Surround Microphones: Products To Meet Heightened Interest
Even though surround audio has become crucial for broadcast sports, the number of specialty surround microphones has remained relatively static in recent years. Some of the market is made up of freelance A1s who make the investment in them and then rent to their network clients when they’re hired for shows, which effectively puts more of these expensive but unique transducer arrays to work on sports shows than their relatively small numbers would suggest. But manufacturers say that the major networks are showing heightened interest lately. Here’s what they have to choose from.
The 5100 mobile surround microphone requires no external signal processing and can be mounted on a camera or microphone stand, suspended, or simply handheld via handgrip. It features six miniature pressure-gradient (condenser) transducers that exhibit extremely low sensitivity to wind and mechanical noise, low distortion, highly consistent low-frequency response, and large dynamic range. Appropriate channel separation and directionality are achieved through a combination of DPA’s proprietary DiPMic (Directional Pressure Microphone) technology, which mounts interference tubes on the L/C/R omni capsules, and the use of acoustic baffles further preserves the accuracy of levels between the discrete analog output channels. The 5100’s three front microphones are time-coincident to eliminate comb filtering and ensure frequency consistency in downmixing to stereo or mono. The rear microphones, which feature standard omnidirectional patterns, are optimally spaced both from each other and from the front array to simulate the most natural time arrival differences. The LFE (.1) channel is composed from a L/R sum, which is then attenuated 10 dB in comparison with the signal from the main channels, in accordance with the 5.1 format. The 5.1 output of the 5100 runs through a multi-pin Lemo connector carrying all six channels electronically balanced, while an enclosed 5-m (16-ft), six-pair Mogami cable breaks out to six Neutrik XLR-M connectors. www.dpamicrophones.com
H2-Pro 5.1 terminates in six XLR microphone cable ends (Left, Right, Center, Low Frequency, Left Surround, Right Surround) that correlate to the industry-standard 5.1 channels. Users have total control and flexibility over the incoming, discrete surround-sound audio signals and may choose to use as many or as few channels as any surround project requires, because channel assignments are discrete all the way from the recording and mixing process to final delivery.
The Holophone H2-PRO 7.1 is capable of recording up to 7.1 channels of discrete surround sound and terminates in eight XLR microphone cable ends (Left, Right, Center, Low Frequency, Left Surround, Right Surround, Top, and Center Rear). These correlate to the standard 5.1 channels and add a top channel for formats like IMAX and a center rear channel for extended surround formats like Dolby EX and DTS ES.
The cost-effective H3-D features five multidirectional, full-bandwidth microphone elements and a discrete LFE microphone in one integrated capsule. The unit offers LED verification of external phantom power and is compatible with all standard XLR mic inputs on recording consoles, external preamplifiers, and location recorders that provide phantom power.
The H4 SuperMINI features both a Dolby ProLogic II encoded stereo output that can be used on any stereo recording device, from broadcast camera to handheld recorder. In addition, the H4 SuperMINI also features three 3.5-mm stereo outputs for recording of the six individual microphones. The H4 also has built-in headphone monitoring, a zoom feature that will forward-bias the pickup pattern, a -12-dB pad, and an on-board center-channel microphone input that features phantom power supply. This allows the user to input any external microphone of their choice into the mix. Included with the H4 SuperMINI is a TA-6–to–dual–XLR output for a balanced signal.
The PortaMic PRO is a lightweight portable solution for surround-sound recording and features the same quality as its big brother, the H4 SuperMINI, in a package that fits in the palm of a hand. It contains six individual microphones in the patented Holophone head design fed into a Dolby ProLogic II encoder, a -12-dB pad and zoom feature, as well as a balanced TA-6–to–dual–XLR output. www.holophone.com
The WMS-5 is a five-channel surround microphone with its matrix electronics housed in a single body. Based on extensive M-S stereo research conducted in conjunction with broadcaster NHK, it delivers realistic surround sound with minimal setup time and is easily mounted on the camera, boom pole, or pistol grip. The WMS-5 delivers reliable, phase-coherent, five-channel sound using five discrete output signals. The “M” capsule is used for both center (with shotgun directivity) and front left and right channels; the “S” signal, for both front left and right and rear left surround and right surround channels; the rear “M” capsule, for left surround and right surround. All capsules are aligned vertically on the same axis for precise phase coherence. The WMS-5 weighs 8.3 oz. and measures 9.25 in. long. www.plus24.net
The DSF-B Digital Broadcast Package provides everything required to capture audio in mono, stereo, and 5.1 surround and offers a high degree of control over a wide range of microphone parameters right from the audio-control room. It consists of the DSF-2 microphone system — a multi-capsule microphone and a 1RU digital microphone-control unit — and a DSF-3 digital surround processor. The DSF-2 microphone captures wholly phase-coherent multichannel audio, which can be folded down without the creation of unpleasant phase artifacts, making it suitable for surround-sound broadcast applications where all 5.1 audio needs to be 100% downmix-compatible all the time. The DSF-3 processor allows complete manipulation of the microphone signals directly from the listening position, ranging from microphone orientation — such as rotate and tilt — to control over polar patterns and front/rear-image width. This DSF-B package has been used to originate 5.1 ambience for the coverage of a wide range of large-scale sports events in stadiums and arenas worldwide and is permanently installed in many soccer stadiums, such as Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea. www.soundfield.com/surround/surround.php