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Old January 25th, 2017, 07:50 PM   #1
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Looking for suggestions for new compact mic - Any suggestions?

Hey guys,

I 'donated' one of my small video cameras to the bottom of a river shooting a Kayaking run along with a Sennheiser MKE400 compact mic. I was going to buy a replacement but thought I'd ask if there's anything new (and good) you guys like in this compact size range with good audio and 1/8" plug. What I like about the MKE400 is it's compact size, long battery life, disarming appearance and audio quality that mixed nice with my other Sennheisers. I know none of these small mics can replace close miking with a quality mic (I've already got wireless lavs and bigger more expensive shotguns), but in this case, looking for something really compact that is better than the on-cam mic. Looking through B&H's site here's what I see for mics in this range:

1) Rode Videomic with suspension - About 6" long, uses 9V battery 40-20k Hz
2) AT 8024 - About 6.75" long, 40-15k Hz.
3) Polzen VM-180M - About 5.75" long, 20-20k Hz
4) Sennheiser MKE400 - About 5" long, 40-20k Hz
5) Polzen VM-150 - About 5.25" long, 50-20k Hz
6) MyMyk SmartMyk - About 6" long, 60-20k Hz
7) SE Electronics Pro Mic Laser - About 8" long, 20-20k Hz (little longer than I was looking for, but ....
8) A variety of condenser mics that only go to 18k Hz and/or use button-cell batteries which I want to avoid.

So, of these, setting price aside for a moment, what do you like/dislike ...what are your experiences? Anything NOT on that list that should be? Anything new and hot on the market out of China that is killer? I don't mind a straight mic as long as it's short, in fact, a straight, short mic in the 6" and under range is probably preferable, as long as it has as wide range as possible given the size constraints.

Thanks a bunch for your thoughts!
Mark Goodsell

Last edited by Mark Goodsell; January 25th, 2017 at 08:25 PM.
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Old January 26th, 2017, 01:07 PM   #2
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Re: Looking for suggestions for new compact mic - Any suggestions?

Sorry to hear about your camera and mic loss.

You don't mention exactly what camera you intend to use the replacement mic on.

I don't have any first-hand experience with the mics you have listed.

One I don't see in your list is the newer very compact Rode that doesn't use a battery but needs Plug-In-Power from the mic jack to operate.
It is very compact and doesn't need a battery, but if the camera you want to use it on can't supply power, it would be useless.

I have thought I need a mic like this too, for times when I'm not using a small camera on a bracket with a handle, an XLR interface and mic with shockmount; but instead want to go absolute minimum size but still better than the camera's built-in mics.

So far I haven't purchased one from your list to make that happen, so let us know if you try a new model and how it compares to the Sennheiser you had.

You probably couldn't go wrong getting another Sennheiser 400, especially if you liked the results before.

Edit with new info:

Somewhat related to this discussion, I just saw a post in the Panasonic FZ camera forum here about using an iRig Pre and an adapter cable as a phantom power capable miniature XLR adapter for XLR mics attached to small cameras with mini mic inputs.
This would still be very small and would allow the use of excellent quality XLR mics, with preamp gain, without the bulk and weight of the XLR active adapters I have currently.

Last edited by Jay Massengill; January 26th, 2017 at 01:46 PM. Reason: New Information
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Old January 26th, 2017, 03:58 PM   #3
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Re: Looking for suggestions for new compact mic - Any suggestions?

I wouldn't put much stock in those published "frequency response" numbers.
Even precision, calibrated, laboratory measurement microphones that cost $5000 don't claim "20Hz-20KHz" frequency response because they are honest. And of course, without a tolerance rating (e.g. ± 3dB) those numbers mean nothing.

Furthermore, for that kind of sound recording, there is nothing above 10KHz (or even lower) that is useful for video production, and not much below 80-100Hz either, for that matter.

Here are my top-10 criteria for selecting a microphone. Frequency response is in the bottom-half of my list:

Sensitivity - how much signal does it put out for a given sound level.
Self-Noise - what is the mic's noise-floor relative to what I am trying to record.
Directionality - What is its directional pattern? How well does it actually execute that pattern?
Robustness - what is it made out of? How is the "fit and finish" Are expendable parts (like rubber suspension items) readily available for replacement?
Noise rejection - how well does it ignore physical handling noise? (either hand/boom/camera mounted)
Size/Weight - How big is it? How much does it weigh? These are especially important for boom or on-camera use.
Frequency Response 1 - How FLAT is the frequency response within the actual range?
Frequency Response 2 - What is its off-axis frequency response? Is it very different from forward?
Frequency Response 3 - What is its primary (forward) frequency response (actual, not marketing hype)
Ruggedness - How long can it be expected to live under MY typical use-cases?
Accessories - are accessories like clips, wind protection, connectors, cables, etc. readily available?
Power - Can it use internal battery? A nice common one like AA, or some unobtanium thing? Does it require 48V phantom (XLR) power, or ~5V (3.5mm) "plug-in power"?
Output - Does it have a balanced output? Or unbalanced (which is not good for long distances)?
Value - what is its performance vs. cost of ownership? I don't believe in impressing people with "name brands". My only criteria is ACTUAL PERFORMANCE.
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Old January 26th, 2017, 10:03 PM   #4
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Re: Looking for suggestions for new compact mic - Any suggestions?

Agreed, specs don't tell the story, that's why I wanted to get some real-world feedback. None of those small 6" and under mics are going to best or replace a really good close-up mic. And to be honest, none are going to be super-directional regardless of their claims, that's why I didn't go down that road. An ultra compact mic is just a part-time tool I like to keep in the tool kit for when the right occasion arises ...think busy developing-world markets where expensive gear can attract the wrong kind of attention. Oh, and also, nice to have something small for recording our kids' events that can easily be backed away in a backpack. Better than no external mic at all.

Cams: The cams I mainly use now are mainly small, video cams like the Sony X70 and DSLR that can be easily stowed for traveling. The video cams have phantom power besides the DSLR and I'm comfortable with my lavs and XLR's. I get what you're saying with Frequency Response, Tonal Qualities, Noise and Off-Axis response, but this small mic I'm looking for isn't meant to be a primary mic, just one to have ready in a pinch .....which isn't extremely often. I'm only interested in one that uses an 1/8" mini, common battery and coiled cord that can be stretched to a few feet (for just off-cam interview in a pinch).

The one area where these small mics generally suck is wind noise. I had a small furry on my Sennheiser (in the river too!) that did an ok job diffusing wind noise, but reduced some audio detail. If it were windy, a guy would need to get creative, or use something else.

Jay, thanks for the FYI on the iRig Pre. Interesting. I can see a use for something like that product.
Mark Goodsell

Last edited by Mark Goodsell; January 27th, 2017 at 08:41 AM.
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Old January 28th, 2017, 05:38 AM   #5
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Re: Looking for suggestions for new compact mic - Any suggestions?

Check out the Rode Videomicro RØDE Microphones - VideoMicro
Tiny, Lyre shockmount, dead cat, sounds great and as cheap as chips.
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Old January 29th, 2017, 08:30 AM   #6
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Re: Looking for suggestions for new compact mic - Any suggestions?


For some video work I use Canon's small Vixia HF R50 and use a Shure Lenshopper mic which I find works very well. You can affect the gain a bit with a switch and it uses AA's of which I have a lot of rechargeables. I am a still shooter and try to keep the various batteeeies needed to a minimum is a plus for me.



Last edited by Jerry Mennenga; January 29th, 2017 at 08:31 AM. Reason: Sorry Mark, I put your first name down as Daniel. Short attention span.
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Old January 29th, 2017, 05:11 PM   #7
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Re: Looking for suggestions for new compact mic - Any suggestions?

I second Richard's excellent list. Especially signal-to-noise.
Convenient powering for your uses is key, as is a form factor that works with your intended use/uses.

If you, or your clients, have a good ear, listen to the mic you are considering. Each will he its own character.
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