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looking for >130 SPL mic to use with Zoom H1
Old 27th January 2013
  #1
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
looking for >130 SPL mic to use with Zoom H1

Hi!

A few months ago I bought a Zoom H1 recorder to record bells. It was only 100€ and I fell for it when someone said it has same microphone capsules as H4n. So I tried it and was disappointed: the mic could not withstand the pressure levels of the bells. Not even if turned away from them (the distortions were just every few seconds though, and not very strong). Then by accident I discovered a video, that was recorded with a H4n recorder: Salzburg (A) Dom heiliger Rupert und Virgil: Abendangelus (Salvator) - YouTube I immeadeatly went though specifications for H1 and H4n again and discovered something that I missed before buying: SPL for H1 was 120 while for H4n was 130. I banged my head to the wall as I realised that I threw 100€ away for something that doesn't suit my needs.

But the problem remained - I needed a good mic that could do > 130 SPL. Since I already have a H1, that can also record through 3.5 mm jack, I figured maybe I could just buy an independent microphone and plug it into H1. Even if I have to pay 150 - 200€, still better than throwing money away for H4n. And that way I could maybe fix another flaw of H1 mics: lack of lower tones (when I listened to recording, I felt like there wasn't enough bass. might be just me though).

So I am asking for advice as to what microphone(s) could fit my needs (in the eyes of more experienced people than me) as with my lack of experience I could again go in store and buy something that I would later discover is wrong (again). When I search for microphones I discover mics with freq range 20Hz - 20kHz with SPL 130+, and for 150€ or so (sounds perfect), but it says "studio microphones". I don't know if these can be used outside?

Thank you for advice!
Old 28th January 2013
  #2
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
I have an H1 and have used it to capture plenty of very loud rehearsals, with the drummer bashing away senselessly and everybody turned way up to match. With the input level set correctly (...you did remember to do that, right? OK, just had to ask), I've never had a problem with obvious clipping or mic-generated distortion.

edit: It occurs to me that you might be letting the H1 set its own levels. I would highly recommend that you not do that. Turn off the auto gain and set the level yourself using the VU meters.

Your application is not 100% clear from your post (you are recording bells... but having problems with the low-end response...?), and similarly, the distortion you cite could be something completely unrelated to the posted SPL limit for the H1.

I'm not even sure what kind of bells you're talking about (vertical chimes? glockenspiel? handbells? doorbells? close-micing a carillon?), but few will generate a sustained 120dB, and I know that the H1 does a pretty darned good job at the sustained 105-110dB that I might more reasonably expect from most of those applications. However, metallophones in general can generate some pretty funky harmonic conflicts and beats that might not sound so great if you're getting too close with the mics or are in the wrong room.

One thing to keep in mind is that the 3.5mm jack on the H1 severely limits the types of mics you can use *without* using an outboard preamp or mixing board. This is where a unit like the H4n-- with its built-in XLR jacks and phantom power-- is arguably a little more convenient, should the built-in capsules not fit the bill for the job. Without all the outboard gear, you're not likely to find a plug-in condenser that will greatly improve on the dynamic range of the H1's own mics.

So while I don't have an immediate answer for you on a mic to try, that's something to consider... most "studio mics" of the kind you'd presumably want for capturing pitched percussion will require XLR inputs and phantom power, two things you will not find on the H1. You can still make it work but you're talking about dealing with a lot more gear and cables than would be required with an H4n, and by the time you buy all that stuff you might as well have resold the H1 on CL and paid the remaining difference for an H4n.

Personally, I'd experiment more with the H1 as is and make sure there isn't some other way to make it fit your application. It's really a great little recorder. (And make sure you haven't accidentally flipped the low cut switch either... no, it's certainly not a bass monster, but I've never felt it was lacking in coverage down there. I *really* can't imagine feeling that way with bell recordings.)
Old 28th January 2013
  #3
S21
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🎧 5 years
Make sure the h1 isn't auto setting levels.

If you actually do need a high spl mic, just use a dynamic mic like a sm57 or sm58. They will take 150dB spl at 100Hz, rising to a theoretical 180 dB at 10kHz. They can be run into your 3.5mm jack just fine.
Old 28th January 2013 | Show parent
  #4
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by lossfabulous ➑️
I have an H1 and have used it to capture plenty of very loud rehearsals, with the drummer bashing away senselessly and everybody turned way up to match. With the input level set correctly (...you did remember to do that, right? OK, just had to ask), I've never had a problem with obvious clipping or mic-generated distortion.

edit: It occurs to me that you might be letting the H1 set its own levels. I would highly recommend that you not do that. Turn off the auto gain and set the level yourself using the VU meters.

Your application is not 100% clear from your post (you are recording bells... but having problems with the low-end response...?), and similarly, the distortion you cite could be something completely unrelated to the posted SPL limit for the H1.

I'm not even sure what kind of bells you're talking about (vertical chimes? glockenspiel? handbells? doorbells? close-micing a carillon?), but few will generate a sustained 120dB, and I know that the H1 does a pretty darned good job at the sustained 105-110dB that I might more reasonably expect from most of those applications. However, metallophones in general can generate some pretty funky harmonic conflicts and beats that might not sound so great if you're getting too close with the mics or are in the wrong room.
How far away do you record? If I stepped 2 meters away it would probably change everything, but there is no space to step away :\

Oh yes, my bad that I didn't explain what exactly do I want to record. Here is a video of two places where I recorded with Zoom H1. Zoom H1 bell recording - YouTube In the first part Zoom H1 was in the corner on the floor, with vocal mic foam on it, turned against the bells. In the second part, the Zoom H1 is on a chair in the corner (right corner, the one closer to me in both recordings) turned away from the bells (into the corner) and has Wolf Windshields fur on it. In both cases the distortion can be heard (in the second less, but still). These two examples should also show what type of bells I want to record. Someone suggested to me that I wrapped the mics into a cloth on something to reduce the distortions. That would probably also lower the sound quality :( ? I have always recorded with these settings:
LO CUT OFF
AUTO LEVEL OFF
MANUAL LEVEL: 1
FORMAT: WAV 96/24

and later used normalise in editing program. The amplitude never reached the peak as I have seen in the program (far from it, it looked almost like a flat line until I used normalise), so it must have been the mics.

About the low end: when I listen to the recordings from my camera, or from the guy with H4n, it seems to me like the sound is a little richer in the lower end. Though this isn't the big problem, its just an observation from amateur.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lossfabulous ➑️
One thing to keep in mind is that the 3.5mm jack on the H1 severely limits the types of mics you can use *without* using an outboard preamp or mixing board. This is where a unit like the H4n-- with its built-in XLR jacks and phantom power-- is arguably a little more convenient, should the built-in capsules not fit the bill for the job. Without all the outboard gear, you're not likely to find a plug-in condenser that will greatly improve on the dynamic range of the H1's own mics.

So while I don't have an immediate answer for you on a mic to try, that's something to consider... most "studio mics" of the kind you'd presumably want for capturing pitched percussion will require XLR inputs and phantom power, two things you will not find on the H1. You can still make it work but you're talking about dealing with a lot more gear and cables than would be required with an H4n, and by the time you buy all that stuff you might as well have resold the H1 on CL and paid the remaining difference for an H4n.

Personally, I'd experiment more with the H1 as is and make sure there isn't some other way to make it fit your application. It's really a great little recorder. (And make sure you haven't accidentally flipped the low cut switch either... no, it's certainly not a bass monster, but I've never felt it was lacking in coverage down there. I *really* can't imagine feeling that way with bell recordings.)
That's what I was afraid of :( I was thinking maybe there is a mic that can receive phantom power from its battery. And while I might not get better dynamic range, the SPL is the thing that really disables me here (if that's the thing that is distorting).
Unfortunately, I probably wont be able to return the H1 and exchange it for H4n (+the pay the rest of the price) anymore as almost 5 months have passed since I bought it :(

Yes, its great little recorder, but I bought it just for that reason (recording bells). If it cant to that, then I have to get something that can, or I am at point 0 again :\ (Not to mention that popping appeared in my recordings, so it might also be a defect unit. I already made a thread about it on this forum.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by S21 ➑️
Make sure the h1 isn't auto setting levels.

If you actually do need a high spl mic, just use a dynamic mic like a sm57 or sm58. They will take 150dB spl at 100Hz, rising to a theoretical 180 dB at 10kHz. They can be run into your 3.5mm jack just fine.
But don't the dynamic mics have limited frequency response? I have a Shure PG58 at home, it has frequency response 60 to 15,000 Hz. I was afraid those missing higher tones might severely affect sound quality (then again I did not consider bells here, if they even reach those frequencies).
Old 28th January 2013
  #5
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1 Review written
🎧 15 years

I'd look for mics with 135 or even 140dB max input for a task like this.

What's happening is that the impedance converter or the mic capsule is running out of bias voltage. I assume that those units use 3-5v to bias the impedance converter on electret mic. If you plan on using the 1/8" jack, you will need a specialty mic, or an external phantom power source.

MM audio has a 9v bias supply for these type of mics. But that would be mics and a phantom power box to buy....



-tINY

Old 28th January 2013
  #6
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Oh, you mean church bells! Holy cow. Yeah, I've never sat in the same space with those but I can imagine they do exceed 120dB at the proximity you appear to be filming.

The recordings I mentioned before are with the H1 just slapped down in the room about 3 meters from the drummer and 2-3 meters from everyone else. The 105-110dB I mentioned is the approximate volume at the location of the H1. I usually have the levels set to about 10-15 for this application and that typically leaves me with about 6-10dB of clean headroom in the resultant output files.

I note that you had levels set to 1. You might actually try raising it somewhat to see if that helps with the mic-biasing / -undervolting issue; it's hard to know until you try. Based on my own experience and your mention of a "flat line" file, I think I would try starting with the level reset to 10 and see what comes out.

I know you cannot return the H1 but I was proposing reselling it, on a local Craigslist if that is an option available to you. Here in the US there is a steady stream of buyers for clean examples of that unit, usually around $65-75 apiece on eBay at the time of this writing (a little weird since it sells for $100 new, but I guess some folks will do anything to save a few bucks).

I agree that an SM57 is probably not going to be the mic you are looking for for this application. It's worth a shot if you can borrow one but I suspect you're going to be unhappy with the high frequency content in the results.

Here's a wacky idea - why not attach the H1 (securely as possible) to some kind of long homemade boom made out of PVC pipe or some such, and push it out the window of the tower just to get enough distance to lower the striker transients by a few dB at the mic? You would probably need some kind of windscreen as well, but that would be easy enough to concoct.
Old 28th January 2013 | Show parent
  #7
S21
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S21's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Terraviper5 ➑️
I have always recorded with these settings:
LO CUT OFF
AUTO LEVEL OFF
MANUAL LEVEL: 1
FORMAT: WAV 96/24

and later used normalise in editing program. The amplitude never reached the peak as I have seen in the program (far from it, it looked almost like a flat line until I used normalise), so it must have been the mics.
I think you don't have an excess SPL problem. I think you don't have your mic gain set high enough.
Old 29th January 2013 | Show parent
  #8
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY ➑️

I'd look for mics with 135 or even 140dB max input for a task like this.

What's happening is that the impedance converter or the mic capsule is running out of bias voltage. I assume that those units use 3-5v to bias the impedance converter on electret mic. If you plan on using the 1/8" jack, you will need a specialty mic, or an external phantom power source.

MM audio has a 9v bias supply for these type of mics. But that would be mics and a phantom power box to buy....



-tINY

They run on one 1.5 V battery, if that's related?

Damn, this is getting complicated (and expensive) :(

Quote:
Originally Posted by lossfabulous ➑️
Oh, you mean church bells! Holy cow. Yeah, I've never sat in the same space with those but I can imagine they do exceed 120dB at the proximity you appear to be filming.

The recordings I mentioned before are with the H1 just slapped down in the room about 3 meters from the drummer and 2-3 meters from everyone else. The 105-110dB I mentioned is the approximate volume at the location of the H1. I usually have the levels set to about 10-15 for this application and that typically leaves me with about 6-10dB of clean headroom in the resultant output files.

I note that you had levels set to 1. You might actually try raising it somewhat to see if that helps with the mic-biasing / -undervolting issue; it's hard to know until you try. Based on my own experience and your mention of a "flat line" file, I think I would try starting with the level reset to 10 and see what comes out.

I know you cannot return the H1 but I was proposing reselling it, on a local Craigslist if that is an option available to you. Here in the US there is a steady stream of buyers for clean examples of that unit, usually around $65-75 apiece on eBay at the time of this writing (a little weird since it sells for $100 new, but I guess some folks will do anything to save a few bucks).

I agree that an SM57 is probably not going to be the mic you are looking for for this application. It's worth a shot if you can borrow one but I suspect you're going to be unhappy with the high frequency content in the results.

Here's a wacky idea - why not attach the H1 (securely as possible) to some kind of long homemade boom made out of PVC pipe or some such, and push it out the window of the tower just to get enough distance to lower the striker transients by a few dB at the mic? You would probably need some kind of windscreen as well, but that would be easy enough to concoct.
Quote:
Originally Posted by S21 ➑️
I think you don't have an excess SPL problem. I think you don't have your mic gain set high enough.
Hmm, I actually hope its the undervolting issue, because then I can actually fix it without additional money-wasting. When I get the chance, I will try it (problem is I dont get the chance every day, I will have to find another as loud source to test it). Although I don't understand how the unit can be made like that. You lower the input level because the sound is too loud, yes? How could then it have quite the opposite effect :S

I could try that "sticking through the window" idea, but I can immeadeately find two problems, that come with it: its usually VERY windy up there, so I don't think there is a windshield which could block all that wind (I have fur windshield that I bought from Wolf Windshields, and at the ground it sometimes cant block the wind, cant imagine what would happen up there); 2nd: the whole idea of recording bells in the same room as they are is that it gives that special effect of full, rich sound. The moment I get out of the room with the recorder, a lot of that "quality" is lost. I tried recording it also outside the towers and the sound just wasn't that so full, rich anymore (here recorder was down at the ground, not in the tower: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...cinx5pA#t=239s and level was set to 16).

I was told that the higher the input level, the more noise the recorder will capture and that its usually ok to have it at 20 (for normal recording) and then normalise the recording.
Old 30th January 2013
  #9
S21
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🎧 5 years
With the zoom gain all the way down at 1 I think the unit is expecting a line-level signal, not a mic-level signal. Turn up your mic gain! You want it to come as close to clipping as possible, without clipping. In practice it can be hard to know where the peaks are going to sit - i think Zoom recommend aiming for 12dB below digital full scale.

In your DAW you should see a strong and clear waveform before normalising. If you see next-to-nothing before normalising you didn't have nearly enough mic gain.
Old 31st January 2013
  #10
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🎧 5 years
This is a recording of a smaller bell (8 kg) at input level 10 at distance of few centimeters. I have no idea how loud it is at that distance since I dont have a meter, but I tried to simulate the conditions in a real tower. This is the un-normalised wav: https://www.dropbox.com/s/fgw4aithqu...%20%285%29.WAV



It was enough though to cause the exact same distortion. Now either at few centimeters it really is so loud that it can compare with real bells (or surpass them), or it is not the voltage problem but actual max SPL problem (and even if it is voltage problem, I cant turn up the input level much more than that).

I dont have a feeling, is 1 meter vs 1 decimeter a lot of difference for SPL?
Old 2nd February 2013
  #11
S21
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🎧 5 years
I don't know if this helps, but the H1 FAQ says:


Sound is distorted even when the INPUT LEVEL is lowered to β€œ1”.
The maximum input sound pressure level (SPL) of the built-in microphone is 120 dB. Any sound that is louder than this will be distorted at the moment that it is input into the built-in microphone. Moreover, the H1 is designed to use the lowest possible analog input level when the INPUT LEVEL is set to β€œ16”. When the INPUT LEVEL is set to β€œ15” or less, the volume is reduced digitally, so it might be impossible to avoid analog distortion in some cases.
Old 2nd February 2013
  #12
S21
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🎧 5 years
With far-field sound a tenfold increase in distance equates to a 20dB loss of signal. However, a bell close to a microphone is not acting as a point source of sound so that relationship won't quite apply.
Old 2nd February 2013 | Show parent
  #13
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🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by S21 ➑️
I don't know if this helps, but the H1 FAQ says:


Sound is distorted even when the INPUT LEVEL is lowered to β€œ1”.
The maximum input sound pressure level (SPL) of the built-in microphone is 120 dB. Any sound that is louder than this will be distorted at the moment that it is input into the built-in microphone. Moreover, the H1 is designed to use the lowest possible analog input level when the INPUT LEVEL is set to β€œ16”. When the INPUT LEVEL is set to β€œ15” or less, the volume is reduced digitally, so it might be impossible to avoid analog distortion in some cases.
So if I understand this correctly it actually means that voltage doesn't change while i'm recording lower than level 16 and that I therefore cant do anything about the distortions, since Ill probably get clipping if I record at levels >= 16?

I was looking at Rode Video Mic, it looks like it can handle the sound (134 dB max SPL), it has 3.5 mm jack output and it has phantom power source in 9 V battery. But it is shotgun and doesnt sound so good, H4n still beats the hell out of it :\
Old 2nd February 2013
  #14
S21
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🎧 5 years
If there is no analogue gain control and it is all handled in the digital domain, then maybe what you need is an input attenuator. Or a lower sensitivity mic. Or greater spacing between the bell and the mic.
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