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Hello everyone,

What are your favorite in-ear binaural microphones?

There's been some discussion about this earlier here and here, but not exactly in an in-ear or stealth context so I wanted to refresh the discussion.

I have a Sonic Studios 6S/EH microphone. It's pretty good in crowds, and with loud sounds, but has too much self noise to be useful with quiet ambiences. The design is also a bit too clunky and conspicuous for the stealth ambience recording I want to do.

Here are some other options I was considering. They are more discreet.

OKM Soundman

Sound Professionals MS-TFB-2

Roland CS-10EM

Does anyone have any experience with the sound quality of these microphones? What about powering requirements and recorders like the H4n? In-ear comfort? Any comments on using these kind of microphones in a stealth environment?

Thanks in advance.

Paul

PS - The London Sound Survey has a great list of budget binaural microphones if you are interested.

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11 Answers

Don't know about favorite, I've only had these that I'm using now. But I can tell you they're great.

I got myself a DPA 4060SMK and a set of these. The BudFits have integrated cable management and the flexible plastic holds the 4060 snugly. With a little effort the windscreens go right over both the 4060 and the flexible plastic of the BudFits.

I've got shoulder bag (at the recommendation of @NoiseJockey's Sonic Terrain post) that holds my MixPre and M10 perfectly. I've wandered through my neighborhood, the Metro, museums, castles, busy city streets, nobody pays any attention.

Here's a recording from my neighborhood using this setup. I did narrow the sound field a bit and rolled off a bit more low-end, but I've made it available for download if you want to further inspect it. [soundcloud] steve-urban/uap-ravine [/soundcloud]

I shot a little video about my rig, but then left for Spain and haven't gotten around to posting it. I'll put it up and edit this post later.

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Okay, don't know why the soundcloud link isn't working. Go here: soundcloud.com/steve-urban/uap-ravine –  Steve Urban Jul 27 '11 at 17:18
    
I do the same with 4060s, except I mount them on either side of hardshell backpack. Sounds better than any binaural headphones I've heard. –  Justin Pearson Jul 27 '11 at 20:31
    
Thanks for posting that recording, Steve. That set up, for the volume, does really well. It's great how much depth you can actually pick up, especially the distant neighbors. Paul –  Paul Virostek Jul 29 '11 at 13:34
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The Roland CS-10EM's are a really good pair. I recently bought them and am really happy with its result.

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soundcloud.com/thesoundguy-2/mazacote-winterruption-2013 here's something I recorded using the CS-10EMs –  Aditya J. Yadav Mar 10 '13 at 2:38
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I've used the less expensive Sound Professionals SP-TFB-2 mics with a battery box and had great success with them. However, I was recording loud sounds... not sure if they would meet your criteria for low self-noise. I don't think the MS-TFB-2s were available back when I bought mine (around 2005).

I found that I needed to have the foam windscreens installed to keep the mics in my ears, but I'm sure that depends on the shape of each individual's ear. Having the windscreens in makes them much more noticeable (if not dorky looking) but in my environment it was no big deal.

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Thanks Paul. Great to hear that those mics have held up for you for so long. That is incredibly reliable value for the price. Most of the time I will be recording loud sound anyway. The Sound Professionals are definitely high on my list. Paul –  Paul Virostek Jul 29 '11 at 13:30
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Soundman OKM with minidisc recorder served me well for many years. They are realy discreet and I could not fault the sound quality from capsules of that size, just need to be careful with cable / self noise. The foam capsule covers (earbuds) are not the best quality, but mics came with one spare set.

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@spellnet The OKM microphone's form factor seems to be one of the best. Good reminder about cable and self noise. Thanks. Paul –  Paul Virostek Jul 29 '11 at 13:43
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I have only used the Roland CS-10EM's but I will say that they surprised me! Much better signal to noise ratio than I had anticipated and a relatively flat response, however the LF does roll off as might be expected. Comfortable to wear, however, be careful when monitoring as feedback will strike fairly easily.

I have only heard that the Soundman plugs are fairly noisy as the output from them is quite hot.

Have a listen to the recording I did with the Roland's and a Zoom H4N.

https://soundcloud.com/jason-pinches/albatross-fleetwood-mac-cover

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I have the Soundman OKM, and I find the noise floor a bit too loud for my taste (however the noise floor isn't helped by the zoom H4 that I usually plug it into). Beside the noise floor the quality of the recordings are pretty good. One thing to be aware of is that they are pretty sensitive to wind noise, so out door recordings or moving whilst wearing them can get quite noisy. You can get a pair of these but then they are not so discreet.

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I would have no problem using those windshields in winter, but you're right, in summer they may not be the best for stealth recording. As for the mics themselves and the wind noise that is a bit of a dealbreaker but there's always recording interior sounds. Paul –  Paul Virostek Jul 29 '11 at 13:41
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Airborne: Thanks for mentioning my site's list of budget in-ear and headworn mics, glad it's of use to someone.

Sound Professionals' new (or newish) MS-TFB-2s do have a very good spec for the money, with what looks like a pretty flat frequency response, 19dB self-noise and sensitivity of 25mV/Pa.

The sample recordings made with them on the Sound Professionals' website are of a jazz band playing in a cafe. It'd be interesting to hear them used in a quieter environment.

I got a lot of pleasure using a pair of Lenny Lombardo's Sonic Studios mics with the handy headband/windshield he makes for them. But they've now given up the ghost, or else their little preamp has, and a pair of Shure WL-183s are now housed in the windshield instead.

The WL-183s are good mics for the price and have been used by some accomplished nature recordists.

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I definitely agree that the Sonic Studio windshields worked pretty well. Mine have worn out a couple times so I've had to get replacement fabric. The Sound Professional microphone does have incredible spec. The jazz recording seems to have a good frequency response, but you're right, the true test would be a quiet environment. –  Paul Virostek Jul 29 '11 at 13:49
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hi i'm 18 months late in on this discussion, but have most of the mics mentioned and have worked through them in search of low self noise and natural sound. The 19dB Sound Professionals binaural mics are the only mics that i think meet the low noise natural sound and genuinely in ear criteria i have been searching for. They seem to perform at best when driven through a preamp or into my Sound Devices 702 via a phantom power adaptor. The preamp i use to connect into my smaller pocket audio recorders like Sony M10, is a FEL Communications BMA1. I also get extremely Good low noise performance using Shure WL183 straight into Sony m10 using Dan Dugan's PIP Adaptor lead. For bats like me i slightly miss the upper 3k of high end as the latter mics top out at 17k.

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I'm getting incredible results with these http://microphonemadness.com/products/mmbinstermic.htm and my sony pcm m10 - and they work with on board phantom (plug in) power on the unit. Extremely quiet and lovely. I am attempting to disguise them and failing though!

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i'm using these: DPA4060: very good sound, you need phantom power (XLR adaptor), but you can use them also with a cheap 9V DIY battery box on any 3.5mm mic in, i.e. sony m10 etc. they're a bit expensive...

OKM2: nice fit, easy to handle, nice sound if it's not to quiet, they have a pretty high noise floor.

Primo EM172: that's basically a capsule, use 2 and make your own binaural set. i got them from the factory, 10€ each. very low noise floor and a nice sound. i prefer them over the OKMs.

udo

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Sound recording with the Roland mics:

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