Rycote mini fluffy windshield
I needed to get of the Rycote mini windshields to allow me to get full use out of my pair of DPA 4061 mics. The mics themselves deal quite well with wind, but for what I had planned for them they were going to need some serious protection. The covers themselves are well made well enough, the model I ordered is actually too large to fit correctly over the 4061s, but I like the flexibility they provide. Normally I insert the mic into the fluffy then fold the fluffy over. It has an elasticated strap with a press stud which is really useful for attaching the mics to things. Overall they look like they will do the trick but we'll see just how good they are when put to extremes.
The real test for these wind-shields was dealing with wind noise while mounted on moving vehicles and generally they cope extremely well. You do need to place the mic fairly carefully. Positioning a microphone on a vehicle where the shape of the vehicle is designed to directly alter the flow of air is going a bit far. The front fairing on a motorbike is designed to deflect the wind past the bike and the ride, it is like placing a navigation buoy right in a strong current, it is going to be effected, but placed in more general position these wind-shield work very well. I have mad mics clipped to the wheel arches and exhaust pipes of cars travelling at 100 KPH with not noticeable wind noise thanks to the Rycote covers.
Protecting your microphones from the wind is one of the biggest challenges to a sound recordist. There is no one perfect solution. Mic positioning, anti vibration mounts and wind-shields all play their part in countering wind, but this really is a case of the right equipment makes the job so much easier. The Rycote mini wind-shields are definitely the right equipment.
In the real world
I purchased the Rycote minis to use with my DPA 4061 pair. The microphones were purchased to suit a variety of purposes and I knew I would need wind protection. I tested botht the microphones and the Rycote covers thoroughly before I purchased the items and it was one of my very first recordings that proved just how well these things work.
One of the big tests for the DPA 4061 for me was its capability to deal with high SPL output, so as part of testing the unit I attached one to an associates motorbike about 2 inches from the exhaust pipe outlet and asked him to go for a ride.
Even at speed the Rycote protected the mics extremely well from wind noise and the resulting recording was one of the primary reasons I decided to buy both the microphones and the Rycote covers.
They server their purpose well, one of the best solutions in countering wind noise
This model has a convenient elastic strap
Rycote equipment is not cheap
Probably won't help in a hurricane
Dell Inspiron 9400 Laptop
Considering I have had my laptop for over 5 years it seems a little redundant to use my usual format of initial thoughts and later observations, so I will give an overall account of my experience with the Dell 9400. I will however say that my initial impression of the 9400 was "wow that's a big laptop and boy is it heavy!". I should probably qualify that statement by describing my expectations of the 9400 when I bought it. I don't use desktops much these days so for me a laptop really needs to function as a portable desktop. As long as it can fit in a bag and is pretty powerful it will suit my purposes.
The 9400 when I purchased it was one of the most powerful laptops available, the fact that I am still using it five years later and it is still a capable machine is a good indication that it was a good choice. I have over time upgraded to a larger hard drive and added some more memory, but in general the machine is still the central element of my creative work. My biggest issue with Dell computers is the very poor quality of sound cards that they use. The integrated soundcard on the 9400 is absolutely awful. It does produce sound obviously but it also generates random noise bursts and generally struggles with anything other than basic playback. This might seem an odd choice for someone who is working primarily in sound, but I have never used the on-board sound card to record or transfer sound information. I transfer all files directly from digital storage devices onto the laptop, so the soundcard is just a reference device. If I can hear what the sounds sound like I can do my work. I would strongly recommend to Dell however that they really pay some more attention to their choice of sound cards and drivers.
CPU: Intel Core Duo 2.16 GHz
Memory: 1 Gig Ram
Hardrive: 100 gig 4300 rpm HD
Graphics card: Nvidia Geforce Go 7800 256 meg
Media access: SD card reader / DVD RW drive
Inputs: 6 USB inputs / 1 Firewire / 1 microphone
Outputs: SVideo / VGA
For me the best reason to purchase a Dell machine is the service they provide afterwards. In the five years I have owned the 9400 I have had a couple of issues with it, in every instance Dell were fast and efficient with dealing with these issues. Even when I was living in a remote country town 700 km north of Tokyo, Dell sent a technician out to where I was living within 48 hours and fixed my machine. As someone who works with and relies on their PC this is critically important. I am aware of friends who have had to send faulty machines from other manufacturers off for 6 to 8 weeks for repairs to be done. This should never be an acceptable situation for any equipment fault, but for a work machine in my mind it instantly removes them as a viable option.
The Dell 9400 might not be the prettiest piece of equipment available, or the most powerful, but I do not buy equipment to look good, I buy it as a tool to help me create audio. As long as Dell continue to provide a good level of service and create powerful machines that are good value for money I will continue to look at Dell first. I will hopefully be upgrading to a new machine sometime this year, so I will be interested to see what is currently available. I recommend you are careful with it in hot climates though. the 9400 can get very hot, I would not recommend using it without good air circulation on extremely hot days because it can overheat the machine if you are really pushing its capabilities.
Dells are generally very good value for money
Still a useful piece of equipment after 5 years
Excellent technical support
Awful Sound card
Can get very hot
RedHead Zoom H4N Custom Windscreen
Redhead windscreens is a small company that saw a need for something and went ahead and created it. The growing popularity of small digital recorders such as the Zoom H4N means there is likely to be a growing market for companies like Redhead and their products such as the H4N Custom Windscreen
I have owned an H4N since they first came out and its one of my main pieces of equipment. I use it weekly and its 4 track capability means I can record on the two external input channels as well as use its built in stereo mics simultaneously. I have adopted this as my standard practice on most location recording trips as the H4N's own mics are quite good. They do however, like most mics, need to be shielded against wind when used outdoors. Up until recently I have been using a standard sized fluffy cover designed for use on several sizes of mic, so the cover is much too big for the H4N and sags over the display area, can fall off easily, and generally just isn't built for the purpose I am using it for. Along comes the RedHead to save the day!
Sent to me by a fellow sound designer the web page for the RedHead is simply and straight forward. It has a few pictures, some information and a link on how to order. You can even choose from a range of colors. Initially I thought of grabbing a couple as they are priced fairly reasonably, but I thought I'd test one out first and then if it works as expected I can order another one. It also just happened to be the perfect thing to ask my wife to buy me for my birthday. She ordered it online and it arrived in Australia from the makers in Hawaii in about 3-4 days which was awesome service. I of course ordered the bright red one, so now my H4N looks like its disguised as Elmo from Seasame st.
Initially I didn't think it was working very well as I went straight up to the roof of the studio and tested it out. I got a bit of wind noise coming through and was a bit disappointing, but then when I changed back to the cover I have been using for the last 6 months I still got wind noise. Maybe being ten floors up in Melbourne was a bit of an unfair test. After a few more standard tests it seems to work about as well as the cover I have been using previously. I have only had it now for a few days so I can not be certain, but it looks like it will do its job as required. From a practical purpose it is much better than the non custom one I have been using. It is much smaller and so packs away more easily. It has an elastic base that helps it attach to the H4N securely and it doesn't obscure the display at all. In fact I am pretty confident that it attaches so well I could use this in quite difficult situations without any fear of it dislodging from the recorder which is really good to know. It will take some more time to really get a feel for it, but so far I think it was money well spent.
After using the Redhead windscreen for a while now it is pretty much a permanent fixture on my H4N. I have started the carry the H4N around as my regular emergency recorder instead of the R09 because even though its bigger it is a far better unit. As such the Redhead travels with me most days as well. It is obviously not going to be as effective as a full blimp cage and fluffy, but it is easily as good as any of the other single layer screens I have tried.
Fits Well on the H4N
Good range of colours
Nothing so far
Lowepro Flipside 200 Backpack
Lowepro have a long history of making quality bags, packs and pouches and their current range provides many options for protecting high tech gear. Often the biggest difficulty is choosing which product is the right one for your needs. The Flipside 200 is a compact gear backpack with a slightly unorthodox design but with a wealth of features.
Since returning to Melbourne I have been trying to work out the best way to transport my gear. I have various cases and bags and I can often just pack the things I need into whatever bag I have available, but I have found this increasingly frustrating as I sometimes forget certain things or find it difficult to find pieces of gear in a hurry, so I decided to buy myself a dedicated kit bag for location recording.
I have used Lowepro products in the past, my old portable DAT still lives in a Lowepro camera bag, and I also had a Lowepro slip case for my Camera before I lost it in Japan. (just the case, the camera was in my hand at the time). They seem to have a good reputation, and after owning a couple of their products I can see why. Not only are their bags very well constructed being tough and practical, there are a huge range of designs to choose from that really increase your chances of finding what you need. I also did have a slight issue with a Lowepro a few years back and the service response to my issue was pretty impressive, so overall I was happy to put them at the top of my list.
Again I looked through a range of Camera equipment bags as these are designed to protect high end equipment and help store it in a logical and practical fashion so it was ideal for my audio gear. I spent about ten minutes checking various bags in the store and then realized the best option was to come back with all my gear and find something that worked exactly, so that's what I did. The Flipside bag comes in two sizes, but I really wanted to keep the size down for ease of movement when I am out in the field. The 200 model seemed big enough for my gear without being cumbersome. It has several Velcro dividers that could reposition to create slots for various mics and a smaller zip compartment that was perfect for my leads. The side pocket has specific pockets for SD cards and pens as well as enough room to carry a bunch of spare batteries. What I liked the most was that the zipper opening for the main compartment is against your back when you wear it, so it is practically impossible for things to fall out, or for hands to sneak in making this an excellent choice for security. It is also a very comfortable backpack. Lastly the back of it has a special clip to attach a tripod onto with a flip out pocket to place the tripod legs into. This clip can easily hold my tripod and my microphone blimp setup.
So far this bag is doing a very good job of holding everything I need it to, I have taken it on planes in the overhead lockers, hiked fair distances with it and used it in a range of conditions without any real issues. There are still a few things I would like to put it through to see how it copes with adverse conditions, but so far its been a real winner.
Capacity: 1 DSLR with 80–200mm f/2.8 lens attached plus 1–3 additional lenses or flash units, 1 tripod, multiple cables, memory cards, manuals and other digital accessories
Size(Interior): 7W X 5D X 15H in./17.8 X 12.6 X 38 cm
Size(Exterior): 8.6W X 6.2D X 16.5H in./21.8 X 15.7 X 42 cm
Well it doesn't seem to matter what size bag you get, you will always fill it and need more space. Having said that, the Flipside is coping admirably with the amount of stuff I pack into it (probably better than my spine is). One of the best thinsg about Lowepro bags is that you really can stuff them to capacity and not worry about if the zips are going to break, or the stitching split. Its nice to have a product that can actually cope with doing its job.
I have found the Flipside 200 to be very comfortable to wear for long periods of time and the added chest strap makes it possible to run when necessary without the pack moving much at all. I would still have liked a couple more of the Velcro dividers inside, but that really is the only issue I can find for this piece of gear. Oh one last point, I carried this with me on my recording trip on 22/11/09 to a classic car display and it was absolutely pouring with rain all day. I got soaked, any gear I was carrying in my hand got soaked, but absolutely everything inside the Flipside was bone dry. I wouldn't recommend immersing it in water, but apart from that, I suspect it will deal with just about any level of rain.
Should come with more dividers
Rode continues its tradition of quality design and construction at reasonable prices, but in this instance its not a new microphone, but something designed to help you get the most out of your microphones. A Blimp system is not a new concept, but with this model Rode are hoping to show they are just as capable of making good support equipment as they are of making good microphones.
This was a unplanned purchase at the time. It wasn't that I didn't want one, I just didn't know they existed. I had used a Rycote system years ago at a studio I worked for, but for the entire time I was in Japan I was using a system that consisted of a simple shock mount, a foam windshield and a fluffy over cover all made by different companies. The system worked, but not brilliantly. Shortly after I returned to Australia I was in John Barry replacing some cables when I saw the Rode Blimp for the first time. My very first impression was " Wow that's a big box!" because the blimp comes in a very large box. My second reaction was " I bet I can't afford one." It was a week before Christmas and I had no plans on buying any gear, but I was curious of the price anyway. When the woman at John Barry came back and told me they were $250 I couldn't get my wallet out fast enough. At that price I will eventually own three of these, and three of these is still half the price we paid for the Rycote system 6 years ago. (although I do believe they have come down in price)
I have always been amazed at how Rode produce really well designed, manufactured and accessorized equipment at the price they do, but the Blimp was just so far beyond my expectations. It came packed with a huge number of bits and pieces including a variety of clip sizes, spare elastics, a brush for maintaining the fluffy as well as the actual microphone mount, cage and fluffy setup itself. All the components are beautifully deigned and well manufactured. The Rode website also states it comes with a ten year guarantee. This level of care and service is something that is sadly missing from manufacturers and impresses me when I see it. It may seem strange to get so excited about a piece of equipment, but this purchase made me happier than the last couple of actual microphone purchases because it was something I really needed and to be able to get such a good piece of kit for the price was great. Now I just hope it lives up to the huge expectation I have placed on it.
The first thing I noticed is that the cage itself is really large in diameter. This system could easily house just about any microphone including things like Rode's Nt4 with the large stereo head and bulky body size. The strange thing is the NT4 would really benefit from just such a system because it is so intolerant of wind and yet the Blimp does not come with clips big enough to hold it. (amazing considering they are both Rode products) This I really didn't understand, but as I had bought it to house my MKH60 almost exclusively I was not really too fussed by it.
Living in The Docklands in Melbourne gave me the perf4ect opportunity to really test out the blimp system as its one of the most consistently windy places in Melbourne, and the wind can get really severe. All the initial tests I put the blimp through it passed with flying colours. Either hand held or mounted on a boom pole or tripod it dealt with vibrations well and I would need to practically jam this thing down the exhaust of a fighter plane to have an issue with wind noise (and I have just about done exactly that.) I will continue to test this system out as I use it every week, but currently it is one of the best pieces of equipment I have ever owned and has quickly become an integral part of my kit list.
After 12 months my Blimp system still looks practically brand new and it gets used almost every week. I do take care of my gear pretty carefully, but this thing has been on road trips, stored in overhead lockers on planes, carried on bikes, rollerblades, iceskates, skateboards, horses, boats, trains, trams, in rain, wind and extreme heat. I have been accused of being overly passionate about things sometimes, but when I find something that I think is good I will not apologize for singing its praises. ( and you should see me if I don't like something). This system is simply an excellent piece of equipment, made even more so by the low price. I will be buying a second one in the new year as I plan on setting up multiple tripod mounts for location recordings. This puts serious recording capability into the hands of everyone.
In the real world
There is nothing better to prove the effectiveness and necessity of a wind protection system than trying to record wind sounds. The extreme conditions of a violent wind storm will put any recording gear to the test, but the ability to capture the sound of strong wind is something that is simply not possible without something like the Rode Blimp. This gear works consistently well and I generally would never attempt any serious recording with it.
Excellent Value for Money
All the accessories you'll need
Could have clips for a few more mics