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Developing the small field recorder kit

As many of you know I love and use the Sony pcm d50 little handheld. I think it’s high quality enough to get good sound. Obviously not a Sounddevices with Schoeps mics, but you get the idea. Little bag, always there near me ready to record.

As much as I love XY or the wider 120 degree microphone position, I thought a good AB pair would be fantastic. Inspired by Tim Prebble I decided to try out some lavalier type microphones. Right now I have a pair of Sennheiser MKE2 gold which are very decent microphones.

I knew that they are good, but as the little Sony only accepts mini jack mic inputs, I had to solder a little set together. Don’t be daunted, it’s really basic soldering, nothing serious, however, you should be patient as the lavalier cables are not that easy to treat as a usual mic cable. The kit could be more versatile if I did split the set even further, but I decided that for my needs I’m going to use one XLR for the two mics. I’m going to use them only with the handheld, so no need for more cabling.

Cabling

The Sennheiser’s cable comprise a ground, a blue and a red wire. According to the user’s manual of the Sony and the Sennheiser we can twist together the ground and the blue wire. So now we have two wires from each microphone: 1. Ground 2. Hot (red).

We need two XLRs. I decided to use two as this way I can easily disconnect the mics, and the whole soldering together act is much easier inside an XLR rather than inside a little mini jack. The other plus is this way I can use a standard XLR mic cable to lengthen the lavalier’s cable. So back to the connector.

The XLR side is easy. Ground to pin 1 and solder the two red wires to the remaining pins. One red to pin 2, the other red to pin 3. Obviously the mini jack side is the same: common ground sleeve, one red to tip, other red to ring. I highly recommend to get a proper quality mini jack, like this Neutrik mini jack. It’s easier to work with as it is really a quality connector, and last forever.

If you are very precise, you already know which mic is which (left or right), but don’t worry if you didn’t plan this ahead. We’ll have a great AB pair, so either microphone can be left or right, it doesn’t really matter. You can test and mark it after that you finished the soldering work. However, don’t forget to mark it!

Operation

It’s time to test and use them, but there is one little problem. The Sony only outputs plugin power, which is low compared to what Sennheiser recommends. I had an e-mail conversation with a Sennheiser engineer and he confirmed that it’s not a problem, we have only one drawback. The original microphone powered by the recommended voltage can handle an enormous 142dB SPL before clipping. But as we power them with less, they will clip somewhat lower, according to engineering department at Sennheiser, the mics will clip at around 134dB SPL. I really don’t think that this is a tragedy. All other things remain intact, so we still have the same frequency response, etc.

I think it’s a very little compromise. And don’t forget, now we have a handheld with a high quality AB pair, and it still fits into a little photo bag.

If you plan to use the mics indoor, you can already do that. But, if you’re like me, and want to go out with it, one thing we must have is wind protection. Believe me, even a gentle breeze can ruin your otherwise beautiful stereo recording. Fortunately Rycote have a solution for lavaliers too. These little wind protectors can help eliminate any problem.

Next time I’m going to post some recordings with the new mics.

5 Comments

  1. Hi Tamas,
    I own a Sony PCM D50 and I’m quite happy with it.
    However, one complain I have for it is the limits given by the closeness of its mikes.
    Have you used Sennheiser MKE 2 Gold mikes for ambients recordings?
    How about its sensibility? Sennheiser says it is 5 mV/Pa. This small amount of mVolts per Pascal. Did that limitation perturb your quiet recordings?
    Thanks

    • Hi,

      actually I’m quite happy with the Sennheisers. I hope I’ll be ready with the test recordings in a few days, then I’m going to write a blog post with audio examples all recorded wih the mke2 gold mics.

      • Oh! Great!
        I’ll be waiting for those examples.
        Thanks Tamas.

  2. […] He describes a project integrating lavalier microphones with his Sony D50. Read part one which describes how he builds the kit, and part two with audio […]

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