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Old August 15th, 2007, 08:01 PM   #1
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Best Shotgun Mic for $200-400?

Hi everyone,

I'm shooting a documentary in Japan over the next year on a Panasonic AG-DVX100B in 24pA--the overwhelming majority of which will be recorded out in the streets or in the houses of Tokyo (that is, everywhere but in a studio) with all of it's wind and deep, engine rumble and crowding, etc.

I only have a budget of about $200-400 for a mic. Here are the options I have it whittled down to (though I am open to suggestions):

* Audiotechnica AT875
* Audiotechnica AT835B
* Audiotechnica AT897
* Rode NTG-1
* Rode NTG-2
* Sennheiser ME66/K6P
* Sony ECM-673
* Son ECM-674

All these are to be boom-mounted, from above, as their primary function. Secondary roles may include acting like a stick mic for interviews and collecting location sound for fixing stuff in post.

If you were in my shoes, which mic would you choose?

--Luke

p.s.

Is the on-board audio recorder on the AG-DVX100B any good? I've read glowing reviews--stating that it's the best audio recorder in it's class (i.e. entry-level, DV camcorders), but--I have tasted the fruit of reel-to-reel tape, ADAT and others! I recognize comparing these two families of equipment is hardly fair, but I'm wondering--how long is the distance between?

Anyone know of a dedicated, portable audio recorder that's at least a step up from the stuff on the DVX100B, but won't break the bank? (My threshold for a broken bank is somewhere around $500.)
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Old August 16th, 2007, 08:21 AM   #2
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The DVX's sound quality is "not bad". Somewhere between YouTube and theatrical release. It's a little cold and a little noisy, but for most low-budget applications, it's perfectly acceptable. I've heard a lot of local news crews use it.

Out of the shotguns you listed I've only heard the AT897 and the ME-66. I prefer the 897 - the sound is more natural. The ME-66 is also an extremely hot mic, which I found hard to work with. I think you'll want something for wind also - take a look at the Rycote Softie or the Rode Dead Cat (fits 897).

For $500 you might get lucky on a used Tascam DA-P1 DAT recorder. These things are pretty rugged and impressive for the price. Preamps are not noisy (but don't sound nearly as good as a 302's). Mine was in sad shape when I got it and needed a $150 alignment/servicing. You'd probably be better off getting a new HD-P2 for another three to four hundred, but money is always the problem, isn't it?
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Old August 16th, 2007, 09:40 AM   #3
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Great; thanks, man. That helps a lot!

I think I'm going to go with the AT897. I'm guessing that--because the preamps on the DVX100B tend to be a little cold and a little noisy, as you say--I should probably have my priorities something like this:

1) Maximize sensitivity (to avoid cranking up the noise from the preamps on the DVX100B).
2) Minimize impedance and lower reach of frequency response range (to keep the base end as present and clean as possible).
3) Maximize max. sound-pressure level and dynamic range (to compensate for the fact that I won't be using any sort of compression on the audio).

Here's the data on all of 'em (the list is tab delimited, so--to see it better--copy the data to a text file and then import that file in Excel):

Cost Mic Imped Frq low Frq High s/n max spl Dyn Rng sensi
416 ME66 200 40 20 10 (a) - 21(CCIR) 125 50
259 AT897 200-300 20 20 77 129-115 112-98 1
187 AT875R 100 90 20 74 127 107 -30
229 NTG-1 50 20 20 76 139 121 -36
264 ECM-673 220 40 20 77 124 107 -36
329 ECM-674 220 40 20 77 124 107-98 -36
249 NTG-2 250-350 20 20 76 131 113 -36
234 AT835B 500-600 40 20 70 130-115 106-91 -38.5


As you can see (maybe), while the ME66 costs twice as much as the AT897, it is outperformed by the 897 in every category except signal to noise ratio and sensitivity! (n.b. I may be comparing apples to oranges, as I wasn't very careful to make sure each of the measurements in a category were recorded using the same standards.)

Given that I could use the extra $200 bucks between the two to possibly get a copy of Vegas or maybe even a tripod that can double as a steady-cam, I'd say--the AT897 is the way to go.

However--I'd like to ask you this: how does a dead cat compare with the standard, foam screen that comes with most shotgun mics? Are they two different leagues? Does a dead cat roll off more or less of the high or low ends? (Do you need a zeppelin to use a dead cat?)

So much to know!

Peace and thanks,

--Luke
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Old August 17th, 2007, 08:34 AM   #4
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The Dead Cat fits over the provided windscreen, so they are to be used together. It's worked for me in gusts of 15-20mph depending on how you position the mic. (It won't do you much good on the beach.) The windscreen that comes with the mic will do practically nothing outdoors - even moving the boom rapidly can cause problems. It will roll off some highs, nothing too drastic.

A zeppelin is a whole other approach to wind protection. It's a tube-shaped mesh with a shockmount inside, and a variety of cloth and synthetic-fur covers. The Rycotes (very common) go for about $600 and are worth every penny.
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Old August 17th, 2007, 01:51 PM   #5
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If your #1 priority is sensitivity, you should probably have another look at the NTG-2. Besides having excellent sound it has 50% more output than the AT897.
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Old August 17th, 2007, 02:35 PM   #6
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Holly crap--you're right!!!

I had mis-typed the sensitivity specification for the AT897 in my little matrix doo-hickey:

* I entered 1 dB, as listed above.
* The AT897's actual sensitivity is -40 under phantom power and -41 on a battery!

That means that the NTG-1 outperforms both the AT897 and the NTG-2 in terms of frequency response, sensitivity and impedance! (That is, assuming I haven't messed anything else up.) On top of that, it's about $30 cheaper to boot!

Thank you so much, David. Good catch!

--Luke
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Old August 17th, 2007, 03:09 PM   #7
 
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There is more to a mic than numbers on paper. Both the AT and the Rode are good mics in their price class; I happen to like the AT a bit better based on it's personality, but then again, I've heard/own them both. Paper is good for baseline comparisons, but it's a bit like shopping for a mail-order bride. You can see what she looks like, but no clue how she behaves.
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Old January 12th, 2010, 03:47 PM   #8
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Hi,
Can anyone explain to what difference/or why is it better if the ntg-2 has more senstivity than the Audiotechnica AT897.

Thanks
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Old January 12th, 2010, 06:39 PM   #9
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A high sensitivity mic doesn't need much gain from the preamp. That helps keep preamp noise low.
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Old January 16th, 2010, 01:08 AM   #10
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We use AT897's on each of our cameras for ambient and also for close up interviews. We like them for their natural sound and size. They're fixed to the cameras in suspension mounts.

Whilst the numbers are a guide to the engineering of the various mics, my own view is that it's the sound they capture/produce that really matters and that's 100% subjective.

Good luck with the project.
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Old January 16th, 2010, 06:12 AM   #11
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I use the AT875's too, I had a rode NTG-1 but the AT is a better mic in my opinion and more suited to speech recording, I have five AT875's now and use them a lot on cameras booms and as interview mics with a G2 500 butt plug transmitter.
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Old January 17th, 2010, 12:26 PM   #12
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I am with Gary, the AT-875r is the best sounding cheap mic on the market. I own the ME-66/64/67 and the 875r sounds better at half of the cost. I really like the RØDE NTG-3 but I have not tried the inexpensive RØDE mics yet. The 875r sounds better than the 4073 or the other lower end ATs as well IMHO. It was designed as an on-camera mic, it is tiny but the cool part is that it sounds really great on the end of a boompole as well. I bought mine for $189.00, it is by far my favorite mic under $500.00

You might want to take a listen...
As I Hear It - Choosing the Right Microphone

Dan
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Old January 18th, 2010, 03:51 AM   #13
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Here is a demo clip from a drama shoot I recently did, this has an AT 875 on a boom about 3-4 feet away:YouTube - 0004OS - iPhone.m4v

Note this is the master wide shot, single cut aways were done to pick up the dialogue closer but it all cuts in very well.

2nd clip shot outside:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbvCcjrAueI

Note the slight clipping is from the you tube decode and you can see the boom dip into shot in the latter part of the scene, this was a hand held cutaway but the mic was still straight into the camera.
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Last edited by Gary Nattrass; January 18th, 2010 at 04:29 AM.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 06:14 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Spotted Eagle View Post
Paper is good for baseline comparisons, but it's a bit like shopping for a mail-order bride. You can see what she looks like, but no clue how she behaves.
Ah... I miss DSE's analogies.

I wish I had an AT875r back when I did a few tests, the AT897 was present, and not my pick over the RODE NTG-2. DVeStore’s Shotgun Shootout at DVcreators.net Good find by Dan comparing it in his article. I do like the AT4073 better than the NTG-2 if you can go to the $500+ mark, but by the time you're there, you may as well go NTG-3 or Sanken CS1.
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Old January 19th, 2010, 11:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Spotted Eagle View Post
Paper is good for baseline comparisons, but it's a bit like shopping for a mail-order bride. You can see what she looks like, but no clue how she behaves.
By the way, Douglas, great to see you posting again. Welcome back.
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