First up are the microphones etc..
I chose the Rode NTG-2 shotgun microphone which comes with a 10 year warranty! Can’t be any fairer than that.
When you carefully cut the seals and slide off the top of the box you are greeted with a black pouch and under this are the warranty, manual, stickers and an advice sheet on how to correctly use the microphone stand clip supplied in the box.
Opening the pouch reveals the mic itself, it instantly feels a quality product with it’s dark grey coating. On the top of the microphone is a gold dot which tells you the correct positioning.
The rear end of the microphone unscrews to reveal the battery compartment where you can put an AA battery or you can power the microphone with phantom power at 48 volts.
If you plan to use one outdoors then you will need to buy a furry windscreen and shock mount and Rode offer a few different choices from a simple pistol grip or a pole mounting version, then You have the full monty! The blimp…
The Rode blimp is what I chose as it offers a full encasement of your microphone and can hold short shotgun mics. Rode offer three short shotgun mics are the: NTG-1, NTG-2 and the NTG-3.
In the ends of the box you will find an Allen key for adjusting the internal support hoops, a brush for the dead wombat furry, a bag of different size mic clips and spare bungees. A manual and packing list is with the warranty sheet here too. Pulling out a piece of packing reveal the sizeable blimp in all it’s glory..
I have seen reviews from people expecting it to be smaller and not as big as it is, however they are missing the important reasons why this is. There also has to be room for the elastic bungees used in the shock mount which reduce handling noise, however caution is needed as it doesn’t stop all handling noise.
They are: To create a bigger dead spot to stop wind hitting the mic and to allow the user to place other mic types within.
The tail cable exits the base of the grip which is fully enclosed and fits the hand superbly also in the base of the grip is the mounting thread for a pole, mic stand or camera tripod though I don’t find it heavy while hand held while in the field.
I find the blimp an excellent companion to the NTG-2 mic and is a more professional and flexible windscreen over the half length furries.
I had been looking into binaural mics too for the in the head sound experience as the stereo mics are mounted in the same or nearly the same position as our ears. Though nearly always sounds better on headphones than speakers.
I couldn’t find a small and cost effective mic anywhere until I stumbled across one on EBay.co.uk
by a small company called Micronic two small lavalier mic heads on a 2 metre cable.. Perfect! It cost £24.95 so pretty cheap really.
However I thought the pre-amps would have been fine for this and chose not to order their own mic pre-amp which is an optional £14.95 I then found my inputs were mono and needed to be split again to two inputs on the Tascam DR-680 so off to Maplin I go… Now mounting the mics will either require a shop manakin head type thing or mounting them on a pair of headphones and that is what I did. With the furry windscreens on you will look like you have a major ear hair problem ! You may get some funny looks…..
JRF (Jez Riley French) makes contact mic and hydrophones by hand, these high quality mics can be bought at different price and quality levels. Basic model is £20.00 each and £40.00 for a stereo pair.
I chose a single C-series contact mic and will more at a later date. Maybe even a pair of Hydrophones. The contact mic records vibrations directly as opposed to through the air like other mics and are great for unique sounds and sound effects. A superbly made device ( arrived in the post as I was drafting this post) a single mic is £35.00 and a stereo pair is £70.00 in the UK. A little is added for overseas postage. as said above Chris Watson uses these and can be seen recording the sound of a centipede walking on Bang Goes the theory (clip is on YouTube and audio clip is on Jez’s page: http://hydrophones.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/c-series-pro-contact-microphones-new.html
Audio Technica ATH-M40fs headphones.
These are 60ohm impedance and are easier to drive than my 250ohm Beyerdynamic DT770s. The AT headphones are very light with somewhat annoying swivelling ear cups. The ear cups just don’t grip the head firmly enough and they fall off my head easily, so I taped up the swivels and feel better though because of the lack of tightness they don’t isolate you from the sounds well enough. They also feel cheaply made for the £60.00 they cost. The cable is one sided and exits on the left to terminate at a 6.3mm jack with no option to use a smaller 3.5mm jack unless you buy a 6.3 to 3.5mm adapter yourself.
I already find myself wanting to replace them with either Sennheiser or Beyerdynamic DT770 headphones which also come in 80ohm and for 2012 only a 32ohm version is available.
Looking ahead I chose the Tascam DR-680 recorder which is a six input eight track device to allow for a stereo mix down internally.
In the box is a manual, warranty card, mains power adaptor and a shoulder strap which has plastic clips that locate on metal lugs on the sides of the unit. I would recommend you get the Portabrace bag (more below)
This device is made from plastic, but once in the bag you will hardly notice this. Four xlr/trs sockets with two further trs sockets are on the left side and spdif etc are on the right as is the card slot for the SD card. On the fron you have the headphone socket and headphone volume knob. Then you have the mono display which is backlit with a warm orangey glow also here you will find the pause and record buttons.
Menu buttons take you through the different adjustments on the front panel while the top panel has the main menu button, a jog wheel and enter button, mic/line selectors, mic gain selectors, power switch, etc. Play, stop and back and forward buttons are also here. A speaker is to rear of the top panel.
This device takes some bedding in and the pre-amps loosen off to become very quiet indeed. Best way to do this is to connect the included mains adaptor and leave the unit in Pause Record for a few hours.
In the field the DR-680 is powered by 8 AA batteries so I would suggest a charger that can charge 8 batts at a time and try to get the highest Mah rating you can mine are 2900mah from 7day shop via Amazon.co.uk
and I also have another two sets at 2000 and 2500mah from Maplin.
These should give you more than enough time in the field.
I also went for the Portabrace AR-DR680 bag which is superbly made, a choice for many pros in the broadcast industry for the build quality and functionality. Easy access to the front panel via a clear top flap which can be held back with the Velcro and zips allow access to the top panel.
The side panels have Velcro envelope type sides that pull apart for connecting cables. The shoulder strap has a padded suede section and terminates in the best looking and made clips I have ever seen, somehow beautiful in their engineering and a sight to behold.
I have had this equipment for almost 3 weeks and it has been a fantastic experience so far, though I would prefer a specific Li-on battery like Sound Devices use and not the AA batts, but not a deal killer..
Any questions feel free to post or comment below