Mar. 27th, 2017

solarbird: (made her from parts)

Build reports are nice enough. (I wrote up a little errata post yesterday, by the by.) But the real question, of course, is how does the RK-47/990B kit mic sound?

Early impressions are surprisingly good. Even with only the single microphone, there’s a sense of presence and space – even with a purely mono signal path – that I normally have to dual-mic to attain. Also, it has tremendous precision – this is a mic capable of great subtlety. And the amount of gain built into the microphone itself is crazy – this is one spicy meatball of a microphone. That’s something you won’t hear in recordings, but it results in a lower noise floor, which is always good.

Let’s start with some unsubtle differences, ones that’ll show up on laptop speakers. Because while I’ve never liked the MXL-990, they sell a zillion of ’em, and we should make a couple of direct comparisons.

Here’s a snippet of chords from “Lukey,” alternating between the MXL-990 (unaltered factory) and the RK-47/990B. It starts with the MXL-990, then transitions in-song to the RK-47, then back and forth. It ends with the RK-47. It’s a pure mono signal path until prepped for uploading to Soundcloud.

And here’s a short melody, on zouk – again, starting on MXL-990 (factory stock), then RK-47, then back to MXL-990. The last phrase is repeated to allow us to end on the RK-47; also, I wanted that ending bit to be presented on both microphones. The glissando really highlights some of the differences.

But that’s shooting fish in a barrel, as it were. The MXL-990, while popular, is not a good microphone. We should do comparisons to microphones I actually like – let’s say, the M-Audio Nova. At about twice the price of the MXL-990, it’s still a cheap microphone, just one I consider entry-level competent. But it has issues – not the least of which being it’s kind of a noisy beast as these categories of microphones go.

So let’s take the easy swing – here’s a sharply boosted noise level comparison of the RK-47 to the M-Audio Nova, at equivalent gain levels. This is not the noise you’d actually hear; I recorded a silent room at gain appropriate on each microphone for instrument recording, then cranked that recording up 32db for easy noise levels comparison.

Unfortunately, this really requires headphones, because it’s RK-47 on left, Nova on right:

NOT SUBTLE. But also, an easy shot. The Nova is noisy and everybody knows it. There are some mods out there to improve that, but they change the sound a bit in ways I don’t like, so I work with it.

comparison of waveformsSo let’s dig down a bit. Pictured here is a snippet of waveform from a bit of music played, in mono, over my studio monitors, into identically positioned microphones relative to those speakers. These two recordings were made simultaneously.

You’ll note in this highly-zoomed-in render how the RK47 waveform remains clear and unmuddled in these extremely rapid changes, while the Nova’s blurs into a bit of a mush. That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about, and also, the sort of thing you can hear in these very short snippets of horns from a jazz track. This comparison requires headphones, possibly good ones:

They’re short because they must be uncompressed for best comparison – sorry about that – but listen to them a few times and compare. Note how the edges of detail – bits which add flavour – are blurred in the Nova, but retained in the RK-47. Neat, eh?

That out of the way, let’s step up a level in comparator microphones. Oktava 012s are considered very good affordable microphones, particularly strong in their price ranges, and street for a new 012 and one pickup is comparable to the cost of this kit. With a second head (to add a second pickup pattern, as this mic has), it’s a bit more. They’re small-can capacitor instrument mics, rather than large-can, but we’re doing instrument recording, so that’s fair. The components inside – particularly older ones picked up used – can be a bit dodgy, but the design is great and the pickups are great, and you can upgrade the iffy capacitors and the suspect transistor if necessary. I have, of course, done this with mine.

Here’s the intro to “King of Elfland’s Daughter,” on the Oktava 012 (upgraded components) and the RK-47/990B kit. This recording repeats phrases, with the Oktava 012 first, then the RK-47/990B. Pure mono signal path, identical recording setup made within a few minutes of each other, but not simultaneously, as you can’t put two microphones in exactly the same place and I wanted the most equal comparison I could, modulo performance limitations. This probably also requires headphones, as the 012 is a pretty darned precise microphone itself:

44.1khz/16-bit uncompressed WAV file version here.

Once again, I’m finding that the RK-47 has a real staging advantage. There’s a sense of in-the-room presence with the RK-47 that I can make happen by dual-miking with my other microphones and mixing down, but not directly in mono.

Now, I don’t want to leave the impression that it is BEST AT ALL THINGS, because it’s not. These aren’t the only recordings I made – they’re just ones that show differences best. The first example I found was mandolin – the Nova likes my mandolin better than the RK-47 does. The specific response behaviour and foibles of the Nova work in its favour; a single RK-47 may have more presence and precision than a single Nova, but the Nova recording sounded more musical just the same. I’m sure there will be other examples as well.

In the end, I think this will probably become a heavy-use microphone in my kit. It may even become my go-to mic on the zouk – I need to do some stereo and multi-distance comparisons before I will know that for sure, but it’s looking very good. I also like what it does with piccolo and flute. I haven’t done any playing around with fiddle or drums, and one thing I want to play with is a two-mic setup with the ribbon kit mic I built, to see how those behave together – it’s a mic placement technique I’ve wanted to try for a while, but have never got round to testing. Now is probably the time.

I kind of wish I’d ordered the matched-pair version of this microphone kit. But it would’ve cost twice as much and I couldn’t know in advance I’d like it this much, so.

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solarbird: (korra-on-the-air)
Lots on the Russia situation - first, on Nunes's continuing interference-run on behalf of the Trump administration. "Nunes met source at White House before surveillance announcement," "Chairman and partisan: The dual roles of Devin Nunes raise questions about House investigation," "Nunes’ Surveillance Claim: It’s Coming From Inside the White House," "House Democrats Ask Devin Nunes to Recuse Himself From Russia Inquiry." Good luck with that last one.

I wish I could expect more out of "Senate Committee to Question Jared Kushner Over Meetings With Russians." But, as we've seen, lying to Congress doesn't mean anything anymore, so even if he's truthful, we can't really know that, right? (Another version of that story, more partisan but not paywalled: "Trump’s son-in-law had undisclosed meeting with Putin crony with KGB ties.")

In "so much for breathing" news, "Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama’s climate-change record."

An opinion piece states the obvious: "The All-Male Photo Op Isn’t a Gaffe. It’s a Strategy." The channers loathe women. I cannot overstate how much they hate, despise, loathe women. It's the ocean in which they swim. And that extends well into Trump's larger base.

"White House keeps up sanctuary cities pressure with funding threat" and "King, Snohomish counties may be targets in Justice Dept. threat against ‘sanctuary cities’" are - well, the latest version of threats and stories made before. Still, keep an eye on it. Also in economic war news, "Next up for Trump Amateur Hour: NAFTA?" Cascadia is a net exporter. Hell, Cascadia runs a surplus with fucking MAINLAND CHINA. Or did, last time I saw figures. I can't wait to see how the Trumpists manage to screw that up.

"Seven Ways the Trump Administration Could Make Obamacare ‘Explode’" goes into detail about some of the ways the GOP will continue to play sabotage over the next few years.

In corruption news, we have a trifecta: "Carl Icahn Is Apparently Profiting Enormously From His Role as an Adviser to Donald Trump," "Finally, a Cure for Government Dysfunction: Nepotism," and "Why Republicans Are Ruling With Utter Incompetence." Well, okay, the last one isn't really... no, it is. "Trump keeps demanding credit for Obama’s successes" kinda is - let's call that the Plus4.

"Trump Repeals Regulation Protecting Workers From Wage Theft" is self-explanitory. "AP Exclusive: 'Bathroom Bill' to Cost North Carolina $3.76B" is kind of a lowball estimate, but is pretty solid as such and I'm good with that.

Finally, an historical: "How resistance overcame hate in Hood River" in World War II and after.

It's March 28, 2017; this is the news )

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