Wireless lav and mixer questions
We are a small educational video production company, and we are looking to upgrade our audio equipment and improve the audio quality of our products. We are newbies to mixers, but we've been reading everything we can get our hands on about them because it seems that will make a big improvement in audio quality.
We will be doing a number of 2-camera shoots in several developing countries this fall, with a three-person crew.
We have looked into the Azden FMX-42 and ENG-44 mixers (4-channel mixers), and both seem like reasonable mixers within our budget. However, we were wondering how important it is to have a field mixer that has 4 outputs, to allow us to record all four channels separately. We normally use four mics (two on each camera) and record each mic separately on its own channel to give us maximum flexibility in post. We're a little nervous about mixing two mics in the field onto one channel, but we definitely want the better quality and control we'll get from using the mixer. Do we have to jump up to a much more expensive mixer in order to get 4 outputs? I would be interested in hearing people's real-world experiences using mixers, whether it's worth the trade-off to mix to one channel instead of separate channels, etc. We can't afford a $1-2K mixer this year, but if we're just throwing money at a lower-end mixer like the ENG or Azden, then we might want to wait until next year or so when we can get a higher-end, 4 output mixer. Thoughts?
Another question regarding lavs:
We currently have the following audio equipment:
Samson UHF Series One micro diversity wireless lav
Audio Technica AT-835b shotgun mic
Country Man B3 series lav
Cameras: PD150 and PDX10 with short-shotgun XLR mics (for back-up/ambient sound only)
We would like to add an additional wireless lav for production (the constraints of our shoots make wireless lavs preferred in many of our situations, despite the better quality of the wired lavs and overhead shotgun mics). We are looking to purchase the Sennheiser G2, but would we hear a big difference when using both the Samson and Sennheiser lavs at the same time? Is it just a question of testing the two wireless mics ahead of time and adjusting gain on the mics until they sound similar, or do we really need to use two Sennheiser G2 systems in order to get similar quality/sound tone?
Trade-offs, trade-offs... we appreciate any advice or experiences with these situations!
Thanks for taking the time to read this message.
Wendy Kohn, Kwamba Productions
You would need to spend more money to get a mixer with more than two outputs. However, in order to isolate each microphone on individual channels you will need a mixer with "direct outputs" not two sets of main outputs. Direct outputs allow you to send an output of that input channel without interrupting what is sent to your main outputs. Direct outs are sent post gain / pre fade which means that the mixer volume knobs don't do anything. So unless you are wanting better sounding preamps for your shotgun mics or limiters for each channel, then you are just wasting your money especially if you're not going to actually "mix" any audio. Others may disagree, but that's my 2 cents worth.
Unless you absolutely trust your sound mixer (the person not the equipment), then isolating each mic is the best way to go. It definitely gives you the most flexibility in post, assuming you have the time to mix them in post.
I can't really speak to your wireless situation, as I've never used the Samson wireless. However, if I had to bet on which system would perform and sound better, my money would be on the Sennheiser system. I've used the G2 systems and, coupled with the right mic, they sound pretty good. Simply matching the levels/gain between the Samson and Sennheiser doesn't guarantee that they will sound the same. They will sound different, but mainly because you are using different lav mics with each system.
Hope this helps. I'm a bit tired and may (probably) have missed something. Please don't hesitate to ask if I was unclear or didn't address one of your concerns.
Freelance Sound Technician/Mixer
We have 2 EW112-PG2 that we have used for a couple years. I would classify them as decent for the money. I've had trouble with random drop outs and jack repairs to the point that we are now trying to swing financing for the Lectrosonics. I had a gorilla film maker recommend the Audio Technica as a preferred alternative to the PG2 amongst producers in that field.
On a couple shoots we were short on audio and I borrowed some Samsons from the local PEG station. Holy piece of garbage! There are insufficient adjectives to describe the uselessness of these mics. If you absolutely must go cheap, Do Not Go Cheap and wireless! Go hardwired and deal. There is no such thing as cheap wireless, if for no other reason than you will find yourself blowing through batteries every half hour. I've also encountered Samson handhelds in my club band travels and the same holds true. Seriously the Samsons are a joke, don't waste your money.
As far as recorders/mixers go I just posted a question about the Edirol R4Pro, you might want to follow that thread as well.
Kaizen Productions LLC &
Media Technician, William Paterson University
As far as wireless goes, you get what you pay for. That doesn't mean that the less expensive ones won't work for you. But it depends on how you're using them.
If you're going to be outside in sometimes unknown conditions, the Lectrosonics are the best choice. In my opinion, they're the only ones really made to take abuse and rough conditions; these things are tuff! If money is an issue, then you would be better off finding some used ones on Ebay or from places like Trew Audio, Coffey Sound, or Location Sound Corp. than buying new stuff of lesser quality.
As far as your mixer question, it's always better to keep mics on seperate tracks (or channels) as much as you can. It will give you more options in editing.
Thanks so much for the input!
Sounds like we would be better off spending our budget on higher-end mics this year, and skip the mixer altogether for now (or always?), since we are able to route each mic to a separate channel and mix in post.
If we get better wireless lavs (Sennheiser or Lectronics - we agree that the Samson is crap), how much difference will the pre-amps/limiters that we'd get from a mixer make in overall quality? In other words, if we have good quality mics going to separate channels on our cameras, will using a mid-range mixer make a difference in sound quality? Obviously, high-end mixers with high-end mics and an experienced sound person is the ideal, but can't do everything all at once, so i'm just trying to figure out where to put our money this year (budget of about $1500), and what to try to plan for in the budget for next year. And we want to learn more about audio, so we'd like to improve our skill set as well!
Are the Lectronics Series 100 lavs better quality than the Senn G series, in people's experience? The Lectronics on the top-end of our budget range (we'd need to get two, of course), so we'd rather stay with getting two of the Senn G lavs if they are fairly close in quality to the Lectronics. As long as we stay away from Freq Blocks 27, 28, and 29, we'll be OK, right?
Thanks again for the advice and assistance helping us learn more about good audio systems. We really want to improve that part of our work as much as possible!
Wendy Kohn, Kwamba Productions
Comparing the Sennheiser and the Lectro 100 series is pretty fair. The Lectro has a couple of advantages that I can think of:
1) The robustness of the Lectro trumps that of the Sennheiser. The G2 is plasticky and feels cheap. To get into the lower price point, you have to skimp on something. This is one of those areas.
2) I'm not positive on the specs, but the lower series Lectro transmitters may have an RF output of 50mW versus the G2's 30mW. The Lectros top range transmitters can be ordered at 100mW or 250mW. The higher the RF output, the better your range (distance) between transmitter and receiver before breaking up. This is also helpful if someone else is on the same (or adjacent) frequency and you are getting some interference. If the interference is low level and you are transmitting a higher power output, then you may get by without issues.
Here's the controversial bit. If all of your work is done in other countries, then the block 27-29 issue may not be a problem. Why is this controversial? Because different countries have different RF bands/channels that are available to users. The frequencies that you use in one country might be in a military band in another.
I used to work for an international relief agency as a location sound mixer. I never had any real problems with this. However, I did have to be a little careful in heavily communist countries, where we were always "monitored".
Freelance Sound Technician/Mixer