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Roundup: Compact Mics for Compact Cameras

Hum and Interference

In reviewing my footage for the test through large speakers, my voice was clear, but so was the humming from the refrigerator that was about 7 feet away from me. Fortunately, Adobe Audition makes short work of issues like that with its noise-reduction tool. Once I ran it through a light pass of the noise reduction, it sounded fine. I’m not sure why the refrigerator was picked up so well, but I’m guessing it may have to do with the relatively large mic head.

Quick fix aside, this is the sort of thing producers would prefer not to have to resolve in post, and, of course, it’s no help at all for live production. I dove deeper into trying to find the reason, if not a solution, for using the WMX-1 on a camera with a short shotgun mic and its causing interference on the short shotgun mic’s audio. I started to try the Movo with different cameras and shotgun mics. I got the same results on my Sony HVR-Z7U and the new Canon XF705 with both the Azden SGM-250CX and a Panasonic AJ-MC700 short shotgun. The Movo caused interference on both, as on the XA40.

When I switched to the Azden SGM-250 full-size shotgun, there was no interference. The big difference between that and the last mic I’d tried is it did not have a hardwired XLR cable to plug into the camera. Lacking an attached cable, the Azden SGM-250 requires an XLR F-to-M to connect to the camera. This combination worked on the Sony HVR-Z7U and the Canon XF705. I’m not an audio engineer, but I’m guessing the removable XLR cable has either better grounding or shielding to prevent interference than the ones permanently connected to some mics. I also found that if you keep the WMX-1 about 6 inches from the hardwired mics, you don’t have an issue. This wouldn’t be a too much of a challenge on the larger cameras, but it would be nearly impossible on something small like the Canon XA40.

When I asked the engineers at Movo about this issue, their response was, “The WMX-1 is a wireless microphone that will emit RF waves. Shotgun mics basically act as a large antenna, and are susceptible to picking up RF noise, especially at close distances. If you are in a situation that you need to use a wireless mic next to a shotgun mic, it is recommended that you use a shotgun with an all-brass body so it can resist this interference.” If you already have your shotgun mic and don’t know the metallurgy, you can use my workaround mentioned earlier. When you consider that the WMX-1 is the least expensive digital wireless system on the market that I have seen, maybe this is a sacrifice to keep it inexpensive.

In the end, if you have the right combination of mics and cameras, you can get some good sound from the Movo WMX-1. I doubt you will find a better digital wireless system for $150. If you’re on a budget and need an easy-to-use wireless system, the Movo WMX-1 may be a good choice for you.

Halter Technical Scene Monitor Headphones (MSRP $15)

I am very particular about the headphones I use in the field for monitoring audio. For years, I had a couple of small, lightweight AKG headsets with a metal band. One pair lasted about 15 years, the other 16, but it is held together with cable ties. Other rugged headsets were big and bulky and couldn’t work with a shoulder-mount camera. I tried a pair of Skullcandy headphones that I bought at an audio gig when I realized that my AKGs hadn’t made it into my kit. They were pretty good, but the second time I used them, the thin flat cable tore, rendering them useless. When I was sent a sample pair of professional field monitoring headphones that sell for only $15, my expectations were low.

As it turned out, the Halter Technical Scene Monitor headphones I received (Figure 7, below) sound as good as my (considerably more expensive) AKG pair. Why are they so cheap? They are made of plastic, not metal, but they’re flexible. The company said they are disposable and expect them to last a year or so. When they fall apart, you spend $15 on a new pair. 

Figure 7. Halter Technical Scene Monitor headphones

The pair I’ve had since mid-2018 are still working like new, even after traveling internationally twice. I also don’t worry about them being stolen from a location, since they cost only $15 to replace. I liked them so much I bought another couple of sets from Trew Audio, a store that specializes in audio gear for TV and film. I asked the salesperson if he sells a lot of them. He said he does, and pros really like the sound. As a bonus, they also work really well on airplanes. We should all be monitoring audio in the field. Halter Technical takes away any excuse you may have for not doing that.

I am very particular about the headphones I use in the field for monitoring audio. For years, I had a couple of small, lightweight AKG headsets with a metal band. One pair lasted about 15 years, the other 16, but it is held together with cable ties. Other rugged headsets were big and bulky and couldn’t work with a shoulder-mount camera. I tried a pair of Skullcandy headphones that I bought at an audio gig when I realized that my AKGs hadn’t made it into my kit. They were pretty good, but the second time I used them, the thin flat cable tore, rendering them useless. When I was sent a sample pair of professional field monitoring headphones that sell for only $15, my expectations were low.

As it turned out, the Halter Technical Scene Monitor headphones I received (Figure 7) sound as good as my (considerably more expensive) AKG pair. Why are they so cheap? They are made of plastic, not metal, but they’re flexible. The company said they are disposable and to expect them to last a year or so. When they fall apart, you spend $15 on a new pair.

The pair I’ve had since mid-2018 are still working like new, even after traveling internationally twice. I also don’t worry about them being stolen from a location, since they cost only $15 to replace. I liked them so much I bought another couple of sets from Trew Audio, a store that specializes in audio gear for TV and film. I asked the salesperson if he sells a lot of them. He said he does, and pros really like the sound. As a bonus, they also work really well on airplanes. We should all be monitoring audio in the field. Halter Technical takes away any excuse you may have for not doing that.

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