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Best field recording mic for a backpack/budget

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by spazmo, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. spazmo

    spazmo Active Member


    I'm going to be doing some field recordings in some remote parts of Scandanavia, where my gear will all need to fit into a backpack. I've picked up a TASCAM DR-100mkii for a good price, and I'm now looking around for a microphone. I can use the Tascam's onboard mics for some close-up applications, but I might also be recording animals and sounds from a distance of up to 10 yards, in fairly windy, flat areas.

    I've been advised to look for a shotgun stereo mic. I've dound a few for around $500, but I've also found som non-shotgun stero mics for a lot less. Durability and price are both concerns.

    If anyone has any advice, information or recommendations, it will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    There are a few things you should think about when considering the use of external shotgun condenser mics with the DR-100. The first is battery life with phantom power switched on: it's not very long. The second thing covers noise and gain. The noise floor on the DR-100, although reasonable for a hand-held recorder, is not great when it comes to needing high gain for quiet wildlife recordings. Additionally, there is not really enough gain for very low-level sound sources, but this will depend on the microphone sensitivity.

    The usual technique for dealing with both of these aspects is an external pre-amp that can supply phantom power of its own, and hence not drain the DR100's battery so quickly. If your wildlife recordings were mono, the standard pre-amp for this sort of use is the Sound Devices MP-1. I don't think SD does a 2-channel version of this unit, but your post does beg the question of what stereo microphone you were thinking of using.
  3. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    Consider a Rode NT-4 Stereo mic. It has a space inside to insert a 9 volt battery in leu of phantom power. It's a very transparent and sensitive mic and sells for about $500. I'm not sure how well the included foam windscreen will perform in outdoor settings, you may need to get something else to handle that, but the mic is a good one for the price. It is also pretty rugged, so I think it will travel well.

  4. spazmo

    spazmo Active Member

    Thanks for the replies! I can see that phantom power is going to be an issue. As for the volume of the recordings, it will be fairly loud, let me be more specific about the application - I'm recording a lot of the groans and grinding of glaciers, which is fairly loud within crevaces which I don't plan on getting too close to. From what I had read, that seemed to be a good fit for a shotgun mic. However, I thought that since the Tascam had dual XLRs it might be nice to go with stereo. I had first looked at the Roland Edirol CS-50 which would does not take batteries and owuld eat the power from the Tascam: Edirol / Roland CS-50 Stereo Shotgun Microphone CS-50 B&H Photo

    I had also seen this audio technica stereo mic, which is a good price, but might not work as well when pointing into a glacial crack as a shotgun mic: Amazon.com: Audio-Technica AT8022 X/Y Stereo Microphone: Electronics

    The Rode NT-4 seems ideal as it takes a battery, and is stereo, but I'm wondering if not being a shotgun mic would be a problem when trying to record sounds in cracks 10 or 20 feet away?

    Would I be better off just getting a shotgun mic, preamp (if necessary) and adding a stereo effect in post?

  5. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    I think the Rode NT-4 is up to the task if you're talking 10 or 20 ft. from the sound source... it's pretty sensitive and has plenty of gain. I personally wouldn't choose adding a stereo effect in post over tracking with a stereo mic, it's just not going to be the same!

  6. spazmo

    spazmo Active Member

    That Rode looks like a good choice. Let me ask one more question, if you don't mind. Would the quality difference be worth the price difference between the rode and this audio-technica?


    I noticed the Audio-Technica only uses an AA battery, so would it be a good guess that it's not as powerful? I want to make sure I'm getting the right mic for the job, but I don't want to spend any unnecessary money.


  7. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    Tom, Audio-Technica makes some great mics, but I have no experience with any of their stereo models. I will tell you that I have been recording for over 20 years and currently own over 30 mics costing up to $5,000 each and I've always thought that if I were to ever do any field recording the NT-4 would be the mic I'd use. It's rugged, quality built, and sensitive.

  8. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    When recording something as large as a glacier, a stereo mic like the Rode NT4 is certainly worth considering, as it will literally give an extra dimension to the sound over a mono shotgun.

    One thing you do have to bear in mind is that condenser mics do not like damp or very cold environments. I would drop a line to Rode in Australia to ask them if they have any advice about using their capsules in the conditions you expect in northern Scandinavia.
  9. spazmo

    spazmo Active Member

    OK, the Rode it is!

    Guys, thank you so much for the advice. I think I've come out making the right decision, and I've learned a bit as well.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to help me out.

  10. rocksure

    rocksure Active Member

    If I had only one mic, it wouldn't be a stereo mic. Better to have a mono mic in my opinion (a shotgun). If you want to capture a single bird or animal or some other source where you want to pin point it, it would be better suited I think. However, as a second mic'ing possibility a stereo mic could be handy. If you are going to record outdoors then you will need some serious wind protection unless it's a dead still day. A foam cover won't cut it in any sort of wind. A blimp with a fluffy windjammer is ideal because it also has a shockmount in it. I have gotten away with putting a foam sock with a fake fur sock over top of it on a mic in some reasonable level wind, but for more than a breeze the zeppelin/windjammer combo is much better. Not sure how easy to find one that would fit n NT4 would be though.
    You may find this tutorial a helpful read: Field Recording Of Birds, Wildlife and Nature Sounds

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