It is quite telling that when we at Tubeshooter film a video about better sound recording for your films, it doesn’t get anything like as many views as one about the low light performance of the latest camcorder.
People are obsessed with low light – a fair enough concern we suppose but wouldn’t it be great if they cared as much about decent sound as they do about grainy pictures?
Bad sound is an element of a video that can turn off a viewer far quicker than bad pictures will, yet it seems not to be as “sexy” a topic which is a shame.
We’re trying to redress the balance a little by having a splurge on audio gear reviews at the moment and, what’s more, looking at the kind of kit that performs a vital but often overlooked audio role.
Suspension mounts for microphones – no, DON’T yawn – are exactly that kind of item. Your microphone is a delicate little beast and if you handle it physically it will pick up the vibrations of you doing so and turn them into unwanted thumps, knocks and bumps all over your recording. Mic suspensions are designed to reduce or eliminate this issue and Rycote have arguably the best tech in the world when it comes to this issue.
We refer specifically to their patented “Lyre” technology which is essentially – with apologies to Rycote – a bendy bit of plastic.
Whichever form you buy it in (for shotgun mics, on-camera mics etc) the Lyre is a pair of semi-circular plastic cradles which are alleged to be bendable but virtually unbreakable. In being so flexible, they claim to be able to isolate a microphone clamped into them from any external noise.
We’ve looked at two (well, three but the third is coming as part of a different product review). The first is the Softie Lyre Mount, a new product that’s designed to replace the top-mic bracket on several leading small camcorders. You just unscrew the camcorder manufacturer’s own bracket and screw Rycote’s one on instead with a choice of eight supplied screws.
We had no trouble doing exactly this with our Canon XA20 though fitting the new screws was somewhat fiddly as Rycote have left space for the Lyre to mount to so many camcorders that the screw holes are virtually canyons which are quite tricky to line the screws up into. A correspondent on our YouTube channel also reports the supplied screws not fitting his camcorder resulting in him having to find some 5mm longer.
Screwing done however, it was a matter of moments to then clamp our top mic into the Lyre and wire the mic cable through three plastic guides (which themselves provide a degree of isolation) and into the camcorder’s XLR socket.
Our mic, a Sony ECM-XM1 which is about the right size for an XA20, it must be said was a bit too short for the Rycote clamp. It held perfectly well but just looked a little lost. Regardless of appearance, our tests on both the original mount and the Rycote were impressive in the latter’s favour.
Motor noise picked up by the mic while zooming was noticeably reduced, although to be fair, the Rycote does hold the mic quite a bit further away from the camera body so this result is no great surprise albeit a welcome outcome.
Handling noise was also substantially reduced. All those apparently whisper quiet movements of our hands over the camera body whilst filming which actually record as knocks and thumps were substantially quieter. Not eliminated, we stress, but reduced enough to be worthwhile.
The Lyre also offers a benefit in that by holding the mic further up and further back along the length of the camcorder than the original bracket, there is a reduced chance of the end of the mic (perhaps wearing a fluffy windjammer) from appearing in the corner of the shot when at fully wide zoom, something you can spot on many handheld camcorders.
Being adjustable in both tilt and flop (a term we have made up to describe the 180-degree arc that the Lyre permits adjustment in, along a line parallel to the microphone’s axis), there’s also a fair amount of tweaking you can do with where your top mic is pointing.
A good result then and the only question left: would the same be true of the pistol grip Lyre used to hand-hold microphones during interviews; the kind of grip you see TV reporters holding while filming PTCs or interviewing when on location.
It’s clear from first glance that the Lyre is much the same, the shotgun (a Sennheiser ME66/K6 combo in our case) clamping in just as our top-mic did. From there, the mic connects to a – supplied – short cable which is designed to wind through three plastic mouldings on the Lyre bracket, through a cutout on the pistol grip and terminating in a male XLR pushed into the bottom of the same grip.
This in turn is where you plug your own XLR cable in back to your recording gear. Not to the mic itself, oh no; to the cabling as described because this is an essential part of isolating the mic from cable-borne noises.
We are pleased to report our tests showed another decent result. Use of the Lyre compared to holding the mic directly cut down most handheld vibration noises and cable tapping noise was considerably quieter.
As mentioned at the start of this review, they may not be the coolest bits of kit to add to your filming arsenal but if you intend to take video sound seriously – and by golly you should or you don’t deserve to be making video at all, frankly – then it’s worth investing in this kind of microphone mount if you don’t already have something doing an equivalent job.
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