In this video I am doing a shootout of 4 ENG Wireless Mic Systems! Only one will be left standing for my credit card to purchase.
I not a big fan of dual system sync sound. Dual sync sound is when you record audio both on your camera and on an external audio device like the Zoom H1 and then you have to sync them in post. I would rather record audio straight to the camera and skip that step in post. But in order to do that you need a very strong audio signal from the microphone so you can almost turn the preamp in the camera all the way down. Because the preamps in the Canon cameras are terrible(noisy). But when they are turned all the way down they are very clean in terms of a line level input with manual gain or using Magic Lantern. And that is what you get with most of these wireless mics, is a clean line level output to feed in to your camera.
I am going to get a lot of complaints from people saying these are too expensive (as much as a camera or lens). I have used cheap wireless systems before and for me it is just not worth it to go there. Now if you need a lav and you don’t need to go wireless and you are low on cash, I heard many videos using the Audio Technica ATR 3350 and it sounds really good for the price about $30, so that might be an option to save up for a good wireless solution like I have.
These are not inexpensive microphone systems, but they are also not the most expensive either (have you seen the LectroSonic prices?). I choose these because they are very popular and have very good reviews on them already.
Matching Audio Levels
The first test I need to do was match the audio levels on all 4 before I could start, so I used pink noise on my iphone and tried my best to match all 4 of them the best I could in terms of gain structure and their output level in post.
All was going fine until I got to the Sony, something was different so I had to investigate. I thought I was hearing a massive level difference in my voice when I talked much louder so my first thought is the Sony was handling quick transient peaks differently than the others, so I taped each to a piano because the piano has some of the quickest transient peaks I know, but they all sounded the same.
Then I tried using a sine wave but each one sounded fine including the Sony.
When I tested it with Pink noise again but this time I moved the iphone’s speaker in and out and I figured out the issue. The Sony has some sort of hard compression or limiting which can be nice, but it is not listed as a feature at all in the manual. Having this compression makes it more difficult to set the gain correctly. For instance if I turn up the unit all the way and it is heavily compressing the peaks than the small items like wind coming from my nose or the mic rubbing against my shirt becomes much more noticeable.
Output Level and Noise Test
The Shure wins here by a lot. The Sennheiser and the Sony are tied and they Azden does absolutely terrible. Using the mic level out and turning my Canon 5D up to step 23 sounds quieter than using the headphone output of the receiver and the Canon 5D at audio level step 1. But still the Azden is unacceptable here, there is a lot of high frequency content to the hiss that makes it worse, it is like they are boosting the highs to make up for a crappy microphone that is rather dull, and the EQ boost in the system creates more noise in the high end.
At this point I dropped the Azden out of the running. Before I move on without the Azden, let me tell you a few items first. Most plastic feel of all of them.
The reason I included it in this shootout is because of DigitalRev TV. How does Lok at DigitalRev do it with so much noise? Perhaps because they always have a lot of background noise that drowns out the noise floor, or he uses a ton of denoiser in his NLE. Mic output on the receiver is too low and when you raise the gain on the camera to about 1/3 of the way up I get a good signal but the noise is loud. When I use the headphone jack it is too noisy, why can’t I control the headphone out?
Comes with a screw driver, which I could easily lose.
Not easy to take off the battery cover.
Massive clip for shirt, it is way too big in my opinion, hard to hide.
Wind Noise Test
The Sony and the Shure are tied for the best, and the Sennheiser comes in last. However you can buy some after market windscreens designed for the Sennheiser ME2 omni mic that should really help this issue.
Distance Test – Football Field
On the football field test the Sennheiser won. I didn’t hear it drop out until 110 yard mark.
The Sony did really well going to about 100 yards before dropping out a few times.
And the Shure came in last, it started cutting out at 40 yards. It didn’t work much past 80 yards.
Rustling Clothes Test
Wear a jacket under the mic to hide it. Sennheiser and Sony tie for the win, and the Shure seems to pickup more friction sound in the upper frequencies.
Sennheiser has the best construction in my opinion, I would actually have given this to the Sony but I don’t like Sony’s battery compartment. The Shure comes in a distant 3rd place, it feels way to cheap and in dead last the Azden is very poor in comparison to the others.
Audio Quality Test
The Sennheiser and the Sony sound really good, they both have some low end and the “S” sounds don’t sound unnatural, perhaps the Sony has to much S sound. Both sound very similar.
The Shure has a little more nasal sound to it, like I have a slight cold and my nose is a little clogged.
The Azden doesn’t sound that bad if you can concentrate with all the background hiss.
You can scan for clear frequencies and sync the units quickly.
The best construction of the 4.
The quickest to set up, the most flexible in terms of gain structure which is huge.
ME2 microphone omni mic pattern.
More than 8 hours battery life.
The mic clip doesn’t rotate.
Smallest overall package, fit nicely into my camera bag.
Best construction in my opinion, I would actually have given this to the Sony but I don’t like Sony’s battery compartment.
You have to turn the unit on and off to save the audio level.
No sync function from what I could see, win for Sennheiser and Shure.
Mic/line input for use with a mixing board on the transmitter.
6 hours battery life. Only two bars on indicator want 3, that makes me nervous. But the battery it has accumulated use time which it nice!
No audio level adjustment on the receiver? Can’t hit the camera as hard as the Sennheiser, by a lot because of the compression?
I like the Sennheiser belt clips, the Sony’s seems flimsy.
When I took out the battery compartment I said oh that feels flimsy.
It has a headphone jack on the receiver which is nice, is it louder than the 5D Mark III output which means you can use iPhone headphones if you like. If you have a Canon 5D2 or a Rebel than this one might be for you since you can’t monitor the audio going in to your camera.
Cable from the receiver to the camera is a little long for a DSLR.
I don’t like having the power switches on the outside of the unit, while it is snug fit, it makes me nervous that will be be turned off when the talent wearing it.
Has a very similar feature set to the Sennheiser, it’s like they copied it.
You can scan for the clearest frequency. Not a lot of feedback on after the sync, small blue light hard to see.
TA3M connector! I don’t like them.
You can get a hot signal out into the camera.
*** No feedback on the transmitter that you are over modulating!!!!!
You need a small screw driver to make an audio level adjustment, if a analog potentiometer than that will go bad after a few years and become noisy.
Very plastic feel compared to the Sony and Sennheiser.
Windscreen, two of them, and a clip that flips nicely.
Microphone is the largest, harder to hide.
Doesn’t balance well on top of the camera hot shoe.
Two year warranty.
12 hours battery life.
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