SONIC STUDIOS DSM-6 SIGNATURE MICROPHONES

By Ty Ford

Equipment Review, Pro Audio Review, January 1997

 
     
 

Surreptitious recording, stealth microphones, recording stuff when you don't want somebody (or anybody) to know about it.  That's not exactly what Sonic Studio's DSM microphones allows you to do, but it's a fair description.  I mean, if you saw somebody walking around with two small wired pods, each the size of a dime, attached to their glasses frames, it would raise some questions. That's provided you noticed in the first place.  I've worn the DSM microphones in public without them being noticed.  The bigger the crowd, the less likely anyone will notice.

Features

DSM stands for Dimensional Stereo Microphone.  The DSM-6 Signature series ($400) I tried are hand-selected for full frequency response -.25 dB and phase matched.  The DSM-6 Standard set ($300) is matched within 1 dB at 1 kHz. Sonic Studios (in Sutherlin Oregon) makes these high-quality, electret condenser microphones and other cabling paraphernalia to hook them up to DAT machines and other audio devices.  Granted, these ale electret microphones, so there is some noise relative to RF condensers, but ho cases where portability is important and the sound levels are high enough, the smaller electrets are hard to beat.  And, there's no phantom power supply to worry about.

Each microphone is an omnidirectional pressure type, using a proprietary back-electret omni-directional condenser element.  Frequency response starts at 5 Hz and goes as high as 23 kHz.  The capsule is totally sealed except for a pressure relief hole for altitude equalization.  Omni they may be, but like the human ears they are directional at higher frequencies.  Each microphone is encased in water-proof vinyl and comes with a small loop that slides over the side pieces on a pair of glasses.  There's a windscreen/headband (DSM-WHB, $100), or you can try the 16-pound dummy head (DSM-GUY. $1,000) with head, tripod, WHB and two cases), which means you donít have to stand in one place not moving your head during recording.  The good thing about using your own head and headphones is that you can move to precisely the right spot to get a very nice stereo recording.

DSMs will also power the hard-to-find Sony 24-bit SBM-1 (Super Bit Map) outboard A/D converter that uses the proprietary 7-pin I/0 on the Sony D3, D7 and D8. Super Bit Mapping is always "on" on the SBM-1 and requires a heavier outboard battery, which of course, Sonic Studio also has.  They even have a $75 microphone plug-in upgrade that allows direct power and input deck connection for the D8, so you don't need the PA-6 power adapter for powering the electret.  The DSM-6 and 6S both come with a 1/8" molded stereo plug. I needed XLRs.  Sonic Studios had them plus six others kinds of connectors, a number of headphone/line drivers and external power pack that can greatly lengthen continuous recording time.

In use

I've walked up on live performances wearing the microphones and a portable DAT machine, and walked away with a very good representation of the performance.  You get better results when the performance is done without a PA.  With a PA you get a nice recording of the performance through a PA.  You also get better recordings when the audience doesnít make noise, which never happens.  So, logically, that means the DSMs are really good at recording people ambiences.

They're also useful in the studio.  I got some very nice stereo acoustic guitar recordings by attaching the microphones to my glasses and leaning over the face of my D28S Martin while I played.  The binaural effect made for an extremely natural sound.  If you've got some extra tracks recording a few instruments this way could add a lot of dimension to the mix, even if you pan the pairs around a bit to make room for other instruments.  Instead of using delay on a single track to spread the sound of the instrument, this method may result in something more real or dimensional. Combining the two tracks to mono caused a very minor amount of high frequency loss due to the expected phase cancellation.  Also if the sound source is low in level you have to get very close to keep the electret noise minimized.

Summary

For standard playback you'll have to tweak your monitors to reproduce the stereo image correctly.  Angling them in to cross at a point a few feet in front of me resulted in success otherwise I had trouble placing elements of the sound in the right place on the stereo spectrum. The same sort of thing happens with X/Y microphone techniques. Headphones work best if you're planning on a "headphones-only" show the DSMs are indispensable.

Ty Ford may be reached at tford@jagunet.com. He is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.

1997 Copyright Pro Audio Review, All Rights Reserved

 
     

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