Tuesday, 1 September 2015

nice mention on Katy Bentham's updated blog + her recording of a hedge using some JrF contact mics:


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

i'm pleased to announce that JrF d-series hydrophones are being used on a new series for the BBC exploring Oceans.

Friday, 31 July 2015

(abandoned) star farm - iceland

recorded in Iceland, June 2015

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Saturday 25th July 2015 - BBC Radio 4 


i'm part of this programme exploring what 'silence' means on radio 4 this weekend

Examining the nature of silence might not seem the most obvious thing to do on the radio, the medium most wholly given over to noise and which was in its day seen as a direct threat to the realm of silence in our personal and public lives. It might seem, too, that silence is a singular thing, an absence that offers little to any would-be investigation. But it's a subject that's fascinated Lucy Powell ever since she was set a koan by a Zen master, who asked her what the sound is before the bird sings. Now she sets out to answer that problem through an analysis of archive recordings from religious scholars, authors, comedians and poets, as well as conducting fresh interviews with the likes of conductor Edward Gardner, neuro-scientist Jan Schnupp and Buddhist nun Tenzin Palmo, who spent seven years on silent retreat in a Himalayan cave. She hears a freshly composed improvisation on the theme of silence from the classical duo 'Folie a Deux Femmes' and argues that in fact silence is a rich, multiple property that can vary dramatically depending on the context within which it is placed.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

call for submissions:
a quiet position - road # 2
our field recording installation at last years 'End of the Road' festival was such a success that we’ve been invited back ! This year our adapted vintage jaguar will be installed in the woodland cinema area and filled with a whole range of new sounds & we're inviting submissions of mainly unprocessed* field recordings for inclusion.
(* some processing / editing / composition is ok but we're looking for works that can be easily identified as 'field recordings' with fr as their defining aspect rather than electroacoustic, drone or noise pieces)
Please send a link to your piece (for download), which should be in wav format & no longer than 10 minutes, to me via facebook. 
Please note: be self critical - please only send work if it has both quality and something that makes it stand out from the crowd so to speak. Whilst standard recordings of birds tweeting can be interesting we're really looking for recordings that either capture a wider soundscape (including birds !) or focus on a more diverse sound experience. 
we're particularly interested in recordings / pieces from female artists / recordists. Call that positive discrimination if you want - for us its a reflection on the quality of the content over the focus on the technology.
submissions need to be with us by July 1st please:
Jez & Pheobe

Monday, 27 April 2015

The reed beds of the Humber

with the Rycote Cyclone

(photos by Pheobe riley Law)

For the past 4 years i’ve been documenting the reed beds along both banks of the river Humber close to where I live and i’ve chosen to begin testing the Rycote Cyclone as part of this on going project. My interest is primarily in the sounds of the reeds themselves - a rich and varied sonic experience that requires durational listening and a willingness to have ones ears open to what at first appears a fairly uniform sound. Its also quite a challenging sound to record in a way that transmits to the listener the same qualities as in-situ, rather like when one attempts to record the sound of the sea on a beach. Both sources can start to edge into ‘white noise’ when one is removed from the visual prompt of the specific location. With the reed beds there is however enough other sound of an equal or lower level to give a real sense of place. Not only other wildlife sounds but also those of human activity, with the low drone of shipping on the river a constant element best captured with a pair of decent omni’s (I use DPA4060’s extensively). 

A quick kit list for this project:

Sound Devices 7-series recorder
DPA4060 stereo pair on small omni’s
Sanken CUW-180 stereo mic
various other cardioid and hypercardioid mics
Rycote Cyclone 
Boom pole

i’ve also been using JrF c-series contact mics, d-series hydrophones, adapted geophones and
Pettersson Ultrasonic detectors.

The Cyclone

The Cyclone comes pre-rigged with a cable for connecting up a hypercardioid mic, which is probably how lots of folks will want to use them. I however rarely use one so I wanted to test it out with other combinations, such as rigging up a pair of DPA4060’s inside and the Sanken CUW-180. I’ve also been testing some of the MicW pencil mics recently (a fairly new brand here in the UK, supplying entry & pro-sumer level mics mostly and an area I try to keep up on for advising students or others on tight budgets) and so combined those tests with putting the Cyclone through its paces. 

First thing to mention is that the Cyclone has a very ‘in the field’ handy system for getting in to rig mics. It takes seconds and with the magnetic snap back features for the main cage i’m sure there’ll be much less fumbling and trying to wedge one section under your arm whilst looking on the floor for the end cap you just dropped ! The new design is simple but very well thought out and its that simplicity that will appeal to anyone who needs to work quickly on location. Most of my work for example is personal - not to commission - and I tend to work very intuitively. So being able to react very quickly to something I stumble across is essential. I’d say this new system also makes the whole process quieter, which will be of particular interest to wildlife recordists.

The new ‘3D-Tex’ fabric appears to be incredibly transparent and even with the good old East Yorkshire winter winds i’ve yet to need an additional ‘fluffy’ windjammer. Learning how to listen closely enough to hear what difference even the best windjammer can make takes time, although its much easier to spot when some of the cheaper ones are used, especially with their fake fur covers on. I rarely use fluffy windjammers on my other Rycote actually but I do know that one issue with them is that if you don’t keep them in tip-top condition, over time the fibres can become matted and because its a slow process one can miss the effect this is having on your recordings. With the Cyclone it looks (sounds !) like that particular problem is simply avoided by use of this new material. 

One of the main challenges when recording along the Humber in the reed beds is that any wind can get trapped in the reeds and come at you from all angles and often in quite focused streams. Good wind protection is needed especially when recording close to the top of the reeds. With its windjammer on my older Rycote has at times still struggled with what i’d refer to as average winds for this location, specifically because the reeds can act as a kind of whisk for the wind if it comes in at the right velocity and direction, but the Cyclone doesn’t - there’s been no wind impact noise at all. What I also particularly like is that in stronger winds whilst the impact noise is again avoided the actual sound of the wind (another of the most challenging sounds to record well) has a nice quality to it. Its these subtle and often overlooked aspects that, in my opinion, are elemental is making work that engages the listener and that can move recordings beyond the purely documentary.


The Cyclone also had an early outing during a workshop I led with students from Newcastle University. Here the challenges of the North East coast (& weather) got the better of the Cyclone and indeed all the other wind protection we had with us, although with its additional fluffy cover the Cyclone coped well, as expected. Further inland and it once again impressed with its transparency and ease of use in the field. 

I'll be in Northumbria again in a couple of weeks and no doubt the Cyclone will be put through its paces again.

Any downside ?

One thing I still like about the classic Rycote design, simply because I use a wide range of mics beyond just having a hypercardioid permanently installed, is the way the cable feeds through the main compartment down past the handle / pole mount - and indeed the fact that the Cyclone doesn’t come with a pre-mounted handle. For most users this probably won’t be a major issue and the advantages of the Cyclone make up for it.


Put simply, it ‘feels’ good - I warmed to it almost immediately and whilst lots of recordists base their judgement of kit on the technical aspects alone I for one need to feel comfortable with the kit I use - that it sits immediately into my way of working somehow. On the technical side of things this new design, as one would expect, offers decent improvements over the already impressive Rycote range. As i’ve already mentioned, a significant advantage is the magnetic snap-close arrangement which makes rigging and de-rigging a doddle in the field, even with all the other cables and bags taking up valuable hand space. 

Wind protection is, for lots of users, a big spend in their budget and they want good value for their outlay. The Cyclone isn’t the most expensive on the market and it isn’t the cheapest but so far I think it deserves its pricing in the context of what else is available.

So, all in all, so far an impressive upgrade and one that i’ll enjoy using on forthcoming trips back to Northumberland, Iceland and further afield.

Now, if only Rycote could come up with a Cyclone that packs down for space saving travel and backpack storage !

update: I've also been testing the small Cyclone - with various mics inside inc. my very sensitive Sanken CUW-180 stereo mic (worth noting that the cyclone isn't designed specifically for this mic but its characteristics mean its a really good test). I really like the small cyclone - its a handy size and as I rarely use hypercardioid mics its a good fit for the other mics I do use regularly. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

publishing imprint

as previously announced in early 2014 we (myself and my daughter) are expanding into the world of book / zine publishing. 

‘I do not want to publish coffee-table books. I don’t drink coffee for one thing, although I do like tables’

there is a fine line between presenting work with a degree of stillness and space for the viewer / listener and allowing ones hand to rest rather heavily on the work.

our new press imprint will issue small photo-books, zine style. they’re meant to sit subtly into ones hands.

the first publications will feature new and archive material by Jez riley French and Pheobe riley Law

jez riley french  |  dissolves

limited edition ty cd + photo book + download code
(100 copies)

price + postage
the eagerly awaited document of the first series of mineral explorations, capturing the sounds of shale, iron ore, limestone, dolomite and snail shells in flux.

(download code for full album + 48 minute bonus track)

‘again, French turns our ears towards captivating worlds of sound’

‘when he gets it right, which he very often does, French has an uncanny knack of producing work that grabs us firmly by the ear and the mind...stunning images that trigger the imagination as much as the intimate sound worlds presented here’

‘leaving things as they are is often misunderstood as ‘do nothing’. There are few artists in the world, especially working with sound, who get this and JrF is one who does. Not only that but he seems able to present work that forces us to re-evaluate everything we think we know about minimalism’

‘small sound worlds perhaps, but far richer and more varied than our immediate impression tells us’

jez riley french  |  beam | charcoal

limited edition ty cd + photo-book + download code
(100 copies)

price + postage
released for a month as a digital download only this 2014 release soon attracted a fair bit of attention. Now re-released as a limited ty cd accompanied by a book of JrF’s brooding photographs of woods and forests at night.

‘a release of the natural sounds of trees in various states that allows you to re-tune your ears. Worth a purchase for the long bonfire track on its own. Remarkable. The images show another fascinating side to French’s visual work’

‘you might at first assume this release is one amongst many such surveys of these kinds of sounds but look hard and you’ll find very little to compare, either in terms of content or quality’

both are available from May 10th 

| forthcoming: 

Pheobe riley Law  |  desire lines
Pheobe riley Law  |  dial
Jez riley French  |  adagios
Jez riley French  |  iceland
Jez riley French  |  suketchi
Jez riley French  |  audible silence (weaves)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

the idyll
(do we ever actually hear the world around us)

nb. the format of this article is 'straight' - that is to say that I haven't followed the conventional rules of such things, with quotes, footnotes and references. It is fair to say that some have been critical of this approach, often misunderstanding it as a sign of unnecessary opposition to the norm or a sign of a less rigorous thought process. In truth it stems from a deep and long private, personal exploration of the subjects and similarly extensive observations of the various theories and systems of understanding involved. Put another way, I do reject the idea that to investigate our role in any creative endeavour means constantly removing layers of ones own personal reaction only to replace it with systems that are as arbitrary, as invented. 

There is limited evidence as to how the landscape around us was represented in artistic terms as we moved from prehistoric times to societies constructed around ritual, celebration and communication. Early cave art appears either representational or unfathomably abstract. Just as primitive hunting scenes could be both documentary and fiction, cup and ring marks could be saying something savage or slight. The use of sound in the earliest artistic actions is also a subject for competing theories; acoustic 'sweet spots' in caves seem to indicate a deliberate understanding of the power of altered sound, whilst the earliest hints of 'music' stem from a slowly developing skill set in the shaping of sounding instruments. Once we humans began to bring in ever more 'sophisticated' ideas to our renderings of the world around us it is possible to see a fork in the path of creative evolution; one route phasing in and out of a deepening understanding of our interaction with 'nature', and the other, perhaps more dominant, a racing, all consuming rush of ego and detachment. 

Throughout the history of art 'landscape' has, almost exclusively been veiled in a thick, sweet fog - an idealistic view of what nature is, can be or indeed should be. We stand in front of paintings that speak of summer, of slow afternoons heavy with light and bird song or of snow falling from proud, insect free trees. Likewise in the quite incredibly short moments that we actually spend looking at our surroundings themselves is it not true to say that we are seeing and hearing what we decide is there ? What we have come to expect and desire from nature ? Any idea of 'reality' is filtered through so many layers that it has become almost impossible for us to approach a connection to nature that is not already based on an evolved removal of our species. Even the dictionary definition of the actual word 'nature' has been changed to fit our changing ideas of our superiority. In early dictionaries, and indeed texts that pre-date them, references to nature include 'all things living' or 'everything that populated the earth' and other such blanket statements, whereas now it has been set loose from having any connection to the human race or its impact on the planet.

Definition of nature in English:


1[MASS NOUN] The phenomena of the physical worldcollectively, including plantsanimals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earthas opposed to humans or human creations:the breathtaking beauty of nature(from the Oxford English Dictionary)

Further, there is the whole 'Mother Earth' issue; the reasons for that choice and the frankly often worrying ease by which some people with a religious fervour and unshakeable belief impose certain views onto the very thing they claim to celebrate. Imposition stands contrary to respect, just as it does in the relationships we form between ourselves and our partners; if one partner tells another who they are, what they are and should be everyone can agree that would be problematic at best and controlling at worst and yet, when it comes to the planet it is easy to find people who will, with a straight face, tell you that singing to the forest is honouring the earth, the trees or the creatures in them. However uncomfortable it is to accept for some, such ideas are based on our own human arrogance and ego. I say that not only because I disagree but that it is clearly not based on an acceptance of 'nature' on its own terms. Perhaps it is impossible for any species to have a complete acceptance on other terms than its own ? Perhaps if it were possible it would not lead to anything better or more connected ? Again, i'll state that what puzzles me most is how unquestioning we are, especially when we are telling ourselves we are 'special' because we are questioning the norm. It's always one uniform replacing another. All are equally floored.

We contemplate birds nests or termite hills  as almost miraculous structures and yet we think of our human architecture as entirely different, from another place and evolutionary level. We hear grass moving in the breeze and are pre-programmed to associate it with ideas of peacefulness or beauty, without any understanding of what that simple process means for all the other species affected by it. We think of nature as 'countryside' or 'the wild' rather than, for example, urban landscapes or the indoor spaces we construct and yet all are results of natural evolution. In short we invent what we see and hear of the world to such a large degree that I feel certain that we have tipped over from a growing, richer palette of creative associations to the world and into an increasingly more restricted new-ageism, unquestioning and always ready to accept that reality fits neatly into our most surface expectations of it.

As an artist and composer who has taken great pleasure in the act of listening for many years and has developed a close connection to that activity through field recording i'll let readers in on a secret: being a field recordist does not mean one listens to lots of other peoples recordings ! Field recording is a wide interest and there are lots and lots of folks whose interest involves comparison and indeed collecting of recordings by themselves and others and that of course is a totally valid approach. However it should not be seen as being any more connected to 'listening' or indeed to an understanding of the world than those whose interest is personal or who do not perceive field recording as a genre. I'm involved in various FR related activities (blogs, forums, facebook groups and of course leading workshops and lecturing) so I do listen to more field recordings by other recordists than I would perhaps choose to in the same way as I do to 'music'. I enjoy it of course, but for me there has to be a purpose to this activity. A reason for turning my ears towards a recording, whether that be in workshop playback sessions or to preview a post submitted to a website. Through all of these connections I believe i'm qualified to state that, as ever, there are a large number of recordings being made that, in my opinion, are documents of just one approach to the natural world; go to a place, record it, present it as a kind of audio postcard. I've done this myself and my comments here aren't meant as a criticism of that practice. What I will say however is that I am constantly surprised at how little things have progressed since the whale song / forest morning and waves on a beach days of the 1970's and 80's. A recording of a rain forest, no matter how well recorded, does not and cannot capture the experience of being in a rainforest and yet there are endless recordings of such places that appear to be publicly shared in some way that seeks to 'transport the listener', and lets face it a large number of listeners are primed to be transported - not only by the medium but perhaps by the way we live our daily lives. This leads back to the question of what it is that we are hearing - whether it is reality or our ideas of reality. We listen to a rain forest recording and think of it as restful or relaxing. In fact for all the creatures and natural systems that create its audible soup it is sonic chaos, a battlefield and a quest for survival in extreme conditions. Does the recordist think of that or of how to record some 'perfect' impression of the location that is in fact a denial of its true nature ?

genre / restriction

This is by no means an accurate survey but I would say that still the vast majority of 'field recording' releases are restricted to the most obvious idea of 'documentation'. Is there any part of the process that sees the recordist ask deeper questions about the purpose or content of such material ? Are such questions in fact a way to cause the 'record' button less work ? 

Over the years I have become less and less interested in how the term 'field recording' has become almost a genre, defined in large part by this drive to present 'reality' to ones audience. Here perhaps there is a comparison with other art forms; throughout history there have always been a very large number of very competent painters, musicians, sculptors or writers for example, and yet, even in the widest sense and with ones deep belief that all the arts are available to all, it is a true statement to say that there is an important distinction between an individual competent at their chosen art or craft and those that are able to transform the art and transport the audience 'elsewhere'. I confess that I increasingly have no real idea why someone would record, say, a rain forest at night and release said recording as a creative artwork. Don't get me wrong, i'm not saying I think it a mistake to make such recordings available - for some reason there is still an audience for work that has no more creative merit than pointing any camera at a view and pressing the shutter - but I am unsure of what critical process is taking place and of how this then effects the wider understanding of what field recording is or can be. As with camera's the technology is democratic and yet it is doubtful that any recordist would choose to spend valuable time gazing at a snapshot that does not have additional creative content unless it were taken by someone they are connected to perhaps. In that sense a standard recording of a rain forest at night has a similar public value as a selfie on instagram - neither seeks to say anything other than 'here this is'. 

On the other hand such recordings are often afforded value (by recordist or audience) as documents of a world in flux; a way to preserve the environment in some form or to draw ones attention to it. As I have attempted to state already, in fact we are only documenting human experience and in that respect I personally feel we owe it to our species and to the world in which we live to put more of ourselves into the work.

So, the question remains; as field recording grows as an interest for various audiences and recordists what is it we are recording ? more, what is it we are even hearing ? 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

pleased to be part of foundsoundscape project, curated by Janek Schaefer. artists include:
Brian Eno
Chris Watson
Charlemagne Palestine
Phill Niblock
British Library Sound Archive
Richard Chartier
Stephen Vitiello
Douglas Benford
Graham Dunning
Simon Fisher Turner
Taylor Dupree
& others


Friday, 27 February 2015

Parabolic reflectors

recently there has been some 'lively' discussion on parabolics - on facebook and also the yahoo 'nature recordists' website - so perhaps now is a good time for a brief mini-guide:
firstly, those of you unfamiliar with parabolics (inc. how they work etc) should check out the wide range of articles on the web - always read impartial ones. Manufacturers sometimes have articles on their site and the good ones do not make exaggerated claims about their products. It is also true that there are some articles online which fundamentally misunderstand the basics of parabolics, good sound and listening in general. If you're unsure then ask around - you can, for example, post a comment here or ask a question on the 'a quiet position' facebook group, where over 4400 recordists with a wide range of experience will be able to offer advice. Always avoid articles on various 'paranormal' websites. 

In very basic terms, a parabolic mic / dish system is the closest thing to a zoom lens for sound - allowing distant sounds to be brought into sharper focus, while rejecting the surrounding ambience (in mono parabolic systems)

It is possible to build a parabolic yourself and there are lots of 'how to' sites on the net.

There are currently 3 companies selling complete parabolic kits (dish, mic and handle etc) that are worthy of recommendation. There is also a company based in the US and the subject of a fair amount of debate online and I can't, in all honesty, recommend their products and would advise caution when considering them. I think most people who look at their website will notice a number of problematic aspects (claiming their products are the best, most advanced in the world despite there being no independent confirmation of that, that they're fairly new to the market & built by someone without a well established track record as a mic builder and whose own recordings are very, very limited to a narrow understanding of the various aspects of field recording and the act of listening).

Telinga (long, very high reputation for supplying probably the best parabolics)

(telinga universal on stand)

Lisn (Japanese small plug-in-power parabolic system - best described as a mini-version of a Telinga but with lower cost parts - and resulting affect on sound quality - but ok for the price. Distribution outside of Japan is a bit sketchy however)

(Lisn parabolic)

Dodotronic (Italian company selling a low cost but good quality alternative - ingenious design on both their mono and stereo models)

(Dodotronics 2 models)

I rarely ever advise anyone to avoid a specific company as for the most part all manufacturers have products that are good for some applications or at certain price points and, when it comes to the smaller builders of equipment, they are usually decent folks who have a strong commitment to and interest in the field in general and don't go in for misleading information, the hard sell or, shall we say, some 'interesting' sales tactics. That said and for various reasons one manufacturer I would advise extreme caution with is Wildtronics. Apart from the other aspects of their approach to the community and other respected manufacturers and individuals I have listened to the various examples of their products online and conducted side by side tests with other systems. They do work and they're 'ok' but they are not as good as others on the market, in terms of sound, portability, durational use and use outside of standard 'bird' sound collection.

As mentioned Telinga has a very long track record and receives consistently high positive feedback from fellow field recordists. Their systems are at the top end of the price range, but as with all things there is usually a good reason and I do know lots of folks who've had their Telinga's for years and years. In my experience the best sound i've heard from a parabolic system is a Telinga universal fitted with a sennheiser capsule - not a cheap option but there's an open and natural sound to this set up. Apart from the Universal above (which can be fitted with a couple of different polar pattern mics) the most listenable and open sounding systems use omni capsules. Sticking a hyper-cardioid (shotgun mic) capsule into a parabolic isn't the best idea (unless using certain sennheiser ones) as it often peaks the key sound and in very simple terms it fights with the effect of the parabolic dish - remember a hyper-cardioid is in effect normally a long metal tube with a capsule towards the bottom and sound travels from the front towards the capsule - with a parabolic dish the focal point of the sound comes from around the dish itself and reaches the capsule on a horizontal plain (nb. there will still be some signal coming from other directions of course) - hence the reason an omni polar pattern provides the most listenable sound quality.
Key factors to look out for inc.

. good protection from handling noise
. dish size - a larger dish gives better low frequency response
. clean paths (by this I mean low self noise of the mic, well constructed electronics, phantom powering etc)
. mono vs stereo - for most folks mono is what they'll want from a parabolic but there are designs out there by all of the manufacturers that are stereo. Some have a mono capsule at the focal point of the dish & additional capsule/s in very near proximity, the result being to capture not only the prime sound but also some ambience around it. For species recording you'll probably want to stick to mono (2 of the 3 designs allow you to select mono or stereo) but for more creative applications the stereo option can be useful, particularly on architectural acoustics. 
. look for sound samples on the makers websites AND elsewhere online - avoid sound samples that have any kind of processing (normalising, eq-ing or that have been recorded using only stills cameras - all of which have elements of either processing built in or do not have quality pre-amps - the better sites will have samples recorded with various recorders and for the ones with the best track record its highly likely you'll be able to find a sample online using the same model recorder as the one you have)
. 3 companies parabolics (Telinga, Lisn and Dodotronic) are built and tested throughout development, and continually since, using professional, pro-sumer and entry level field recorders. Another range from one company was developed using video and still cameras. In my opinion it is only possible to develop a decent microphone of any type when tested with the appropriate equipment. Video and stills camera's have built in limiters that often can't be turned off or other types of processing. It is of course quite possible to develop a parabolic based only on the physics, however field recording / listening has and is continuing to move forward and it is more and more understood that the role of pre-amps, processing, playback levels, subtle details of the mic capsule sound etc etc. make a big difference. For lots of folks perhaps just interested in collecting, for example, bird species sounds, they will perhaps be happy with any parabolic that in basic terms 'does the job' - but for those who want more than this the advice of any recordist would be to approach the choice of equipment with more thought and attention to how it 'feels' on the ear, rather than the physics. With conventional microphones for example, some people like the sound of Schoeps mics and some don't - some like a Sennheiser MKH and some prefer the sound of a Sanken etc etc. Buying any mic on the spec sheet alone is not a good idea. Would you buy a car or a camera just on the spec sheet ? 
. if in doubt ask the community - the wide, varied field recording community is 99% friendly, supportive and open to the sharing of knowledge. 
. don't be swayed by the science only - as with all mics, all techniques, the spec sheet or theory is only a part of the story. A good company will obviously let you know the key features of their products but those with a proven track record will not need to be critical of other makes. Put simply, the quality and wide usage of the product will speak volumes.

. avoid reviews from people who seem to only ever say positive things about the kit they test and who have been sent it for free. 
. a good tip when purchasing any piece of kit is try to buy from those folks who have a reputation beyond their own products - so companies, staff / individuals who have a good reputation for their own work or who are active in the field in various ways. Avoid companies who say things like 'the best' or 'better than everyone elses' etc - good products speak for themselves. Its quite easy to spot the good folks....

Friday, 20 February 2015

MicW - further tests

following on from the review of the i-mic series from MicW (read here) i'll now discuss their E150 conventional mics:

E150 matched pair
(supplied with omni, cardioid and hypercardioid capsules)

Here's a couple of extracts from the first recordings with the E150's - recorded at the docks in Ayr, Scotland, with the omni capsules. The first also includes a comparison with the DPA4060's in the same spot. As you'll hear the DPA's do sound more natural, as one would expect and of course this isn't intended as a test to see which is best - that would be unfair, especially given the differences in design and cost (a matched pair of E150's costs about the same as one 4060)

waves against the pier wall (E150's)

waves against the pier wall, with helicopter ! (DPA4060's)

The E150's are certainly punchy ! very sensitive and one needs to choose carefully the situations where they work best. On this source, strong waves, they perhaps have a rather 'full on' quality, overly intense probably because they are slightly top-heavy in frequency response.

next, two extract from longer recordings I made of the dock ambience from the other side of the river. Here the E150's come into their own rather more, with the tonal qualities of the recording allowing the listener to get a more rounded sense of place.

Ayr docks:

along pier towards the lighthouse / on small dunes at start of pier (E150's with omni capsules)

What these first tests appear to indicate is that, for field recording purposes, the E150's with their omni capsules fitted, are more suited to open landscapes rather than intense sound sources close up. Though I would qualify that by saying that almost all lower cost omni's are similar in this respect.

I'll add to this review with more recordings soon, including with the other capsules fitted....  

Thursday, 19 February 2015

MicW i-series microphones
(initial tests)

its fair to say that the conventional mics I use most are manufactured by some of the companies whose reputation for very high quality products has been in place for years; DPA, Sanken, Sennheiser, Schoeps etc. Its also true that I often use microphones that cost considerably less, or indeed are now 'vintage'. For example Rode and smaller microphone manufacturers such as MM Audio, Naiant have mics that give even those on tight budgets a chance to expand their kit and their listening / recording at a good level of quality and durability. I use these to keep up on developments across every budget range and to be able to offer advice on workshops to allow as many folks as possible to begin exploring.

Since ipod / ipad / iphone and android compatible mics started to appear i've kept an eye / ear on this area. It can be fun to use these technologies for recording, though my first bit of advice is be realistic about what you'll be able to achieve. Generally speaking recording quiet sounds with this kind of kit is challenging to say the least. Rode have led the way with the i-xy, and the SmartLav and now there's a new series of i-mics from MicW.

After doing some research on the company and talking to them I got hold of several of their i-mic units to test. I was also sent a matched pair of their conventional E150 pencil mics (with 3 sets of interchangeable elements: omni, cardioid and hypercardioid) which i'll review in a separate post.

At this point i'll say openly that as most folks already know I am fortunate that companies occasionally send me equipment to test or for use on workshops / courses - partly so I can provide feedback to them and informed guidance to others. However it goes without saying that unlike the standard music / audio press I do not depend on their advertising and it is always 100% clear that I do not allow any support from a manufacturer to influence my opinion of their equipment. I try to find the pro's and con's and quite simply if I don't like it, I don't use it and wouldn't suggest others do either. 

MicW is based in China, so I think its only fair to say at the outset that of course there will be differences between these and european built mics. Having said that the company is part of the BSWA Technology LTD group - known for their measurement devices used for all sorts of industrial purposes and with a good reputation. They're also distributed in the UK by Synthax  - who only handle high quality audio products, including RME interfaces.

The MicW units i'll be discussing are:

i-436 omni measurement mic
i-456 cardioid
i-266 cardioid (high sensitivity)

(tests of the igomic - x-y cardioid to follow)


test one: 
recorded from room window of hotel, Ayr, Scotland
i-shotgun (0:00 - 1:03)
 omni i-436 (1:04 - 2:10)
 cardioid high sensitivity i-266 (2:11 - 3:35)
Rode i-xy (3:36 - 4:59)
(all connected to ipod touch)

gain on recording app for ipod touch was identical for each sample recording.

This test was 'straight out of the box'  - to check each mic. As you can hear, considering the recording technology being used the results are actually better than one might expect. I've had the ixy for some time and so was interested to see how the MicW mics compared to that - this isn't intended as a precise comparison test, as the i-xy is obviously a stereo mic with two elements - but it does perhaps illustrate something of the initial differences.

test two:
recorded on the mezzanine at Leeds Train Station
 omni i-436 (0:00-0.51)
 cardioid high sensitivity i-266 (0:53-1:59)
 cardioid i-456 (2:01-2:59)
i-shotgun (3:01-4:04)
(all connected to ipod touch)

so far i'm quite impressed by these mics, given the limitations of i-device / android devices for recording in the field. To check prices in the UK visit: http://www.gearzoogle.com/category-s/1842.htm

the mic kits come in a handy plastic carry box and a further metal tube case, which (as the photo above shows) also can turn into a tripod mount when using with an extension cable (which is also supplied in the kit for each mic)

The kits also contain an extension plug that allows you to connect the mic and a set of headphones to your i / android devices.

also available is an adaptor cable allowing the mics to be used with p48.

more tests to come soon....