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Novice's Progress

Subject: Novice's Progress
From: "tk7859" <>
Date: Sun, 12 Feb 2006 15:46:41 -0000
Hello everyone.  My first post.  I've been a member of this group for
about two months and have spent that time reading through the archives
gleaning what I could to help make a start in nature recording.

This is a report on how far I've got and not a request for info or
advice (though I'd be very pleased to receive any that is offered).

I have a Sony MD-R30 and a MDS-JE510 deck so one reason for reading
past posts was to research suitable mics.  I liked the idea of making
my own, using low cost capsules.  I decided to buy 20 to allow for
breakages and  making several, different  microphone types.  It seemed
a bit expensive to source Panasonics in the USA (minimum handling
charges, postage and UK VAT) so decided to obtain capsules locally at
an inclusive cost of  =A30.45P each.

It was necessary to solder on leads and a dab of epoxy was added to
protect the soldered joints.  A photo of the eleven soldered leads
capsules remaining after buiding four mic systems (and damaging one
capsule) is shown in the "DIY Mics" album at

Just open the album by double clicking on it and you will see the
photo titled "Standbye Capsules". You will also see the specification
sheet for the capsules "Capsule Specs" in the album.

After attaching the leads I "matched" the capsules into stereo pairs
by reading their DC resistance.  There was quite a spread of
resistance values but only  two were incapable of being matched (but
still working fine).  These two were made up into a stereo pair for
initial rough tests etc and to give me my first experience of making a
stereo pair.

The first serious stereo mic was the "Headphone Mic" shown in the
photo of the same name in the above album.  This was made by replacing
the headphone capsules of an old, damaged headset with the mic
capsules.  It worked well enough and showed the capsules to be very
sensitive and subject to handling and wind noise (even in the
slightest breeze).  I added the speaker cloth grills and even a pair
of muffs (made from car polishing gloves).  This improved matters but
wind noise is still a problem.  A big downside is that when wearing
them the width of my head is twice its height (I look a bit like ET -
not for the fashion conscious).

Next to be built was the "Handheld Stereo Mic" shown in four of the
photographs in the album referred to above.  The "Makings" photo shows
the component parts of this mic.  The shockmount is made of thin gauge
68mm dia. rainwater drain pipe.  The mesh cover is canvas carpet
backing stiffened with three coats of matt black paint.  The handle is
fron an old window cleaning scraper/squeegee.  Wind shield is long
fibre fake fur.  The mike is made of two of the (omni) capsules
superglued in an X/Y combination (not Ideal?  maybe cardioids would
give a better stereo image) and then fitted into a piece of PVC
conduit.  In turn the conduit has a piece of thin gauge cverflow pipe
pushed into it.  The cavity of both pipes was filled with rolled up
anti-slip rubber matting.  The "Unclothed", "With  Mesh" and "Ready to
Go" photos show this mic in various stages of assembly.

It took some time to make the "Handheld Stereo Mic" waiting for paint
to dry etc. so I decided to make a head worn binaural mic with a less
dramatic visual impact.  The result is the "Spectacle Clip-Ons" shown
in the photo of the same name.  These are made from wooden balls that
I had available.  These have been drilled through so that the capsules
locate neatly inside.  The balls, when clipped onto spectacles, fit
comfortably in my ears.   Initially I will use foam headphone covers
as windshields.  These are shown in the photo and fit securely over
the balls.   Eventually long hair, fake fur windshields will have to
be made and used.  That should cause quite a stir in the high street.

At dusk yesterday the handheld stereo mic was ready for a test so I
took all three mics, and the MD-R30, out onto the back garden patio.
The two head mics were seriously troubled by wind noise but the hand
held, with its long hair wind shield did OK.

With it I managed to make my first nature soundscape recording, an MP3
of which is here:


The main feature of the recording is a flock of Brent Geese returning
to roost on the saltmarsh 700 yards away. There are also some other
bird noises and a curious screeching.   I initially thought the
screeching was from some children but, on hearing the sound through my
HiFi, I'm sure it is from an animal/bird of some kind.  Also to be
heard, in order of appearance, is my oil fired central heating boiler,
a neighbour returning home on his brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle
along a road which is 50 yards away at its closest, and a piston
engined aircraft flying over.

I apparently have a working mic.  The plan now is to use these mics
and also make a wedge type binaural mic.  Four weeks ago I purchased
an MZ-RH910 so this will also have to be brought into play.  After
gaining experience with these I hope to be able to decide the future
direction of my nature recording.  At that time I will be prepared to
spend some serious money on real microphones - hopefully in the light
of experience gained.

Talking of money, my biggest microphone construction costs have been
the purchase of capsules, 6 foot length of rainwater down pipe, canvas
carpet backing and fake fur.  All the other components came out of the
junk basket.  Pro rating the costs I estimate the hand held mike cost
=A32.65 (about $4.50), and the head mikes about =A31.00 ($1.70) each.

If you have persevered and read this far you will know there has been
very little  creative work on my part.  Almost all of the things I
have done were triggered by articles/posts I have read in this Group's
archives.  My thanks to all of you who have contributed.


Tom Robinson

PS  You could well hear more in the recording than I do.  I have
impaired hearing caused by getting older (67) and a lifetime spent in
mining.  Including operating compressed air jackhammers in confined
spaces back in the late fifties, early sixties when hearing protection
had not been thought about.


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