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Old December 19th, 2004, 08:38 PM   #1
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Mic for room ambiance

I need a XLR balanced mic (battery powered) that is good for obtaining room ambiance. It will be connected to a Canon GL2 through a BeachTek DXA-4 audio adapter. Can anyone recommend some choices in the $200-$250 (used) range?

The rooms I plan on using this in can vary from small banquet/meeting rooms to small/medium/large churches (weddings) and a range of reception rooms.

I know the high quality mics will cost more than this, and I plan on buying them when I can afford them. But I have to start with a very modest budget. So hopefully I can find a good, acceptable quality mic in this range. I plan on buying a used one.

I will have other mics to pick up selected dialog, music, etc.

I have searched and read many posts in this forum, but I have been unable to come to a conclusion on this. From what I understand most of the shotguns like the Sennheiser ME66 are NOT recommend for indoor use. Is this correct?

I have used an omni lav for this purpose, but surely there is a better solution, that is also affordable.

TIA.

Pete
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Old January 11th, 2005, 11:27 AM   #2
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Hi Pete,
I've just been reading some recent threads that talk about indoor recording. I think you're looking for a hyper-cardiod rather than a shotgun. The cheapest one I've seen recommended is the Oktavia, but there are several caveats, like make sure you get a tested one, since quality control is not up to Sennheiser or AKG standards ;-) There's some good advice in the recent (Dec '04) thread about recording classical music recitals, amongst others...

HTH
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Old January 11th, 2005, 12:06 PM   #3
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A high-quality omni lav isn't such a bad solution for this and obviously can be used as a lav too. A good choice is the AT899 for $200.
You could use a choir mic, such as the AT853a.
For traditional mics that use internal battery power, there aren't that many choices that are well built. The ATM-10a omni, the ATM-31a cardioid, and the Rode NT3 hypercardioid would all work in this situation and cost between $100 and $170 new. The NT3 is probably too large and heavy to mount on a GL2, but it's best to have your ambient mic on a separate stand anyway.
The K6/ME64 will also work, but costs more new. It won't be easy to find a 64 used either. They aren't nearly as common as the 66.
AT also makes some battery-powered boundary mics, but I feel they are too limited in their utility. You can make a regular mic behave like a boundary mic with proper placement, but a boundary mic really does need to be on a properly sized boundary to work correctly. Sometimes a boundary mic is exactly what you need, but many times it brings too many drawbacks.
You could buy a separate phantom power supply, then have your choice of any mic.
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Old January 11th, 2005, 12:08 PM   #4
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The idea is that you don't want to take in a lot of reflected sound from outside the pickup pattern, because it will contain frequency distortion. I like my AT3031 cardiod for this purpose. Very flat response and good acceptance pattern to take in the room from near a side or corner. The AT3031 requires phantom power, but you can get both a phantom power supply and the mic in your price range, and then have less restriction on your choices for future mics.

My own application is to record live stage productions (musicals and straight plays) and make DVDs. I like to take a mono feed from the board and use the 3031 for the room.

If you'll often need a more central placement of the mic you might want to consider one of AT's omnis. Most of the pros here (I'm not one) seem to agree that AT's give you pretty good quality for the money.

[ Edit -- I just read Jay's near simultaneous post above. He assumes you want to camera mount the mic, which hadn't occured to me in context. Be aware that if you mount anything but an omni on a roving camera you may not always like the effect]
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Old January 11th, 2005, 12:24 PM   #5
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Mark, Jay, and Fred -- many thanks for sharing your experience and recommendations!

I was beginning to think this thread was DOA. :-(

Jay, I think I caught one of your posts in another thread, and I ended up buying a used ATM-31a. Haven't had a chance to check it out it (need to get a XLR cable).

When possible, I plan to use a mic stand with the ATM-31a. But for those cases where I need to mount it to my camera (GL2), can you recommend a good, but inexpensive, shock mount?

Thanks again.

Pete
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Old January 11th, 2005, 01:55 PM   #6
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What? you want good AND inexpensive? The cheapest one that does actually work is the Beyerdynamic EA86. It is not adjustable for angle, it simply mounts in the shoe and points straight ahead. It's plastic, so it can break if you catch it on something. Your shoe might break first anyway, so it's probably ok to have a plastic shockmount. It's $30 by itself or essentially free if you get it bundled with a mic like the AT897. It can mount directly on the shoe (but your shoe must be a perfect fit), or on a 1/4-inch 20tpi thread. Remove the 1/4-20 insert and use the included 3/8-16 bolt with shoe mount to gain some height, tight lock-up on most any shoe and traverse adjustment.
There are better mounts made by AT, PSC and K-Tek. They cost more but are better constructed and hold the mic more securely.
Test out your used mic. Areas that can age on that mic are the battery compartment and contacts. Look for signs of leakage, corrosion, salty fingerprints on the contacts, etc.
If the mic has been exposed to high heat, it will have a reduced output and be lacking in high frequency. It will sound dull.
Check the on/off switch for noise or damage. People tend to gouge them with any handy sharp object trying to switch them.
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Old January 11th, 2005, 05:02 PM   #7
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If you want *ambience*, I would have suggested a _stereo_ mic like the
AudioTech425. New they cost around $370.

Mono doesn't give much space to your ambience, though you can run it through
a stereo reverb or other processor that will give a faux stereo image.
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Old January 11th, 2005, 10:14 PM   #8
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a ev635 makes a decent presence mic for the price..... and you'll have it forever.
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Old January 12th, 2005, 10:23 AM   #9
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Jacques, I think you meant the AT825. Which is good for stereo ambience, but he doesn't have enough recording tracks to do stereo AND maintain isolation of the mics that will pick up selected dialogue and other elements for editing. He doesn't really want true ambience, just better pickup of ambient elements than he'll get with his lavs on the participants.
You can always use just one channel of the 825. AFAIK it uses two of the same capsules as the ATM-31a, they have nearly identical specs. Then you'd have the stereo mic for true stereo situations, it's just the higher cost for the initial purchase.
A dynamic omni interview mic like the EV635a, EV RE50, AT804, or VP64 will work for ambient pickup, but they have such low sensitivity that it can work against them when you're not using a mixer to boost their gain.
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Old January 12th, 2005, 12:37 PM   #10
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Jay,

You've got it exactly right! I only have two channels on my camera (GL2):
One for dialog (via wireless lav)
One for background/ambience (via the ATM31a)

It turns out I also bought a used AT825, which works very well. So when I have either a multi-camera shoot, or external recording device, I plan to use the AT825 to get true stereo ambience.

Thanks again to everyone for your suggestions and contributions here. It is very helpful.
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Old January 12th, 2005, 01:01 PM   #11
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And if it turns out that your 825 sounds better than your 31a because of age or wear, then you can simply use just one channel from it like I mentioned. Point it correctly and use the correct connector for the capsule you're using and it becomes a single channel mic. If you ever mount the 825 on the camera (a stand is better) you can buy or make a shorter, more convenient 5-pin XLR cable.
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Old January 12th, 2005, 02:25 PM   #12
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Jay -- you should write a book!!!

Great idea, and I'll definitely keep that in mind.
BTW, any suggestions on where to get the short 5-pin XLR to two 3-pin XLR cable for a reasonable price? (you know me, I'm on a tight budget :) )

Also, if any of you guys have any thoughts on testing mics, please post in my new thread Testing Used Mics.

Best Regards,
Pete
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Old January 12th, 2005, 04:47 PM   #13
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I don't know the cost or the part number, but AT supplies a short one with the AT835ST stereo shotgun. You could ask what the cost of a replacement cable would be for that mic.
I know other vendors carry them but I haven't done a search.
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Old January 13th, 2005, 05:48 PM   #14
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If it's just interior ambience you're after (and not dialog), you can use pretty much anything from a dixie cup with a piece of string to a Neumann U 87.

A lav clipped to your shoulder...away from the camera would probably do fine.

Want stereo? Have enough inputs for stereo ambi and whatever else you're shooting? Get an AT 822 or AT 825.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old January 13th, 2005, 05:55 PM   #15
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Quote:
a dixie cup with a piece of string
Finally! A suggestion I can afford! :-D

Thanks Ty. As I noted previously, I did buy a used AT825.
If only I could find a short 5-pin XLR-F --> two 3-pin XLR-M that didn't cost an arm and leg, I'd be set! :)
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