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I'm looking to buy a mic for recording various things indoors, then time stretch the recordings to get hopefully weird, strange and wonderful sounds! Could anyone tell me what would their mic preference be?

I want to record directly into my mac, using probably an rme babyface audio interface. Will record at 192 / 24bit, guess it's really the top end frequencies I'm after! A friend told me about a Senheiser mic that's around 1200 euros. So that's my budget, but obviously would be very happy if I can save a few euros!

  • Hi Ruth, welcome to SD. Give us a bit more to go on... do you have a recorder already? some indication of budget would also help. – Mark Durham Aug 20 '14 at 12:46
  • HI Mark. Thanks for the reply. I want to record directly into my mac, using probably an rme babyface audio interface. Will record at 192 / 24bit, guess it's really the top end frequencys im after! Afriend told me about a senhiser mic thats around 1200 euros. So thats my budget, but obviously would be very happy if I can save a few euros! Thanks again. – ruth Sheffield Aug 20 '14 at 13:10
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    Note that audio interfaces usually can't record frequencies above 30 kHz reliably, even with sample rate 192 kHz or above! The high sample rate in such devices is not intended for recording ultrasonic frequencies, but to keep aliasing artifacts and filtering phase problems as far away from the audible range as possible. However, RME has a reputation making such stuff very clear in the documentation, and possibly they've designed the filtering circuits to reach higher than that. – leftaroundabout Aug 20 '14 at 19:55
  • +1 @leftaroundabout - aside from the ADDA capability, my advocacy for the DPA was on neutrality over the range, rather than ability at stupendously high frequencies – Tetsujin Aug 20 '14 at 20:12
  • Really interesting. So I've really got to look at the audio interface in detail as the mic as well. – ruth Sheffield Aug 20 '14 at 20:34
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Your friend is probably talking about one of the Sennheiser MKH mics. Possibly the 416 or the MKH40. These are great mics, but are perhaps overkill for what you are proposing to use them for. Often people use these because they are recording at extremes and need the low noise (such as recording quiet atmos at night) or the resilience these mics have. For sure, they're a mic for life, but I think you really don't need to spend that much to get good results given the application you state.

First off, I think you should be looking for a stereo pair instead of one mic. Stereo recording is just more exciting and interesting, and throws up more options. We've got two ears afterall, and we're used to hearing slightly different sounds in both of them. For experimentation you can either embrace or throw out conventional stereo mic technique, depending on your style. For example you could record the sound of striking a pan in your kitchen, with one mic above the pan and one below. Stretch that out 500x with Paul Stretch and you'll probably get interesting phase fluctuations between left and right.

Probably the most flexible and low cost solution is to get a pair of pencil condenser mics, which cost about £240:

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They're good for recording most things, fairly small and dependable. Pencil condensers like this also have the capsule close to the end of the mic, so you can get them very close to sources, which can be useful for this sort of thing. Even if you upgrade later I think you will still have use for these. there should be plenty on the secondhand market too.

Another mic I've used quite a bit is the DPA 4060 (high sensitivity). I bought a stereo pair of these after going to a sound recording workshop with Chris Watson, where he was raving about the sound quality and the flexibility of using miniature mics like these:

enter image description here

Don't be fooled by the size, they can record sound as full and rich as larger mics. The advantage of these is that they can go where other mics cannot, you can attach them to surfaces and get them extremely close. You can hold them one in each hand and move them around sound sources at will, no need for tripods. I've never heard of anyone regretting buying these. They're around £600 a pair. In my experience they do pick up something above 20khz too.

Another option, though I've not used them - Earthworks do a range of mics they label QTC which are designed to go over 20khz. I've heard good things about themfrom other sound designers.

Another quick tip - you might have fun recording with an inexpensive pair of contact mics. Lots of fun to be had there recording unusual sounds around the house.

  • I'd second the idea of 4060s. I have both the 4006 & the 4060 & it's remarkable how close the 4060 is to the 4006, for the tiny size. Unlimited budget I'd still go for the 4006, but a pair of 4060s would be a nice idea, for a fraction of the cost. – Tetsujin Aug 21 '14 at 8:46
  • +1 on the 4060's. i've recently recorded bats with them on my sonosax @192kHz, beautiful sounds when pitched down. – Arnoud Traa Aug 21 '14 at 13:29
  • oh and paul stretch, although it's amazing in what it does, it's not dependent on samplerate to function correctly, you can load 22.1 khz files and it still does what is does. that said, you mostly get better results with higher samplerates above 44.1 khz, but that's the nature of digital recording. – Arnoud Traa Aug 21 '14 at 13:31
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Purely a personal opinion, but you'd have to go a very long way to beat a DPA 4006 [used to be called Brüel & Kjær, or B&K] http://www.dpamicrophones.com/en/products.aspx?c=item&category=191&item=24010 about £1200 or so for a new one, not cheap, but truly transparent sound.

  • Thanks. Just looked at the link and looks very interesting. Worth further investigation! – ruth Sheffield Aug 20 '14 at 18:34
  • Worth finding somewhere that could demo one to you - can't believe how clean, or indeed versatile they are until you do. – Tetsujin Aug 20 '14 at 19:02
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I just like to add that it seems a bit overdone to buy a specific mic for +20Khz recordings, if you do not have a very good reason (besides a little experimentation). You could also invest in a very good portable recorder (perhaps the new sony pcm-d100 or a nagra). This will give you the best of both worlds (high freq, and great converters). I've recorded at 192 khz with my rme fireface 400 and it works OK, but I don't know how good the babyface preamps are in comparison. Do realize that the RME circuitry have a very high noise level up at 40-50 khz to lower noise floors in the audible range.

  • Have to say thanks again to you all for your advice, amazing knowledge here! – ruth Sheffield Aug 21 '14 at 19:10
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If you want cheap and you can solder, it seems that cheap electret capsules could also be used - at least according to this article: http://www.wildlife-sound.org/equipment/technote/micdesigns/ultrasonic.html This is contrary to what is stated in the WM 61 datasheet, but hey...if it works.

Earthworks and DPA also uses electret capsules in many of their products (like the 4060 and other tiny mics). Of course their QC is probably pretty strict and who knows what brands of electrets they use (or of they make their own) but it at least shows the potential of the technology.

  • Sorry- should have been more descriptive. .. I make, or rather provide samples for sample libraries, I've been using old synthesizers but now really want to sample something different. So advice on rme is really invaluable, and any other imterfaces. Im typing on a phone whilst away with my children so sorry for mistakes in typing. Really good advice with the stereo matched mics. Quality really matters. Really thankful for all your advice. I'm simply a little lost with hardware and mics with regards to getting real quality with time stretching.... – ruth Sheffield Aug 21 '14 at 18:54
  • Well, as far as I know, the Sennheisers to get for high frequency stuff, is the 80xx series - not the old mkh range. So the cardioid MKH8040 would do the trick en-us.sennheiser.com/…, whereas the MKH40 doesn't quite reach as far up the range (according to specs: en-us.sennheiser.com/cardioid-condenser-microphone-mkh-40-p48). Of course, the Sanken CO-100 omni goes to 100K ;-) – christiancoriolis Aug 23 '14 at 8:44

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