Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wireless Transmitter Power Table

There are plenty of other specs to compare when it comes to wireless transmitters but one of the most significant is looking at the amount of power a transmitter can output while sending a signal to the receiver. Lets compare a few tiers of common wireless units in the sound field: Comtek m-216 IFBs send an audio signal outputting 10mW (milliwatts) of power. Sennheiser G2s use 20mW, G3s: 30mWZaxcom QIFB option of QRX100 (older version) along with some older Lectrosonics units send signals at 50mW. Some of the older and even newer Lectrosonics send signals at 100mW. The most common Lectrosonics transmitters these days are the SMV series. "V" meaning "variable" as in a variable power. The SMQV can send signals at 50mW, or 100mW or even 250mW, which is pretty much only necessary for very long distance in crowds such as the national anthem on the center of a football field at a stadium with tens of thousands of fans with their phones, coaches with their headsets, security with their walkies and officials with their wireless mics. For the record, the Zaxcom TRXLA2 can output variable power of 25, 50, or 125mW. Of course, the more power it outputs, the quicker it drains batteries.

IFB Transmitters:

Comtek M-216: 10mW
Zaxcom QRX100 QIFB option: 50mW
Zaxcom ZaxNet IFB200: 75mW
Zaxcom TRX900: 10, 50, 100mW (selectable)
Lectrosonics IFBT4: 250mW

Body Transmitters:

Sennheiser EW 100 G2: 20mW
Shure FP Series: 10-30mW (varies by region)
Sennheiser EW 100 G3: 30mW
Shure LX Series: 50mW
Zaxcom TRXLT2, Lectrosonics LMb, LMa: 50mW
Lectrosonics SSM: 25, 50mW (selectable)
Lectrosonics UM400a, SMd or SMDa, MM: 100mW
Lectrosonics LT: 50, 100mW (selectable)
Zaxcom TRXLA2: 25, 50, 125mW (selectable)
Lectrosonics SMQa: 250mW
Lectrosonics WM, SMV or SMQV: 50, 100, 250mW (selectable)

Plug-On (Boom) Transmitters:

Sennheiser SKP100, SKP3000: 30mW
Sennheiser SKP300: 10, 30mW (selectable)
Lectrosonics HM, UH400a: 100mW
Zaxcom TRX742: 25, 50, 125 mW (selectable)

Radio Frequency: Go Long!

So much can be said about wireless technology in location sound operations, so I'll keep this discussion fairly focused. When discussing the quality, strengths and differences between a wireless system, most make comparisons at the transmitter level, which makes sense; the transmitter is the one with the signal that needs to be sent through a field of obstacles. The transmitter is comparable to your Quarterback and one of the most important factors of that Quarterback or Transmitter is the power it can send a signal (Click here for my table of power outputs for popular wireless systems). However, what is often overlooked is the Receiver.

I used to use Sennheiser G3s as my body mics due to their value with a professional quality in an affordable price. But it was too often that I would lose a signal once someone leaves the room or turns a corner or sometimes is just surrounded by a bunch of extras. So I upgraded my wireless systems to Lectrosonics using primarily SMQv's as the transmitters and UCR411a's as the receivers. The 411a's are Lectrosonics top pride in quality receivers. They are simply bullies in the RF field. However, they do cost a pretty penny and are very bulky in an already heavy bag I lug around. So, in order to save space in my audio bag and save my back from unnecessary strain, along with relieving my bank account, I considered investing in Lectrosonics' SRb dual channel receiver. Instead of buying two more 411a's, I've got 1 SRb sitting in the bag saving more than 4x the amount of weight (~1.5lbs saved per SR) and more than double the space. But I don't like to compensate quality. Lectrosonics claims that the SRb is a comparable equivalent to the UCR411a in quality, but not equal to. The 411a has a front end filter of 11 MHz wide as compared to the SRb being a full block of 25 MHz wide (narrower is better), with no tracking filter. So I A/B compared the two in a walking test with a few sound buddies, Mike Moote and Allistair Johnson.

SMQv @100mW in car behind car,
411a on me, no RF
We threw a DPA 4071 on Allistair connected to an SMQv in block 20 and configured an SRb and a UCR411a in the same frequency to see who would drop out first. We sent Allistair on a walk outside and down the street in Brooklyn, NY. I'd say he got about 150-200 feet before the SRb started having some bad hiss and clicks. After only a few more steps, the UCR411a would consistently have minor hissing from the weak signal. We sent him further including around the building corner and they both started having dropouts. Consistently the 411a had a stronger signal and a bit more range. In some circumstances, that hiss from the 411a may be usable if it's a crucial scene for reality or documentary as the SRb's signal may not have been usable. However, in most of my applications, once we started hearing that weak signal hiss, both were unusable in my eyes and we only started hearing that just maybe two steps further. So, already having a few 411a's in my bag, I decided to invest in an SRb, which will become more necessary when the FCC bans our use of blocks 24 and up, limiting us basically to blocks 20-22. I've been told that running wireless in the same block is better quality through an SRb rather than two 411a's as they'll play nicer when they're designed to (I hope someone can confirm this for me) and when you have 4-6 body mics, a wireless boom, 4+ monitoring IFBs, and 2+ wireless camera hops all being limited to 3 frequency blocks, everyone will need to play nice in the tiny play pin to which the FCC will be limiting us. However, there are plenty of creative ways to fight RF.

Other than setting up Shark Fins, the best ways to keep a strong signal may be the obvious methods of keeping transmitters and receiver antennas pointed up and high in the sky. It's obviously important to keep the distance of the two at a minimum but some may not realize how much getting closer helps. If I can get my receiver twice as close, i.e. from 50 feet away to 25 feet away, that does not double my signal strength; it quadruples it. So even if I can only get 5 feet closer, that's in a sense getting 10 feet closer and could certainly make the difference. Another thing many people don't realize is when setting up your transmitters at the beginning of the day, some people line them up side by side. Try to avoid doing this.
If you do this, make sure only one unit is on at a time or that the antennas are aligned head to toe, alternating; Tx 1 antenna pointed north, Tx 2 antenna pointed south, Tx 3 antenna pointed north and so on. Otherwise, the transmitters will mess each other up even when separated, sorry for a lack of technical terminology here. Turning phones off and staying away from heavy currents such as ballists are a few more obvious things to remember but when it comes to IFBs, I found a method I started using pretty regularly.

Working on a feature film, we had some locations where our video village was watching the scene from downstairs. Camera ran a boat load of BNC down the stairs but I had to send them a wireless feed for sound. I was using Comtek 216s. These only emit 10mW of power to send the audio signal. This is 1/25th of what my body mics can do. So, I took the term "wireless hop" and used it literally. Instead of sending my signal through the floor which has plenty of interfering wires and insulation in it, I sent a signal to the bottom of the staircase using a Sennheiser G2 at 20mW, and connected that receiver to a Comtek m-216 transmitter which then sent the signal from the staircase to the room next door at video village. Problem solved, and I used this method on other sets where video village was outside or at the other end of the building.

Whatever is more important in your situation, difference in size, range, or price, there are nearly endless specifications when it comes to wireless technology in this field but finding creative ways to get that signal from your Quarterback to Receiver as clean as possible is always in play.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

SD 688 Preview

Sound Devices just announced a new mixer/recorder earlier today: the SD 688. It's part of the 6-series mixers and is basically 2 664s placed in the same package with some of the firmware of the 633 and a few other options and features. The 688 is only in pre-order phase right now but around St. Patrick's day (March 17, 2015), it should be available for shipping in the US. I'm not here to tell you everything about it because obviously I don't know more about it than what you can find online but I will tell you my opinion of it and where I think it fits in the industry, being a SD 664 mixer myself.



First off, the big difference in the 688 and any other SD mixer is that it has 12 true inputs without the necessity of an additional fader controller such as the CL-6 or CL-8. It has 6 mic inputs and 6 line inputs (for which you would need to boost the gain tremendously or buy pre-amps for each of the 7-12 inputs and the faders for these are miniature similar to the ch 4-6 on the SD 633). The 664's ch 7-12 mixing capabilities without the CL-6 are very unfriendly and remind me of mixing on the Tascam DR-680 having to hit a button then sharing a tiny knob with 6 inputs to mix. The 688 looks like it's meant to go in the bag as opposed to being designed for table/cart use. Twelve inputs is simply too many for bag work. Try mixing AND MANAGING 12 inputs yourself on a reality show and possibly booming as well. It's not how the industry works, nor should it work. Anything more than 8 inputs in the field definitely means more than one field mixer. So, with that, the SD 788t sounds to me to be the largest SD mixer needed for field work. However, the 688 costs about $1,400 less than a 788 and seems to actually be a much better design, including the cleaner menu system. With the 788, many bag mixers add a CL-8 onto it in order to have faders for the inputs rather than just gain knobs which is going for another $1,221 (brings you to about $2,621 price difference from 788 to 688) and adds 35% of the weight of the 788 from 3.75 lbs to just over 5.07 lbs without batteries. This is heavier than the 688, only at about 4.87 lbs and the 664 at 4.75 Lbs (All heavy for a bag in my books. The SD 633 is 2.56 lbs naked giving you 6 inputs more or less).

So the 688 has 4 more inputs than the 788, weighs 0.2 lbs less (with cl-8 faders) and essentially costs roughly $2,600+ less and seems to have more new features and a cleaner menu system. However, it does cost about $900 more than a 664 and weighs 0.12 lbs more but essentially has double the faders without having to purchase a CL-6 (another $1,221 and 1.34 lbs) meaning if you need more than 6 inputs with faders, it's more affordable and more beneficial to use an SD 688 than an SD 788t or an SD 664 with CL-6. However, the 688 has more innovative features that are more or less new.


The SD 688 has mix assist which sounds like a great feature but I'm curious as to how helpful it really is and how much its algorithm/intelligence works similarly to a real sound mixer. I mean, the Zoom H4n has auto-mix and that really only is like an abusive limiter generally playing the levels low on the safe side. The 688 also has 8 direct outputs which is more than a 664 (6 direct outs) and they can be adjusted through the menu system as pre or post-fade.

But one of the biggest innovations to the SD 688 is the SL-6 which won't be available until Summer 2015. The SL-6 is essentially a 6 channel wireless system with a BDS system built inside. You can place an NP-1 battery in the back of this and power multiple additional units from the SL-6. This SL-6 also cleans up the bag, loses cable weight and saves time on shoots with rental gear by virtually having no cables going from the SL-6's 6 channels of wireless to the 688. This is great, however, it does add weight to the bag (not finding a number anywhere) and only houses 6 channels (3 SRb's for example); this is a 12 input mixer, so if all 12 inputs are being used, I'd imagine at least 10 of those are wireless, so you would still need to have a few more receivers somewhere else in the bag and hook those up to the mixer with cables and hook it up to the SL-6 for power.

There's a few other little features that the 688 has that are new such as Power Safe, and Quick Boot. One of its features, though, is the capability to record 192 kHz WAV files which is not possible on the 664 and only possible for 4 tracks on the 788. Anything above 48kHz is not at all useful for standard dialogue recording, only for sound effects and possibly ambient recordings and when recording those, I would not think a 12 track or even a 6 track mixer is necessary. The SD 633 can do this and that might even be a tad overkill for those types of jobs.

Regardless, as a 664 user, when I first heard of the 688 I was worried it might make the 664 obsolete but from the sounds of it, I think it's much more likely to make the 788 obsolete as the 664 is a bit lighter, and more affordable and still can record 12 tracks with 12 inputs and has the option of using a CL-6 too, if needed for a short shoot, although this would cost a little more than $300 purchasing price more than the cost of a 688 (I'd rent a CL-6 in these cases). Some may still prefer a 788t over the 688 for cart/table use though if they're using a CL-9, which as I mentioned before, anything over 8 inputs is more common for table/cart setups. For what I do, I'm sticking with my 664 but if I have to mix a reality show that's renting, I'd hope to see 688s with the SL-6 from now on rather than a 788, as long as there's still 2 or 3 field mixers if necessary instead of handing me a 688, 12 wires and caffeine pills.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Playback and the Angry Inch: Sound for Musicals

You don't want to know how long it took me to think of that title, I'm not a pro-titlemaker. If you can think of something better, please, entertain me. As I was saying, every now and then I'm asked to mix location sound on a Musical film or commercial. Musicals can be real fun and exciting to work on; they're so much different from standard genres particularly logistically.  What I often notice, though, is hiring managers on low budget musicals sometimes expect a 1-man-band sound person to also run playback. That thought is as silly as Pierce Brosnan's musical number "S.O.S." in Mamma Mia! Seriously, it's bad


Just because music is sound, does not mean it is the responsibility of the Sound Department, let alone the Sound Mixer. With that logic, ask the Steadicam Op to choreograph and pull ropes for stunts during the scene he is shooting because it's visual. This is the Music Department. If you want to put the Playback Operator on the call sheet under Sound Department, I won't attest, but my point is, when there's playback, there needs to be a Playback Operator. The Sound Mixer is far too busy to coordinate the songs, beats, metronomes and all playback with the Director and Choreographer while mixing and recording the scene. And to think I've been asked to do this all while booming myself. People make a living out of playback.

I've been the playback Operator on a musical feature film, I've been a PA on network television using playback and I've been the Sound Mixer on a few musicals along with plenty of non-musical films that require playback for certain scenes. If the budget calls for it, you have a Sound Mixer, Boom Operator, Sound Utility and a Playback Operator when necessary. The Playback Operator owns or rents a playback equipment package; an entire station at a cart or table. The Playback Operator works directly with the Director and the music department on when they want playback to start in a scene and when to stop. This conversation also involves the Sound Mixer to a certain degree to ensure everyone is on the same page and location sound is recorded in the most effective manner; what sound is usable, what is not and what is needed. The Playback Operator attends rehearsals in pre-production and creates a proper metronome of the song in a computer program to get talent in rhythm before the song actually starts.

Our friendly Playback Operator (Not Really)
In my experience as a Playback Operator, we've had a slightly smaller budget. I was doubling as a Sound Utility and Playback Operator. I had a table, a small pre-amp mixer, professional loudspeakers and a laptop using Audacity to create the proper metronome and play the songs. I got the appropriate songs from the Music Department in pre-production, some were edited during production and we kept in constant contact on having the proper files. I coordinated very closely with the Director on when he wanted the song to start playback and when to stop. This is far too much to ask a Sound Mixer to do him/herself. It's not even a question of being cheap during production with expectations of spending a bit more in post; it's physically impossible, unless perhaps you're Vishnu, but I bet Vishnu might charge accordingly.

When mixing musicals, for microphones, I like to use Neumann on the boom with DPA 4071 (used in Les Miserables) as my lav mic for vocals to help catch the full range of the voice whether it's loud belching or whispers. Neumann is fantastic for baritone and the choice for Beyonce, Celine Dion and The Beatles. For instruments and band-like scenes I may use stereo microphones, usually cardioid, or a DPA 4061 or 4071 on a string instrument.

On Ultra-Low budget musicals I've seen the AD department take a laptop or a phone and playback the song through cheap consumer speakers. There was no metronome, music was sometimes distorted and I'm sure the ADs were putting aside some very important work they could have been tending to. But it seemed to work for what we needed. When it comes to musicals and playback, communication is key but it requires a plan, preparation, proper hands, and realistic expectations.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Follow that CARdioid!

Often times I'm asked to capture sound for dialogue scenes in cars. They can be a bit tricky depending on the car, camera angle and where the mouths are moving, but in general, in my experiences, car scenes are quite systematic and easy to get good sound without a sweat. I'm going to breakdown my most common car setups.

In narrative, or anything I have time to set up, I do not mic the talent for car scenes, nor do I put a boom pole in there. Putting a lav mic on talent, as common as it is, should be the last resort for miking on almost any shoot I can think of. I don't do that in cars (unless it's run 'n gun reality TV/documentary and they're already miked) because they almost never move in a car much, so why waste time to go to holding to bother talent and wardrobe department to put a possibly uncomfortable microphone on each speaking talent when I can just place one or two microphones in the car while talent goes through the works, and camera/lighting sets up?

What I used to do, and many other mixers still do is place a lavaliere mic such as a Countryman B6 on the car ceiling in front of talent's face, and run the wire to the visor where I hide a transmitter. I didn't like this because no tape seems to stick well to the leather or headliner interior, it's sometimes in the shot, the range of the lav mic isn't enough, and they don't sound terribly natural anyways, and often, talent will release the visor to check out how sexy or imperfect they look in the little mirror and then I hear (Ah! Whoops! Um, Sound Guy!" as I sigh knowing the transmitter just fell on their lap.

So what I do now is place a wireless cardioid microphone in the car. This has much better reach than a lav mic and can pick up multiple people very nicely, smoothly and naturally. I have a mini mic stand set with a cast iron base, 4" stand, optional 13" gooseneck and a mic clamp to place this below frame (almost always just below talent's elbows). I usually either put that on the stand (sometimes I use a roll of gaff or two to to prop it up acting as a middle ground between the 4" and 13" heights); I'll use the stand in the back seats to capture everyone in the back. I can angle this straight up if someone in the front looks back to talk, it's a perfect position, near the center console. For the front seat, I usually ditch the stand and take a neopack, wrap it around the butt plug transmitter and place that in a cup holder and angle that towards talent if I can. All this works for moving or non moving cars. Also, going with a condenser microphone like this with a wind screen on it is more reliable against wind than a lav mic with a windscreen. So, much quicker and easier to set up, move and strike, less risk of wind noise, or rustling, much better sound quality, and fewer microphones are necessary, meaning less gear/money needs to be involved with this method, depending on how many speakers need to be captured at a time.

Some vehicles are funky though, and may present more challenges but depending on how you look at it, can actually make things easier. I had to mike a stationary army jeep for dialogue between talent sitting in the driver's seat speaking with talent standing outside of the car by the driver's side. The jeep had a leather roof which was raised at sections by metal frame bars. Our wide shot was very wide, so booming was far from ideal. So I attached the wireless cardioid to the mini mic stand and simply placed it between a metal bar running across the width of the car and the leather roof and angled the mic towards talent and out of frame, hidden by the curve of the roof. This caught both of their dialogue well, with lav mics in the mix a bit for safety/proximity.

Schoeps GVC swivel for MK4
I'm personally not a HUGE fan of Sennheiser microphones as they're known to pick up a lot of the higher frequencies which includes more reverb than I need for interiors and more leaves, rain and traffic than I need for exteriors. However, I love Sennheiser cardioids for car interiors because it's almost like a sound booth, so you shouldn't hear many of those background sounds. The higher frequencies in the voice in cars are a bit hard to come by as the lower frequencies travel throughout a car a lot, which is another reason why I love using a condenser mic rather than a lavaliere, and using a Sennheiser at that. Another great microphone for this would be a Schoeps MK5 which is very tiny/easy to hide, sounds incredible and is switchable between cardioid and omni directional polar patterns for different situations. Although, I would be more likely to use a Schoeps MK4 cardioid capsule on a GVC swivel which would give me a ton of flexibility literally and figuratively, especially if I'm placing a mic in a cup holder. For bus or airplane scenes, the mic stand on the floor in front of talent with both 4" and 13" gooseneck is what I normally do. If they're speaking into the window off axis, the voice will travel off the window nicely for an effective pickup into the mic, although if there's dialogue on a bus or commercial plane, I'm often able to get a boom in there anyways.

An additional challenge to some car scenes is getting that sound into my mixer. Sometimes we'll do a driving shot with a camera mount on the car and I mix from a follow vehicle with the Director, AD, DP, and often more keys. With this, I'll use a Lectrosonics HM butt plug transmitter into a UCR411a receiver with fresh batts on both ends for best range as we stay within a block of the car. sometimes there's nothing you can do to prevent RF, but if it's going to be that much of an issue, there are some transmitters out there that can record a compressed RF free backup track, or if there's no dialogue, I'll just place the mixer in the car, test the levels, hit record and send them off driving. When I'm in a follow van, instead of handing everyone comtek IFBs, I send one comtek feed to the front of the van and plug it into the 1/8" auxiliary input of the van, set the levels with the car's volume knob and we all can hear the dialogue clearly without 10 comteks floating around draining batteries.

For narrative driving shots, camera often requests the car drive very slowly to minimize bumps and it looks much faster on camera than it really is. So, I take that a step further and get a group of Pas I sucked up to at crafty to push the car in neutral rather than running the engine. This makes it easier for the actor "driving", easier for camera, and I don't hear the car rumble or engine running. I record that wild and it's added in post separately to ensure it's smooth, consistent and at the desired levels (very quite, unless you're Christopher Nolan, then we'll boost the wild car tracks so we can't hear the dialogue :-). It's a natural effect, eh?)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

DPA 4061 v. DPA 4071 Lav Mic Battle Royale

If you're thinking about trying out one of these lavaliere mics, you're thinking about both. Danish Professional Audio is known for manufacturing great microphones for music and some of their lav mics have become very popular in that line of work. The DPA 4061 and 4071 (Used in the musical film, Les Miserables) have made a crossover into location sound recording as body mics. In the following video, I briefly do an A/B comparison with the two microphones.




To clarify, the Lectrosonics SMqv that the 4071 was run through had the Low cut filter set to 35Hz which is its lowest setting. The SMd that the 4061 was run through did not have a low cut filter. The recording was done in a room with a window open and a pretty high amount of ambient sounds from outside.

It's so hard to tell from such a quick test like this; we'll have to tell from more field tests. I had admired the 4071 after hearing other A/B tests with that compared to the 4061 and other lavs. It sounded a bit more reliable than the 4061 and better under thick clothes. After my brief test here, I thought otherwise. It seemed less reliable, especially with all that wind noise it picked up, a bit more rustling, a bit more ambience and more bass, which isn't bad. Quality wise, they both sounded very similar and very good. This was my first experience with the 4071, so I can't say much about it but I've owned the 4061 for a few months now along with some B6s and here are my thoughts on that:

The Countryman B6 is great. It's natural sounding, small, and catches high ends of the voice which are easily lost in body micing. However, it is a very sensitive microphone. The 4061 seems to be much less sensitive than the B6 and even sounds more natural. I've been told that the SPL of the DPAs are incredible, much better than the Countryman B6, allowing me to get yelling to whisper scenes clean and not distorted. The 4061 doesn't sound as hissy as a B6 yet still is more effective under thick wardrobe. The DPA wires, however feel very cheap, similar to an ME2 wire, but more malleable. The 4061 is significantly larger than the miniature B6 but not too big; it's about the size of a Countryman B3, whereas the DPA 4071 is slightly longer than the 4061 and does not include a changeable frequency cap like the 4061 does.

I was hoping that the 4071 would sound better and be more reliable, but right now, I'm leaning towards the more affordable 4061 over the 71 and B6 in most applications. When work slows down, I'll make a more expansive video with field tests and I'll throw in the B6 to compare as well.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Neumann kmr81i vs Sennheiser mkh416 Battle

My Sound buddy Mike Moote and I totally geeked out one day at his pad and this is what we did; a comparison between his Sennheiser MKH416 and my Neumann kmr81i supercardioid shotgun microphones.



There's still much to be said about the two microphones. Make your own opinion on what you think about them.

My personal opinion after owning the Neumann kmr81i for the past 4-5 months and using the Sennheiser mkh416 on occasion is that I personally like the sound of Neumann much more. It makes outdoor scenes, especially, sound a bit more like a VO booth which is what drew me to it initially. Neumann is more known for their studio microphones and they have their sound. Sennheiser is more known for sounding natural, catching higher frequencies in the voice more than other microphones such as Neumann.

What I do like about the Neumann is even if the microphone is far from the speaker's mouth, it still sounds much closer than it is, catching the bass in their voice quite well. It doesn't pick up reflective reverb as much as most other supercardioid shotgun mics, and it doesn't pick up sounds like crickets much either. The downsides are that it picks up wind noise a lot and it's not as durable as a Sennheiser in situations involving humidity, intense heat or sand.

Sennheiser is known for sounding very natural and being an extremely durable and rugged brand in the field. The 416 is a supercardioid lobar pattern shotgun mic that has a longer reach than many of its counterparts, including the Neumann kmr81i, it seems. Longer reach, more isolation, but much more reverb pick up; it's not a microphone I would intend to use indoors as I could get away with the Neumann for some indoor locations. However, it is a microphone that has a strong presence in noisy outdoor locations such as a NYC street or documentary style walk through of a fleamarket.

The Neumann's lack of natural sound is not a deal breaker by any means; it sounds so good that it will be conceived as natural without question as long as its not mixed with a microphone like the 416.  I did mix a scene with the Neumann and a Sennheiser ME64 cardioid microphone as a stash mic. The two did not mix well together at all. They both picked up good sound, but you can really tell the Sennheiser picked up many more highs than the Neumann and that was distracting to me. I've been told that Sennheiser mixes well with Countryman microphones and that Neumann mixes with Schoeps microphones better than any other make. So if you can't stick to one brand, I hope that leads you in the right direction.