Portable recorders are great for quick and easy field or voice recordings. But often enough your recordings get ruined by too much handling or structure-borne noise. RYCOTE offers a portable recorder kit to fight such noise…
A question that might pop up now is: “Do I need such a recorder kit? Does it make any difference when recording with a portable recorder? If yes, what’s the differnce?”
Well, we’ve tested it and here’s the outcome:
RYCOTE PORTABLE RECORDER KIT REVIEW – BY ERIC PEULINGS & PATRICE BÖRDING
Portable recorders are great, you can always have them with you and the time required from hearing a cool sound to pressing the record button is very short. The only problem is that the microphones are directly attached to the recorder, so the subtlest handling noise will be audible on the final recording. With software tools like iZotope RX there are ways to reduce a lot of noises, but preferably you won’t need any repair tool at all.
With the RYCOTE Portable Recorder Audio Kit the UK based company provides a shock mount for many well-known handheld recorders and currently has no competitors in this area. We happen to have two Sony PCM D100 at hand here at BOOM Library, so we decided to postpone our planned visit to the nearest Christmas market and directly started to test how good the shock mount works.
CONTENT OF THE RYCOTE PORTABLE RECORDER KIT
The Portable Recorder Audio Kit includes the typical RYCOTE Lyre suspension with a swivelling boom connector, a soft grip, a mini windjammer and a 3/8-inch hot shoe adaptor.
The mount fits perfectly with every recorder supporting a normal camera ¼ female thread and makes it very easy to mount the recorder. With the 3/8-inch female screw thread, the base of the suspension can be mounted to regular microphone stands, boom poles or to the included hand grip, which has also a 3/8-inch thread in its base that can be used for many interesting mounting options. A small cable clamp at the top of the soft grip helps to reduce cable noise. The clamp can handle a normal headphone cable but can only support up to one XLR-sized cable.
Considering everything on the shock mount is unscrewable by hand, the swivel uses a Phillips screw, which sometimes is less handy for quick modifications. The shock mount for the Zoom H6 portable recorder features a plastic hand nut.
TESTING THE SUSPENSION KIT
In certain cases we exaggerated testing conditions to a point where they’d be disastrous in any normal recording situation in order to properly illustrate the results. To ensure that both recorders were getting the same vibrations and handling noises, we mounted both of them on a stereo bar attached to a standard microphone stand. The recordings were made in one of our studios.
We tested stomping on the ground, moving and knocking the microphone stand to get different kinds of vibrations.
The results that you can hear in the sound examples and see in the spectrograms are very clear. Despite our unusually extreme test, the RYCOTE suspension was able to drastically reduce the noise.
Before we start, here is a short explanation of spectrograms for those who haven’t seen one before: A spectrogram is the visualization of the frequency spectrum of a sound in relation to the dimensions time and amplitude. On the horizontal axis you can see a timescale and on the vertical axis on the right a frequency and amplitude scale, ranging from black (-115db) over red (-90db) and blue (-50db) up to white (0db). Because we recorded in stereo there are two channels. Left one on the top and the right channel is on the bottom. We used iZotope’s RX4 export function for the spectrogram-screenshots.
Stomping on the ground:
Kicks – No shock mount
Kicks – Rycote shock mount
The first part of the audio files is the version without the RYCOTE shock mount, in the second half of each audio file you can hear the same recording with the RYCOTE shock mount.
As you can see in the spectrogram there is way more low frequencies without the shock mount attached. The more white there is, the louder the low frequencies. It is also visible that the decay time of the impact is way longer without a shock mount.
The vibration from our stomps gets transmitted directly to the recorder in a very clear and audible way, whereas the RYCOTE shock mount absorbs most of them. We stomped really hard to simulate the worst case scenario you hopefully can avoid while recording.
Moving while recording:
In the following test we simply walked around in our office to see how suitable the shock mount for capturing sounds with action and movement is. Both recorders were attached to the soft grip, one with shock mount and the other without.
Movement – No shock mount
Movement – Rycote shock mount
The soft grip with the suspension attached does a great absorbing-job when walking and moving. As you can see in the spectrogram, the low frequencies are more present without the shock mount.
RYCOTE’s grip has a soft foam around it and we can really recommend using at least a soft grip while holding the device in your hand. It reduces a considerable amount of contact points between yourself and the recording device. This way you also can avoid these nasty plastic noises portable solid-state recorder tends to make when holding them in your hand. You can buy the soft grip exclusively without the suspension and windjammer.
Pressing the soft grip with and without the shock mount:
Of course you have to make a bit press
ure on the grip otherwise you can’t hold it, so we again did an extreme test and squeezed the soft foam of the grip as hard as we could.
Soft Grip – No shock mount
Soft Grip – Rycote shock mount
It is amazing how good the suspension can handle this low noise. With the RYCOTE suspension attached, there is less low rumbling going on. As you can see in the spectrogram there is very few pink/white color in the picture with the soft grip and suspension attached. Also the range of the low frequencies (green color) goes way more up without the shock mount.
Lifting the microphone stand up and down:
Lift Stand – No shock mount
Lift Stand – Rycote shock mount
In the left spectrogram there is way more low frequencies with a higher range as in the right picture. That means there is much more low noise without the RYCOTE suspension.
We really tested some extreme scenarios you normally won’t be faced with while recording. But every time the RYCOTE suspension did a great job reducing unwanted noises and absorbing vibrations.
Everyone who has recorded outdoors without any wind protection will know how a small gust can ruin the entire recording. Wind is not only a problem outside in the field, but also in your studio, for example if you move the recorder too fast.
So we decided to only test the RYCOTE versus the Sony windshield provided with the PCM D100. RYCOTE’s “Mini Windjammer” is a lot bigger in comparison to the Sony windshield and provides more free space in front of the mic capsules. Also the RYCOTE has a thin foam within the windshield, whereas Sony uses a felt as inner lining. To test their wind-noise-attenuation, we placed both recorders on the stereo in front of a still standing ventilator.
RYCOTE Mini Windjammer
With the Sony windshield the flickering from the wind is more audible, whereas the RYCOTE windshield does a better job in reducing wind noise. You can see in the spectrogram that the flickers (blue peaks) are more present and have a higher range, exceeding the humming of the ventilator (blue line).
You should really never use your portable recorder without some kind of shock and handling noise protection. The RYCOTE Portable Recorder Audio Kit allows you to comfortably hold the recorder while moving or standing still and provides you with many mounting options and great wind protection. In combination with a gorilla tripod there are options for placements of your recorder you would have never thought of.
So in our opinion the RYCOTE shock mount is a must have and has a reasonable price, ranging from 119€ to 165€ for the different models. You can also buy all the different parts of the RYCOTE Portable Recorder Kits separately (Suspension, Soft Grip, Mini Windjammer).