Six sound choices for bet­ter au­dio

Digital Camera World - - CONTENTS -

Au­dio-Technica AT8024 £186/$249 www.au­dio-technica.com

The Au­dio-Technica AT8024 is a shoe­mount shot­gun mic that of­fers a broad ar­ray of fea­tures. It sports a rub­ber mount to in­su­late the mic from cam­era and han­dling noise, and of­fers two pickup pat­terns for ei­ther wide-field stereo or car­dioid mono. This means you can use it for record­ing am­bi­ent tracks like traf­fic or bird­song in full stereo, or home in on a tight pickup pat­tern for speech and spot sound ef­fects.

Given that it’s the most ex­pen­sive op­tion here, it’s good that the AT8024 comes with both a foam wind­screen and a furry wind­jam­mer that’s very ef­fec­tive at cut­ting out wind noise – even in a strong breeze. This is a real bonus, as wind­jam­mers (also known as ‘dead cats’) of­ten have to be pur­chased sep­a­rately.

It runs for 80 hours on a sin­gle AA bat­tery (in­cluded in the box), and de­liv­ers a 40Hz-15KHz fre­quency re­sponse. Over­all, this is a great fit-and-for­get mic that’s well-con­structed and well-ap­pointed with ac­ces­sories. The mic’s noise floor isn’t per­fect, so it does suf­fer from a lit­tle high-fre­quency hiss, but record­ings are full and nat­u­ral sound­ing. It’s great hav­ing the op­tion to cap­ture stereo at the flick of a switch, and there’s also a roll-off fil­ter to cut bass rum­ble plus a three-stage gain op­tion to tune the mic’s out­put to your cam­era’s in­put. Pair this with a lav for in­ter­views or pre­sen­ters, and you’ll be well-kit­ted out for high-qual­ity videos.

PROS Stereo cap­ture; wind­jam­mer in­cluded

CONS A lit­tle high-fre­quency hiss is ev­i­dent

Boya BY-M1 £15/$20 www.boya-mic.com

The Boya BY-M1 is a wired lava­lier mic with a switch­able power source. This runs on an LR44 but­ton cell, and needs to be switched on if you use a ‘pas­sive’ source, or off if you record via a de­vice with plug-in power, such as a smart­phone. It comes with a clip to at­tach it to a jacket lapel, plus a mono 1/4in jack plug adapter, and also in­cludes a foam wind­screen to help dampen wind noise and speech plo­sives.

It of­fers an om­ni­di­rec­tional po­lar pat­tern, so picks up sound from all direc­tions, and the fre­quency re­sponse stretches from 65Hz to 18KHz. While that’s not as wide-rang­ing as some mics here, it is per­fect for voice record­ing.

The plas­tic con­struc­tion of the cap­sule is a lit­tle bulkier than that seen on pro­fes­sional lavs, but the 6m lead is long enough to mic up your pre­sen­ter and keep things tidy in the frame.

Con­sid­er­ing its low price, the BY-M1 de­liv­ers au­dio qual­ity way be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions. It has a hot­ter out­put than oth­ers here, and there’s no at­ten­u­a­tor switch to re­duce the vol­ume, so there’s the pos­si­bil­ity that it may dis­tort on some equip­ment. On our Canon 5D Mk III test cam­era, how­ever, the re­sult was some ex­cel­lent, hiss-free record­ings with an ex­tremely low noise floor.

Although the build qual­ity means it needs to be treated with care, this is an out­stand­ing lit­tle mic over­all. It’s a great con­tender as a wired backup mic, even if you have a pro wire­less sys­tem.

PROS Great sound qual­ity; very low noise

CONS A bit over­sized; easy to break if you’re not care­ful

Rode VideoMic Pro £135/$170 www.rode.com

This hot­shoe shot­gun mic of­fers a good se­lec­tion of fea­tures for those seek­ing more flex­i­bil­ity and higher-qual­ity record­ings. It’s sus­pended on a shock­mount; this in­cor­po­rates a cham­ber for a 9V bat­tery block (not sup­plied), which serves as the power source for around 70 hours.

On the back of the unit, there are two switches to let you tai­lor its per­for­mance. One al­ters the out­put gain (-10, 0 or +20 dB) to best match your cam­era’s in­put; the other of­fers the choice be­tween a flat re­sponse or one with a low-fre­quency cut. The lat­ter is of­ten use­ful out­doors when you want to re­duce bass rum­ble that may be present in the en­vi­ron­ment.

The sound qual­ity is ex­cel­lent, with rich tonal­ity through­out the 40Hz-20KHz range, and a flat re­sponse all the way through the speech fre­quen­cies. This en­sures re­ally nat­u­ral-sound­ing record­ings. Im­pres­sively, there’s a very low noise floor that’s com­pa­ra­ble to the Boya BY-M1 lav mic, so only the hy­per­crit­i­cal will be con­cerned about the small trace of mic-gen­er­ated hiss that’s present. The sup­plied foam wind­screen serves to pro­tect the mic, but out­doors, a furry wind­jam­mer is es­sen­tial to pre­vent wind noise. The ded­i­cated Rode model costs an­other £30/$38 on top, so that pushes up the out­lay.

That aside, The VideoMic Pro is an ex­cel­lent piece of kit, and more than jus­ti­fies its price with its thought-through fea­tures and slick per­for­mance.

PROS Great fea­ture set for top record­ings

CONS Wind­jam­mer is needed, but costs ex­tra

Ro­to­light Roto-Mic



Bet­ter known for in­no­va­tive LED light­ing, Ro­to­light also of­fers the Roto-Mic. Orig­i­nally de­signed as a kit with an LED ring­light that sur­rounds the mic (priced at £125/$199), the Roto-Mic is also avail­able sep­a­rately. The mic sports an im­pres­sive fre­quency re­sponse of 40Hz-20KHz, and its out­put can be set to -10, 0 or +10dB to match up with the in­put specifics of the cam­era in use.

The po­lar pat­tern is su­per­car­dioid, so it picks up sound from a nar­row area di­rectly in front of the mic. As well as a foam wind­screen, it comes with a furry wind­jam­mer that does a good job of elim­i­nat­ing wind noise out­doors. With this, we found the best re­sults were ob­tained by plac­ing it over the top of the foam wind­screen, rather than swap­ping them over.

The Roto-Mic is sus­pended on a shock­mount to iso­late the mic from han­dling noise. Spare rub­ber bands are in­cluded in the box if you man­age to break one when you’re out in the field.

Rel­a­tively com­pact, and pow­ered by a 9V bat­tery block (not in­cluded) the only real down­side of the Roto-Mic is some high-fre­quency hiss that’s no­tice­able when com­pared with some of the qui­eter shot­guns here. This can be pro­cessed out in post-pro­duc­tion us­ing noise re­duc­tion soft­ware, so it isn’t a deal-breaker con­sid­er­ing the oth­er­wise good set of fea­tures, but this as­pect of its per­for­mance gets in the way.

PROS Comes with the ac­ces­sories you’ll need, in­clud­ing a wind­jam­mer

CONS High-fre­quency hiss is no­tice­able

Sennheiser MKE 400



The MKE 400 is a very com­pact shot­gun mic that mounts on a hot­shoe via a mini shock-ab­sorber. Although it weighs in at just 60g, it sports a rugged, well-con­structed feel. It runs for up to 300 hours on a sin­gle AAA bat­tery (sup­plied) and of­fers two gain set­tings (marked ‘- vol +’). To fur­ther tune the mic’s out­put, you can switch be­tween a stan­dard, flat re­sponse and a low-cut set­ting, which rolls off the bass to re­duce any rum­ble present on lo­ca­tion.

A sup­plied foam wind­screen pro­tects the mic cap­sule, but a wind­jam­mer for breezy con­di­tions out­doors is an op­tional ex­tra. The MZW 400 ac­ces­sory kit (around £35/$40) in­cludes one, and also pro­vides an XLR adapter that al­lows you to plug the MKE 400 into pro­fes­sional video or au­dio equip­ment. The po­lar pat­tern is su­per­car­dioid, so sound pickup is re­jected from the sides and fo­cused on a nar­row arc in front of the mic.

Although the fre­quency re­sponse stretches from 40Hz to 20KHz, there’s a no­tice­able lack of bot­tom end on record­ings, and it’s rather thin-sound­ing, es­pe­cially when com­pared with the Rode VideoMic Pro. Record­ings are crisp and clear, with mids and highs punch­ing through, but it’ll take ex­tra time in post to re­store the low fre­quen­cies and get rich, nat­u­ral-sound­ing re­sults.

The diminu­tive size of this mi­cro­phone is a real plus, though, and it will be very ap­peal­ing to those look­ing for bet­ter sound from a su­per-com­pact and light­weight mic.

PROS Very small; good mid-to-high clar­ity

CONS Lack of bass gives thin­ner re­sults

Shure VP83 Len­sHop­per



The VP83 Len­sHop­per is a short, hot­shoe­mounted shot­gun mic that runs for 130 hours on a sin­gle AA bat­tery (in­cluded). It of­fers a su­per­car­dioid pickup pat­tern, which sup­presses sound very ef­fec­tively from the sides, fo­cus­ing at­ten­tion on where your lens is pointed.

The mic cap­sule is mounted on a shock­ab­sorb­ing Ry­cote lyre sys­tem that iso­lates the mic from han­dling noise, and switch­able gains of -10, 0 and +20dB are on of­fer to tune the mic’s out­put to your cam­era’s in­put. An­other switch gives the op­tion of a flat or low-cut re­sponse to re­duce any bass rum­ble. In our tests with the Canon 5D Mk III, the VP83 gave the low­est noise floor of all the mod­els here; barely any hiss at all was ev­i­dent in our record­ings.

Although the VP83 boasts a fre­quency re­sponse of 50Hz-20KHz, the re­sponse curve isn’t as flat as the Rode Video MicPro, and there’s less bass in the re­sul­tant out­put, giv­ing a thin­ner-sound­ing record­ing. With the em­pha­sis on mid and high fre­quen­cies, the mic ac­tu­ally cuts through re­ally well in terms of clar­ity, but ul­ti­mately, it doesn’t sound quite as rich and nat­u­ral as the Rode Video MicPro.

It’s not a huge is­sue, as the low fre­quen­cies can be re­stored in post-pro­duc­tion, so this ul­tra-quiet mic is well worth con­sid­er­ing. It is rel­a­tively steep on the price side, though, es­pe­cially when you add the cost of the ded­i­cated wind­jam­mer (£35/$45), which isn’t in­cluded as part of the kit.

PROS Crisp, clear au­dio with noise-free re­sults

CONS Bass re­sponse is a lit­tle lack­ing

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