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Field recorders, mic pre’s and hydrophones
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Author Field recorders, mic pre’s and hydrophones
Mostin77
Hi all,

I’ve got a couple of questions I’m hoping some members here can help me out with and give some advice.

I’m currently recording using a zoom h2n that I’ve had for a good few years now and recently built some clippy mics from the micboosters diy kit (primo 172 capsules) they seem to be a decent upgrade from the built in mics of the h2n but I’m getting quite a bit of noise while recording through them so I’m looking at getting a new recorder with quieter mic pres. I’m also very interested in doing some hydrophone recordings as I find recordings done with hydrophones really interesting.

Do recorders like the sound devices mix pre series use the same low noise mic pres for the 3.5mm plug in power?

I’ve noticed the micbooster mics and simular mics along with some hydrophones (h2a) are offered with the option of XLR plugs along with 3.5mm plugs, are there any advantages/disadvantages to having XLR plugs over the 3.5mm pip option?

Would something like the mix pre recorders be overkill for recording with primo 172 based mics and hydrophones as these are the sort of mics I plan on using for the next few years?

Thanks

Matt
charbot
I just got a mixpre6 and have some (more) em172s on the way currently. Very happy with both. Some day Id like to get a pair of DPA 4060s, but until then the em172s (i already have) are working rather nicely. They are in a binaural setup. the new one that are on the way are coming with "clippy" enclosures, clips, etc)
The mixpres are super. You will not regret getting it, unless you plan to be using it for "real" commercial ENG/film/tv work. The lack of balanced "outs" can be a deal breaker. for everything else, tho... it is killer. The 6 is nice because it is only a little more for the 4th input and it can do ambisonic...along with 192khz.... but Im sure that most would be plenty satisfied with the MP3.

I am not sure if the 3.5mm stereo input jack has the same kashmir circuitry(been wondering this myself, I wish sound devices released a block diagram of the mixpre ) , but it definitely does not have as much gain as the XLR Ins. XLR can go to +80 dBs ... I forget what the 3.5 is exactly, but it is like 1/2. - like +40db. I believe most other recorders and mixers are similar; the XLR's have more gain.

The em172's are pretty sensitive already, so they probably work perfectly well with 3.5, esp into a nice mixer/recorder and they make the whole setup considerably lighter and easier to setup. Seems like many are happy with this arrangement. Personally tho, I am building mine with xlr's - using a cap and resistor to to drop the 48v Phantom to something more in the 7-9v range- like this:https://tombenedict.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/diy-microphone-em172 -capsule-and-xlr-plug/ . This works perfectly.

I feel like the XLR jacks make them a little more practical and possibly more "professional"... or at least "professional-looking" smile
Its a pretty easy soldering job, for the cost of a couple jacks, you can try it both ways!
Mostin77
charbot wrote:
I just got a mixpre6 and have some (more) em172s on the way currently. Very happy with both. Some day Id like to get a pair of DPA 4060s, but until then the em172s (i already have) are working rather nicely. They are in a binaural setup. the new one that are on the way are coming with "clippy" enclosures, clips, etc)
The mixpres are super. You will not regret getting it, unless you plan to be using it for "real" commercial ENG/film/tv work. The lack of balanced "outs" can be a deal breaker. for everything else, tho... it is killer. The 6 is nice because it is only a little more for the 4th input and it can do ambisonic...along with 192khz.... but Im sure that most would be plenty satisfied with the MP3.


I am not sure if the 3.5mm stereo input jack has the same kashmir circuitry(been wondering this myself, I wish sound devices released a block diagram of the mixpre ) , but it definitely does not have as much gain as the XLR Ins. XLR can go to +80 dBs ... I forget what the 3.5 is exactly, but it is like 1/2. - like +40db. I believe most other recorders and mixers are similar; the XLR's have more gain.


The em172's are pretty sensitive already, so they probably work perfectly well with 3.5, esp into a nice mixer/recorder and they make the whole setup considerably lighter and easier to setup. Seems like many are happy with this arrangement. Personally tho, I am building mine with xlr's - using a cap and resistor to to drop the 48v Phantom to something more in the 7-9v range- like this:https://tombenedict.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/diy-microphone-em172 -capsule-and-xlr-plug/ . This works perfectly.

I feel like the XLR jacks make them a little more practical and possibly more "professional"... or at least "professional-looking" smile
Its a pretty easy soldering job, for the cost of a couple jacks, you can try it both ways!


Thanks for the input charbot, I think you’ve just re-enforced what I was already thinking regarding the recorder. It seems like the perfect recorder for me, compact, clean sounding and a solid build. The pre 3 is on but kinda just outside my budget, but I’m trying to talk myself into the pre6 as the extra channel will give me that buffer of the extra channel. I don’t really want to spend that sort of money on a pre3 then upgrade to the 6 a year later as I need an extra channel. I don’t need the balanced outs. Only thing that’s putting me off is having to add extra cash for some way of powering it. How long are you getting from the 4AA battery’s?

I can’t seem to find any info regarding the 3.5mm input I’m guessing it’s decent quality though, maybe I’ll send sound devices an email.

Are the em172’s you already have XLR inputs too? I have already looked at that article you posted and thought about doing the same but was unsure of any advantages in having XLR over 3.5mm...I think the XLR inputs would be my preference, they always seem a bit sturdier than the 3.5mm jacks. Only thing is I think I’d have to change the cables to fit XLR plugs? Maybe I’ll build some more with XLR plugs and keep the 3.5mm for long recording drops with the h2n.
I’m planning on having a pretty compact setup and like yourself if need to in future look at upgrading to the DPA4060’s, but 4 em172’s, a couple of hydrophones and a mixpre3/6 should be a pretty compact setup.

Thanks again for your input
charbot
I use AA x4 Eneloop Pros and get about 2-2.5 hrs easily; depending on mics, phantom power, recording settings, etc. ...
Far better than what i was used to with my old Tascam DR100 mk2.
Just get an 8 pack and youll be set...unless you plan on recording long uninterrupted concerts or something. Even then, I guess you could always hotswap the AA pack while using a USBC power source. I wish that there was a single Sony sled, or maybe 2 in-line rather than sticking out and back-to-back, which is rather bulky.

Other rechargeables definitely give much less time... maybe likw 1-1.5 hrs with the regular Eneloops, so, if you are buying them new, at least go with the higher capacity ones., whichever brand you prefer.


I originally thought that I "needed" the sony sled or some huge power brick... but included the 4x AA sled really is ideal.
If you do really desire to get some accessories, a second 4XAA sled is actually pretty handy.
Mostin77
Realistically I’m not going to be doing recording sessions for more than a few hours and those few hours will no doubt be broken up into much smaller recordings sesssions of 10mins or so at a time so I think the 4AA sled should be fine with some extra batteries as back up.

I was originally going to take a chance on getting the ikea or amazon batteries which some people are suggesting might be rebranded eneloops, but maybe I’ll just go with the eneloops to be safe. The other batteries options at the moment seem a bit bulky as you say kinda defeating the object of the small tidy footprint of the mix pres.

Having limited recording time might actually be a bit of a good idea anyway as will make me more selective in what I record and I won’t return home with hours of recording I need to listen to and edit!

I guess I just need to decide on the mp3 or mp6 now!

I’d be interested in hearing how the resistor on the XLR plugs works out for you.

Thanks again

Matt
charbot
I already have a pair of EM172 with the resitors and capacitos- works perfectly.

oh- another reason for xlr phantom vs 3.5 pip is that the 3.5 jack is post fader. there is no way to control the level of the stereo in with a knob, AFAIK
Midiot
Just curious....

What's the battery life on these Sound Devices ?

How many extra batteries would you need ?
(when say, you are using the 48v phantom with two mics for stereo)
Mostin77
charbot wrote:
I already have a pair of EM172 with the resitors and capacitos- works perfectly.

oh- another reason for xlr phantom vs 3.5 pip is that the 3.5 jack is post fader. there is no way to control the level of the stereo in with a knob, AFAIK


Thanks Charbot. Sounds like the XLR inputs is the way to go then.
supersuper
There is a really nice video on youtube about sound devices gear vs prosumer consumer recorders that explain the pricing beyond build quality and audio quality.
Mostin77
Midiot wrote:
Just curious....

What's the battery life on these Sound Devices ?

How many extra batteries would you need ?
(when say, you are using the 48v phantom with two mics for stereo)


From what I’ve read online and charbots post here that the 2 hour run time seems to be what you’ll get from high capacity AA battery’s. The 8AA sled would give you roughly double that and the other battery options will significantly give you more running time via the L-mount battery’s, people are reporting all day recording with a usb powered battery bank,depending on size.

For me I although 2 hours doesn’t seem a lot initially , I’d be using mine for field recordings and I’d be happy to change out battery’s every couple of hours. Most of my recordings are usually 10-20 mins each so not really a problem, just means buying/carrying extra battery’s depending on how long I plan to be out for. Obviously I’ll need to budget a few packs of battery’s and charger into the price.

Matt
Mostin77
supersuper wrote:
There is a really nice video on youtube about sound devices gear vs prosumer consumer recorders that explain the pricing beyond build quality and audio quality.


Sounds good, do you have any more info or a link you could share pls?
charbot
Oh, another contributing factor that went into my decision to get the MP6 vs the MP3 was that the 6 has XLR/1/4 combi jacks... while the 3 only has xlrs. Apparently, there wasnt enough room to squeeze them in. Balanced 1/4 is prob most useful in a studio setup or if using the MP as a usb interface... but for me, it makes it even more versatile as an all-in-one travel audio solution.

update...

Im building an ambisonic mic using some 10mm cardioid capsules using the resistor/ cap to power them from p48. Regarding battery life: with 4 phantom powered mics, Im definitely noticing a significant impact to battery life just doing testing here on the bench. My opinion is that if you are in the field with a mic or two, 4x AA's will be fine. Prob, for all day, if you are just recording bits here and there. If you plan to do some long sessions and /or with multiple mic arrays, you'll prob want a more robust power source like the anker power brick or the sony sled and batteries... or several backup sets of AAs.
Actually a USBC 3Amp Ac adaptor might be a wise investment too. Im thinking that most any really long recording session Ill be doing (likely music stuff) will be happening relatively close to some wall power.

the included dual USB cable can work if you have 2 USB AC adapters or a power brick with 2x usb ports, but it is kinda bulky.
Mostin77
I’d be interested in how the battery life is when doing Ambisonics with those mics as these are the mics I plan to build and use myself. I’m not sure if it will effect my decision on which recorder to buy. I’m guessing the Anker pack won’t be too much hassle to carry but it doesn’t seem ideal.

Although the combi jacks aren’t crucial to me as I’m planning to use the mix pre as a recorder, they are definitely an added feature for using as a interface.

The extra channels are the biggest factor really as I’m trying to decide if Ambisonics might be handy, plus I’d be able to record with 2 hydrophones plus 2 or 4 em172 mics with the mix pre 6. Extra channels are always a bonus
makers
I've used a MixPre6 I can check out from my University. But I decided to get the Zoom F4 for myself. I've used lots of noisy Zoom recorders over the years but the F4 has been fantastic. The micpres are excellent.

I've found a new obsession combining that with the Ambeo Ambisonics microphone. Using the Rode/Soundfield plugin, you can get just about any Mic pattern you want.

Sounddevices recommends a USB charge pack as a possible power source. I found a comparable one with 20000mAh and 2.4 amp on each USB port. It works perfectly and I don't have to find a disposal for more AA batteries!

Zoom has a DC to Hirose adapter and that combined with a cheap 1 Amp USB to 12V converter lets me power the Zoom F4.

I got a Dolphin Ears Hydrophone with XLR connector. It is excellent. Sounds better than the DPA hydrophone we also have at my University.
Mostin77
makers wrote:
I've used a MixPre6 I can check out from my University. But I decided to get the Zoom F4 for myself. I've used lots of noisy Zoom recorders over the years but the F4 has been fantastic. The micpres are excellent.

I've found a new obsession combining that with the Ambeo Ambisonics microphone. Using the Rode/Soundfield plugin, you can get just about any Mic pattern you want.

Sounddevices recommends a USB charge pack as a possible power source. I found a comparable one with 20000mAh and 2.4 amp on each USB port. It works perfectly and I don't have to find a disposal for more AA batteries!

Zoom has a DC to Hirose adapter and that combined with a cheap 1 Amp USB to 12V converter lets me power the Zoom F4.

I got a Dolphin Ears Hydrophone with XLR connector. It is excellent. Sounds better than the DPA hydrophone we also have at my University.


Hi Makers

I’ve still not ruled out the zoom f4 or even f8 just yet, my main concern was if I ended up buying the zoom and the preamps weren’t as good as the sound devices then I’d probably end up upgrading again in the future which is more money, the upside to buying the f4 is that I’d save enough money from not buying the MP6 that I could get a couple of decent mics or a hydrophone.

There seems to be a lot of comparisons around between the f4 and the mp3/6 but almost all seem to come from the film/blog sound type reviews. My thinking so far has been biased toward the sound devices as they have a reputation for great preamps and solid build quality, also the small form factor is a bonus, and they seem basic, I’m not needing time code or anything like that just. Whereas zoom seem to be functional and good value but have noisy mic pre’s on models up to the F-series. I’ve not used either, just what I’ve been reading while trying to find info.

So as someone that I presume has used both for hydrophones how would you compare them? You would appear to be doing very similar recording to what I’m wanting to do.

Do you only record with one hydrophone? From what I understand sound travels a lot faster underwater so stereo as such doesn’t really work in water?

Ambisonics is also something I’d be interested in.

Thanks for your post
makers
The Mic preamps on the Zoom are great. They may not be as good as the Sound Devices' but they are certainly more than adequate for field recording. It's hard for me to imagine your being disappointed with them

The build quality in the Mix Pre s is certainly better than the Zoomf4 and the color touch screen is head and shoulders above the monochrome Zoom f4.

I do not have two Dolphin Ears hydrophones but eventually I would like to try stereo. I was just going to try spacing them further apart than usual to compensate for the speed of sound in water.
Mostin77
makers wrote:
The Mic preamps on the Zoom are great. They may not be as good as the Sound Devices' but they are certainly more than adequate for field recording. It's hard for me to imagine your being disappointed with them

The build quality in the Mix Pre s is certainly better than the Zoomf4 and the color touch screen is head and shoulders above the monochrome Zoom f4.

I do not have two Dolphin Ears hydrophones but eventually I would like to try stereo. I was just going to try spacing them further apart than usual to compensate for the speed of sound in water.


Thanks again. The zoom sounds like it might be worth a go. The screen won’t bother me I don’t think, as the screen on the h2n looks similar and is pretty crap but perfectly readable.
I doubt I’d notice the difference between the zoom and sound devices mic pres but I liked the claim by sound devices that you could record ant any level and then bump in post production with out any loss or noise, do you think this stands for the zoom too?
makers
Mostin77 wrote:
I liked the claim by sound devices that you could record ant any level and then bump in post production with out any loss or noise, do you think this stands for the zoom too?


My answer would be "no". That's a pretty extraordinary claim I would not expect Zoom to make.
Mostin77
makers wrote:
Mostin77 wrote:
I liked the claim by sound devices that you could record ant any level and then bump in post production with out any loss or noise, do you think this stands for the zoom too?


My answer would be "no". That's a pretty extraordinary claim I would not expect Zoom to make.


Seems like the zoom sales rep is making those claims regarding the to be released zoom f6!

Dead Banana
milkshake
DIY hydrophone:

Take mic, put condom around it, done.


I never used a purpose made hydrophone, but this works great.
Mostin77
milkshake wrote:
DIY hydrophone:

Take mic, put condom around it, done.


I never used a purpose made hydrophone, but this works great.


Great idea for recording 12” below water surface.
makers
With an inexpensive lav with a long lead, I've taken the finger from a surgical glove, used s silicon sealer and a zip tie and gone pretty deep.

I'm pretty sure my Dolphin Ears hydrophone is made from a contact Mic embedded in epoxy.
Mostin77
makers wrote:
With an inexpensive lav with a long lead, I've taken the finger from a surgical glove, used s silicon sealer and a zip tie and gone pretty deep.

I'm pretty sure my Dolphin Ears hydrophone is made from a contact Mic embedded in epoxy.


I was thinking of building something similar using plastidip but keeping the glove tip exposed. My JrF hydrophones are peizo based
milkshake
Mostin77 wrote:
milkshake wrote:
DIY hydrophone:

Take mic, put condom around it, done.


I never used a purpose made hydrophone, but this works great.


Great idea for recording 12” below water surface.


Depth is not a problem, up to a point of cause.
It's at the surface where water can enter the mic.
Reason: At depth you have water pressure that seals the mic, at the surface there's not much pressure so small holes don't get squeezed tight.
Mostin77
milkshake wrote:
Mostin77 wrote:
milkshake wrote:
DIY hydrophone:

Take mic, put condom around it, done.


I never used a purpose made hydrophone, but this works great.


Great idea for recording 12” below water surface.


Depth is not a problem, up to a point of cause.
It's at the surface where water can enter the mic.
Reason: At depth you have water pressure that seals the mic, at the surface there's not much pressure so small holes don't get squeezed tight.


I understand the theory behind that but something tells me that wouldn’t work in a real life situation!? I’d be interested in trying that out though.

Why are piezo discs used more often than actual mic based capsules in hydrophones, do they have better sensitivity in water or is it for other reasons like cost?
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