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Old February 24th, 2008, 05:55 AM   #1
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oktava-schoeps compared by unqualified guy

So, since you've already heard all the comparisons by people that know what they are talking about (or blow hard enough that they seem like they know), I thought I'd offer my observations as a guy that has done post production for 17 years and is buying up production gear so he can fight middle age by making goofy no budget videos with other pseudo-creative folk (and reduce taxes). I have a reasonable ear when it comes to post audio design, but I'm not one of those annoying "golden eared" guys that tries to make other people feel bad for not being able to hear the difference between 16bit/44.1k and 16bit/48k. Also, there are no components in my home stereo that are larger or heavier than a geo metro. I am not a professional soundie, nor an aspiring soundie, even if the opportunity to take that cut in pay and respect arose. (that was a joke. maybe a bit too poignant, but nonetheless a joke. hehe)

Based on the discussions on this forum about cheap/good dialog mics, I bought (amongst a bunch of other stuff) an octava hyper from sound room. On most of the shoots i've helped out with, it has blown away the other mics available (mostly junk shotguns like the atr55, but also "widely regarded" mics like the me66.). But, just as I believed DVinfo forums that the Oktava rocked, I also believed you guys that the Schoeps cmc641 is so much better than the Oktava that it could make a cat urinating on a pie plate sound like angels... uh, urinating on a pie plate. So, I cashed out some of my earnings at istockphoto.com and bought one. (and an advanta-jib, but that will be another story when it arrives).

So after owning the schoeps for around 10 minutes and testing by a/b switching between them as I talk, here are my initial impressions of the two mics from the perspective of someone that does mostly visual production for a living:

1. The box.
First, the schoeps box is bigger. You know, the goofy wooden boxes that expensive mics come in that are too nice to throw away, but too big to actually carry around? The schoeps box is almost twice the size of the Oktava box. Inside the box is the mic with its capsule already attached, in a slot much longer than the mic, so it can slide around and bang the capsule against the foam. The Oktava box has a little extra compartment for the capsule (and spaces for multiple capsules) with everythign fitting nice and snug. I guess part of the thinking is that schoeps capsules are so expensive, you'd never ever be able to buy multiple capsules at the same time, so there are no need for spaces for them. Why the mic is loose to slide around? I guess its tougher than I think.

I guess the bigger box has more "damn, whats in the giant box?" sex appeal, but the Oktava box is small enough that it seems more like something jewelry would come in. I have a wooden box of dominos that is right in between the other two boxes in size, so that could confuse people if I am trying to impress with the box alone. The schoeps box looks nicer, but the Oktava box is made of cedar, so while it doesnt look as fancy, it smells really nice, so for this first criteria I'm going to have to go with Oktava as the superior device.

2. carrying around

The Oktava is so small that it can slide all the way into my rycote BBG and stow that way in my sound bag. It leaves the xlr pins exposed, but the mic is so inexpensive that i just aim the pins down so nothing falls into them and so far its worked out great.

The schoeps is longer by like an inch, so the mic sticks out of the back of the bbg by like 3/4 inch if you try to carry it around that way. In theory that should be fine, but since the schoeps cost more than the truck i'm driving it around in, it seems not good enough.

Does anybody make a padded tube for the schoeps? Like, an oversized cigar tube with foam inside? How do you guys carry your mics around? Do you have a cart for the wooden boxes?

3. Looks.

I got the grey schoeps, so its texture is similar to the oktava, but a bit finer. However, the schoeps looks like they were sober when they painted it. Also, unlike the Oktava, the schoeps looks like they painted the mic exterior before they added the stuff inside.

If you unscrew the top of the Oktava, there are a couple contacts. If you unscrew the schoeps there are concentric rings of like 4 or 5 contacts. I have no idea what they are for, but the schoeps definitely wins for overall cosmetics as well as the number of contacts between the body and capsule.

4. Weight

The Oktava is shorter, but feels heavier. It might not be, but using the highly accurate "jiggling them around in my two hands" technique, the schoeps felt a little bit lighter.

5. Paranoia

One distinct advantage of the Oktava is that you can leave the mic in your closet when you go roller skating and you dont really worry whether or not it will be stolen when you return. Heck, the Oktava is so cheap you could leave the thing on the bus and not be too heartbroken. The schoeps is so expensive it makes me think that everybody is out to steal it. Speaking of which... what exactly are you staring at?

6. Bragging rights

Well. I live in New Zealand, and so far I haven't run into anyone that has heard of either Schoeps or Oktava. In order to impress people I have to first educate them about the two brands, the relative quality difference, then try to impress them with just how insanely expensive the schoeps was without making them think it was a waste of money. So really, unless I run into some north island sound guys, or other DVinfo patrons, the bragging is mostly lost. I can just say "i have a nz$3,000 mic" and they'll say "damn"... but really, i could have just lied and said that about the Oktava.

7. resale value

The Oktava probably holds close to 80% of its original purchase price, so thats pretty good. The schoeps, however, went up in price like $400 the day after i bought it, so thusfar, i think the schoeps has actually appreciated in value.

8. handling noise

I somehow missed all the discussions about handling noise of the schoeps before buying it. For some reason i thought it would have none. It has a tiny bit less handling noise than the Oktava, but not enough to get too excited about that alone. I tried it in my ktek KSSM mount with the soft bands, and while a slightly larger mic than the Oktava, it seemed to dampen down nicely. I'll have to test it more in the wild.

9. the BEST mic

Well, for a couple years I've been hearing schoeps schoeps schoeps by the people that talk a lot on forums. Now that I've bent over and bought the schoeps, everybody is chattering about how the new mkh8040 sounds better. doh!

10. printed materials

The schoeps comes with a brochure/ad for the collete series, plus a warranty card. The Oktava came with a couple graphs, one of which looks like my great aunt's signature and the other like she was trying to draw a circle while overdosing. Since the schoeps didnt come with anything like that, the oktava is superior on this front.

11. The sound quality

I'm always annoyed when people say things like "its subjective depending on your ears" because I really want things to be more concrete than that. Well, here is my honest opinion for sound people to condemn me for...

If i listen to the schoeps for awhile and switch to the Oktava, the Oktava sounds thin and slightly "metallic" in the upper mids. However, If i listen to the Oktava for awhile and switch to the schoeps, the schoeps sounds a little bit heavy on the low end. If i'm doing an audio mix in post, then I have a clear sense of tone and clarity and how well something sits in a mix, but for some reason just a/b testing these two mics, I cant get a baseline that makes one sound infinitely better than the other. Both would certainly be totally serviceable to edit, and I've without a doubt had far worse results than either from "sound professionals."

So I would only do post color grading on a known monitor that has been set up properly and has a neutral environment with appropriate lighting. In that context, i can compare two hues and determine which works better.

I have no idea how to do that with audio, especially outside of a mix. I mean, how do you clear your audio pallete? Do you listen to white noise for awhile? I could never grade color while wearing sunglasses or in a room with natural light that changes throughout the day. What exactly are people using as a base for "natural"?


Conclusion:
Um. people way more gifted (obsessed?) with audio (or at least, talking about it) say that the schoeps sounds way better... so I have no reason to doubt that it does. However, neither mic sounds "bad" the way an atr55 or me66 does to me.

I should do a double blind test between the schoeps and oktava to determine just how uncivilized my ears really are.

I suppose the beauty here is that I really dont need to believe. As long as I send the schoeps through my sound devices mixer into a 24 bit recorder, (and use good boom technique) then my interior dialog in theory should sound great.

...at least, it will sound great until people decide the 8040 sounds SO much better, and some new field mixer/preamp with super-oxygenated battery terminals comes along and suddenly my rig will sound like dookie.

So thats my unqualified opinion. I hope you found it helpful in some way.

cheers,
-a
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Old February 24th, 2008, 07:55 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Andrew Dean View Post
9. the BEST mic

Well, for a couple years I've been hearing schoeps schoeps schoeps by the people that talk a lot on forums. Now that I've bent over and bought the schoeps, everybody is chattering about how the new mkh8040 sounds better. doh!
I don't think anybody has said that. I think what most people here have said (myself included -- I just bought the 8040), is that it's a bit too early to tell, which "sounds better". In my initial tests, I thought it and the 8050 could give Schoeps a run for their money.

Wayne
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Old February 24th, 2008, 08:49 AM   #3
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Great stuff, Andrew. I got a good Sunday morning chuckle from reading your perspective.

-gb-
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Old February 24th, 2008, 12:26 PM   #4
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Good post, very entertaining.

FWIW, I have tested both of the models against each other and to me, the Oktava had a much more colored sound than the Schoeps although both sounded very good and totally usable in most situations. I tested in studio, male voice, female voice, exterior, on axis, off axis, handling noise test.

The Oktava is much more sensitive to handling noise, at least the samples I had were.

The Oktava is a better value to me. It doesn't sound as good as the Schoeps, but the cost is about 80% less so that cannot be ignored. I would love to own the Schoeps, it is an industry standard and a classic mic. It's sound is VERY neutral. To me, it sounded almost colorless. If I was recording a lousy sound, it made it sound lousy, no extra added warmth or other color. If I was recording a voice that sounded great to my ear without the headphones and mixer, when I put the headphones back on and listened through the Schoeps, it sounded almost identical. Very impressive.

It's nice you can afford both.

You can obtain custom mic cases for the Schoeps, talk to Bruce Frankel at http://www.alfacase.com/MicTube.html tell him I recommended him to you and he will take extra special care of you. Your Schoeps will love it's new high tech mic condo.

Best,

Dan
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Old February 25th, 2008, 02:24 AM   #5
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I'm using an old tamrac still camera bag to hold my mics :) I've got my shotgun with softie and schock mount sitting across the middle of the bag, and everything else fits in.all the other pockets hold my ziploc bags of adaptors. also in the main compartment is a boom boy, and a couple of plastic cases from menards ( like home depot ) holding lavs, and the adaptors I use most often.I've got a SM57 in a corner, and a CMC64 showing up anyday now.

Not sure how to protect it yet in the bag, but maybe I'll just sew up a simple bag of cordura250 and foam. can't picture carrying around the wood case. I'm also contemplating a pelican case to hold the mixer bag, and the mics, and all the little bits.
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Old February 25th, 2008, 06:17 AM   #6
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Well you may not have a future as a mic reviewer, but you could try writing, especially if you want to get paid by the word. (Sorry, maybe that was too poignant.) :)

Bottom line, the pro audio guys with ears have the opportunity to buy Oktava if they want to. They don't unless SOMETIMES the situation calls for putting the mic in harm's way.

There's a lot of detail in a review that's missing from your shot at it. That's very typical of what the Internet has done. Someone was asking me just last week, "How do you handle that the Internet puts everyone on equal footing? You may know quite a bit more about a mic or a piece of gear than someone else and be able to explain the differences more eloquently, but there they are in the next post shooting their mouths off."

My simple answer is that I get paid to write reviews by known publishers. I've been a professional (paid) reviewer since 1986. I have over 30 years as a professional, FCC licensed engineer as my background. The Internet has empowered me. Years ago when I started posting in audio forums, I never dreamed that people would find me on the Internet and pay me to talk to them about their audio problems. That started happening last year. I still put a lot of info out for free.

I'm in audio primarily because I was born with exceptional hearing. I had nothing to do with that. Just the luck of the draw. The combination of my born ability to hear and years of experience with pro audio caused my evolution.

For example, years ago I was called by a friend to play guitar on his album. We went to a recording studio. He played and sang. I played. I thought the recording was great. Some time later I began to hear something I didn't like. I didn't really know what it was. I just knew it caught my ear the wrong way. More years passed during which I completely forgot about the recording. During that period, I had learned a lot about audio and sound. When I finally did get around to revisiting the recording, I immediately knew that we had been positioned too close together and what I was hearing was phase slop. My guitar getting into the other two mics and his guitar and voice getting into my guitar mic. I don't even know what mics he used, but the recording could have been better.

To be sure, I salute everyone for tossing in on a discussion of any piece of gear. I don't know everything. I hope to learn something new every day. I don't care where it comes from. At this point, however, I know what NOT to believe.

After a piece of gear comes out, I spend some of my own time debunking comments from marketing types who pose as regular folks on forums to stoke or piss on a piece of gear. You think what you read on forums is NOT spun? Think again.

In your case, you got smart enough to buy a really good piece of gear, but, by your own words, you still can't hear enough of a difference to make you feel good about your purchase. That tells me you, A. need more time with it, or B. have to console yourself that you can't and will never hear the difference.

That's a tough position, but at least you did the right thing and got the good piece of gear. Good for you. That puts you one up on the guy with the Oktava.

The Sennheiser 8000 series is a good effort, but not a "Schoeps killer." There are handling issues to be solved and the increased LF response will likely have to be rolled off. I do know some of the back story, but I'm not trotting that out here. You'll be fine.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old February 25th, 2008, 11:46 AM   #7
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I spend some of my own time debunking comments from marketing types who pose as regular folks on forums to stoke or piss on a piece of gear. You think what you read on forums is NOT spun? Think again.
Please inform Chris Hurd of any individuals on DVINFO that you think are marketing folks 'posing' as regular people.

Like the slogan says... "Real Names... Real People" This is a no-spin site.

Thanks in advance,

-gb-
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Old February 25th, 2008, 02:24 PM   #8
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sell the schoeps box on ebay, I've seen them go for 40-60 bucks, then buy a pelican case for that beautiful mic... really who cares about comparing boxes. Its whats inside that counts. peace
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Old February 25th, 2008, 03:57 PM   #9
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Please inform Chris Hurd of any individuals on DVINFO that you think are marketing folks 'posing' as regular people.

Like the slogan says... "Real Names... Real People" This is a no-spin site.

Thanks in advance,

-gb-
Greg,

I will. Very tough to tell the good ones. But they are there.

Regards,

Ty
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Old February 25th, 2008, 04:16 PM   #10
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really who cares about comparing boxes. Its whats inside that counts. peace
You should see my Earthworks cherry boxes... They are beat to h*ll. But the mics still work great, which is what counts.

Wayne
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Old February 25th, 2008, 05:18 PM   #11
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The extra length in the Schoeps box is so you can mount a Cut 1 filter on your microphone (and leave it mounted).

Thus the MK41 (or other capsule), with the Cut 1 filter, and the body all fit in the original box.
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Old February 25th, 2008, 06:55 PM   #12
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I have my schoeps box in my China cabinet, thats how nice it is!
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Old February 25th, 2008, 07:41 PM   #13
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If...

Hi all:

If you are serious about protecting your mics and are not thrilled with the OEM cases that mics ship in, really, check out this companies offerings, they are pretty unique. They have been asking me to review the cases but I have been too busy.

http://www.alfacase.com/MicTube.html

Dan
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Old February 25th, 2008, 09:19 PM   #14
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I don't have their micTube, but I do have their boomTube (which the TSA folks LOVE to open and inspect -- 4 trips with it, 4 times it has been opened and looked at), and will tell you they are very well built. However, with the boomtube, if you fly with it, either don't lock it, or lock it with a TSA approved lock that they can open when they need to.

Wayne
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Old February 26th, 2008, 04:34 AM   #15
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Thanks!

As a n00b, it can get quite frustrating sifting through the info on the net. I mean, you don't know who has credibility, and even then, people that have worked on high end projects (or even published articles) may not be the most informed on the subject.

I certainly didnt mean to come across as having written an incomplete mic review. Hehe. Mostly I was just making fun of my own ignorance on the subject and lack of "ear". I thought maybe discussing the smell of the wooden shipping boxes hinted at that.

So I did the A/B test because, well, now I can. As with most Oktava owners, I was curious what another $1400 buys. However, the test was mostly academic, knowing that even the people that hate on the schoeps still say it sounds fantastic. Whether I ever grow to hear the awesomeness of the schoeps is kinda moot. I'm gonna use it and if my sound sucks, it wont be because of my mic or mixer now... So i'm that much closer to good sound. The only time i can imagine pulling out the oktava is when people ask to borrow the schoeps, i'll let them borrow the oktava instead. hehe.

I can see how my post could read like another person trying to overhype the oktava or discredit reviewers. I thought I made enough effort to discredit myself and my ears that it wouldnt read that way, but taking some (I thought humorous) jabs at sound experts probably clouded that.

Thanks for all the replies from everyone. I loved hearing stories about people's boxes and protection tactics, and that mic tube looks really great. Its awesome that even in a discussion spawned from a silly writeup, there is useful info to be had.

Oh, and Ty, that was an excellent poignant retort. I wasn't expecting humor from you and ended up laughing out loud. Also, I dont know anything about you writing reviews or whether you are who you say you are or anything like that, but that video where you compare the shotgun/hyper/lavs while sitting in your kitchen? That video is an absolute bomb drop to us n00bs. It has been massively influential in adjusting the thinking and purchases of myself as well as countless other friends and colleagues. Not that your ego needs any stroking, but for that video alone? you rock.

cheers all!
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