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Old April 23rd, 2008, 09:52 AM   #1
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I listen to these mics

Yesterday night I listened to these mics using a sony7506 headset, out of a Sound Device 744t

Sanken CS 3e
AT 4053a
CMIT 5 U

all belonging to a sound person I'm going to hire for a shoot.

The apartment was big, no reflection, no hard surfaces, each time the mic was 1 foot above the chest of speaker pointed to mouth. We also tried two feet from above the speaker, always pointing at mouth.

The difference in price between these mics is NOT justified in most "normal" situations
If the booming conditions are idea, which means boom is within 1.5 feet from mouth and from above speaker, I don't see why anybody would spend more than the 400 bucks of the ATl. If it's possible to have tight shots and boom correctly it is NOT worth it to buy a Sanken at 1300 bucks over an AT 4053a and certainly not a CMIT 5 U. NO WAY

I could see that the CMIT 5U was better at 2 feet and even three feet away than the other mics, but again I will NEVER boom from that far away inside. Within 1.5 feet there is NO BIG advantage with the CMIT 5U
I did, of course heard that famed lack of coloration from the Schoeps. I do now know what people mean by no coloration, neutral sound.
But here's my point:
No audience will pay attention to that and for an audience to be aware of it they would have to listen to the three mics the way I did, and we know this is not going to happen. Any audience, from what I heard yesterday, will be totally happy and will feel in presence of professional sound with the AT 4053a. PERIOD.


Now, if somebody needs to boom from 3 feet away, then you're going to need the CMIT 5 U. I can understand why a sound pro, who could be hired to mic in unusual condition might want to own the schoeps. But if you have a limited budget and you have a shooting script that calls for tight shots with the mic within 1.5 feet from the speaker's mouth! Please, save your money. As for the lack of coloration of the Schoeps or the slight coloration of the AT and to my ears the more pronounced coloration of the Sanken, all this can be compared to the difference in how various film stocks will look. It's a question of preference.

As far as I know, no image recording device see like my eyes, everything is a reproduction and the color produced by 1970s film stock is NOT associated with low quality, still it's not exactly "true". Same for the coloration of the AT or the Sanken, sure, it's not the "real" sound as when there's no mic, just my hear, it's the reproduction of a sound and guess what, all narrative work is a reproduction of reality.
I bet some people might actually prefer the coloration of the Sanken over the CMIT 5 u
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 10:23 AM   #2
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I tend to agree with you that above a certain price range, its hard to discern the differences in audio quality between microphones.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the differences between the mics you tested would be clearer with a wider range of frequencies (piano, string instruments, etc).

Barring access to a spectrum analyzer, we have to judge with our ears (which makes it subjective). I'd bet that on paper, the specs of each mic differ (enough for the marketing folks to charge a premium?).
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 11:27 AM   #3
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Hey Larry, thanks for performing this test! I have also found that the mid-priced microphones work well in many situations.

However, like you said, they perform well in situations that are good for recording. The higher-priced mics allow you to get usable or even great material in situations where nothing else will. I work frequently in some pretty tricky places and need all the tools I can afford (CMIT is high on my list).

So if you can manage to record in quiet non-reflective spaces, at 1 ft, good for you! (Actually, if you can do this, I will work for you exclusively and for a low price.)
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 12:04 PM   #4
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You can see all these mics on paper at http://microphone-data.com/
(free reg required to actually see the data)
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 01:33 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Secrest View Post
Yesterday night I listened to these mics using a sony7506 headset, out of a Sound Device 744t

Sanken CS 3e
AT 4053a
CMIT 5 U

all belonging to a sound person I'm going to hire for a shoot.

The apartment was big, no reflection, no hard surfaces, each time the mic was 1 foot above the chest of speaker pointed to mouth. We also tried two feet from above the speaker, always pointing at mouth.

The difference in price between these mics is NOT justified in most "normal" situations
If the booming conditions are idea, which means boom is within 1.5 feet from mouth and from above speaker, I don't see why anybody would spend more than the 400 bucks of the ATl. If it's possible to have tight shots and boom correctly it is NOT worth it to buy a Sanken at 1300 bucks over an AT 4053a and certainly not a CMIT 5 U. NO WAY

I could see that the CMIT 5U was better at 2 feet and even three feet away than the other mics, but again I will NEVER boom from that far away inside. Within 1.5 feet there is NO BIG advantage with the CMIT 5U
I did, of course heard that famed lack of coloration from the Schoeps. I do now know what people mean by no coloration, neutral sound.
But here's my point:
No audience will pay attention to that and for an audience to be aware of it they would have to listen to the three mics the way I did, and we know this is not going to happen. Any audience, from what I heard yesterday, will be totally happy and will feel in presence of professional sound with the AT 4053a. PERIOD.


Now, if somebody needs to boom from 3 feet away, then you're going to need the CMIT 5 U. I can understand why a sound pro, who could be hired to mic in unusual condition might want to own the schoeps. But if you have a limited budget and you have a shooting script that calls for tight shots with the mic within 1.5 feet from the speaker's mouth! Please, save your money. As for the lack of coloration of the Schoeps or the slight coloration of the AT and to my ears the more pronounced coloration of the Sanken, all this can be compared to the difference in how various film stocks will look. It's a question of preference.

As far as I know, no image recording device see like my eyes, everything is a reproduction and the color produced by 1970s film stock is NOT associated with low quality, still it's not exactly "true". Same for the coloration of the AT or the Sanken, sure, it's not the "real" sound as when there's no mic, just my hear, it's the reproduction of a sound and guess what, all narrative work is a reproduction of reality.
I bet some people might actually prefer the coloration of the Sanken over the CMIT 5 u
Hi Larry:

I think that what you are experiencing is called the law of diminishing returns, it works the same for all audio gear and some video gear. The more you pay, the more subtle the improvements. That difference in cost is only worth it if you or your audience can hear the differences, which usually, most people cannot. But sound is GIGO. The better the signal quality that you record, the better the sound quality could be at the end of the post chain.

I recently wrote an article for an industry magazine and interviewed some of the top sound mixers in features and television and I was universally told that the better the sound mixer and the gear that they use, the better the signal holds up through the layers and stages of audio post that most high end production goes through. I totally believe that, it was demonstrated to me numerous times.

In my tests for my microphone article, http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage..._brockett.html I didn't get a crack at the AT-4053, but I did test it's cousin, the AT-4073a. To my ear, the 4073a had a much more colored sound than the CS-3e or the CMIT5u. It was significantly thinner in sound, had a much higher output level than the Sanken or Schoeps and was totally different.

FWIW, you should also check out the really inexpensive Audio Technica AT875r. I bought one and have been using it for a doc that I have been shooting for the past six months. It sounds amazingly good for $189.00. IMHO, it sounds better than most of my mics up to about $500.00.

That said, you could not show up on the set of the television show or a feature with any of the AT mics as your primary boom mic, that would not fly. You would need to have a name higher end mic like a Sennheiser or a Schoeps or a Sanken. That's just the way it works, same as you could not show up on a high end show with an HVX-200 when the clients/director/producer would be expecting a Genesis or a Viper. Abe makes a very good observation in that often, more expensive gear works in more adverse situations better than less expensive gear. I find that blindfolded, most of the name brand mics on the market have totally acceptable sound quality for most programming, but there is a lot more to it than just my opinion in a single, controlled environment.

Best,

Dan
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 02:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Secrest View Post
Yesterday night I listened to these mics using a sony7506 headset, out of a Sound Device 744t

Sanken CS 3e
AT 4053a
CMIT 5 U

all belonging to a sound person I'm going to hire for a shoot.

The apartment was big, no reflection, no hard surfaces, each time the mic was 1 foot above the chest of speaker pointed to mouth. We also tried two feet from above the speaker, always pointing at mouth.

The difference in price between these mics is NOT justified in most "normal" situations
If the booming conditions are idea, which means boom is within 1.5 feet from mouth and from above speaker, I don't see why anybody would spend more than the 400 bucks of the ATl. If it's possible to have tight shots and boom correctly it is NOT worth it to buy a Sanken at 1300 bucks over an AT 4053a and certainly not a CMIT 5 U. NO WAY

I could see that the CMIT 5U was better at 2 feet and even three feet away than the other mics, but again I will NEVER boom from that far away inside. Within 1.5 feet there is NO BIG advantage with the CMIT 5U
I did, of course heard that famed lack of coloration from the Schoeps. I do now know what people mean by no coloration, neutral sound.
But here's my point:
No audience will pay attention to that and for an audience to be aware of it they would have to listen to the three mics the way I did, and we know this is not going to happen. Any audience, from what I heard yesterday, will be totally happy and will feel in presence of professional sound with the AT 4053a. PERIOD.


Now, if somebody needs to boom from 3 feet away, then you're going to need the CMIT 5 U. I can understand why a sound pro, who could be hired to mic in unusual condition might want to own the schoeps. But if you have a limited budget and you have a shooting script that calls for tight shots with the mic within 1.5 feet from the speaker's mouth! Please, save your money. As for the lack of coloration of the Schoeps or the slight coloration of the AT and to my ears the more pronounced coloration of the Sanken, all this can be compared to the difference in how various film stocks will look. It's a question of preference.

As far as I know, no image recording device see like my eyes, everything is a reproduction and the color produced by 1970s film stock is NOT associated with low quality, still it's not exactly "true". Same for the coloration of the AT or the Sanken, sure, it's not the "real" sound as when there's no mic, just my hear, it's the reproduction of a sound and guess what, all narrative work is a reproduction of reality.
I bet some people might actually prefer the coloration of the Sanken over the CMIT 5 u
Hi, I'm not an experienced sound person, I don't intend to become one.

I just have some thoughts on the quest for fidel sound and image reproduction.

I have listened to CMIT compared to other shotguns at kenstone and I can say they do all sound different. I can not however say which approaches reality most, I wasn't there. I think not even the respected test author can say, because one hears self differently than others hear her/him. So a reality test would be difficult to perform, involving at least a good listener and a good producer. And even then, I'm sure I hear differently than that particular listener, however good s/he is.

I believe the quest for fidel reproduction is futile.

That said, I'm looking at Schoeps based mainly at what Schoeps and neutral people on forums have to say about it. There's influence, of course, but that's all there can be.

Images. Images from capturing devices produced now are certainly more dynamic range and less noise and better colour-balanced than 1970s but even so there are two factors to consider: (1) brain uses a lot of imagination to imagine the real starting from a reproduction and (2) fashion is important, and what seems realistic today will simply become the 'look of 2000s'. So when I look at an image of 1970s I _want_ it to have that unbalanced colours, otherwise I'll think it's fake.

I listened the other day to the earliest audio recording "Au clair de la lune" (http://www.firstsounds.org/sounds/) and it sounded very noisy. If it were clean I'd have thought it's too processed, approaching fake. But being so noisy it kind of transcended from 150yrs ago - impressive. So maybe 150yrs from now the Schoeps-recorded audio will _probably_ be the 2000's sound, simply because these days so many people believe Schoeps is the most neutral sound.

Just some thoughts on the quest for fidel reproduction.

As for the budget necessary for producing some sound - I fully agree economic reasoning should prime when venturing into producing something to sell to an audience. If not in a producing state, then one may wander differently.

Alex
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Old April 23rd, 2008, 08:16 PM   #7
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Excellent and timely post... I've been wrestling with this very topic for the past month or so. Although I can afford to buy the more expensive mics, I've decided that until I start earning money from this filmmaking passion/hobby of mine, I'll stick to the moderately priced gear and develop my skills to the point where I can truly appreciate the subtleties of the more expensive audio gear.

From a past life in music production, I've learned that a mixer forms the center around which a solid audio suite is built. Based on this, I did decide early on to start with a good field mixer and bought an SD302 already.

Now it's time to get a set of mics and from all the research I've done, I've narrowed it down to the following choices:

Hypers:
1) Oktava 012
2) AKG Blue Line SE300b/CK93
3) AT4053a
4) Audix SCX-1

Shotguns:
1) AT875r
2) AT4073a
3) CK98 capsule

Right now, I'm really leaning towards the SE300b/CK93 with an AT875r combo as a good place to start unless someone can really convince me otherwise.

Along with a good boom pole, cables, and wind protection, I figure it should cost me around $1500 or so. The next step up from this setup would put me into mics costing over $1K each, some even close to $2K. Quite a jump considering I could put the difference towards an Advanta-jib, Cinevate dolly or Panasonic BT-LH80W :-).
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Old April 24th, 2008, 12:41 AM   #8
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In the conditions you describe in the original post the quality differences are maybe no all that great, but in more difficult and reflective places a costly mic like Sanken CS3e with its 3 capsule array does sound better. Reason: tightly controlled pattern even in low frequences. For that reason Sanken CS3e is one of the best allround shotguns.
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Old April 27th, 2008, 11:08 AM   #9
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agreed, a test under ideal conditions won't really seperate the mics from each other. who ever shoots under ideal conditions ? no one most of the time. thats when having the better mics ( tools for the job ) means getting good results as opposed to mediocre or unacceptable results. ask the guy on another post up hear what bad audio cost him - 50 hrs of ADR for a 3 min short. the cost of the ADR time more the paid for having a good mic, or in his case a competent sound mixer. you get what you pay for. for every dollar you "save" in production, you spend 5 to 10 times that in post to fix it. NOT a bargin.

personally I really dislike AT mics because they all sound thin. look for something used as another consideration. the CS1 is very nice, but no where near as directional as the CS3. with the CS3 you have to be on the money with aiming, but it can pull voices from 5-6ft away where as the CS1 can't. different tool for a different job.
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