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Author Topic: Best entry level shotgun mic?  (Read 893 times)

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Offline InfiniteOhms

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Best entry level shotgun mic?
« on: April 04, 2019, 04:50:59 PM »
I’m interested in recording some lectures / classes, so mostly a single unamplified voice. Seems like a single shotgun into my zoom h4n pro should do the trick. Any recommendations? If I could get something that is halfway decent quality for under $100 (used) I would be thrilled. Thanks!
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Offline beegar

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2019, 05:05:43 PM »
I’m interested in recording some lectures / classes, so mostly a single unamplified voice. Seems like a single shotgun into my zoom h4n pro should do the trick. Any recommendations? If I could get something that is halfway decent quality for under $100 (used) I would be thrilled. Thanks!

In my opinion, the AT897 is a decent starter shotgun. I have two of them - you can get them for around $100 on ebay if you watch.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2019, 05:08:40 PM by beegar »
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Offline InfiniteOhms

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2019, 05:11:33 PM »
I’m interested in recording some lectures / classes, so mostly a single unamplified voice. Seems like a single shotgun into my zoom h4n pro should do the trick. Any recommendations? If I could get something that is halfway decent quality for under $100 (used) I would be thrilled. Thanks!

In my opinion, the AT897 is a decent starter shotgun. I have two of them - you can get them for around $100 on ebay if you watch.
Thanks for the recommendation! I will keep a eye on eBay for those.
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2019, 05:14:39 PM »
I'd consider Zoom's short shotgun mics which connect directly to the recorder.  I think they make a mono one and a stereo version.  I've no idea how good they are but they should be inexpensive and keep the setup simple with no cables required.  Even though your application is lecture recording where stereo playback isn't required, a stereo recording using the stereo shotgun will often make for easier comprehension when recording from a distance due to aspects of human auditory perception.  Stereo does a better job at allowing one to more clearly differentiate spoken word from the recorded reverberance, and even though you plan to use a shotgun microphone, you will still have lots of room reverberation in the recordings.
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Offline InfiniteOhms

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2019, 05:19:33 PM »
Thanks! I will check those out as well.
Edit: looks like they are designed for a different model recorder.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2019, 05:27:56 PM by InfiniteOhms »
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Offline vanark

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2019, 07:07:30 PM »
I've heard great things about the AKG 568
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Offline DSatz

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2019, 09:33:00 PM »
I truly wish that I could pass along some advice from long experience. I know that people will mostly go on believing what they choose to believe, but here goes anyway:

[1] To get the best speech intelligibility in a recording, the most important thing you can do is to record in stereo from the best miking position that you can get.

Especially if the eventual listener(s) will use headphones (but even if they don't), stereo brings the listener's brain into the game in a way that mono just doesn't allow. Our brains are evolved to use stereo information to "subtract out" reverberation, noise and competing sound sources, and figure out what's being said. No one so far has been able to create an algorithm or type of equipment that duplicates this ability. It's an enormous advantage, much greater than people generally seem to expect. (I know this from having transcribed hundreds of hours of speech recordings, most of which were made in unfavorable acoustical environments; I learned very quickly which recording arrangements worked well and which ones didn't.)

The requirement for a suitable miking distance is non-negotiable if you want clear speech recordings. No equipment in the world can get you around that requirement. Don't "yadda-yadda" this fact away; it's key.

[2] Depending on the room, the next most helpful thing that you can do is to reduce the "room rumble" (diffuse low-frequency room sound) with filtering of some kind. Even a moderate amount of filtering can help considerably.

I've attached (below) the filter curves that Nagra built in to their IV-S recorders. In the 1970s I recorded a great deal of documentary sound as well as concerts with a IV-S, and can testify that those curves are extremely well worked out. The curve labeled "S + LFA" (= speech plus low-frequency attenuation) can be so, so helpful if you can possibly get anything like it from your editing software.

[3] OK, here goes nothing: Shotgun microphones can be fine within a few feet of the person speaking, but in reverberant spaces they work quite poorly at greater distances, especially for speech pickup.

Some amateurs (no shade intended by the use of that term) like them for some kinds of non-close-up music recording. OK, whatever. But that doesn't carry over to non-close-up speech recording--or to most other kinds of music recording, for that matter. If the sound that reaches a shotgun microphone from off-axis is a reflected version of the SAME sound that it's picking up on-axis, then the irregular cancellation caused by the slotted tube in front of the capsule will decrease the intelligibility of your recording rather than help it.

Ask anyone who records film or video dialogue for for a living. For indoor scenes, they always prefer a supercardioid on the boom rather than a shotgun, if the available miking distance allows it (set by the boundaries of the camera frame). When a shotgun is used it is IMPERATIVE (a) to get as close to the sound source as possible and (b) to keep the sound source directly on axis at all times. Those are the primary skills of a boom operator. Most shotgun mikes tend to sound muffled when the person speaking is off-axis--but at any considerable distance (say 6 to 8 feet away or more) in a reverberant space of normal size, you start to pick up more sound off-axis than on-axis. So in addition to the muffled pickup of off-axis sound, you have further cancellation of the high frequencies due to phase conflicts right in the range where consonant articulation depends on them the most.

In all seriousness, for speech recording in a reverberant space you would be better off making a stereo recording with a pair of omnis (especially if they are diffuse-field equalized) than either a mono recording with a shotgun mike OR a stereo recording with two shotgun mikes. Of course a good pair of cardioids or (best of all) supercardioids would be even better, but I hope my point is clear.

And if you only halfway believe me (which I understand) (sigh) and you are stuck on the idea of a shotgun microphone, then at least please consider using a stereo shotgun microphone. That is an M/S stereo arrangement with a shotgun microphone for the "M" channel, often with the matrix to produce L/R stereo signals from the M/S pickup built into the mike itself. AudioTechnica makes at least one; Sennheiser makes one that is well thought of; Sanken makes more than one, including a model with a multi-capsule shotgun that suppresses low-frequency room sound better than other shotguns can do unless they use digital signal processing; Neumann used to make a really nice-sounding one, and I think some other manufacturers do, too. Or you can put up a regular shotgun with a figure-8 mike aligned to where the shotgun's capsule is behind the interference tube, and dematrix in software afterward, or in your preamp or recorder if it has that ability (e.g. Sound Devices).

Of course you still need a decent miking position, or else the shotgun will be overwhelmed by the reverberance while the side-facing figure-8 will pick up mostly diffuse, reflected sound, and then the stereo pickup won't be nearly as useful. Stereo shotgun microphones aren't a panacea by any means.

In fact, please please please don't overestimate what ANY directional microphone can do to overcome an excessive miking distance, especially for speech recording. If your ideal recording distance with an omni would be (say) 2 feet from the person speaking, then even the most sharply directional microphone in the world (unless it uses special digital signal processing costing thousands of dollars) can only give you a few extra feet of distance with equivalent clarity. Directional microphones aren't like zoom lenses on cameras; they can only record the sound field at the point where they themselves are located. No directional pattern can possibly make up for the microphone(s) being 10 feet away (let alone 20 feet or more) instead of 2 to 3 feet away.

--best regards, and good luck
« Last Edit: May 01, 2019, 02:09:43 PM by DSatz »
music > microphones > a recorder of some sort

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2019, 09:31:43 AM »
Thank you for sharing this valuable, insightful advice in such a clear and detailed post.  And for your patience for the necessary educational-repetition! Your contributions to this site are a treasure.

Location!  Get the microphone(s) close enough to the source. 

If you absolutely can't do that, consider boundary-mounted omnis on a nearby wall, which can increase clarity somewhat more than other techniques used at the same distance.
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Offline JimmieC

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2019, 10:55:22 AM »
I'm looking at setting up a camera with a mic and I hate the youtube video with inaudible speech.  I want to try and have the best audio for my videos, which mostly would be outside and relatively close (<20').  DSatz, would you say the shotgun mic still would not be the best for outdoor too?  Still would go with two supercardioid vs m/s shotgun?  However, probably not all situations can be handled with the same mics or setup.

Glad y'all started talking about this because I was probably going to get just a mono mic but it does make since to get a stereo or rig it up with 2 active mics.  Now I'll be looking at mics all afternoon.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2019, 10:59:20 AM by JimmieC »
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Offline DSatz

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2019, 12:58:11 PM »
Ah--when you wrote "lectures / classes" I assumed an indoor setting. A lot of what I wrote won't apply so much.

I haven't done very much outdoor recording, but I have to say, 20 feet seems really distant no matter what type of microphone(s) you're going to use. I just can't imagine getting good results from farther than maybe 5 or 6 feet away--and even that assumes dependably quiet surroundings. The farther you get from your intended source, the more vulnerable your recording will be to interfering sound from all other sources in the neighborhood. (Who are the people in your neighborhood?)

Also, wind has always been a big problem whenever I've done any outdoor recording, especially because I'm not "geared up" properly for it. Professionals who record dialogue outdoors always have to make very substantial investments in windscreens. Not using them is like asking for many of your recordings to be ruined. Again, though, all other things being equal, if there's some residual noise due to wind in a recording, then the closer you were to your sound source at the time, the less that amount of wind noise will detract from hearing what was said.

Definitely have a look at Rycote on https://rycote.com--they have high-quality solutions for all kinds of stereo arrangements as well as individual microphones. Their U.S. distributor is Redding Audio (https://www.reddingaudio.com).

Gutbucket has an interesting suggestion: boundary-layer microphones. Those are most often omnidirectional--and if so, they'll be pressure transducers rather than pressure gradient (velocity) transducers, so they'll be inherently far more resistant to wind noise than any directional microphone--like by ~20 dB or so. Boundary mounting also gives a microphone the peculiar property of picking up direct sound with 3 dB greater sensitivity than diffuse sound, as Gutbucket mentioned--not a huge difference, but it can help. I need to put a disclaimer on this idea, though, since I've never tried it myself (and now I really want to; I have a pair of Schoeps BLM 03 Cs that I've only ever used indoors). Also, if the person or the people will be walking while talking, you couldn't use that approach at all, I don't think.

I really would like to see you get suggestions from someone who records outdoor dialog and/or effects professionally. Shotguns are definitely used in this application, since the "multipath" problem (different path lengths, and therefore different arrival times, for the same sound arriving at different angles) is fundamentally less severe outdoors. But a 20-foot recording distance just doesn't seem workable to me with any type of microphone I've ever heard of. Is there any chance that you could get significantly closer--or maybe put something like a Tascam DR-10L (https://tascam.com/us/product/dr-10l/top) on the person doing the talking, and match the sound to the picture later on?

If these recordings are at all important (even if only to yourself), I think that you'd want to do some serious testing in advance--rather than just imagining (or asking other people) what it should be like, then finding out that reality was all rude and didn't behave as you thought it would. Reality can have bad manners in that regard.

--best regards
« Last Edit: May 01, 2019, 02:12:56 PM by DSatz »
music > microphones > a recorder of some sort

Offline lsd2525

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2019, 01:01:51 PM »
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Offline JimmieC

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Re: Best entry level shotgun mic?
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2019, 04:03:43 PM »
DSatz, thanks for the info and your right that testing will be the best.  Additionally, every ones taste in audio is different.  Need the mic, preamp, recorder to quiet due to the unamplified source, similar to original post.  I will be getting some windscreens as I can't stand when people have wind noise.  Those will probably be the cheapest item and the most needed for outdoor and indoor sometimes too (damn AC).

I should have mentioned that for me it would be personnel use of video/audio that would may be uploaded to youtube.  I need to search youtube a little (probably a lot more) to see what others are using and how is sounds.  I see some are using wireless mics too.  I mostly want to document my garden (what worked or didn't work) and others for a garden forum that I'm on, as well as family vacations. I wish so much that I had video/audio from when we walked around the top of Capulin Volcano in New Mexico last spring.  I would love to see it again and share (mostly with grandparents) the excitement of the kids, as well as the several other places we went last year.  I've been able to get one of the kids into geology and going to do some southern Appalachian geology trips this summer when we meet up with some friend for Dead and Company.  Here in Louisiana, we could easily do fluvial (river deposition) and deltaic videos/trips on the weekends.  Some day we could collage the video content and do the geology from the mountains down to the plains, delta, and ocean deposition.  May be some people would be interested in the geology videos too.  The best is if I could get the kids into video editing, writing, and such too.  Would love to do some farm tours too but don't think I can get them to wear a mic.  Of coarse, our camera and mics will probably change, upgrade, and/or downsize throughout the years but I would like to start out with something decent sounding so that over time we would have a lot of content to reuse for various videos.  These are my ideas for right now and hope the kids come up with some of their own.  I want to expose them to as many things as I can and may be they will pick it up over time.

Ah man, jumping into another hobby but I think it will be pretty useful.  Thankfully going offshore in May to pay for some of it.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2019, 04:05:43 PM by JimmieC »
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