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I am a professional photographer adding DSLR video capture to my productions. Moving into this transition, I almost made the mistake of buying too low of quality in both a mobile recorder and microphones but luckily, I found this site and got plugged into a much better source of information.

I have decided on the Tascam DR-680 for my recorder as it seems like the best value for my money at this time. (My funds are a little tight at this time.)

For microphones, it seems like a good way to go would be to purchase a good quality modular line, as it would help keep the costs down. I was considering the Audio-technica AT4900b-48 and the AKG Blue Line (SE-300B Power Supply) series, but the AT line only has 3 capsules and I haven't heard enough of the AKG series to be won over yet.

I am now looking at the Neumann KM modular line. Neumann seems to be a line a lot of people are passionate about, the mics I've heard have been very impressive, and it has the most options for capsules. The down side is, it is a more costly line and there isn't a shotgun available in the KM series.

My questions are: What are your opinions regarding the Neumann KM line in regards to sound quality and durability? And secondly, what are your opinions on investing in modular lines in general?

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    how are you planning on incorporating the microphone into your production process? you'll get starkly different responses based on how you plan to use/place the microphones...i.e. mounting directly on your DSLR camera isn't the best use of any of these mics, and might make them a poor investment without without thoughts of a different production workflow. – Shaun Farley Oct 23 '12 at 15:31
  • and adding to Shaun's comments: what exactly do you plan to record? Voice or general 'set' sounds? In the latter case a stereo mic would suffice, in my opinion. And if you really need good sound, hiring a boom operator is always easier, albeit more expensive.. – Arnoud Traa Oct 23 '12 at 17:14
  • @Shaun & @Arnoud thanks for the comments. I will be recording voice/speech primarily using a boom. For the time being I will be operating both the camera & sound. My first videos will be documentary-style PSA's I will be doing for environmental non-profits. I will be also creating promo videos - for instance a business owner give a short video intro to his/her web site. All work will be done on-location, mostly indoors in businesses or homes that have low ceilings. For that application I am planning on using a supercardioid on a boom pole, fixed on a stand - camera on tripod. – David Oct 23 '12 at 21:06
  • @Shaun & @Arnoud When a job requires it, I will bring in a sound man (which may turn out to be more often than I think.) I mentioned the shotgun as that may be my 2nd purchase. It would be exteriors, boom mounted, speech/voice. I had hopes it would also work for an occasional on camera mount as well. When in a camera mt. mode, it would be documentary type, say at a rally or action. The shotgun, may or may not be a Neumann. Am I wrong in thinking that a Neumann KMR81 would work in this application? – David Oct 23 '12 at 21:06
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If this is a one man band, then don't spend a lot of money on gear. Your quality is going to be limited by it being a one-man-band more than the gear. And then when you get to the point where you can hire an experienced sound guy, he should have his own gear. But it seems like you've already made up your mind to buy these high end mics.

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Hi David, There is one very important factor you may want to consider before you purchase a shotgun. Are you putting together a sound package that someone else will operate (you camera and a sound op) or are you one-man-banding it?

The quality of sound you record is not going to be dictated by the equipment you purchase, but by the operator knowing how to use it. Having a full arsenal of shotguns with a variety a capsules is similar to having a bag full of quality prime lenses. The operator needs the knowledge and experience to use them to their full potential. Where 1 or 2 utility type zoom lenses will also get the job done, but they may not do as good of a job as the primes. With shotguns, using higher end shot specific mics (lets call them prime mics), you'll need to have the hands to work them as well as the knowledge and experience to get the sound improvement out of them (sound operator). With many of the entry level (lets call them utility mics) they'll do a very good job for the majority of shots you'll encounter, they'll be easier to operate, and more forgiving in a wider variety of environments (one-man-band).

I've used Neumanns for 15 years now and I love them. I have a KM150 with way over 1000 hours of field exposure. It's been in the Sahara desert, Jungles of Cambodia, and the northern reaches of Canada and it has never let me down. I've heard and read they can't take the abuse of the field, I have to disagree.

Cheers, I hope this helps.

  • @Dean - funny you make the analogy of a lens. That is how I've worked my way up to at least a Neumann. I agree, mics- like cameras or lens are only tools. Its the operator that makes the magic. And hopefully- as I get myself established in this new direction, I can bring in the work that will have a budget for an experienced sound man. In the mean time, I'm trying to pick my mics very carefully and expand only as I need them. My first will be a super (or hyper) cardioid. Thank you. – David Oct 23 '12 at 21:33
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Budget choice: for indoors use, the AKG C-1000S is a surprisingly good mike when used with the super-cardioid adapter, and it is inexpensive compared to the other mikes you are considering. It can operate off an internal battery, which allows for greater battery life in your field mixer (phantom power not needed), or even using audio inputs that do not provide phantom at all.

High priced spread: the Schoeps Collette series with supercardioid capsule (I forget the model number) is the "standard" for feature film indoors boom use. Schoeps microphones are noted for their low coloration, excellent pickup pattern control and high overall quality. Neumann KM series are very good, but not any better than Schoeps. Schoeps also makes a very nice short shotgun. (For longer shotguns, Neumann and Sennheiser are the top choices.) Schoeps' are expensive, but not unreasonably so considering their high quality.

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Just to develop a bit on the "high price spread". Besides the Schoeps collette series, notably the MK41 hypercardioid capsule, another widely used series is Sennheiser's MKH line, such as the classic MKH416 shotgun or the newer 8000 modular series. The Senneheisers have the advantage of being RF-based, which makes them extremely rugged and almost impervious to humidity.

Other popular choices include the Neumann's, and some of the Sanken shotguns like the CS3e.

One thing you may want to think about, is how much flexibility you think you need in regards to pick up patterns. The bases for most sound work is a shotgun and a hypercardioid, and you can get very far with one quality mic of each (for use with a boom).

Also, don't forget about shockmounts and wind protection.

How many channels do you think you need? The DR680 is a good machine for the price, but may be overkill if most of what you need is 1-3 channels. A small mixer or two channel recorder may be a better choice.

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