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Microphones, Radio Microphones and IEM's
I want binaural sound for my project - but should i record in binaural or ambisonics?
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It depends on your project. Recording in binaural sound provides a great recreation of the world, as a human being might hear it if they were there. However it is a fixed perspective recording- whichever way the binaural head was facing when you recorded it will be the way the listener experiences the sound. This is perfect in many applications, however increasingly we are creating "virtual reality" like experiences, where the user can look around. This might be a film taken with a 360 degree camera, or a computer modelled space, and the user might listen to it using a VR headset or by moving their mobile phone around. In this case we don't want a fixed perspective recording, we want a way that the perspective of the recording can follow where the user is looking. Not always but sometimes. Let's take a simple example, if the user is in an auditorium looking at a stage with a performance happening on it, we want the perspective of the audio to have the stage in front of them. But if they look to their left, the stage will now be on their right, and we'd likely want the audio to appear to come from the right too. A binaural head pointing at the stage will always have the sound coming in to both ears. An ambisonic mic is typically a 4 channel microphone, that records sound from 4 directions. In the same way a 360 camera uses multiple cameras to generate a 360 degree view of the world, so an ambisonic mic does the same for audio. The clever bit is what you can do with an ambisonic recording after you've made your recording. You can generate a binaural simulation from the ambisonic recording, and you can choose in software which way your virtual binaural head is facing. And in fact most of the VR platforms now include software which will import an ambisonic recording and based on where the user is looking will generate a binaural simulation in real time. So if they look to the left of our auditorium, the sound will binaurally pan to the right. However ambisonic recordings rendered into a binaural simulation don't sound quite as good as a real binaural recording. The imaging isn't quite as dramatic. So it's a choice of flexibility & being able to rotate (ambisonics), versus a fixed perspective but one with a dramatic rendition (binaural)..
Binaural microphones are available in three types. The Neumann KU100 mic is the premium binaural mic, robust and amazing sound quality; the Soundman John/DPA 4061 combination is good quality but best suited for static recordings; and the 3Dio FreeSpace, which is super portable.
Neumann KU100 binaural head
This is one of the best sounding binaural mics available. It is robust and practical to use, with microphones internal to the head. There is a 5-pin XLR on the bottom of the head, with a lead supplied to break out to two XLR plugs. There is a mic stand thread on the bottom and top of the head, and it can be stood on most mic stands - it is heavy so care is needed. The mic is powered by standard phantom power (48V).
Soundman John binaural head / DPA4061
This is ideal for static high-quality binaural recordings. There is a mic thread in the bottom of the wooden head for mounting on a mic stand. Available in black and beech - beech supplied as standard. The DPA mics are inserted into the ears of the head (held in place with tape or blue-tack) and have XLR outputs. The DPA's run off standard phantom power (48V).
3dio Free Space Binaural microphone
This microphone is ideal for mobile recording. This version has a 3.5mm mini-jack output and runs off a 9V battery. Whilst the quality is not quite as good as its bigger brothers it makes up for this by being able to go other places they can't get to. User manual. A GoPro can be mounted on the front of it to record video from the same perspective.
The kit includes the 3Dio Free Space microphone, with a mounting frame for GoPro and Recorder (not supplied, you'll need screw threads to mount them to the frame), a 3m 3.5mm minijack to dual XLR cable, a spare 9V battery and furry ear muffs (to reduce wind noise).
Soundfield SPS200-SB in Zephyx windshield
This A-Format ambisonic mic is ideal for field recording of 3D sound. TSL provide free AAX, AU and VST plug-ins (you need to Register on their site in order too download the software) to decode this microphone to various surround and stereo formats. Records to 4 audio channels. This microphone works on a similar principle to the Sennheiser Ambeo microphone.
Sennheiser Ambeo microphone in Rycote Babyball windshield
This A-Format ambisonic microphone is ideal for field recording of 3D sound. Sennheiser provide free plug-ins to decode this microphone to B-Format ambisonics. Records to 4 audio channels. This microphone works on a similar principle to the Soundfield SPS200 microphone. Supplied with 1.5m cable, 5m extension cable and breakout cable to 4x XLR.
Telinga Universal parabolic microphone mount
This is a special type of microphone mount, designed for very long distance pickup. You see it used a lot of recording birdsong, for long distance surveillance and for atmos at sporting events. The compromise you get for such directional sound is that they don't pick up much low or mid frequency sound. Am omni mic is inserted into the centre of the parabolic mount - I use a Rode NT5 with the replacement omni capsule.
The Telinga model is useful in that it rolls up which makes it a lot more portable if you're going to be doing a lot of walking. You'll notice a variety of stress fractures from being rolled up, and various dents, but these don't affect the sound.
Featured Conventional microphones
DPA 2011C compact microphone, available individually or as a matched stereo pair.
These make awesome float mic's due to their extremely small size, low noise and excellent feedback rejection. They are also great as an XY pair for stereo recording, or individually to mic up instruments.
Neumann KM184 microphone, available individually or as a matched stereo pair,
Excellent for stereo recording, or individually for mic'ing string instruments or anything with a fragile beautiful nature!
Neumann KMS105 microphone
Excellent live vocal mic. A superb colourful sound and hypercardioid response makes for good feedback rejection. Once you try this you'll never want to use an SM58 again!
Aquarian Hydrophone H2A-XLR
Hydrophone for underwater recording, 9m cable length.
Sennheiser ew312 radio mic (ch38 or ch70) belt pack or handheld system
Sennheiser antennae distribution amplifier plus passive antenna
Sennheiser MKE-2 microphone
Channel 70 (license-free) system:
A complete system will comprise a rack mount receiver, and either a belt pack or handheld transmitter. Each transmitter uses 2 AA batteries which last for approx 6 hours. If using more than 4 channels or more an antenna distribution unit is needed, which allows the system to run off of aerials that can be located closer to the transmitters. A rack mount battery charger is available too, and Duracell Duralock rechargeable batteries are recommended. Channel 70 radio mics can be used without any special licenses, though this means that other users may use this frequency too which may cause interference. Bewltpack transmitters re supplied with a Sennheiser ME2 mic as standard. MKE2's are available.
Channel 38 (licensed) system:
A complete system will comprise a rack mount receiver, and either a belt pack or handheld transmitter. Each transmitter uses 2 AA batteries which last for approx 6 hours. If using more than 4 channels or more an antenna distribution unit is needed, which allows the system to run off of aerials that can be located closer to the transmitters. A rack mount battery charger is available too, and Duracell Duralock rechargeable batteries are recommended. Channel 38 radio mics require a special license from Ofcom, which helps reduce the likelihood of interference. Licenses are easy to obtain and can be purchased for you.
Portable Radio Mic system:
This uses battery powered transmitters and battery powered receivers to provide a fully portable radio mic system. It operates on Ch.38. The receiver outputs at mic or line level via a 3.5mm socket. An adaptor is provided to provide XLR output. A tripod mount, or 3.5mm to 3.5mm lead, for the receiver can be supplied on request.
IEM (In ear monitor)
Sennheiser G2 IEM system (ch40)
An IEM system typically consists of a rack mount transmitter and a belt pack receiver. It allows either a performer to wear a pair of wireless headphones, or can be used to send sound to a battery powered speaker, for a prop (e.g. a crying baby, mobile phone). Multiple receivers can also be used with one transmitter so multiple people can listen to the same feed. If 4 transmitters are used then an antenna combiner unit allows the system to run off of a single aerial that can be located closer to the receivers. A license from Ofcom is required to use these, to ensure interference free operation. Licenses are easy to obtain and can be purchased for you.
Sennheiser antenna combiner plus passive aerial
This is recommended if using 4 sets of IEMs simultaneously