This year, Rycote have released new, revised version of their unusual “Super Softie” windjammer. Originally looking rather like a weather balloon, the 2015 version has a fatter, squatter design.
Traditional microphone windjammers, even Rycote’s own, are covered in long fur to attenuate wind noise but the Super Softie has none; instead a new material called 3D-Tex is used along with the aerodynamic shape of the softie to cut down on gusts of wind wreaking havoc on your recordings.
But does it work? There are four aspects to consider: 1, does it cut down the low frequency rumbles you get from the wind? 2, does it actually stop you hearing the wind as it whistles around? 3, does it prevent any popping or distortion caused when strong gusts blow onto a microphone capsule? and 4, does it negatively affect the audio you do want to record?
Our tests begin in the lab with a bare microphone pointed at a fan so as to hear how wind noise affects a mic without any protection. You can hear this – and all the subsequent tests – in our video, above.
Now, we auditioned how a traditional softie deals with wind both head on and side on. And finally, we tested how the Super Softie copes with the same tests.
There wasn’t a huge difference but looking at the waveform, watching the audio meters and checking with loudness meters shows that the Super Softie was quieter overall; in particular, the old Softie lets through some lower frequency rumble that the new one doesn’t.
But which does a better job of ditching wind noise whilst retaining wanted audio?
We took both to a very windy hillside and put the old up against the new, swapping them round on their stands to be absolutely fair.
Measurements again showed the Super Softie to be quieter overall even though it certainly sounded louder and windier to our ears. We could actually hear the wind whistling around on the Super Softie where it was far less audible on the old one – an odd result.
We reckon, however, that the old Softie was muffling everything, as demonstrated by our reading clips (again, watch the video to hear this) where the Super Softie has a clearer sound and – critically – stops the microphone capsule from distorting in the big gusts, which the old Softie fails to do.
Moving on, another claim from Rycote is that the Super Softie has “high immunity to rain soaking” and can be shaken dry very quickly, to maintain “excellent acoustic transparency”.
We put both Softies under pseudo rain from a garden watering can and tested this, with equal amounts of wringing and shaking. The result for the new Softie was pretty terrible, like listening to telephone quality audio.
Asked about this, Rycote said that “immunity” to rain soaking doesn’t mean the Super Softie will work when wet – rather, that it can shrug off the effects of being made damp and return to as-new condition.
They said a good shake and 10 minutes drip-drying should work. We tried it and it was better, for sure, but still lacking some high frequencies.
In conclusion then, the Rycote Super Softie is an interesting take on the windjammer. Although it seems to let in more high frequency wind noise than the old style – so it sounds windier – it does block low frequency rumbles and sounds more transparent for the audio you want than the furry ones.
It’s also much better at preventing extremely high wind bursts from getting to the capsule and distorting the sound at the mic.
But whilst it does revert to full performance when completely dry, we’d caution against using it when even a bit damp, as performance is affected and in this instance a soaked furry windjammer can carry on where the Super Softie can’t.
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