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Old November 16th, 2011, 05:21 PM   #16
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Yup, he and Tomlinson Holman seem to be the two major authors. Maybe we could add Jon Fairhurst to the list someday! (I'll pre-order)
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Old November 16th, 2011, 07:42 PM   #17
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

My wife is the author in the family. :)

http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Fasting-Girl-Anna-Richenda/dp/1440132410
http://www.amazon.com/Fishers-Landing-Images-America-Washington/dp/0738558389
http://www.amazon.com/Washougal-Images-America-Richenda-Fairhurst/dp/0738531340
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Old November 17th, 2011, 11:10 AM   #18
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

As OT as you can get, Jon, but we have at least 8 of those Images of America books. They did quite a few about different areas of Vermont, and we've got 'em. They must be fun to work on.
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Old November 17th, 2011, 12:04 PM   #19
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Yeah, fun, but a ton of work. Definitely a labor of love.

Back on topic, I wasn't able to spend time on the audio yesterday evening. Tonight is tight, but I'll see what I can do...
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Old November 17th, 2011, 12:08 PM   #20
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

No hurry, Jon. When you have time. I'm so glad I decided to expose my ignorance!
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Old November 25th, 2011, 08:43 AM   #21
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Jon, just wondered if you had a chance to play with the EQ on those sound samples. My streak of ADHD makes me want to (1) not come to a decision and (2) feel bad about not making one.

I must admit, when I listened again to the male, on-axis voices, the diffs between the Sanken and Neumann were much less extreme than I'd remembered. I guess the mind and ears can be fairly imprecise sound equipment.
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Old November 25th, 2011, 09:03 AM   #22
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Tagging for my own search later.
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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:06 AM   #23
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Thanks for the reminder, Philip. I tend to have TDD. Time deficiency disorder - either that or I just over-commit...

I just re-configured my studio, moving my desk and speakers to a different wall. Now I have to re-learn the room. Fortunately, for this test we're doing relative testing rather than trying to listen for absolutes. I also simplified things by panning 100% to my left speaker to avoid phasing issues as the two speakers interact with the room. That let me sit pretty close on axis.

Anyway, the Sanken is definitely scooped (or the Neumann is mid-heavy, depending on preferences.) To balance the fundamental, I chopped up the male voices and ping ponged them from one mic to the other. I found that a 8.5 dB cut on the Sanken at 200 Hz with a 4 octave bandwidth gave the two mics roughly the same "body". I re-balanced the gain by boosting the Sanken by 2dB.

After that, the Sanken definitely had more air. This leads to more sibilance, as would be expected. I applied a high frequency shelf of -8dB to the Sanken at 5 kHz, 6 dB/octave. I found that to balance the two mics pretty well. Each mic has it's own character after that adjustment, and now one can compare how the critical midrange comes through, including clarity of consonants and the edge of the nasal tone.

Frankly, both mics sound great. The Neumann has more nasal tones and slightly crisper consonants. The Sanken doesn't "sing" quite as strongly in the nasal region, but it sounds more open and smoother. I felt that the Neumann is slightly hollow, which is a bit odd, given that I EQ'd the Sanken and left the Neumann untouched. My feeling is that the hollowness is due to the room reflections.

I applied the same corrections to the female interior samples, but in this case I cut the gain of the Sanken by 1dB as the levels from the Neumann sample are a bit low on this test. The consonants are especially strong (too strong?) for the Neumann with the female speaker. It doesn't deliver as much of a nasal tone, but I find the Neumann to sound a bit duller on her voice. Again, the Sanken comes across as broader sounding and more open.

Yeah, but what about all that EQ?

To me, this also points in the direction of the Sanken. Generally, we don't want our mics to be too scooped. That certainly applies to large diameter condenser mics for singers. Shotguns are a bit of a different story...

Regarding the fundamental, sometimes you have to pull the mic further away than you'd like due to framing. This can lower the bass too much on a thin sounding, directional mic. Boost the bass up to compensate, and you might end up with too much rumble and handling noise. With the Sanken showing strong bass in this controlled environment test, and with the Sanken having not just narrow mids, but narrow bass too (interference mics have wide bass patterns), the bass will still roll off as you pull away, but not as much as for other mics.

Anyway, the Sanken won't sound thin as you pull the mic away. The Neumann might.

Regarding the upper frequencies, I believe that this test was done without wind protection. Add a blimp and you won't need to EQ down the highs on the Sanken. The Neumann, however, might sound a bit dead on the top when using wind protection. You can EQ the highs back up, but now you risk boosting the hiss of the preamp.

Finally, there's the reflection thing, and in my limited testing of the CS-3e, it should win that battle hands down.

BTW, with EQ, the general rule is to cut, rather than boost. If you must boost, do it smoothly. If you boost a narrow frequency band, you'll hear a resonance there. Conversely, you can cut razor thin slices and it sounds fine. Also, if you must add a smooth boost, it's best to do it to the mids. Boosting the highs and lows risks boosting rumble and hiss, which should be avoided.

Anyway, try applying the EQ that I mentioned above and give the mics a listen. You have your own speakers, room, ears, and preferences, so you might have a very different reaction. You might want to play with the settings and refine them to get the mics normalized so you can really focus on their midrange character at similar levels.

The other fun thing to try would be to apply the EQ the other way around. Rather than cutting the Sanken to match the Neumann, try boosting the Neumann to match the unprocessed Sanken. (Use the same settings as on the Sanken, but add dB, rather than subtracting.) That might also be instructive.

Or go freehand. Mess with the EQ gain on both mics to get the perfect amount of fundamental and air that you prefer, rather than trying to match one mic or another. That might be the most instructive test of all.

The good news is that both mics have top quality and sound very nice. You can't make a bad choice between them. :)
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Old November 26th, 2011, 08:00 AM   #24
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Jon, you really should get some sort of award from this message board. You've gone WAY above and beyond!

I've read that the pattern of the Sanken is narrow, but that off-axis it falls off without much coloration. Does that mean that if your aim wasn't quite right, but you recorded with enough gain, you could probably fix it in post, maybe with some adjustment to the levels and EQ?

Also, can you imagine any specific situations in shooting a documentary (interviews + run & gun) when you'd reach for the Neumann instead of the Sanken?

Again, a million thanks, and pardon my greed for knowledge!
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Old November 26th, 2011, 01:48 PM   #25
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Hi Philip,

Glad to contribute. :)

Yeah, the falloff on the Sanken was a revelation to me. With standard shotguns, the highs and mids fall as you go off axis, but the bass doesn't really fall off at all. On a cheap shotgun, you get strange interference lobes that can cause a ratty transition. On a higher quality, traditional shotgun, the falloff is better controlled, thought the bass is still omni. Also, you will get a strong lobe directly behind the mic. It's best to have the back end pointing into space or at something non-reflective.

The Sanken three capsule design is able to roll off the bass. I tested this at NAB by making three tones: "mmm", "SHHH" and "ssss" to cover low, mid, and high ranges. The mids fall off best, the highs good with only a bit of interference, and the lows fall off smoothly and well. In the NAB hall, the result in normal recording was that you could hear the crowd and it sounded natural as the talent (the Sanken rep speaking) punched through. It didn't erase the crowd, but everything sounded good.

I then went immediately to the Sennheiser booth to compare the venerable 416. First, the crowd was a loud, booming thunder. To make the audio from the convention center usable, you'd have to roll off the lows like mad to ditch the muddy voices all around. Using my "mmm", "SHHH", "ssss" test, the mids were good, the highs didn't roll off nearly as well as I had expected, and the bass didn't roll off at all. The lobe in the rear was quite strong.

I haven't used the Neumann, but the place where I would want the Sennheiser over the Sanken is in bad weather. I don't know that the Sanken is bad in the elements, but I know that the Sennheiser has a reputation of being tank solid. It's cheaper too. ;) Outdoors in good weather or on a large soundstage, it would come down to the sound of the mic. Over time, one learns their mics. It might be that one mic is best on boomy and dull voices while the other is better on soft and nasal voices. You might do a quick sound check on both mics and choose on the spot. I've done seated interviews with a lav and a fixed mic on a stand, recorded with both, and chose in post. If you have a tough scene to aim, you might choose the Sanken as you'll have overall falloff but less coloration off axis. Then again, if you have a wider pattern mic (CS-1?), that might be the choice for a tough scene. Of course, you have to balance this with the desire for consistency. We already have to deal with different voices in different locations. Avoid changing mics on the same person in a similar environment.

As I see it, there are situations (indoors, boomy environment) where I'd choose the Sanken and get a big improvement. There might be places where the Neumann is superior, but it's likely to give a small improvement.

Another consideration is having lavaliers that match the mic you choose. I have a couple of Sanken COS-11Ds, which I really like. I once did a quick sequence of 80 people saying their names using that mic, and everybody sounded good. (I used their rhythms and cut the video to a drum beat for a fun "introduction" video.) That lav is known to match the CS-3e well. I'm sure there are lavs that match the Neumann well, but that might take some research.

On another topic... when buying a lav, get it with an intermediate connector, like a TA-3. You can then make/buy adapters to XLR, your transmitter, the transmitter you upgrade to, etc. This makes much more sense than locking yourself into a single connector.

BTW, the only other mic I'm aware of that has somewhat uniform fall off is the Super CMIT. I've never used it, but the demos sound amazing. Shotgun microphone SuperCMIT - Overview - Schoeps Digital While the Sanken achieves its sound in analog, the Schoeps uses digital processing. It costs about 3x the Sanken price, and you have to use the included power supply. It's certainly not three times as good. At the high end, small improvements can get expensive.

Of course, if you're working indoors, the Schoeps CMC-641 has a great reputation. The advantage of the CS-3e is that it can work indoors or out.
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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:17 PM   #26
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

I really like the idea of versatility. Something that in most situations can be at least good, if not the very best. And since the Sanken costs less than the Neumann, it looks like the choice is getting more obvious. (Unfortunately, the Super CMIT would be a HUGE financial stretch, and I'd lose too much sleep over it)

BTW, would bad weather = a rainstorm with the mic under an umbrella, or a rainstorm pelting directly on the mic? Here in VT there's rain, snow, and cold, but I'd be as protective as possible.

Don't know why I didn't mention this, but I already have the Sanken COS-11, which I use all the time for one-person sitdown interviews. (I tend to cut my questions out and try to make the interviewee start with a whole sentence.) What I really like about that lav is what I like about a lot of high-quality equipment: that it almost seems to do some of the work for me....attach to the best place on shirt front or collar, adjust the level and anticipate really good audio.

Another thought, based only on gut instinct: found this book and the website of the same name. It's not cheap, but it looks like the sort of really helpful nuts&bolts advice that you've been so generous with:

Location Audio Simplified by S. Dean Miles - Books & Videos - Trew Audio
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Old November 27th, 2011, 01:13 PM   #27
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
With standard shotguns, the highs and mids fall as you go off axis, but the bass doesn't really fall off at all. On a cheap shotgun, you get strange interference lobes that can cause a ratty transition. On a higher quality, traditional shotgun, the falloff is better controlled, thought the bass is still omni.
Sorry - I have to correct this - this is incorrect.

An interference-tube microphone normally uses a super-cardioid capsule.

The interference tube will make the microphone more directional as frequency increases - yes, this is correct.

However, the bass is NOT omni. The bass response will be super-cardioid, the same as the capsule.

It is shown clearly in this polar-pattern of the MKH 60.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
Also, you will get a strong lobe directly behind the mic. It's best to have the back end pointing into space or at something non-reflective.
Yes, this is the rear out-of-phase lobe of the super-cardioid.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
The Sanken three capsule design is able to roll off the bass. I tested this at NAB by making three tones: "mmm", "SHHH" and "ssss" to cover low, mid, and high ranges. The mids fall off best, the highs good with only a bit of interference, and the lows fall off smoothly and well.
Yes, this is how the Sanken works.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
I haven't used the Neumann, but the place where I would want the Sennheiser over the Sanken is in bad weather. I don't know that the Sanken is bad in the elements, but I know that the Sennheiser has a reputation of being tank solid. It's cheaper too.
The Sennheiser is an RF condenser (all Sennheiser MKH microphones are) and these are excellent in humid conditions.

Basically, AF capacitor microphones use the capsule as a capacitor to store charge. With one fixed plate and the other free to vibrate in sympathy with the sound, the capacitance varies, and the charge moves in or out of the capsule accordingly. This is measured by the head preamplifier and an audio signal results. All well and good, but the capsule is inherently in a high impedance circuit (over 1GigaΩ) – it has to sit there with stored charge until the diaphragm moves and any changes in the charge are perceived as audio. In a humid atmosphere the stored charge finds it easier to escape on water molecules in the air rather than through the input of the preamplifier, hence noisy and reduced output, and misery all round. The high biasing voltage also attracts dust particles to the diaphragm, reducing its efficiency and linearity.

The RF system (as used in Sennheiser MKH microphones) uses the capsule (a low impedance capsule) in a completely different way: as a tuning capacitor for an RF oscillator – which inherently employs it in a low impedance circuit where a high frequency signal is being passed through the capacitor all the time. Changes in capacitance (caused by sound moving the diaphragm) alter the resonant frequency of the circuit (circa 8MHz) and so its frequency becomes proportional to the audio signal. A simple RF demodulator restores the output to a conventional audio signal. More complex and sophisticated (but still very rugged), this system is highly immune to the effects of humidity and is thus the preferred design to be used out of doors (or when moving from outside to inside on a cold day!).



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
BTW, the only other mic I'm aware of that has somewhat uniform fall off is the Super CMIT. I've never used it, but the demos sound amazing. Shotgun microphone SuperCMIT - Overview - Schoeps Digital While the Sanken achieves its sound in analog, the Schoeps uses digital processing. It costs about 3x the Sanken price, and you have to use the included power supply. It's certainly not three times as good. At the high end, small improvements can get expensive.
The SuperCMIT is an AES42 digital mic. and incorporates a rear-facing cardioid capsule as well as the normal one. This can be switched in to reduce or virtually eliminate the rear out-of-phase lobe. This is a normal AF mic. an dis not an RF mic. like the Sennheiser MKH series.


The Neumann 81i is a very nice mic. (I have one) - but, again, it is an AF condenser and not an RF condenser. There is also an AES42 digital version available - the 81-D.


I hope this helps.
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Old November 27th, 2011, 02:45 PM   #28
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Hi John,

Thanks for the correction to my mental short-circuit of saying that the bass was omni. :)

And yes, the Sennheiser MKH series RF designs have more than proven themselves. I believe that the Rode NTG-3 is also an RF design that is intended to be similarly rugged. I've read about some Rode failures of the early units, but I believe that these were teething issues with the new model rather than a problem with the RF design.

I see that Sanken specs the CS-3e as a "DC biased condenser", which means it's also an AF mic.

Personally, I think an MKH (say, an 8060) would be a great choice as a single mic if you record mainly in controlled soundstages, large spaces, and outdoors in possibly harsh weather.

However, if you shoot a lot of interiors and don't expect to be shooting in the rain, the Sanken is a nice single mic choice.

If you start with the Sennheiser, then adding a hyper would make sense for smaller interiors. If you start with the Sanken, adding an NTG-3 for a wet weather shoot would let you keep the CS-3e warm and dry.

But maybe the most important piece of kit is a couple C stands with arms, movers blankets, and a few clothespins. Not long ago I shot five corporate interviews in various lobby-type locations. We had large glass windows on two sides that were from 20 to 80 feet away, depending on the interview spot. I used the COS-11D and a studio (heavy!) hyper on a stand just out of the frame 12-18 inches from the talent. (I selected the hyper in post.) But the echos off the glass were still obnoxious. I had the C-stands for the video side of things, but not the blankets. I've since used blankets for corporate shoot audio and it takes the audio to the next level. (John has posted elsewhere that he prefers duvets.) Had I used the world's most expensive mic, it wouldn't make as much of an improvement as $30 worth of heavy cloth. :)
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Old November 27th, 2011, 03:18 PM   #29
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Jon, I have a decent hyper and that really nice lav, so I'm thinking the Sanken is an appropriate addition to the set.

Not to be obsessive about this, but I'm still wondering what "in the rain" means. Protected in the rain, or getting directly pelted by the water?
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Old November 27th, 2011, 04:26 PM   #30
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Re: comparing Neumann 81i/Sanken CS-3e

Philip,

I've got a Sanken CS-3e that I've used under cover during rain events. No problems. If my mic were to have a chance of being exposed to direct rain I have a Sennheiser ME66 that I keep around for such situations. I'm not willing to risk my Sanken to find out how it would perform in those conditions.

I did do a shoot in a small car where we had to constantly wipe down the interior windows because the humidity kept fogging them up. My CS-3e didn't have any problems with those conditions but I would guess that if you were in South Florida I'd go for one of the MKH, RF Cap mics or the Rode NTG-3 which is also an RF-Biased mic.

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