, I will see how the ME-80s work. I did a quick test and all the capsules seem to work, have not listened, just saw a response on the meters. Only one of the K3s seems to work, though. That one might just need a slug in the battery compartment?

I had looked at a MKH-415, but it was T-powered and I would have had to get an adapter. If I find myself in a position to use one more often, I will find a bigger budget.
"the faster you go ahead, the behinder you get"

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