This library was a fascinating exercise: a reality test!
Recording the same prop simultaneously with eight microphones.
Gain was fixed for each microphone, recording 32bit 192kHz with Sound Devices MixPre10-II
The eight microphones for the test:
1. Sanken CUX100K – cardioid
2. Sanken CUX100K – omni
3. Sennheiser MKH8050 – super cardioid
4. Sennheiser MKH8040 – cardioid
5. Sennheiser MKH8020 – omni
6. Sennheiser MKH416 – hyper cardioid
7. DPA 4060 – omni lavalier
8. LOM Usi Pro – omni lavalier
Apart from listening and comparing the results from these microphones on your own studio monitors, the sounds can also be used for professional work, and include full UCS metadata and photos, along with our standard EULA.
I have also taken the first sound from each file, and processed it slowing it to half speed (-1 octave) then quarter speed (-2 octaves) and then one eighth real speed (-3 octaves) using Serato Pitch n Time Pro plugin, working with the 32bit 192kHz files.
All files are normalised to -3dB for easy comparison.
This library also functions as a practical learning experience:
– can you hear the difference at real speed?
– how much difference is there?
– can you hear the difference at half, quarter and one eighth speed?
– what circumstances or kind/type of prop or sound benefit from each mic?
– is each mic really worth the extra cost for better performance?
I often think of microphones as similar to camera lenses. If you are shooting with a high quality camera body, it is common to have multiple lenses that cover specific use. So a wide angle lens is like an omni microphone, a directional shotgun mic is like a telephoto lens etc… But I’m not sure what the analogy is for a mic that can hear up to 100kHz!
Comparing budgets is startling (not counting mic suspension or wind protection)
LOM Usi Pro – US$130
DPA 4060 – US$480
Sennheiser MKH80X0 – US$1,299
Sanken CUX100k – US$3,400
The Sennheiser MKH416 was my first ‘proper’ mic, bought secondhand back in the 1990s, and still reliable!
The Sennheiser MKH80X0 mics have been my main microphones for over a decade now, for their incredibly low self noise and extended frequency range.
The attraction of Sanken CUX100K microphones is achieving the holy grail of coherent three octave pitch shifts, so this library is a real world test using a range of props to reveal the effects of high quality pitch shift with each microphone.
As with the Youtube video, using streaming is very far from ideal when assessing audio quality due to the compression compromising quality. This is exactly why I have released this as a library i.e. so you can listen in a controlled environment on studio monitors that you know and trust.
Along with the main 24bit 192kHz recordings, I have also included a pitch shifted example for each prop and each microphone: slowed to half speed – 1 octave, then quarter speed -2 octaves and then one eighth speed -3 octaves.
1. At real speed all of the microphones did a good job, even my 30+ year old MKH416!
2. This library could also be called The Law of Diminishing Returns. Each leap upwards in quality and resolution comes with a hefty price tag, and just as with a film soundtrack or any large project, achieving that final small percentage of excellence takes considerable effort.
3. Given the cost, the LOM Usi Pro microphones deliver excellent results, and compare very favourably with the far more expensive DPA 4060. While the Usi Pro mics seem to be permanently sold out (I bought six of them when they were last available, and used all of them for the Strange Range recordings) – apparently they use the same capsule as the Clippy EM172 and don’t forget wind protection!
4. It is stating the obvious, but the spectrum of the sounds being recorded play an important role as to how apparent the extended frequency response is. In some examples I didn’t notice too much difference between the MKH80X0 and CUX100K, but when a sound had a lot of high frequency content (eg natural harmonics, or human voice) the recordings from the Sanken CUX100K really stood out clearly as they retained mid to high frequency content that the MKH80X0 mics did not capture. (Note: this may also be skewed by bias ie ‘sunk cost fallacy’ but I try to be critical and aware of such bias)
5. With quiet sounds I noticed the CUX100k in omni mode was significantly noisier than the CUX100K in cardioid mode. This verifies the 5dB difference as per the specs: Equivalent noise level A-weighted- 17dBSPL (Cardioid), 22dBSPL (Omni). CUX100k in cardiod mode felt similarly quiet to the MKH80X0 mics, while with the CUX100k in omni mode I felt self noise was more present than the MKH80X0.
6. One aspect of this test is that it does not provide any insight into how these microphones respond to a live, reverberant environment. It would be fascinating to compare the MKH80X0 mics with the CUX100k in eg a church or concert hall. Or a bunker, which funnily enough I have a recording session planned.
7. Will I be using the CUX100K for every recording from now on? No, definitely not. They are nowhere near as robust as the Sennheiser MKH80X0 microphones, which I have travelled with extensively, including humid climates (PNG, Samoa, Japan, NZ) so I tend to think of the CUX100K mics as studio microphones.
8. Some results are surprising, for example one of the slime vocals slowed down 3 octaves sounds like a boat motor!
9. I will update this with any further thoughts, but please do feel free to email with any feedback you have.