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A field recording laptop setup for a Soundfield mic
Old 4th February 2009
  #1
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Talking A field recording laptop setup for a Soundfield mic

So, just now I came back from a product showcase that a smart guy from SoundField was nice enough to present to us all the way up here in Finland. The week earlier we'd gotten two of their mics to briefly try and record a symphony orchestra with, on a course about multichannel recording of music. Haven't heard the results yet (we'll be comparing the two SF mics and a decca tree of spaced DPA omnis), though.

Anyway, especially after today I started fantasizing about some day having a firm with enough dough to dish out on at least their SPS200 mic, which is rather affordable for what it is and would be great for recording atmospheres -whethe it be for a surround or stereo end product - and probably some effects as well.

Now, I figure there'd be two kinds of setups for recording with one on the field - the other, more simple one would be just to plug it into a gain-linked digital recorder capable of at least 4 tracks. This solution might be cheaper as well, depending on the recorder you'd use. However, it wouldn't allow you to properly monitor what you're recording.
Therefore I thought a laptop setup might be in order, one that could be built into a case so recording would be a simple, er, case, of getting to the field, connecting the mic and recording.

So apart from the mic and protective case themselves, two main components would be needed:

- A laptop. Small yet would be good to be rugged, with long battery life, running a stripped-down-for-stability OS, with recording software capable of running the SoundField decoding plugin. Also with FireWire connection, should the audio interface require it.
- An audio interface with high-quality preamps and at least 4 XLR inputs.
- (probably also an external hard drive and/or solid state memory for extra space and backup purposes)

So, especially those of you with laptop field recording experience, what suggestions might you have in regard to these two pieces of equipment?
Old 9th February 2009
  #2
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I'm thinking you may get more attention in this forum.

Let us see how it works out for you.
Old 9th February 2009 | Show parent
  #3
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SoundDevices 744T can decode B format files in realtime. It has two preamps, so you'd need to add two more outboard or get a small 4ch mic pre.

Soundfield B-Format Recording and Monitoring*|*Sound Notes*|*Sound Devices, LLC
Old 10th February 2009 | Show parent
  #4
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hola - for those of you/us who cannot (yet) afford a soundfield mic, you might want to consider the new core sound "tetramic", which was designed under the same principles and has similar decoding software. the tetramic is about $1k.
Old 10th February 2009 | Show parent
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnorman ➑️
hola - for those of you/us who cannot (yet) afford a soundfield mic, you might want to consider the new core sound "tetramic", which was designed under the same principles and has similar decoding software. the tetramic is about $1k.
The Tetramic is $999, but it is an a la carte treat. There are additional bits of software/hardware that need be added to get it to work. It checks out at ~$1,300, closer to SF in price that before. That was a gambit which left a bad taste in my mouth. Kind of like selling a recorder for $999 but which needed about $300 for the HD and pre-amp to make it work. YMMV on this one.

The Schoeps DMS system of recording three mics (card, f8, card) to achieve 5.1, and lessor arrays interests me and I wonder how these two formats would compare for quality and accuracy of sound.


Cheers

Last edited by boojum; 10th February 2009 at 05:36 AM.. Reason: aftertought
Old 10th February 2009 | Show parent
  #6
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booj - thanks for the info. i had not checked the tetramic out that far. i will look into the schoeps method - that sounds fun.
Old 7th October 2009 | Show parent
  #7
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Any new SPS200 info out there?

Hi Guys:
Old thread resurrection warning.

I am seriously considering the SPS200 to be used in conjunction with the 788T that I am also considering :-) for a slutty upgrade from my 442 / 744 rig. I record mainly classical Indian small ensembles in a nice custom room where this set up will mainly used.

The 788 does the B-format to stereo decode for monitoring so I am covered there and I guess the software will allow me to do the actual manipulation in post.

Recordings with "zero-phase" errors sounds very good ...

Anyone regularly use this system for small ensembles?

Thanks,
Baithak
Old 7th October 2009 | Show parent
  #8
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As for laptops, I'm evaluating the MBP 13" right now and it seems to be spot on.

FW 800 port, LED screen, up to 7-8 hours battery time. The unibody alu-chassi is effective enough so that the fans don't need to work for typical work. It's silent overall.

I tried recording 8 channels at 24/192 and the MBP didn't even get luke-warm. The fans did not start for the 20 minutes I did the test recording.

I think I'm a convert. :-)


/Peter
Old 25th December 2011
  #9
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I have SPS200 and use it with MacBook Pro 15'' with RME FF800. I really like the preamps on the FF, but unfortunately you have to match the gain knob by knob. And you really don't want to do it during the recording if suddenly the signals go too hot.. this is the only problem I faced so far.
Old 25th December 2011
  #10
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Wow, this is a very old thread, resurrected indeed, but a few things need straightening out. The SPS200 outputs in what's known as A-Format and the B-Format decoding on the 788T won't do anything for you except present you with a bit of a mess. You need the free SurroundZoneSPS software plug-in and a computer to do accurate monitoring.

All Soundfield mics, including the TetraMic, can decode to pretty much any surround format, but have the ability to provide height information if you have the right set up. There are quite a few free plug-ins to help you achieve this. The Schoeps double MS solution is nice, if you already have the kit: if not, by the time you've bough the capsules, the suspension mount and the windshield kit, if you're working outdoors, it's a tad pricey.

As with all these systems, it depends entirely on what you're trying to achieve and in what situation. I've been using Soundfield mics for sound effects recording and for some music recordings for over twenty years, and for the last eleven, with Metric Halo interfaces and Mac laptops. Many of my recordings are now used for demonstration purposes at conference discussions and at university research departments, so I have a bit of an idea what I'm talking about. Currently, I have three mics - an ST250, an SPS200-SB and a TetraMic, and they all get used for different purposes. I now have the means to start experimenting with the Schoeps DMS system and it'll be interesting to see how it compares.

Regards and happy Christmas.
John
Old 25th December 2011 | Show parent
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound ➑️
Currently, I have three mics - an ST250, an SPS200-SB and a TetraMic, and they all get used for different purposes.
John, can you describe some of the strengths and weaknesses of these compared with one another?
Old 25th December 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baithak ➑️
Hi Guys:
Old thread resurrection warning.

I am seriously considering the SPS200 to be used in conjunction with the 788T that I am also considering :-) for a slutty upgrade from my 442 / 744 rig. I record mainly classical Indian small ensembles in a nice custom room where this set up will mainly used.

The 788 does the B-format to stereo decode for monitoring so I am covered there and I guess the software will allow me to do the actual manipulation in post.

Thanks,
Baithak
The SPS200 records in A format -as does the Tetra. I use a SPS 200 with a Nagra VI for western classical music.
Old 26th December 2011 | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leddy ➑️
John, can you describe some of the strengths and weaknesses of these compared with one another?
Yes, I'll do a comparison in a day or so. Just let the Christmas dinner settle...

Regards,

John
Old 26th December 2011
  #14
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🎧 15 years
Thanks Larry and John

Yep, I did not understand the A and B format issue when I posted that.

Fortunately since meeting the Soundfield folks (great people), that was clarified and I have purchased the ST450 about a year ago and am getting excellent results for this past year. I actually did a shoutout for these guys in July and don't mind doing it again.

https://gearspace.com/board/remote-p...t-service.html

I have also shared my impression of the mic on that thread.

Best regards,
Baithak
Old 26th December 2011 | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound ➑️
Yes, I'll do a comparison in a day or so. Just let the Christmas dinner settle...

Regards,

John
Thanks, John. Looking forward to it.
Old 26th December 2011 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound ➑️
. . . I now have the means to start experimenting with the Schoeps DMS system and it'll be interesting to see how it compares.

Regards and happy Christmas.
John
John, you can also use one of the "four card" mics like the Pearl DS 60 and the Line Audio mic that is similar. They render a fig-8 and two cards and the signal can be fiddled with in the Schoeps software plugin for decoding. I have played with this just a little bit but have not done anything extensive. Just another option.

Cheers
Old 5th March 2012 | Show parent
  #17
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🎧 5 years
more on the TetraMic & SPS200

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound ➑️
Currently, I have three mics - an ST250, an SPS200-SB and a TetraMic, and they all get used for different purposes.
Hi, John -

I've been using a TetraMic for about a year now, and have been very happy with it. I record a lot of music, both acoustic and amplified (classical and new-music ensembles, mostly) - in your experience, would an SPS200 be an "upgrade" for this kind of work, or merely different?

Also, how would the two mics compare for doing boom-style location sound? I think the TetracMic's cabling and susceptibility to RFI would be a problem, and am wondering if the SPS200 is up to the task. Your helpful replies to my thread on the surround list last year about RFI alluded to your experiencing problems with both types of mic in NYC, which is where I live - are the equally susceptible, would you say, or is the SPS200 a bit more robust?

Thanks for being the great on-line resource that you are! I see your name all over this forum and the surround list.

cheers,

j
Old 5th March 2012 | Show parent
  #18
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by jaschanarveson ➑️
Hi, John -

I've been using a TetraMic for about a year now, and have been very happy with it. I record a lot of music, both acoustic and amplified (classical and new-music ensembles, mostly) - in your experience, would an SPS200 be an "upgrade" for this kind of work, or merely different?

Also, how would the two mics compare for doing boom-style location sound? I think the TetracMic's cabling and susceptibility to RFI would be a problem, and am wondering if the SPS200 is up to the task. Your helpful replies to my thread on the surround list last year about RFI alluded to your experiencing problems with both types of mic in NYC, which is where I live - are the equally susceptible, would you say, or is the SPS200 a bit more robust?

Thanks for being the great on-line resource that you are! I see your name all over this forum and the surround list.

cheers,

j
I tried the sPS200 and TetraMic side-by-side (I have the SPS200 and Mike Skeet has a TetraMic).

The SPS200 is quieter than the Tetra and has proper condenser capsules, rather than electret. The SPS200 is fully balanced from the output - the Tetra is unbalanced and is only balanced at the XLRs at the end of the cable.

Yes - the SPS200 is a good upgrade from the TetraMic - but it is about 50% more expensive.

The attached photos show:
1) the TetraMic and SPS200 side-by-side showing the size difference.
2) my SPS200 in Rycote USM-L shockmount with the optional thin and flexible cable (to decouple the mic. from the main cable).
Attached Thumbnails
A field recording laptop setup for a Soundfield mic-tetra-soundfield-sizes.jpg   A field recording laptop setup for a Soundfield mic-soundfield-sps200-usm-l-cable.jpg  
Old 5th March 2012
  #19
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Well, circumstances have changed and I'm changing what I'll be using in the future, but for now, here's my take on the Tetra and the SPS200. Bear in mind that I have the -SB/Zephyx model, rather than the ordinary SPS200. (And it's for sale, by the way.)

The TetraMic gives super results for fixed recordings through a good low-noise pre-amp/interface. When used with my Metric Halo ULN-8, I'm very happy with the results. In my experience, it's less successful as a boom-mounted location mic, although the latest Rycote Lyre set-up helps a lot. The biggest problem is handling noise transmitted through the cable and connector; which leads to LF disturbance. The RF problem hasn't come back since I came back to the UK, but was in evidence in certain parts of Boston and New York. It was very much location dependent, i.e. not a problem down by Riverside Drive, but more of a problem in Midtown. The RF problem with the SPS seems to have been down to a cable screen fault at the connector, which has now been fixed by Soundfield and there have been no RF problems since.

The Zephyx suspension mount & windshield system gives superb isolation from handling noise and is light enough not to be a pain at the end of a hand-held boom, so it's been my favourite for location work. A couple of weeks ago, I heard a excellent recording of a 'cello trio made with an SPS-200, so have no qualms about recommending its use for music.

So why am I selling the SPS200-SB? Well, I've now got a Sound Devices 788T, which has inbuilt B-Format decoding and I'm using that far more for effects recording, so I'm upgrading to an ST450, which will work well with the 788. My beloved ST250 has gone to a new generation of Soundfield enthusiast, about which I'm very pleased, and if the ST450 has the same longevity, I'll be very happy.

So, brief sum-up: TetraMic - great for music with decent suspension mount and low-noise pre-amp. Not so great for swinging around on the end of a pole, IMHO. SPS200, fine for music, and with correct suspension and windshield, fine for boom work, but pretty much twice the price, as Mr Willet has pointed out.

I will continue using the TetraMic with the ULN-8 and the ST450 will pair well with the 788T as well and that's pretty much the scenario for me for the foreseeable future.

I hope that helps. Any questions? The SPS is in the classifieds and goes on Ebay in a few days.

Best wishes,

John
Old 5th March 2012 | Show parent
  #20
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Thumbs up

Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound ➑️
Well, circumstances have changed and I'm changing what I'll be using in the future, but for now, here's my take on the Tetra and the SPS200. Bear in mind that I have the -SB/Zephyx model, rather than the ordinary SPS200. (And it's for sale, by the way.)

The TetraMic gives super results for fixed recordings through a good low-noise pre-amp/interface. When used with my Metric Halo ULN-8, I'm very happy with the results. In my experience, it's less successful as a boom-mounted location mic, although the latest Rycote Lyre set-up helps a lot. The biggest problem is handling noise transmitted through the cable and connector; which leads to LF disturbance. The RF problem hasn't come back since I came back to the UK, but was in evidence in certain parts of Boston and New York. It was very much location dependent, i.e. not a problem down by Riverside Drive, but more of a problem in Midtown. The RF problem with the SPS seems to have been down to a cable screen fault at the connector, which has now been fixed by Soundfield and there have been no RF problems since.

The Zephyx suspension mount & windshield system gives superb isolation from handling noise and is light enough not to be a pain at the end of a hand-held boom, so it's been my favourite for location work. A couple of weeks ago, I heard a excellent recording of a 'cello trio made with an SPS-200, so have no qualms about recommending its use for music.

So why am I selling the SPS200-SB? Well, I've now got a Sound Devices 788T, which has inbuilt B-Format decoding and I'm using that far more for effects recording, so I'm upgrading to an ST450, which will work well with the 788. My beloved ST250 has gone to a new generation of Soundfield enthusiast, about which I'm very pleased, and if the ST450 has the same longevity, I'll be very happy.

So, brief sum-up: TetraMic - great for music with decent suspension mount and low-noise pre-amp. Not so great for swinging around on the end of a pole, IMHO. SPS200, fine for music, and with correct suspension and windshield, fine for boom work, but pretty much twice the price, as Mr Willet has pointed out.

I will continue using the TetraMic with the ULN-8 and the ST450 will pair well with the 788T as well and that's pretty much the scenario for me for the foreseeable future.

I hope that helps. Any questions? The SPS is in the classifieds and goes on Ebay in a few days.

Best wishes,

John
The ST450 is an excellent mic. and what I would have bought had I been able to afford it.

I got the SPS200 as the next best as the quality is high and the money saving comes from the fact that you don't pay for the processing box.

I'm sure you will be happy with the ST450.
Old 5th March 2012 | Show parent
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett ➑️
I tried the sPS200 and TetraMic side-by-side (I have the SPS200 and Mike Skeet has a TetraMic).

The SPS200 is quieter than the Tetra and has proper condenser capsules, rather than electret. The SPS200 is fully balanced from the output - the Tetra is unbalanced and is only balanced at the XLRs at the end of the cable.

Yes - the SPS200 is a good upgrade from the TetraMic - but it is about 50% more expensive.
I certainly understand the electret and unbalanced difference, but other than the self-noise, do you hear a difference? Could you identify them in a blind test (assuming noise was not an audible give-away)?
Old 6th March 2012 | Show parent
  #22
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by leddy ➑️
I certainly understand the electret and unbalanced difference, but other than the self-noise, do you hear a difference? Could you identify them in a blind test (assuming noise was not an audible give-away)?
Don't ask me - listen for yourself.

The SPS200 is a true condenser with four closely-matched top-end condenser capsules (OEM manufactured by MBHO for Soundfield who also make the capsules for Brauner and other top-end manufacturers).

The TetraMic is an electret condenser which, IMHO, is excellent value for money, but not in the same class as the Soundfield.
Old 6th March 2012
  #23
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Ah! How fast answers come on forums like this.

Thanks to John and John for the details about the SPS200. Something else I'm curious about - I know Len at Core-Sound advertises calibration services for the SPS200, presumably resulting in a settings file for VVTetraVST - is that how it works? Has anyone done it, and did it make a difference, or do the SPS200s ship closely matched enough that calibration like this isn't a huge improvement?

cheers,

j
Old 6th March 2012
  #24
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...and a related question...

As long as I'm talking to experts about upgrades, I should ask: which is potentially a better upgrade to consider, if I can only do one:

option 1: go from the TetraMic to an SPS200 and get the Busman audio mod for my Tascam DR680 (which, in its un-modded state, is my current recording device)

option 2: keep using the TetraMic, but get a Zaxcom Nomad recorder (which has mic pres that get nice comments and reviews from people, as far as I can tell).

I think the Tascam's pres are fine, but not "amazing" in the way that a higher-end recorder's would be. I don't really know how good the Busman mod is, but I'm assuming it's something, since people also seem pretty positive about it.

Thanks again!

cheers,

j
Old 6th March 2012
  #25
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These are not easy questions to answer: I think that the TetraMic and the SPS200 are different animals and that the specific configuration files that come with each TetraMic play a large part in determining why the microphone sounds so good. There are advantages to both mics, but it can't be denied that the Soundfield mic has the edge in terms of noise and the balanced outputs. I haven't yet put the two mics side by side on a music recording, and I may not be able to do that before the SPS is sold, so I can't offer a useful opinion based on a direct comparison, but for the price, the TetraMic gives exceptional results.

I had a Busman-modified DR680 for a short time and the TetraMic worked well with it. I got rid of the DR680 quite soon, mainly because of the build quality, which I felt would not stand up to the challenges of the kind of location recording that I get involved in. Even when it was in a PortaBrace, I was always somewhat fearful about physical damage. I wasn't able to make a direct comparison between the un-modded DR680 that I first owned (and which had a number of QC problems documented elsewhere) but the cost of a modded DR680 in the USA was extremely competitive at the time I purchased mine, even taking import duty into consideration, so I thought it was worth doing, regardless. Oh, and of course the SPS also worked perfectly well with the DR680.

The Nomad is an altogether different beast - and considerably more expensive than a modded DR680; you're entering a different world at that level. I don't have a Nomad, but I can tell you that the TetraMic does work well with a Sound Devices 788T as, of course, does the SPS.

Again, it's really difficult to suggest what you should do: after all, the Busman mod is around $300 and a six-track Nomad is $4,700.00. You could always get the mod done, see if you're happy with the results and if not, sell it on and use the money to buy the Nomad. You can always upgrade to a Soundfield later, if you feel the need. If you're mostly working indoors with it on a well-isolated stand, the TetraMic should continue to give you good results.

Sorry, that's really long-winded way to say that no-one can make the choice for you: it all depends on your individual needs. I will see if I can arrange a comparison recording before the SPS goes under the hammer, but I'm right in the middle of a whole series of theatre shows at the moment and my time's a bit limited.

Regards,

John
Old 6th March 2012
  #26
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pic of how to mount the soundfield ST450 for recording?
Wondering how to get it away from camera fan noise (RED), but still close enough to manage controls. Thanks
Old 6th March 2012
  #27
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Mr Willett posted a pic of the Rycote USM L in post 18*
Does the Red have 4 good tracks ?
Doesnt in get slightly quieter in record mode
Use a long lens
Record discrete
Old 6th March 2012
  #28
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Of course, Mr. Willett's picture shows an SPS200, not an ST450: however, you can mount the ST450 in the appropriate Rycote USM suspension mount, or in either one of the two Rycote windshield kits, which also come with the special lead to decouple the mic from the mount.

The RED does have four good tracks (although I'm not sure if they're mic/line switchable) and the ST450 control box is, of course, remote from the mic, so the mic can be far enough away from the camera and still allow you to control it at the camera position.

Regards,

John

Last edited by johnsound; 6th March 2012 at 09:05 PM.. Reason: Premature articulation...
Old 6th March 2012 | Show parent
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound ➑️
The RED does have four good tracks (although I'm not sure if they're mic/line switchable)
thanks very much. No line input on RED until their pro I/O is available.
Appreciate the info. I'll post back after talking to Wohler reps at NAB vegas show, also Sound Devices, and the RED team. Tempted to spend $ on soundfield's DFS-1 but then any location recording would require plug-in power supply.
Old 6th March 2012 | Show parent
  #30
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Hi, John -

Thanks again for the useful feedback!

I appreciate how limited are the hours in the day, but if you do manage a side-by-side comparison of the TetraMic and the SPS200, that would be quite illuminating. Someone else posted results from a side-by-side test of a TetraMic and an ST450, and, no surprise, the ST450 did have a bit of an edge on the Tetra (though, of course, the cost/performance ratio of the Tetra remains nothing short of miraculous, and I thank Len silently every time I set up for a recording!).

cheers,

j



Quote:
Originally Posted by johnsound ➑️
These are not easy questions to answer: ...

...

Regards,

John
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