Nature recordists seem to love the Panasonic WM-61a capsules. But do these have any serious flaws for close recording of human voice? Would anybody of you strongly recommend against these in that regard?

Also, should a DIY interviewing mic with these capsules technically be any different than a simple pair of binaurals (e.g. is phantom power required here etc)?

I'm planning an experimental radio documentary with zero budget. So I was thinking of building a pair of (really simple) binaurals for capturing atmosphere, and a "regular" mic (again, as simple as possible) for doing interviews.

I've no experience with mic building and only minor experience with soldering, though. So thanks for any advice and encouragements!

2 Answers 2


Panasonic got out of the electret microphone capsule business several years ago. But certainly there are many vendors of similar commodity electret capsules out of the usual places. The Panasonic WM-6x series was legendary for a couple of reasons: They were dirt-cheap, and they had pretty flat frequency response.

But they were not noted for having very good dynamic range and they were not particularly quiet. The dynamic range could be improved somewhat using the "Linkwitz Mod". But there was no solution for the self-noise problem other than buying 100 of them and selecting the quieter samples.

I can only think that "Nature recordists seem to love [them]" because they were cheap (disposable) and reasonably accurate. I wouldn't think they would be all that useful for recording low-level sounds (like ambient background, etc.)

Nothing particularly against using them for recording voice. Certainly they need protection from plosives (like a pop/blast filter). But extremes in level (like whispering or shouting) would not be something it could handle well.

All electret capsules require power often called "plug-in power" which is a few volts. Phantom Power is a VERY different (and completely incompatible) method of powering microphones. Using an electret capsule as a voice mic rather than for a binaural pair makes no difference to powering requirements.

Connecting an electret capsule to most 3.5mm microphone inputs couldn't be simpler. But connecting one to a higher-end XLR type mic input is a rather different matter. Certainly there are ways to do it, but you have departed the concept of "cheap and simple".

  • A very informative answer, thanks! As for electret capsules, would you personally have any preferences over the Panasonic WM-6xs?
    – martz
    May 16, 2016 at 7:50
  • They are all nearly-identical, "jelly-bean" components in my perception. There may be some brands/models that have better performance. I would check with the online forums that specialize in nature recording to see what the community's latest favorites are. May 16, 2016 at 15:52

These should be very good. A cheap soldering iron off eBay, and 6 wm61a's for about 12 UKP (in case you have an accident)...

I'm just in the process of getting a few more of these mics for binaural recordings (proper binaural, not stereo) I've used them in the past, and are very good.

I'll be experimenting with these that I get this time round, in about a month's time. I've some other very cheap mics that I use with a binaural head on sound cloud - check out Frank the terrorist -

Hope to be live streaming with a raspberry pi, and on the 3G network very soon too.

Perhaps we may have something in common?

Regards Alan

  • thanks for your thoughts. a pack of 6 WM-61a's is already on its way, and i'll definitely build a pair of binaurals as well, so there are some crossing interests indeed. :) but i'm also interested in how good these mics are for interviewing people (compared with a higher-end omnidirectional dynamic mic for example). another person said they sound "too thin" and suggested Primo em172 capsules instead. but the panasonics are cheaper for n00b experiments, so i'll test these first.
    – martz
    Feb 17, 2015 at 18:06
  • FOLLOW-UP: i really like your stuff, thanks for pointing! it's indeed similar to what i'm planning to do (but my stuff will involve more "direct" interviewing, though). on which recordings did you use the "wired"/in-ear binaurals? (that's what i'll try building first.)
    – martz
    Feb 17, 2015 at 18:21
  • 1
    here's me demonstrating my WM's which I placed inside my ear canals - not recommended! - if anyone wants to try that - do not blame me for your doctor appointments with ear/drum damage....!! youtube.com/watch?v=gjibkC4W0cI it's an unlisted video. Mar 1, 2015 at 12:20
  • excellent demonstration, this answered many of my questions (also, the wm-61a's sound really good to my ears!). thanks very much! i was thinking of turning a pair of old/cheap in-ear headphones into binaural mics, though. but the potential ear/drum damage is indeed a serios argument against all this. :/
    – martz
    Mar 2, 2015 at 16:12
  • Mattt.. the reason I used the disclaimer is purely to save me from being sued if someone had an accident when doing it. of course you could always make some plaster casts of your ears and save yourself ear ache. Only just seen your reply, sorry about that - my wm61a's had arrived a while ago, but my mate who would have let me make the new rubber ears seems to have gone awol! Mar 27, 2015 at 18:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.