November 26, 2014 at 4:31PM

5

Should I upgrade my microphone?

Hi everyone,

I'm here to ask for your opinions on this. I currently have a Tascam Dr 100 mkii and NTG 1. It works pretty well, but not great. There's always quite strong background noise present, and it's not possible to remove much of it in post.

In comparison, my SmartLav and Dr 05 produce a much more clean file and also sound a lot better to me, and others.

So I was wondering if getting a more sensitive microphone like the AT4073a would be a good choice to get better quality sound. Or would a better recorder do me better?

8 Comments

If you're not happy with the noise level from your NTG-1 shotgun mic, there are a few things you could do...

1- Check to make sure you are using the NTG-1 mic close enough to your subject. Shotgun mics are made to be used between 1.5 - 3 feet from your subject's face, so if you are using your mic farther than 3 feet from your subject then this might be the cause of the noise.

2- Use a good mic preamp with your mic. The Tascam DR-100 has good mic preamps, but they might be a little too weak for your NTG-1. Adding a good mixer like a used Sound Devices MixPre ( under $500 on eBay ) or the new Sound Devices MixPre-D will greatly improve the audio quality of your mic. You might even find a used Sound Devices MM-1 single channel mic preamp on eBay for less than $300. All of these Sound Devices units have 60+ dB of clean mic gain.

3- If I was going to upgrade my shotgun mic from a Rode NTG-1, I would look at the Sennheiser MKE-600 mic or the Rode NTG-3 mic. The AT4073a mic is a good mic, but I would only buy it if I could find it used for less than $400.

4- Good noise-reduction software can help quite a bit if used properly. This takes practice to learn how to use it without effecting the overall quality of your audio.

November 27, 2014 at 2:28PM

0
Reply
Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30931

Thanks for the advice. Would getting a more sensitive microphone remove the need to get a preamp because the signal would be stronger? If this is the case, which mics might be good? I read that the MKE 600 is not particularly sensitive.

Gareth Ng

November 27, 2014 at 9:46PM

>>>Would getting a more sensitive microphone remove the need to get a preamp because the signal would be stronger?

It will definitely help, but it won't be a good as adding a better quality preamp to your audio chain. I would try and find a used Sound Devices MM-1 pre-amp, which you should be able to find for $300 or less if you dig around.

>>>I read that the MKE 600 is not particularly sensitive.

I found it to be about the same as the Rode NTG-1 mic, but the sound quality is noticeably better. You really need to add on a good preamp as most professional quality mics are not "hot" mics, so a good preamp is essential.

Guy McLoughlin

November 29, 2014 at 12:26PM

So what exactly does a good preamp do?

Gareth Ng

November 29, 2014 at 3:02PM

If there is lots of background noise, you can also try to reduce any unneeded sounds. For example it's a good practice to turn of the AC while recording sound. You can also reduce sound by placing blankets up around the room on stands.

November 28, 2014 at 4:59PM

0
Reply
avatar
Zachary Will
Cinematographer
819

If there is lots of background noise, you can also try to reduce any unneeded sounds. For example it's a good practice to turn of the AC while recording sound. You can also reduce sound by placing blankets up around the room on stands.

November 28, 2014 at 4:59PM

1
Reply
avatar
Zachary Will
Cinematographer
819

>>>So what exactly does a good preamp do?

Amplify the signal from a mic while introducing almost no noise from the preamp itself. The Sound Devices preamps have a dynamic range of 110 dB or better, which means that they will pretty much never introduce self-noise to the signal.

Your Tascam DR-100 Mkii has a noise floor between -80 to -50 dB RMS depending on how you set the GAIN level on your DR-100.

This means that the DR-100 can make great and very quiet recordings when it is fed a strong LINE level audio signal so that you would need NO GAIN at all when recording.

But when you have to use a lot of the built-in audio GAIN of your DR-100, you end up with a fairly noisy recording because the noise-floor of the DR-100 might be as high as -50 dB RMS. I consider any noise-floor louder than -60 dB RMS to be NOISY.

And it gets worse in post when you still have to boost the audio level of your recording because it's still too low with all that GAIN you applied when recording.

With a good preamp like the Sound Devices preamps, you can apply as much GAIN as the maximum the Tascam DR-100 recorder can produce ( roughly 30 dB ), and still end up with a noise-floor from the preamp of -80 dB RMS or better. ( the noise-floor is too low to hear under normal listening conditions ) So with a decent recorder set to record a LINE level signal from the Sound Devices recorder you can boost your audio recording by 20 dB in post and still have a nice quiet recording. ( assuming that the mic you are using has a low self-noise rating and the room you are recording in has a low ambient noise level )

There are a couple of other advantages to using a professional preamp between your mic and your recorder...

1- Sound Devices preamps have very good audio limiters, so you can record a whisper and then have someone shout and the limiter will stop the audio from clipping or distorting. ( assuming your mic doesn't overload )

2- The also have extremely good headphone preamps, so you can hear tons of audio detail when recording that you might not hear with a regular audio recorder, which makes it easier to adjust the amount of preamp GAIN you use while recording.

November 29, 2014 at 7:29PM

0
Reply
Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30931

Thank you so much for your detailed responses! I'll probably be getting one sometime. One last question - for the preamp alone, is the MM1 just as good as the MP1?

Gareth Ng

November 29, 2014 at 9:25PM

Your Comment