MXL USB.009 – A High-Quality New Media USB Microphone

New Media Gear
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MXL USB.009


The MXL 009 high-quality studio USB microphone.

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It wasn’t all that long ago when a USB mic was simply …a USB mic. There was a very limited number of options and almost no features. Only a year or so later, the USB mic landscape certainly has blossomed into a sub-culture of its own.

I’d like you to hear 2 brand new MXL offerings that add yet another dimension to the world of all-in-one USB recording. This show will focus on the new USB.009.

The 009 is a BIG microphone. The custom aluminum flight case is fairly standard and nicely trimmed with flat-black hinges and snaps. Inside, the mic, a USB cable, collar and unique stand await. The mic stand is not the typical small tripod type, but rather a miniature round/solid saucer reminiscent of a Junior Atlas. …a nice touch for a big mic

I like the extra tall stature of the 009 because there is no more crouching over the desk. The mic element was at just the right level for me.

Feature-wise, the 009 is loaded. 24-bit/96kHz recording capability, a large 32mm diaphragm and 3 POTS allow for discrete (pre-A/D) gain, input/output mix and headphone volume adjustments.

The bottom 2 POTS are the most interesting. In between my demo of the 009, I listened to audio clips and a few movie trailers …all without removing my headphones from the mic! I didn’t even notice. The gain and clarity were transparent to me. As well, I could listen to backing tracks as I recorded from the mic, using the “mix” potentiometer. The mix option is fantastic because you can control the amount of input (mic audio) heard while simultaneously monitoring audio from your computer. It’s a 2-way street and you have full control to load-balance the lanes.

There is just enough headroom and amplitude in the headphone amp that it drove my reference phones at a comfortable level with room to spare.

I almost forgot to mention how the mic sounds! The 009 has a very unique crispness to it that is hard to explain. For voiceovers, this mic will “cut” very well with a sharp presence. I didn’t detect any boominess (is that a word?). In fact, I didn’t even use a windscreen or pop filter as the instructions suggested. Even saying the word p-pop (is that a word?) didn’t make the diaphragm flinch – no plosives. Proximity effect is very low, but creeps up substantially about 1″ away from the capsules cardiod axis. When the mic is “hot” (ie: connected and detected by USB), a pleasant blue LED lights up the capsule area, giving a nice visual effect.

I have just one criticism about the 009 and that is the plastic knobs. The plastic cover for the middle POT felt spongy and kept turning past its end point. In a high-end mic like the 009, I would like to have a high-quality feel to these 3 controls, since they would be used often. Hopefully, newer runs of the 009 will address this.

Other than that, I think the folks at MXL have pulled off another great option in their USB line. With 24/96 resolution, simultaneous in/out monitoring and a very articulate “Fall Morning” crispness to the audio, this mic should be a hit with voiceover talent.

Average Street Price at Publish Time – $399.00

Best,
MarkJensen and Laura
Sig

Olympus LS-10 – Big Sound, Little Recorder for your Podcast

New Media Gear
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Olympus LS-10


The Olympus LS-10 Portable Recorder, capable of 96kHz/24-bit PCM recordings.

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Whether you are involved in Podcasting, New Media or even capture professional sound recordings, a high-quality portable audio recorder is a must. The demand for these miniature marvels of audio capture appears to be hitting the roof, because every major manufacturer has stepped up to the plate.

Today, we take a look at the Olympus LS-10 portable digital audio recorder. Olympus is no stranger to recording audio on a number of mediums. The model LS-10 concentrates on quality and ease of use in the smallest possible package. …not much bigger than my morning granola bar

Nicely packaged, the LS-10 first strikes me as being small. After unwrapping, I’m impressed with its appearance, wrapped in a muted-black color metal case with brushed aluminum [extrusion protected] metal level controls. Also included in the LS-10 box is Cubase LE multi-track recording software, a leather/nylon hybrid carry strap, USB cable, 1/8″ stereo audio cable and nylon carry case with leather accompaniments. …and 2 AA batteries. The LS-10 is light, tight and solid with a professional look.

A quick visual around the small chassis shows a mini headphone jack, volume POT and SD/SDHC port door for storage. A mini USB connector is protected by a rubber cover. Next, is a momentary contact power switch with a “hold” function. Powered by 2 AA batteries, the bottom reveals a coaxial type connector for (optional) 5VDC power. On the right side, a small lanyard notch is available for the included strap. A low-cut and mic sensitivity switch are right above. Then, the record level POT along with separate line and mic input jacks are available. On top, 2 very sensitive electrets in an X-Y axis configuration provide very nice stereo imaging. These mics are 90 degrees opposing each other instead of the [more typical] imposing configuration. This provides a nice spacial experience to an otherwise monolithic sound, without phase and high-frequency cancellation.

The important part – how does it sound? When using exposed, sensitive condenser mics, there is always a fine line between pulling in every whisper; so sensitive the recorder cannot be handled without picking up “rumble” and a loss of fidelity. Fortunately, there is a hardware low cut switch on the LS-10 to help with this very issue. I would highly recommend using the included windsocks on both mics; even indoors. These mics are hot and have a wide passband. As well as adjustable mic levels, there is a low/high sensitivity switch that basically attenuates input as well as a built-in limiter and bright peak LED that lets you know levels need attention.

Regarding the setup menu, we don’t have enough room to go through every setting. I will touch on a few of the recording features that are a bit unique to the LS-10…

* Zoom Mic
This effects the directional pickup pattern of the mic using (I suspect) DSP. As with most DSP functions, I’d rather have a transparent field recording than adding something that can’t be removed during editing. However, you may find this useful.

* Reverb
Unlike the Zoom Mic feature, this effect is only for playback.

* Euphony
This is a a DSP psycho-acoustic alteration only on playback.

Common to these DSP effects is a required downconversion to 16-bit and 44 or 48kHz, which is another reason I routinely turn DSP alterations “off”. 96khz/24-bit is usually overkill for a portable anyway, but something to keep in mind. Speaking of frequency and bit-depth, the LS-10 records uncompressed PCM (WAV), MP3 (128, 256 or 320) and WMA. WMA does come with DRM 9.

Two small speakers on the back are very handy for playback of audio, mostly for testing and sampling recordings if you don’t have phones. The level is not intended to be high or for long-term listening, but rather as a tool. I’d like to see all manufacturers have this option.

Via menu, select the internal 2GB of memory or an optional SD/SDHC memory card. The display (during both menu and recording/playback operation) and front panel buttons offer very intuitive operation.

Overall, the Olympus delivers as a serious contender in a fast growing market. Be sure to tune in as Laura and I discuss the LS-10.

Street Price (when recorded) $399
MSRP $499

Best,
MarkJensen and Laura
Sig

The New Media Expo and Fish Stories

New Media Gear
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New Media Expo


The New Media Expo starts August 14th, 2008.

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Laura did a great job on the Flip Video Mino demo, but we didn’t really explain what was happening. A nice virtual tour around Orlandos Lake Eola, but the cast was decidedly short on technical information as I continue to recuperate from back surgery.

Be sure to join us tonight as we discuss the Flip Video Mino, the New Media Expo and an incredibly great show-stopper from our friends at BSW, visiting Vegas for the Expo.

Did I mention we’ll also have another round at some great digital audio recorders, how to use them, the latest models and a few ‘classics’?

Whew! …a lot to cover; Podcast Gear, Broadcast Techniques and good ole’ banter with Laura – all coming your way from NewMediagear.

Best,
MarkJensen and Laura
Sig

The New Media Expo name and logo are property of, and copyright TNC New Media, Inc.

Flip Video – The Mino

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Flip Video Mino


The Mino micro video cam from Flip Video.



Audio is my passion. We are, however, living in a video world shaped by the sights …and sounds that are never far away from our HDTV or computer displays.

In the spirit of “New Media” Gear, something drew me to Flip Video. I had seen this concept before. A small solid state transport video camera that slips into your pocket and may weigh less than your key ring. However, Flip Video took the basic concept of an inexpensive and portable video camera a few steps further.

I tried out the newest model (the Mino) in the line currently ranging from $129 to $179 MSRP in the US.

The video spec is VGA (640×480 – although Lauras “mix” movie saved as 320×200), with the Mino utilizing a 4mbps adaptive (variable?) bitstream. Focus, and everything else is automatic on this cam. A 2x digital zoom provides a slightly tighter shot. In keeping with simplistic design, battery power is provided by an internal/rechargeable lithium-ion battery charged by the USB port. A quick 3 hour charge provides about 4 hours of shoot time according to Flip specs. The color purity, resolution and audio quality are all quite good considering that this device is built around providing internet, or “tube” type video content.

The Mino is all about being there, getting the shot and minutes later making it available to millions. Think of the Mino as a USB key drive with a video camera attached. No cables are needed, unless you use the included one to transfer YGB video, …which is SO last week. The back of the Mino provides a small viewfinder/playback display along with touch-sensitive transport controls. The front sports an integrated omni mic and the small optics of the lense. On one side, a small power button is visable. On top, move a stealthy slider and a USB connector “Flips” up from the camera making it look like a large key drive. This is where it gets fun.

Plug the Mino into your USB port (I tested using XP Pro SP3) and a new drive is mounted, complete with embedded software. No need to install the software – simply run it from the camera itself. That is the feature I enjoyed most – no installation. The Flip software user interface is very simple including automatic fades on clips you select, creating “made for email” movies or easily posting to YT.

OK – the following is a Laura original. Laura is famous for one-handed “shakey” shots, so she simply took a walk around our Cities downtown park, Lake Eola. Here are the “auto-transition” shots composed, complete with royalty free music, completely from the built-in Flip software on the Mino.

Natively, the Mino streams adaptive video to an AVI container, which was saved as a WMV file.


QUICKTIME FILE DIRECT DOWNLOAD

Average Street Price at Publish Time – $149

Best,
MarkJensen and Laura
Sig