Andy West­lake Sara­monic PMic1

Tries out an af­ford­able ex­ter­nal mi­cro­phone for video use

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IT’S NOT so long ago that dig­i­tal cam­eras only re­ally shot stills, with just a poor ex­cuse for video. How­ever, with DSLRs, com­pacts and mir­ror­less cam­eras be­com­ing ever more pro­fi­cient in video cap­ture, it’s now eas­ier to pro­duce high- qual­ity re­sults with­out hav­ing to buy a spe­cial­ist video cam­era.

If you start to get se­ri­ous about movie work, though, you might soon be­come frus­trated by the qual­ity of the au­dio your cam­era records. Most cam­eras have per­fectly func­tional built-in stereo mi­cro­phones, but their small size inevitably com­pro­mises sound qual­ity. They of­ten also pick up un­wanted sounds from ei­ther side of, or be­hind, the cam­era that are un­re­lated to the footage be­ing recorded. This is where ex­ter­nal mi­cro­phones can give bet­ter sound qual­ity and di­rec­tion­al­ity.

Chi­nese man­u­fac­turer Sara­monic pro­duces a range of mics de­signed for ev­ery­thing from ama­teur to pro­fes­sional use. The one we’re look­ing at here is the most af­ford­able model in its PMic range for video. De­signed to fit onto your cam­era’s hot­shoe and plug into its 3.5mm stereo socket, it’s a shot­gun-style di­rec­tional mi­cro­phone that’s bi­ased to­wards pick­ing up sounds from in front of the cam­era, while giv­ing dual- chan­nel mono out­put (in other words, with ex­actly the same sig­nal fed to the cam­era’s left and right record­ing chan­nels). This can be use­ful when you’re in­ter­ested in record­ing a sin­gle sound source, such as a per­son speak­ing in front of the cam­era.

With a some­what bulky but light­weight plas­tic body, this mi­cro­phone doesn’t come across as es­pe­cially solidly built, but equally it doesn’t feel like it would fall apart at the slight­est provo­ca­tion, ei­ther. It’s pow­ered di­rectly from the cam­era, so there’s no need for a bat­tery. A switch­able fil­ter prom­ises to re­move low-fre­quency hum­ming noises such as traf­fic or air- con­di­tion­ing from your sound­track to make speech more in­tel­li­gi­ble, while the foam wind­shield should come in handy when record­ing out­doors. The ca­ble con­nects to the top of the mi­cro­phone, so it won’t poke into your fore­head if you pre­fer to record video us­ing your cam­era’s elec­tronic viewfinder.

Ver­dict

While the Sara­monic PMic1 ticks a lot of the right boxes in prin­ci­ple, I wasn’t all that im­pressed where it mat­ters most – the sound qual­ity. Tested with a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent cam­eras, I found it gave an un­bal­anced fre­quency re­sponse, with sup­pressed tre­ble and slightly em­pha­sised bass. As a re­sult, the Sara­monic im­parts a strange-sound­ing hol­low tim­bre to voices. For around the same price, I’d rec­om­mend spend­ing your money on some­thing like the Rode VideoMi­cro in­stead.

Shock mount A rub­ber joint iso­lates the mic, pre­vent­ing it from pick­ing up the cam­era’s op­er­a­tional sounds. 3.5mm con­nec­tor The mi­cro­phone con­nects to the cam­era us­ing a re­mov­able ca­ble with stan­dard 3.5mm con­nec­tors. Dual mount The mic is de­signed to fit onto a cam­era’s hot­shoe but also has a stan­dard 1/4in tri­pod thread.

Ex­ter­nal mics like PMic1 ex­ploit new cam­eras’ im­proved video record­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties Wind­shield A ba­sic foam wind­shield is in­cluded in the pack­age.

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