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Old June 12th, 2011, 10:17 AM   #1
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Headset mic location

I've never used headset mics before, but I'm in the discussion phase of a project that might use them.

This would be a recording project (no PA or reinforcement involved), where the talent needs some freedom of movement. Because of scheduling and cost constraints, I have ruled out any scenario that reqires a boom op. I am considering a headset mic (rather than lapel/tie mic) because it should reduce the level of ambient noise picked up in the track. (Admittedly this situation involves several compromises, but that's the hand that I've been dealt this time around.)

I'm nowhere near making a choice on mics, and don't want to purchase one just for testing, because of the very tentative nature of the project. So far, I have tried some very preliminary tests, using some small capsule AT omnis.

What I have observed, so far, is that placement is terribly critical. Move the mic 1/2" too close to the mouth, and breath noises become terribly troublesome. Move it a bit too close to the nose, and the voice quality becomes noticeably nasal. Move it too far below the mouth, toward the chin, and the articulation decreases significantly.

Is placement always this critical? If so, how can one possibly get a good match from one take/session to another, unless you tattoo a bulls-eye target on the talent's cheek, to guarantee exact mic placement every time?

(Yeah, I know, I should do this in a studio with a boom op, but that's just not an option with this project.)

TIA for any helpful comments and suggestions.
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Old June 12th, 2011, 11:45 AM   #2
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Re: Headset mic location

It's been my experience with headwore mics that placement isn't as critical as say lavs. Perhaps it was the mics being used (Countryman E6 earsets) and I have to say the sound quality was absolutely fantastic. Hook it on the ear of the talent, slight adjustment to get to the proximity of the mouth and BAM! It worked like a champ. Fairly priced as well. $350ish. While I didn't own the mics I found them easy to put on the talent and very easy to get great quality sound. Here's some info on them:
Countryman E6 Flex Omnidirectional Earset E6XOW7C1NC B&H Photo

What do I know? I'm just a video-O-grafer.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 09:23 AM   #3
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Re: Headset mic location

I like to place the mic capsule behind the corner of the talent's mouth, so it doesn't get hit with wind, but it close to the sound source. Sometimes I have the mic wand follow the jawline with the capsule a little further away, but still behind the mouth.

We have four Countryman E6 mics. Yes, they sound good, BUT I have had lots and lots of trouble because they do NOT stay where placed - a hook over one ear. If jerked at all, the mic points to the ceiling.

This doesn't happen if you get someone to sit still and not move a lot, but if any kind of live performance, you need to tape and glue them into place - not a good look for the camera. Even so, talent has a way of messing them up during the gig.

I am hoping to upgrade to the DPA 4088 (card) or 4066 (omni), whose headset adjustment design has it right.

Jacques Mersereau
University of Michigan-Video Studio Manager
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Old June 13th, 2011, 11:07 AM   #4
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Re: Headset mic location

I also have an E6 and place it just behind the corner of the mouth to avoid p-pops. And yes, placement is challenging and might not stay fixed.

Personally, I don't like the sound much. The LF has a hard cutoff to avoid pops and booms. It sounds hollowed out to me.

The exact placement for such mics depends on the pop filter. If it pops, move it out of the airstream. If not, you can place it in front of the mouth like an air force pilot mic.
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Old June 13th, 2011, 03:02 PM   #5
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Re: Headset mic location

I love headworn mics. I've been testing quite a few over the years because they solve a critical problem. Rooms with no treatment tend to echo and also tend to have issues with nearby traffic, computers, and other production halting noises. In this day in age of the "studio" being a closet, a conference room, classroom, a hotel room, or a busy office, headworn mics are life savers, that is, if they are acceptable to be seen in the shot. Unless you're using them with sound reinforcement, go omni. The position is not as critical as with a cardioid. Most of the headworn mics on the market these days are highly adjustable. You'll want to position the mic near the corner of the mouth. Some models will slip over time so be aware. Also beware of big ear rings, they can cause all kinds of problems. In the attached pic, you can see Countryman's example of how to properly position a headworn mic.

On the inexpensive side I just got the Samson SE50. It comes with a variety of connectors for wireless mics. It's relatively inexpensive and does the job.
Samson Audio - SE50

The next one that I've used quite extensively is the Audio Technica AT892CW-TH. It is available in a few different models and is also the single side over the ear. Audio-Technica - Microphones, headphones, wireless microphone systems, noise-cancelling headphones & more : BP892-TH MicroSet® Subminiature Omnidirectional Condenser Headworn Microphone
I just read that this one now come with the AT8464-TH Dual-Ear Microphone Mount that converts single ear-worn MicroSet to a dual-ear-worn unit

The Countryman E6 an E6i has become almost an industry standard. We've put quite a few of these into houses of worship and have used this model in a lot of our podcasts. Very light. It used to be my fav until I heard the Da Cappo. Get the "i" model if various talent will be using it. If not fit correctly, or bumped, these can cause repositioning issues. I do love how fast that you can put them on and how malleable the "i" version is. Countryman also offers the best choices for skin colors, tan, light beige, cocoa and black. In the $350 range - very well priced.
E6i Omni Earset Mic - Countryman Associates, Inc.

The Sennheiser HSP-2 is a dual over the ear model with the MKE Platinum capsule. Very detailed sound. $500+ Sennheiser USA - Audio Headworn Microphone - HSP 2 - Gooseneck Microphone Headset - Professional Audio Really impressive in this video:

The Da Cappo DA-12 is what I'm using now. Listen in the video below at 4:03 - that's with Sennheiser G3 wireless. Very smooth and natural sounding compared to the less expensive Samson or AT. Also has variety of Micon style connectors.~$500 Da-Cappo Microphones - DaCappo Microphones

RODE also has come out with the HS1-B which is another dual over ear design, very adjustable for comfort. Comes in black and "pink". I've been testing this one, not in love with it for sound quality. But the price is right and you can use the Micon connectors. Also comes with tool to switch the capsule over to right or left ear. 3 axis of adjustment take time to dial in, then very comfortable for extended use - you forget that you're wearing it because its so light. $299 Great value RØDE Microphones - HS1

DPA has also become an industry standard on the high-end. As Jacques mentioned, the 4066 is one of the best out there. You're in the $600+ range for this one. I've seen these used by big time presenters like Tony Robbins. DPA also has something similar to RODE's Micon, or is that the other way around. DPA had these interchangeable type connectors first, I hope Micon becomes a standard.
DPA Microphones :: Products

Sanken will be at InfoComm showing their new Sanken HWM headworn mic. It has the famous COS-11D capsule. The mic capsule can be positioned on the left or the right. Would love to hear this one in a Broadway play with big boom vocals.
SANKEN MICROPHONE CO .,LTD. | Product [ COS-11D HWM-R-*1-*2 ]

Also, Countryman has some "hybrid" designs. They're called the E2 which actually hangs halfway between the ear and the mouth. It's less noticeable than a typical headworn, and rejects more room sound than a lav, plus keeps things consistent.
E2 Earset - Countryman Associates, Inc.

And...one last one that I'm testing now. It's also from Samson called the AirLine Micro Wireless Earset. This one is pretty wild because the transmitter is in the earset so you have no cables! Because the battery is a built-in lithium ion it's pretty light. At $249 with mic, transmitter, receiver and charging dock. It's pretty inexpensive too. We're seeing Yoga instructors snap this one up - no cables or belt pack to deal with. Keep in mind that it is single channel UHF - it is not frequency agile like some of the other systems - so if you're getting hit with RF, you can not simply switch frequencies - comes in N1-N6 which is in the 600mHz range. Battery states 7-8 hours, we're seeing 10+. Samson Wireless - AirLine Micro Earset

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch of others models. These are just the ones that I have owned or currently use. If you'd like to test any of them out, I don't mind sending them as long as they are properly handled and cared for. Sometimes it takes using these with the wireless in their environment to get a good feel for how they will do. I also like using them on noisy trade show floors for interviewing folks at the booth, just make sure you bring some wipes to clean 'em up for the next guy. Great signal to ratio and you don't have to try and follow the presenter with a handheld.
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Headset mic location-e6xo_large_combined.jpg  
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Old June 17th, 2011, 02:09 AM   #6
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Re: Headset mic location

Thanks for all the information Guy. Have you tried the Audio Technica BPHS-1, I have been trying to get information on this headset, but can't get anything other than sales pitches or latest product news etc.. Perhaps you could suggest an alternative.

I produce DVDs with screen shot tutorials and due to limitations of my office, the computer it very close to where I am sitting, hence I get fan noise etc. It is not practical for me to move the computer, so I need a microphone that will allow me some movement and at the same time restrict the ambient noise to a minimum.

I have tried filtering out the ambient noise using Audition CS2 & CS5 but this tends to leave the voice sounding metalic.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
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Old June 17th, 2011, 07:55 AM   #7
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Re: Headset mic location

You probably want a cardioid headset mic and position as discussed.
An omni probably won't perform as well in this instance.
If you are doing a lot of DVDs, I would pony up for the DPA 4088,
though I have heard good things about the AT you're looking at.

I've used Waves Xnoise, but wasn't all that blown away.
Although I have not used this noise reduction plugin, I am told by a trusted colleague that it is good:
iZotope ANR-B - Adaptive Realtime Noise Reduction for Broadcast Audio

HTH, and YMMV,
Jacques Mersereau
University of Michigan-Video Studio Manager
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Old June 17th, 2011, 09:58 PM   #8
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Re: Headset mic location

First off, I want to thank all of you for the lengthy and detailed answers and advice. You've really provided much more input than I expected.

I am trying to digest all of this; it may take a while before I actually make a decision.

Meanwhile, I note that most of the recommended mics are the match-head size elements at the end of a hair's-breadth boom arm. For what it's worth, I do *not* need something that inconspicuous for this project. (Of course, neither do I want to go to the other extreme, the John Madden play-by-play mammoth headset with cantaloupe-size earmuffs.) For this project, stable positioning is more important than invisibility. If that opens up any other options, I'd be grateful to hear about them.

Thanks again!
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Old June 17th, 2011, 10:00 PM   #9
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Re: Headset mic location

Originally Posted by Vincent Oliver View Post
I have tried filtering out the ambient noise using Audition CS2 & CS5 but this tends to leave the voice sounding metalic.
Vincent, I'm always a sucker for an NR puzzle. If you'd care to post a short sample, I'd love to play with it. In fact, if possible, post a raw sample, and one that you've processed (sounding metallic) so that I can compare my NR results to yours.

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Old June 18th, 2011, 11:18 AM   #10
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Re: Headset mic location

The Sony ECM-322 is also a headworn mic, but not as small or expensive as the others mentioned previously. We use them on most of the webcasts for PGATour.com (along with Sony wireless packs) and find them to sound pretty good. They run about $125 usd. We have shows next Thur-Sun if you want a listen...

I'll also add that while these can be worn on a single ear, they also include a headband that when attached goes behind the head and around to the other ear making for VERY stable placement.
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