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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!

Steve Katz (WB2WIK) on April 27, 2004
View comments about this article!


IT'S NOT YOUR MICROPHONE, IT'S YOU!

Steve Katz, WB2WIK/6

Those of us who foray into the “phone” bands have all heard some G-dawful modulation.

There are the “wi-fi audio guys” who, to me, sound like fingernails scratching a chalkboard, but I'll admit some like the way that stuff sounds. I don't, but that's neither here nor there.

There are the overprocessed guys who have fallen victim to AKTR* Syndrome, and as long as they believe what they do, will never, ever sound good.

(*AKTR = All Knobs To Right. This is a method where the operator simply turns all the knobs on his transmitter fully clockwise, keeping adjustments very simple.)

There are the “radio dispatchers,” who sit back in a chair about two feet away from their microphones and operate from that position. They always sound crappy, without exception. This method of operating creates a very undermodulated signal unless the operator also follows the AKTR philosophy, in which case, then you can hear his heart beat, clock tick and cat meow, and those items all modulate his rig about the same as his voice. Along with lots of room echo.

There are the mumblers. There are the cross-talkers: You know, guys who talk across their microphones rather than into them, honestly believing the mythology that somehow that works better. There are the yellers who elevate the pitch and intensity of their voices every time they're on the air, and never use a conversational tone until the rig's shut off.

There are those with lisps and various impediments to normal speech, and while many of those could be cured by simply listening to their own voices played back by a tape recorder, most have never even tried this.

And then, there are the drawlers. These are folks who don't actually live in the deep south, and really don't have a southern drawl, except when they're on the radio, when they suddenly develop one. Or if not that, then some other silly accent they don't really have.

Why is it that only about ten percent of all hams using the phone bands actually sound good on the air?

Pssst: It's usually not their microphones, or even their rigs. They really don't need audio equalizers or other means to add “fidelity.” What the ones who sound lousy really need is a way to listen to how badly they sound, and learn how not to sound like that.

Some useful hints

No matter what kind of microphone you use, use it as you would a “hand mike.” If your lips are more than an inch or so from the front of the microphone, you're too far away. If you've never operated this way: Trust me, it works, and you'll sound a whole lot better as soon as you start operating this way.

Don't talk “across” the microphone. That looks silly, and doesn't sound any better, at all.

Use conversational tone. Don't elevate the pitch or volume of your voice simply because you're on the air. Speak normally, as you would to someone sitting in front of you.

Practice enunciation, using a tape recorder or digital voice recorder. Most people, especially if they've never been broadcasters, have a very incorrect impression of how they sound. The tape playback clears that all up.

Adjust your transmitter (assuming the mode is SSB) so that the “ALC” indicator registers just a bit on voice peaks, and goes dead between voice peaks. If the “ALC” scale on your particular transmitter goes from 1-10, and the “highlighted” area where you're “supposed to” use it is a range from 2-7, adjust your mike gain so that a very occasional peak indicates about a “5,” and normal speech is down around “2.” Background noise, including the cat, the dog, the TV in the next room, and everything else, should indicate absolutely nothing.

If you do operate SSB, and most of this discussion concerns SSB operation, by all means try to buy, build or borrow a true PEP wattmeter. A normal wattmeter cannot indicate PEP, and PEP is what counts when you're operating SSB. Some wattmeters have a “peak” or “PEP” position, but do not have a power supply operating them, nor internal batteries to power the PEP circuitry. If you have a meter like that, rest assured it is not a PEP meter, period. It's impossible for it to be, because peak reading circuitry consumes power, and cannot work by magic.

The reason I stress the “PEP meter” point is that so many hams look at their average-reading wattmeters and try to modulate their rigs so these meters indicate whatever the output power of their transmitter is supposed to be. If you do that, you're guaranteed to sound crappy on the air, and you'll probably achieve such reports. A 100% modulated SSB transmitter will usually indicate 20-30% of actual output power on a typical (non-PEP) wattmeter. That same transmitter will indicate 100% of actual output power on a PEP meter, and this will make you feel better and also provide you with great insight about the difference between peak and average power. (Remember, the average power of a high-level modulated AM transmitter is 25% of PEP; however, all of that is the carrier, so even if you don't say a word, you're running an average power of 25% of PEP, and that power is entirely wasted: Which is why suppressed-carrier single sideband became popular in the first place.)

Most microphones, regardless of design, work best under full sound pressure, e.g., when you provide them with as much sound pressure as they can handle without damage. In the case of communications mikes, that's a lot of pressure. You can't provide that pressure from across the room, a foot away, or usually not even from two inches away, unless you're screaming. With normal voice modulation, you'll want to be right up against the microphone. It's what sounds best, and it's what works. Take a look at any broadcast studio and you'll see announcers right up on their microphones. Ditto any concert with vocals. You never see anybody back a foot from the mike. That doesn't work.

Get in the good habit of close-talking the microphone, no matter what the environment, or what type of microphone it is. I've never come across a microphone that didn't sound better under full sound pressure.

Desk mikes

Desk mikes are silly.

Okay, I'll go a bit further (although I really could have ended it there). They're not only silly, but they always cost more than hand mikes, and never sound better. For radio operating, what works, if you have one hand free, is a hand mike. If you don't have a hand free, then a boom mike, or boom headset. Anything that puts the mike element right in front of your lips.

Problem with desk mikes is that most are not designed to be comfortably used if you want your lips up against them. They're too short, so you have to lean over. Or, they're too something. If you can mount a desk mike so that it's the same height as your mouth when you're comfortably seated at your operating position, great. But rarely is this the case. Which brings me back to my first statement: Desk mikes are silly.

The ambient

The ambient is your operating environment: What's around you. It should be quiet, so that nothing other than your voice modulates your transmitter.

If you have a wattmeter with different scales of sensitivity, here's a great test: Set the wattmeter to its most sensitive position, preferably something like 5W full scale, or maybe 20W full scale. Then, run as much power as you can (preferably a kilowatt), and key your push-to-talk switch with your mike gain and any processor or compressor set as they would normally be set for your operating. Count to three and look at the meter. Does it indicate anything at all? It shouldn't. It should just lay there, reading zero.

If it reads anything at all, that's too much, as you have background noise modulation which is extremely distracting to anyone trying to listen to you. I say trying, because hard as I try, I usually can't listen to anybody with that much background noise. And “any” is too much.

Get rid of the noise source, or make adjustments to your station.

Distortion

Any that can be discerned as distortion is too much. There's distortion in everything, so we'll never achieve “zero.” But you shouldn't be able to hear any obvious distortion, other than that caused by propagation. On HF, and even sometimes on VHF, there surely is distortion created by “the path” (propagation) that isn't actually there when the signal leaves the transmitter. But most of us who have spent any time operating know the difference.

Best way to avoid distortion is to not overdrive any stage of the transmitter. Not the mike preamp, or the balanced modulator, or any of the driver stages, or the final amplifier. In an SSB transmitter chain, all modulated stages are linear and can operate pretty much distortion-free if not overdriven.

Overdriving the mike preamp can be pretty easy to do, with some rigs. All you need is too much mike gain for the voltage the mike is producing. Close-talk the mike as repeated ad nauseum above, and adjust your mike gain for slight ALC activity. That's usually the right amount; although, with some rigs, it may not be. It really pays to listen on a second receiver, using headphones, if you can.

Headphones

Using headphones can create a better-sounding, better modulated signal for you!

How? A few ways...

`Phones allow you to use your transceiver's MONITOR function (if it has one - all the “high end” rigs do, and some of the mid-line rigs do, too), so you can listen to yourself and see how you sound.

`Phones allow you to use a second receiver (if your transceiver has no MONITOR function), to do the same thing.

`Phones also allow you to operate in a very quiet environment. It's peaceful and serene, and you can hear signals in headphones that nobody could hear in any speaker in the world. When SONY developed the Walkman, they realized the magic of a set of $2 headphones. The phones bring the sound close to your eardrums and allow you to hear a range of frequencies you can't hear if those same sounds are generated by million-dollar speakers across the room. Once you get used to operating with `phones all the time, it's unlikely you'll ever go back to a speaker.

(BTW, other members of your household will thank you for ditching the speaker. “Radio receiver noises” represent a majority of the noise pollution generated by hams in their own homes, and using headphones eliminates this.)

And, `phones set the stage for the greatest boon to two-way radio communications: The boom headset, which includes a microphone that you can have planted directly in front of your lips to create the best modulation you'll ever have. Better than desk mikes, anyway.

Equalizers and such

Nah.

Ham radio would be nothing without experimentation, and by all means, feel free to experiment! However, in lieu of $500 worth of modulation-altering add-ons, most operators would benefit more from $500 worth of professional vocal training. Improving your diction, enunciation and voice timbre is something that you can take with you everywhere you go, for the rest of your life; it will make you a better public speaker, a better telemarketer, and a better communicator in all facets of life and for most, I'd highly recommend this over electronic gizmos that work only with your transmitter.

Conclusion

If you don't get stellar reports of full, rounded, smooth, punchy, great modulation - it's probably not your microphone's fault. It's far more likely the operator. Learn to close-talk, adjust levels properly, minimize room noise, and really articulate. Practice with a tape recorder or DVR, and work on your own voice until you think it sounds great. When you do, others will, too.

WB2WIK/6

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by MW0KIK on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
LOL - very good article - there are many audiophiles close to my qth - and I must say most of them sound like they have teir head in a bucket!

AKTR syndrome is rampant in these parts too!

Lets hope we find a cure.

73

Leigh
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by GM7CXM on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Bravo!
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by VK5CC on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article Steve couldn't agree with you more. Way back in 1959 Collins released a bulletin explaining to hams the difference in average and peak in the voice envelope as many 30SL1 users were seeing 1000w carrier and only 150 or so W on ssb and consequently went AKTHR to talk up the average reading meter! They also accused Collins of not providing 1000w on ssb O/P but i guess Hams didn't understand the difference then and still don't now so yes Steve a proper PEP meter in most shacks should cure the AKTTR Syndrome.Although i like my Shure 444 and D104 mikes the heil 5 headset into the 32S3 via an RF speech processor is the only way to go and it sounds great!The problem with HI FI audio via outboard processors is the boost is often so great it blows straight through the filter and hello opposite Sideband--No Thanks.

Cheers from Chris.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N3ZKP on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Another great article, Steve.

I prefer a headset and attached boom mike to any other combination. No matter where my head is pointed, the relationship to the mike is unchanged.

Using a foot switch leave BOTH hands free for other stuff.

Lon
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W3JJH on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Although I got my First Class Radiotelephone Operator License back in the '60s, I've only been a ham for a bit more than 6 years now. The reason I got my commercial license was to work in broadcasting. During my time as an announcer and a recording engineer, I learned that all signal processing adds some form of "distortion" in that the output signal isn't the same as the input.

Listening to some guys on the bands reminds me of a scene from "This is Spinal Tap":

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [Pause] These go to eleven.

Of course, filtering out distracting audio can improve intelligibility, but no equalization should be required over the relatively narrow bandwidth of an amateur SSB transmission. If the signal sounds bad, something's broken or out of adjustment!

Single-D cardioid microphones have rising bass response when placed close to a sound source. Working a Shure SM58 (for instance) too closely will cause a booming low end on your voice. That's great for a baritone vocalist at a concert, but a problem on HF SSB. Variable-D cardioid and omnidirectional mikes don't have that problem.

If you want hifi audio, use a clean microphone with no eq and minimal processing--and make certain that your rig is properly aligned!

If you want piercing contest audio, get a Heil or other communications mike designed with rising high end response and use it with moderate processing.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K8AG on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article and on the money.

In addition, the AKTR Syndrome exists on receive as well as transmit. People complain about receivers not rejecting QRM, QRN, filter blowby etc. yet keep their gain all the way up and would never think of using attenuators. After all, they paid for that gain. Would these folks buy a new stereo system and then crank the volume all the way up because they paid for the loudness?

I went to a boom mic several months ago primarily because with the mouse and key, my desk was getting cluttered. I bought a relatively inexpensive studio mic (cost me $10 on sale) and got a boom on sale as well. The whole thing cost me $40, cleared up some of the congestion on my desk, and according to my on air buddies, improved my audio tremendously.

I have also noted that hand mics are better than desk mics. My backup rig uses a hand mike and when I exercise it, I get good audio quality comments.

My main radio has voice processing, but I don't bother with it. Adjusting for increased power out does not mean increased understanding of what is said.

I would also add one thing. Actually watch the ALC meter while operating. Some ops set their drive one time then assume it is fine for the entire session. We feel differently every day and we speak differently from day to day and even from the beginning of a QSO to the end depending on how we feel. Keeping an eye on the ALC during a QSO can provide more consistent audio on the receiving end.

This kind of attention to audio quality (not hifi audio quality) can help you break through pileups because you are understandable.

John Pawlicki, K8AG
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K0BG on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
AMEN BROTHER!

Steve, the only thing you left out was asking these folks to connect the ALC from their amps to their rigs if they use an amp.

Alan, KØBG
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W7DJM on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
This diatribe can be summed up this simply:

98 percent of bad audio can be solved by

TURN OFF THE PROCESSOR!!!!!!!!!

TURN DOWN THE MIKE GAIN!!!!!!!!

(Sorry, I don't know how to emulate heavy, processed distortion and "ear bleeding" audio quality on a keyboard.)

Ben, up on 14.208 just LOVES to tell people that "he can hear their epiglottis flapping around.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W7KKK on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I was taught how to use a microphone by a ham in the 1960s. He was my instructor at the radio operators course I had been assigned to by the Army.
Do you suppose that the problem is that most are self taught? Naw, it couldn't be that simple!
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K0IZ on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Steve - nice article.

I just installed a peak meter board in my Collins 312B-4, and was amazed how easily I could drive my 30L1 to peak power. I thought I had been rather carefully in setting the mike gain (watching ALC), but backed off even more.

I can highly recommend the www.lnatechnology.com boards. Mine cost $35, made for the 312B-4. Other types available. I installed inside without any hole drilling, etc. Run power from the 6.3V meter lighting circuit and 1/2 wave rectifier/cap. Works great.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KG6AMW on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Very good article Steve and something I could have used 4 years ago when I entered the hobby. I've learned most of what you have offered here through trial and error. The only point which I disagree with is your position on desk microphones. I will from time to time switch over to a hand microphone when talking to my friends on 40 meters and they spot the difference after about 5 minutes. That said, hand mics are still quite good. Thanks for the information.

KG6AMW
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N0EW on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Also consider the frequency range at which we actually hear articulation in a voice. As I recall this is close to the 2000 Hz range (I may be off somewhat as I am going from memory – I highly recommend attending a lecture by Bob Heil k9eid if you get the opportunity).

It is the middle range of our voice where the differences between D, T, and B are articulated by the speaker and distinguished by the person listening.

Heil mics increase this frequency range so we can better hear the all-important audio that brightens the pronunciation, and somewhat diminishes the upper and lower extremes, which we don't need to hear anyway.

We only have a small slice of the spectrum to transmit our audio and should focus our attention on transmitting intelligible speech rather than stereo hi-fi sound. There is not sufficient width in a SSB signal to convey a hi-fi sound (unless one is being incredibly rude and shoveling out a whale-wide signal).
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KC9CCG on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Very nice well written article.

 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N8MMZ on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Cigars help on adjusting the timbre of one's voice - but they sure make the XYL mad! Use my advice at your own risk!! Or save it for field day when the XYL is not around and you need the quality factor to separate you from the other contacts.

73s de N8MMZ - Jonathan
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
KG6AMW: I didn't say desk mikes were bad, I just think they're silly because

-they occupy desk space which is at a premium already in most stations;
-they cost more, and don't sound any different than hand mikes or boom mikes using the same cartridge and baffle design (which they definitely can);
-and they're inconvenient to use for many people, including me!

If your desk mike sounds better than your hand mike, that's because they're two different microphones. If you took the element out of your desk mike and installed it into your hand mike case, and made a few adjustments to reasonably replicate the desk mike baffling, they'd sound identical and now you'd have a mike you can use easily without bending over. That's all...

WB2WIK/6
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by AB0UK on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
A very good and timely article. A couple of points to amplify.

First, don't try to eat the microphone. Yes, being close is good, but don't touch the mike with your lips. If you have RF in your shack it can bite you or worse if there is AC on your mike. (It can and has happened.) Air blast from speaking can cause unnecessary noise and distortion. Also, vowels such and "B" and "P" can be heard as popping on the received end. (They can drive the mikes mechanics past their intended limit.) Consider using a foam mike cover (wind screen). Some people say they induce distortion, but they cure more ills than they create. Looks at the lapel mikes on TV personalities. They all have the wind screen. An inch or so seperation between you and your mike is fine. Yes, a mike cover can be hard to use on a handheld. Modification of the cover with scissors may adapt it sufficiently.

Adjust your ALC per your users manual. Mine adjust different per the manual than described above. I'm currently using an IC-746PRO. Using processing is fine as long as you adjust the ALC in conjunction with it per your manual. Processing increases the average transmitted level without inducing noticeable distortion when the ALC is set properly.

One major source of distortion is amplifiers. It is usually easy to spot operators using an amplifier as they sound muffled and narrow ranged. Don't over drive, use ALC and be sure the input AC voltage doesn't droop under heavy modulation peaks. The best mike techniques can easily be lost in an amplifier that is functioning poorly.

A very good article. This is a subject that often gets lost in all the other facets of amateur radio.

73,

Jim, AB0UK
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by VE7RWN on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article Steve! I rely heavily on others for my audio feedback and ask for it on a regular basis. I tend to play around with mikes I get for free or cheap and adapt them to different rigs. I remember being taught some years ago when i was learning to dj in night clubs the importance of clear, concise speach. In that case all to often you are speaking to people who are not paying attention, so getting the message out is important. As a sidenote, I remember when Marshall guitar amps were around way back when and that they "went to eleven" as pointed out from Spinal Tap! It must have been a good sales trick as there were alot of marshalls around, and they were not that great of an amp. Not any better than the rest anyway.
73, Rob.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K0RFD on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
W3JJH Wrote:
>Nigel Tufnel: [Pause] These go to eleven.

My 1957 Fender Champ (all 6 watts of it) goes up to 12. Eat your heart out, Nigel.

Seriously -- good article, WIK. Crowding the mic, however, depends on the mic. It's pretty easy to sound muffled and overly bassy if you crowd the WRONG mic. Each mic has a distance that's perfect for what you want to achieve. Experiment and find it.

When I was trying to develop the "right" settings for my equipment, I tried various mics, various settings of the TX EQ menu, mic gain, processor on/off, etc. etc. and tape recorded what my signal sounded like on a receiver. I was quite surprised that some mics/settings sounded quite different than the "monitor" sound I heard in the headset--but when you listen to yourself talk on "monitor" you get a lot of "head" frequencies and not a very good idea of what you REALLY sound like. Better to hear the end result via a recording when you are NOT talking and better yet if you hear it mixed with some QRN. And don't take anybody else's word for it. "Punchy" means different things to different people.

I was also pretty surprised that after going thru my entire collection of vocal mics from the Band days and other stuff I had laying around, the "best" sounding mics with my rig were among the least expensive. One was a Radio Shack 33-3018 dynamic that used to get carried around in the mic box as a spare. $29.95 list and sometimes goes on sale for $19.95. The other was a noise-cancelling electret on a $20 computer headset. Each sounded better with my rig (that's important--has to sound good with YOUR rig) than anything else I had here, so it pays to patch up a cable or two and experiment. Before the Heil guys jump me, I didn't have any Heil gear to test, and no $$$ to get any. I'm sure it's great stuff, optimized for radio, just didn't have any handy.

I always get good audio reports with the hand mic and the factory settings, but who has a free hand? Unless I am using the boom headset, I use a mic on a boom desk stand that's well out of the way--and key it with a footswitch. I can swing the mic out of my face when I'm running RTTY or PSK, but when I swing it back it's always in the right spot. That leaves hands free for writing, logging, etc.

 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by VA3SWS on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I use a Heathkit SB-610 monitor scope to "see" my audio. I wouldn't be without a scope now.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K9NYO on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article, Steve. I worked in broadcast radio (on-air) for about 10 years when I was a bit younger, and I saw a lot of goofy mic styles! I think the notion of talking across the mic comes from the thought that "popping p's" and other sharp letters like B's or T's would be cured. Actually broadcast engineers just cure that with foam, screens or good processing. There are also the whisperers who try and rely on processors or gain to elevate their sound--bunch of goofs, too. You hit the nail on the head when you said that the sound has to go right into the mic--that's the only way to capture it right. I prefer a mic on a boom to a desk mic...as said, it takes up less space and it's got much better shock absorbtion (no rustling around noise).
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N2XE on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Gee Steve... That was blunt. Great article, I loved it.

73,
John
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by NA4IT on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
My mic is made up from an old Realistic PA mic with a Yeasu hand mic element in it, place exactly the same distance from the wind screen it would be in the hand mic. It is mounted on a 19" gooseneck. I get good reports from it. I talk about 1-2 inches from it, use VOX, a hand key, or foot switch.

You article was good with the exception of one thing. We should always remember not to attack those that may sound funny because of a speech impediment. That kind of got under my skin, as there is a young man near here who is a ham with a speech impediment. He has as much right to be on ham radio as anyone else.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I'm not knocking anyone with a speech impediment; however, those who have one and haven't taken any steps to improve their speech have done themselves a disservice. Some need professional help, but others could improve a lot just by using a tape recorder and practicing.

I surely agree that cost and results, when it comes to microphones, are mutually exclusive. I usually use inexpensive mikes made for VoIP internet work. One model was on closeout at the local Radio Shack for $1.99/each and sounds better on the air than the $150 desk mikes I have, plus it's easy to adapt as a boom mike with a simple gooseneck accessory...

The "proximity effect" noted in another post, created by close-talking certain types of dynamic microphones and sometimes causing an excessive bass boost, isn't so common. My old Shure SM58's suffer a bit of this, but then that's one reason I don't use them with transmitters.

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KA4KOE on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Good dental work is a must. Spitting into the element is not good for the element, plus its unsightly.

SAY IT, DON'T SPRAY IT!
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W3JJH on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Steve is absolutely correct about a general lack of correlation between cost and acoustical performance in microphones. "Professional" microphones are generally more rugged than cheap mikes, and their perofrmance is generally less variable from unit to unit. However, inexpensive microphones can perform quite well, especially over the limited bandwidth required for ham radio.

When I was working for a company that built recording consoles, we were using a nice $150 microphone for the talkback system in our eqauipment. We found that we could get the same level of speech-range performance and reliability out of a 69 cent electret element.

The filter skirts in a properly aligned SSB IF should roll off the audio response below 300 Hz and above 3 kHz. If the radio's response is 20+ dB down at 10 kHz, the microphone's response at 10 kHz is immaterial. What's important is smooth (not necessarily flat, but smooth) response in the speech range without distortion.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K5UJ on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<<<...most operators would benefit more from $500 worth of professional vocal training. Improving your diction, enunciation and voice timbre is something that you can take with you everywhere you go, for the rest of your life; it will make you a better public speaker, a better telemarketer, and a better communicator in all facets of life...>>>

WB2WIK, I hate to break it to you, but this is _amateur_ radio. Not to be confused with Toastmasters, movie trailer announcing, radio spot production, voice overs, etc. If you want everyone to sound as if they've had voice training, get your medium wave AM receiver, and tune it to the all news station so you don't have the torture of listening to untrained people (gasp) calling in on talk radio.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W3JJH on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
The proximity effect can occur with any single-D cardioid (dynamic, condensor, whatever). It will also be present in velocity microphones (figure-8 pattern).
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K6AER on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article Steve and long over due. It takes a lot of courage to write what we have all heard on the air. I have found that headphones will be the greatest aid in developing a consistent and intelligible speaking style. Next is taking the time to enounce properly. Next have a glass of water to keep your voice moist. Dry vocal cords will sound raspy.

Many of time I have had to ask a DX station to turn down their mic audio to understand their call. When every third call is asking for call clarification this should be your first clue your audio is distorted.

On the subject of amplifiers and audio: There should be no difference between barefoot and the amp being on line as to the way your audio sounds. If there is you are most likely overdriving the amp or the ALC is not properly set up.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N9FIK on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for the article.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N3ZKP on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<< I hate to break it to you, but this is _amateur_ radio. >>

That doesn't mean we have to SOUND like amateurs. The goal here is to comunicate effectively and there are far too many hams that can't do that because they mumble, speak too fast, fail to ennunciate properly, etc. I have found that most people who do these things are too lazy to learn to speak correctly.

Learning to speak correctly and clearly is a goal for anyone, no matter what the field.

Note: This has nothing to do with speech impediments beyond a person's control.

 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KG6EJT on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Another great article, Steve. Thanx!

By the way, Steve helped me with this very problem on the air a few weeks ago and I am very greatful. He suggested the same things to me as he did in the article and they have worked well. Additionally, as per Steve's suggestion, I turned the pre-amp off on my MC-60.

73,

-Larry
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K3ZE on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Just do like most new Hams do: rest your nose on the top of the mike, make sure that your lips brush the front of mike and yell - real loud! That'll get their attention. If you need more bass, chew gum. More treble, talk like Jerry Lewis.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K5UJ on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
WB2WIK
<<<Practice enunciation, using a tape recorder or digital voice recorder. Most people, especially if they've never been broadcasters, have a very incorrect impression of how they sound. The tape playback clears that all up.>>>
N3ZKP
<<<That doesn't mean we have to SOUND like amateurs. The goal here is to comunicate effectively and there are far too many hams that can't do that because they mumble, speak too fast, fail to ennunciate properly, etc. I have found that most people who do these things are too lazy to learn to speak correctly.

Learning to speak correctly and clearly is a goal for anyone, no matter what the field.>>>

Um, I think speaking clearly is an admirable goal. Now, don't you think practicing into a tape recorder is a bit, shall we say, extreme? A little overkill? Somewhat...ridiculous for ham radio? This, in order to call cq and have a qso? Say, "hi there" to someone on the repeater? What's next, a talking part of the license exam?..."Here, read this." "CQ CQ frum kay fahve yew jay..." "I'm sorry; you failed; you don't know how to talk." "Shucks. I was going to audition at K1MAN."
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W5ONV on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article,well written and very interesting.Thanks and 73.Jim
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W3DCG on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
LOL!
Yeah I had one of those momentary lapses, adjusted the mic gain so that the ALC light came on most of the time, instead of only on the peaks.
Duh. Guy on the other end said I was overmodulating.
Told him thanks for the report, I'd make adjustments, then I flitted away back to the simpleness of the CW portions of the band.
I hate to think how bad I sounded!
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KE4MOB on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
"...There are far too many hams that can't [communicate effectively] because they mumble, speak too fast, fail to ennunciate properly, etc. I have found that most people who do these things are too lazy to learn to speak correctly."

Gee, where have heard the term "lazy" before? Oh yeah, I almost forgot. It's also the most popular answer to the question "Why can't Johnny learn CW?"

You called someone lazy. Them's fightin' words in ham radio these days....

I see a movement starting...maybe "No Enunciators International"?

Nahh...the members couldn't pronounce the name of their own group.....
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WI4CW on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!

Good article - hopefully provokes thought about operating practices.

I have alittle note to add. We have some folks - and I mainly hear it on a local repeater in our area. These folks moan, sigh, cough, exhale in to their mic.

Geeeez o man.... I hope some of them read this.... I dont know them personally yet... Or I'd say something to them in private (the one that does it of course).

Next person I qso with that happens to read this note will probably make all those noises just to get my goat- LOL...

73 all
de Ken
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WI4CW on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!

Good article - hopefully provokes thought about operating practices.

I have alittle note to add. We have some folks - and I mainly hear it on a local repeater in our area. These folks moan, sigh, cough, exhale in to their mic.

Geeeez o man.... I hope some of them read this.... I dont know them personally yet... Or I'd say something to them in private (the one that does it of course).

Next person I qso with that happens to read this note will probably make all those noises just to get my goat- LOL...

73 all
de Ken
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KD5VHF on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<< That doesn't mean we have to SOUND like amateurs. The goal here is to comunicate effectively and there are far too many hams that can't do that because they mumble, speak too fast, fail to ennunciate properly, etc. I have found that most people who do these things are too lazy to learn to speak correctly.>> Down here in Tx we think YALL guys up north talk funny and way too fast. Heck you don't need $500.00, Just bring a 12 pack and we will have you talking correctly in no time. If you can't afford to make the trip or more important if you can't afford the 12 pack, then just tune in to "The good ol boys" net and practice. ;-)
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KD5VHF on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
CA. NY it's all the same. ;-)
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K0RFD on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
K5UJ wrote:
>Now, don't you think practicing into a tape recorder
>is a bit, shall we say, extreme? A little overkill?

I can't speak for WIK. But personally, no, I don't think practicing into a tape recorder is overkill.

It all depends on why you transmit.

Is it to be understood? Then you want to practice being understood. The tape helps.

Is it just to hear yourself talk? Well, shoot. No better way to do that than to talk into a tape recorder.

In any case, practice makes perfect. Nothing wrong with hearing what you sound like on the air. Unless, of course, you don't want to know.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K0RFD on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
KD5VHF wrote:
>Just bring a 12 pack and we will have you talking
>correctly in no time.

That only works on 75 meters.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by NE0P on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Just run CW. Solves all of these problems.

 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N3ZKP on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<< Now, don't you think practicing into a tape recorder is a bit, shall we say, extreme? A little overkill? Somewhat...ridiculous for ham radio? >>

Not if you can't speak clearly, ennunciate correctly, talk at a reasonable speed in the first place.

The average person, hams included, have no idea what they sound to other people unless they do listen to themselves via a tape recorder. Most people don't believe they really sound the way they do.

Just because you belittle the suggestion doersn't make it any less valid.

I listened to a ham give his call sign four times tonight on a local repeater and he talked so fast and mumbled to the point no one could understand him until someone told him to speak more slowly. Happens all the time.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N3ZKP on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
KD5VHF -

Watch it! I AM a Texan and both my children were born there. I'm temporarily forced to live among the heathen. :)

 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KA4KOE on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Go to W5TOM's website,

http://home.houston.rr.com/w5tom/index.html.htm

He talks about how to make your station sound great, ie "upgrading your primary modulator". The solution involves Olive oil. Great website and funny as h-e-double toothpicks.

Philip
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W4CNG on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, Steverino, you have made it a habit not respond to a call from anyone who sounds in your opinion as having any form of "Enhanced Audio", by any means on the air. I have called you 2 times and been given the "Conditions are Fading Here Report", nuff said. Yes, there is a lot of problems with SSB Audio. The 1-2 inches away from the "Hand" mic does not fit the bill for everyone. Having grown up in "Broadcast Radio and Television" in the 60's and 70's, and running audio boards from well known groups to DJ's, you forgot to include the "Splatter Shield". That is the POP Splatter "Sock" that is on the MIC, or the semi-transcluentent shield between the mic and the DJ. There are lots of pictures of the shield and Sock out on the internet for all to see. I'm using the same Radio Shack mic, sock, shield, and audio rack today as I have for the last 3 years. I sound better than 99% of the rest of SSB operators out there. You sound into the 98% category when I heard you. There is a lot of room for improvement for most.
Steve W4CNG
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KD5VHF on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<<Watch it! I AM a Texan and both my children were born there. I'm temporarily forced to live among the heathen. :)>> N3ZKP, There you go. A perfect way to finance that new rig you've been wanting. At $500.00 a pop you can give speach lessons to them fellers around you. Start with Aye Eya Ahy Owe Youwe. Maybe even host a DX net so them fureners can learn to speak english without a accent so some folks won't get irritated by the way they talk. HI!

 
NTIA REPORT POSTED  
by KA4KOE on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
http://www.ntia.doc.gov/
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by VE7XF on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article, Steve, as always!
I disagree a bit about the hand mic - the built-in ptt switch usually causes unneccessary clunks/pops in the audio.
VE7XF,
50 years of hamming, 45 years of pro sound recording.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by AE6IP on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Broad advice on how to use a microphone is a lot like EPA MPH figures. Your mileage will definitely vary.

Different mikes have different reception patterns, frequency characteristics, noise handling ability, et cetera.

Some mics *are* designed to be talked across. Most notably certain headset mics, such as some used by helicopter pilots, cell phone users, and "pop stars".

Other mics are designed to be most effective at various distances, and many are designed for very specific purposes. So be sure that whatever mic you use, it's one that's intended for voice, and not some other purpose.

But even among voice mics, there's a range of patterns, frequency responses, and noise handling.

Bottom line: if you don't want to become an audio engineer, stick with mics specifically designed for amateur voice use, and use them as recommended by their manufacturer.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by G5FSD on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
You asked Why is it that only about ten percent of all hams using the phone bands actually sound good on the air?

Because.. as usual.. 90% of anything is trash.
And guess what, they won't be bothering to read your article - so your "change the world" speech fell on deaf ears. They obviously don't care how they sound, what makes you think your article will change that?

Plus, talking across the mic DOES help if the mic is prone to popping and catching breath wind noises.
As for getting lips into actual contact with the mic, and speaking loudly.. have you ever heard the typical distortion that results on professional two-way radio (business) systems? A lot of them sound so horrendous you can't understand a word.. you just wish you could shout back and say 'back off!'. Seems to be worse in these FM days than it ever was with AM systems.. maybe FM two-way radio designers don't pay attention to audio as much? No audio ALC any more?

Oh, and equalisation CAN help. The intelligability is in the higher region 500Hz-2kHz, and much quieter than the dominant droning resonance of the vocal cords in the bass region, so cutting down the levels in certain low-frequency regions (particular to the specific person) really can help boost the overall understand-ability. A nice clear electret (condenser) mic will give you a good smooth sound from the outset, compared to many dynamic mics with their 'coloured' response.

Also bear in mind that it seems to be standard practice these days for stock mics to come with very dense foam inside, which muffles the audio a lot. Many people are opening these mics up and replacing these with thinner, more 'open cell' bits of foam - with great results.

Apart from that, not bad advice for anyone willing to listen. 73
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K3ESE on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Yes, as mentioned, an excellent fix is to place the mic in a drawer, dust off those paddles, and run CW. Ahhhhh...
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KB1KIX on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Bravo!!!!

I think I'll use this when I help out in our next technician class, or as a handout for new hams!

Great way to address the issue.

Jonathan
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K0BG on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Allow me to add one little comment about diction and speaking clearly.

Since I was a boy, I suffered through school with what most people would call a lisp. The correct term in my case was; a latereral inconsistant ess. At about age 42, I went to see a speech therapist about it. In less than 30 days and only three visits, it was gone! It didn't cost $500 (less than $200 as I recall) and my health insurance paid for it!

If you have a similar problem, I suggest you get it taken care of. Don't wait until you're in your 40s. You'll be glad you did.

Alan, KØBG
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Re talking "across" the microphone: There may be some mike out there somewhere where this works well, but I haven't come across it yet. Of the hundreds of microphones I've owned, built and used, not one sounded better, or as good, talking "across" it.

I agree about the "PTT switch" noise from some microphones, hand-held or not. The loudest "PTT switch" problems I've heard over the years come from desk mikes, since the "clunk" can resonate pretty loudly when tightly coupled to a desk. Footswitches or VOX operation obviously help a lot.

In my work place we stock many varieties of cellular foam (filters) in sheet form, from very dense to very open. All except the very densest high-density foam are transparent to acoustics in the audible range -- as destermined by well instrumented tests in our aneochoic chamber, not by guess or by ear. As such, they are pretty much dust filters, and that's mostly what we use them for.

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KB5PQL on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I have a job...and it's NOT amateur radio ;)
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K3RMX on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for the info, Steve. Your posts are always useful.

Can you give some suggestions concerning headsets, please. It's been 20 years since I used a headset, and am interested in your thoughts about "cup over the ear" style vs. "foam laying on the ear" style, the heavy duty aircraft style vs. the small bud style mics, etc., etc. Also, any suggestions on brand names? (just opening up a new office, so I don't think I can afford Heil just yet.)

73, Steve, K3RMX
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by OBSERVER11 on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
the trouble with desk mics is that unless you live in a sound stage, you sound like you are either in the bathroom or the laundry room.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by NI0C on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
K5UJ continues his nitpicking with: "Now, don't you think practicing into a tape recorder is a bit, shall we say, extreme?"

What does it cost to do this? Hams have always been encouraged to do "off the air" code practice, using oscillators designed for this purpose and/or recording devices. Why not practice voice skills as well?
When you take to the airwaves, you can be heard by large numbers of people. What's wrong with trying to sound as good as you can, whether it be your "fist" on CW or your voice on SSB, AM, or FM?

73 de Chuck NI0C

 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
As for headphones, each to his own. What I like you might hate...but I use a few sets of 'phones and like them all in one way or another.

My Sennheisers and Koss Pro-4AAs feel good, sound good, and are ruggedly made, although I've established for sure that I can break anything if I drop it on the floor enough times. Lately, I've been using $2 (literally) "Walkman" style headphones, not the little ear buds which I find uncomfortable, but regular strap-oer-the-head type, very lightweight dynamic phones with foam cups that allow you to hear some room noise, but not a lot. These are *way* too "high fidelity" for communications work, and seem to respond down to about 0 Hz, which is a strike against them, but I've gotten used to them now and actually like the way they sound for most general SSB and CW work.

Best thing about them, of course, is that they're $2, so when I drop them and break them, the replacement set is also $2!

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W8MW on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Voice modes are the most popular in amateur radio and yet there is very little written information about optimizing operating techniques and station equipment for best transmit audio. Thanks to WB2WIK for the article. You presented some excellent observations and suggestions. Comments:

>What the ones who sound lousy really need is a way to >listen to how badly they sound, and learn how not to >sound like that.

Agreed. Unfortunately, pride in one’s signal is another piece of the radio art that has been dismissed by many operators. A poster on another thread said, “It doesn’t matter how your signal sounds, just that the information is conveyed”. That’s a consumer mentality where radio is a utility and radio gear is an appliance. I hope amateur radio will always have people who remain fascinated at the nuances of radio signals, including their own.

I enjoy listening to operators with outstanding audio and try to find out how they’re doing it. Lots of times I hear great signals coming from entirely stock setups. Other times I hear ops that found a magic combination with a non-stock microphone and/or some external audio device. There are so many variables that one philosophy about the best way to do it doesn’t fit all situations.

>Take a look at any broadcast studio and you'll see announcers right up on their microphones. Ditto any concert with vocals. You never see anybody back a foot from the mike. That doesn't work.

No, it doesn’t work in those particular applications. Plus voice performers feel better when they’re eating the mic. Put the same announcers or singers into a controlled recording environment and the engineer will often force them to back off, especially if he’s using a condenser mic such as a Neumann. Those are typically worked 8 to 16 inches away from the lips and slightly to one side. But the idea there is to make pristine recordings in a tuned room or booth. For communications audio, close talking a mic that stands up well to the pressure and has some immunity to plosives (breath blasts) is the best way to go. It gives best S/N and minimizes the crappy acoustics in ham shacks.

>Any (distortion) that can be discerned as distortion is too much … you shouldn't be able to hear any obvious distortion … It really pays to listen on a second receiver, using headphones, if you can.

Excellent point. Since day one hams have been using a live receiver in the shack to adjust and evaluate their transmitters.

>Desk mikes are silly … Equalizers and such Nah.

If you can’t express your own opinions in an opinion article you took the effort to write, where can you express ‘em? I don’t happen to agree on those points but do agree with Steve about feeling free to experiment. I have made SSB audio something of a hobby in itself and find it both interesting and rewarding to experiment with different microphones and signal management gizmos. Different strokes for different folks. But the good engineering practices pointed out in this article ought to be applied in every shack.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N8YV on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent article for both the masses and the classes!

I disagree on a couple minor points, but I respect Steve's opinions, for the most part. As to desk mics being "silly", I agree in part, but not in whole. It depends on the operator. I do not appreciate headset/boom mics, and I have issues with "hand" mics.

My own operating preferences are a floor switch and a boom-mounted mic. It works well for my baritone voice, and having the benefit of actually HEARING myself in recorded form using both hand-held and desk mics, I can refute Steve's blanket statement.

When it comes to "audiot" operating---with a pile of processors, equalizers, dynamic balancers, parametric devices, filtering, studio emulating, and driving the transmitter through the "rear-panel" jacks, I am in full agreement. There is simply no way to fully achieve FM broadcast studio tonal quality (not that it sounds good to begin with) on SSB amateur phone.

From the standpoint of "sounding good" alone, it is FAR more effective and practical, not to mention LEGAL, to process audio at the receiving end of a transmission, rather than fool around with transmitted audio bandwidth. This is an opinion grounded in years of professional audio experience.

Finally, the best operating practices when it comes to voice communication via amateur phone, have long been espoused by one of the very best operators I have had the pleasure to work. W06T Mickey, in Bakersfield CA, has consistently advised hams to "move their lips" when speaking. Articulating one's speech in this way, once accustomed to it, yields excellent results. Articulation is what most commercial radio announcers, public speakers, and other voice professionals utilize. It works well on amateur radio, as well.

Great article and a worthy subject, Steve! Thumbs up!

N8YV
 
Losing Sight of Reality  
by WPE9JRL on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Get a grip.

It wouldn't be "amateur radio" if we all sounded the same, with "good" audio.

We are a bunch of radio amateurs. We are not pro's. We make mistakes. We don't care to have pro audio, some op's like the full sound of blowers running in the background, etc, etc.

Take your diatribe to the nearest recording studio.....maybe THEY will care.

Get real.

 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N3HKN on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
The other side of the story:

The use of a Direct Conversion reciever offers a much cleaner RECEIVING experience. I am using the new SDR-1000 Software Defined Radio and the difference between it and my Icom-746 (for sale) is quite noticeable. Although I can't measure distortion the SDR seems to be almost distortion free. So a properly transmitted audio signal will sound great on a direct conversion receiver.

Dick N3HKN
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
It's obvious some have misinterpreted parts, or all, of this...

I never said desk microphones sound bad. I just said they're silly, and I thought I explained why: Most aren't very suitable for comfortable use, they cost more than hand mikes or simple boom elements, and it's a fact that they'll never sound better than hand mikes, boom mikes, or any kind of mikes if the same quality cartridge is used. If anyone has a desk mike that sounds "better," that's because it's different than their hand mike. There isn't a desk mike in the world that I can't convert to a hand mike for simpler operation that's easier on my back.

And I never expected hams to sound like broadcasters, or even to strive for improved fidelity. The whole point of the article was to express the simple fact that many hams who don't sound very good on the air could sound a lot better if they just improve their speech and operating habits, without investing a dime in more or better equipment, ergo, "It's not your microphone -- It's you!" And a simple tape recorder goes a long way in helping almost anyone better understand how they really sound to listeners.

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N3ZKP on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Steve:

The ones doing all the complaining are probably the ones who need help the most. Some folks think if they just open their mouths what comes out MUST be perfectly intelligible speech. :)

Again, thanks for a good another good article.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N8LGL on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Steve, Excellent article and very informative.
Thanks and 73,
Paul N8LGL, ex KC8LGL
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by AE6Y on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great article, Steve, thanks.
My interest in ham audio is mainly from a contesting perspective, where high fidelity isn't necessarily the goal. Nonetheless, I would strongly encourage contesters to back off the processing and mic gain, as the overdriving and distortion will actually reduce your possibilities of getting through a pileup.
As an example, I operated from P40Y in Aruba in the recent CQ WPX SSB contest. Running Europeans on 40 phone can be very difficult: many of the signals are weak, there is a lot of QRM and splatter from adjacent signals, natural QRN, etc. There were a number of occasions in pileups when a bunch of distorted EUs of all about the same amplitude were simply unintelligible. Then a clear voice, no stronger, but just clean, trebly audio, would cut right through and get the QSO. I noted at the time that many of these clean signals were G's -- it almost seemed as though the further south in Europe, the higher the compressor was turned up! Of course, a clean YL signal is the best of all at cutting through the interference.
So my request is to please turn down the gain and do yourself a favor.
73, andy, ae6y
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W5HTW on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Someone mentioned the public safety/business FM audio. For the most part I find public safety base radio systems have the audio gain set way too high. I'm not sure if this is so the dispatcher can lean back and relax, six feet from the microphone, or so he can dispatch from the toilet. In our county system there are two (and sometimes three) dispatchers operating different consoles in the same room. When one is speaking, you hear the others in the background, along with the dot matrix printer, the ringing of the phone, the dog peeing, toilet flushing, all sorts of background noises. Sometimes I hear officers ask for repeats and I understand why. Such systems would benefit greatly by reducing the microphone gain and training the dispatchers to talk into the desk microphone they are using. Or, better still, putting them on headsets, which hasn't happened.

Other PS systems in the area, the more professional ones, appear to have solved the problem. When the dispatcher speaks, you hear nothing but her voice, no background noise, no other radios, no phones, no clicks and thumps. She is terse and accurate, and it almost sounds like VOX on a headset mike. Were I running a PS communications system, I would prefer this later method!

Ed
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K0RS on April 29, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Now for the next, and more difficult lesson: CONTENT.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WA2JJH on April 29, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Good artical. An important subject as well.
It is a hand held PTT mic for me. I have the one with two different Heil elements in them. It is a cheap microphone, as it should be.

The first element looks just like a cheap magnetic.
It's diameter is large. The second element is thier DX element. It looks expensive. A metal square.

Cost....bout 75 bux. When I use the off air monitor funtion in the TS-850, I can hear two distinctive sounds. One is full bodied. The DX is razor sharp.

On air use proves the findings. Only use the DX element for pile ups. It is a little shrill for long QSO's.

Everybody covered every pet peeve I have had on the air.

1)TOO MUCH MIC GAIN, TOO MUCH PROCESSOR!
If you saw the comedy movie "SPINal TAP", you will get the inside joke!(YEAH BUT OURS GO TO 11!)

2)TOO much, mic,proc, and VOX! I do not want to hear your wife talking on the telephone!

3)Oberservers observations are very true!

4)WOW, if I were a pulminologist with a ham band/SW RCVR, I could tell you your lungs sound great. Skip the appointment, golf is on ESPN!

5)Did you make that microphone, or are you using your Walkman head phones.

I have to agree that base mics look cool. They design them to be eye catching. However you must use it like a hand held mic. It would be nice if they were usable up to eight feet away. However even when you crank up the gain, some one is going to crank on our audio!

Hey OM, your rig are you using an air conditioner cooling fan for the finals?

Even small towns have acting schools. It is worth the 80-160 dollars for a voice and diction class.
If you put much effort in voice class's, you can get non union voice over work.
Besides guys, acting schools always get more woman than men.
How to pick these woman up is out of the scope of ham radio! That scene has changed much!---LATER!!!!!!!
73 MIKE
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on April 29, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
AE6Y, I agree with your comments about some (unfortunately, many) contesters. The best of the best have it all together and sound fine. But next tier down is a huge population, some of whom don't get it at all.

I've been on the receiving end of pileups, too, and noticed what you described: In fact, a weaker but very clean and clear signal can easily get right through a wall of overmodulated crud. When someone registers 40/S9 on voice peaks and 35/S9 when he's not speaking (the signal is all background noise), that's ridiculous.

When I operate at M/M (phone) contest stations, the first thing I do is set the wattmeter to its most sensitive scale, key the mike and be quiet. If the meter reads *anything* at all, even 1% upscale, there's too much background noise and something needs adjustment. That 1% upscale can easily be S9 a continent away.

We keep gain to an absolute minimum, speak softly and pretty much swallow the microphones to sound best. Zero background noise, zero crud, all voice punch, crystal clear in the monitors.

WB2WIK/6

 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WA2JJH on April 29, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Steve is on the money with, what you think is 0 watts out. When I key down, the watt meter on my Drake TR-7 reads 0 watts with no voice. I do not have a carrier balance problem.
I hooked up a watt meter that has a 5 watt scale. Just my ambient room sound level(room tone) produced 3-5 watts. I thaught I had minimum mic gain. A few watts will travel far as many QRP hams with DXCC can tell you! Wish rigs had a noise gate built in.
A good noise gate will actually have a very low impedence across the mic pins, when you are not speaking. Some external speech procs. have a noise gate. A noise gate will also improve VOX performance
by minimising faulsing and hysterhesis.(fancy word for what the anti-vox control does :)
There are cheap noise gate kits for under $40 bux

73 MIKE
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by AJ3U on April 29, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Then again, maybe you might just might need to get your ears fixed. :-)

AJ3U
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by AE6IP on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
This sentence:

> Take a look at any broadcast studio and you'll see
> announcers right up on their microphones.

has been bothering me since I first read the article, but I couldn't figure out why. Today, watching a bunch of broadcasts, I realized why. Here's what I saw:

1) Announcers, sitting at desks, either wearing lapel mics a good foot below their mouth, or speaking into desk mics 18 or more inches away.

2) Stand-up reporters, working with boom mikes that were off camera, meaning at least 18 inches away.

3) Speakers at press briefings, speaking into mics mounted on podiums, at least 18 inches away.

4) Shotgun mic coverage with the mics kept a good 36 inches from the speaker's mouth.

5) Singers, singing into mics mounted on stands, a good 18 inches away.

well, you get the point. Professionals using pro makes do not get up-close-and-personal with their mics. They keep them at a professional distance.

By the way, if you don't want to buy a noise gate, you can always get noise-canceling mics.

not, by the way, that I suspect amateurs to spend the sort of money those mics go for -- we're *amateurs* after all, not recording engineers.

73
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K5UJ on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<<<Professionals using pro makes do not get up-close-and-personal with their mics. They keep them at a professional distance.>>>

It depends on the microphone. In some cases, the mic on the host's desk on a tv talk show isn't even on--it's just there for show. Yes, $5K to $10K Neumann recording studio tube mics are usually mounted behind a pop screen and the recording artist sings or announces at a distance because that is not a cardioid dynamic mic. If you were to go into a broadcast radio station where the people doing air work or production work are on with dynamics such as the Electrovoice RE20 or RE27 you would see them right up against the foam sock on the mic to slightly increase the low end response. They swap and clean the socks about once a month for sanitary reasons, otherwise the thing would start looking like a Chia pet. Hams using them should do the same. Pull it off and throw it in the wash.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
AE6IP et al: When I discussed a broadcast studio, and announcers being up on their mikes, admittedly I was referring to radio and not television. TV newspeople, etc. are trained to be on camera and looks mean a lot; radio announcers aren't, and looks don't mean much, but the *sound* means everything. I've worked only in radio, and cannot recall any radio station studio where the announcers weren't on their mikes, and the equipment adjusted for using the mikes this way.

I'm sure there are variations on this theme, too, nowadays.

In live vocal/band performances, the singers are almost always on their mikes, and for good reason. The instruments are miked and balanced carefully, as are the vocalists, and the vocalists mikes should not be picking up the instruments -- at least, not much. If their preamps are adjusted to allow them to back off from the mikes, those same mikes will be picking up instruments and unbalancing the whole setup. I've worked doing this, too...we kept vocalists' mike gains so low, if they backed off 3-4 inches, their voices would disappear.

WB2WIK/6

 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by CWTITAN on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
GREAT ARTICLE, VERY TRUTHFUL. But, like many stated, it is Ham radio, and its cool to experiment. Most hams I have been on the air with, will work thru a problem if it is apparent there is one. I personally like the hand mike included with each new rig...
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WR8D on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Talking about mics and audio i can't believe what i'm hearing in some places. Some are injecting carrier in their sideband to give them that weird sounding bottom end. Yep it makes them splatter too. Junk like this is turning just about everyone against anyone running an eq. Yes you run in groups and hang together and you all think it sounds just the greatest. I see ssb signals now almost as wide as am signals. Yes were supposed to experiment but come on guys. This stuff is getting stupid and doing it real fast. Now don't get me wrong, i run behringer gear on some of my rigs and ihy on others here in the shack. I keep my tx bandwidth no wider than 2.7 and it sounds beautiful. Why do we all want to turn our rigs into "splatter boxes" and grate on each others nerves?
73
John WR8D
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WR8D on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I forgot to add this topic could be changed from its not your microphone - its you .. it also could be, ITS NOT YOUR MICROPHONE ITS YOUR EQ - YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT A "MIX" IS AND DON'T KNOW HOW TO SET IT UP !!!

My 2 cents:
John WR8D
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
WR8D, I was trying to limit the discussion to stuff people can do with their own voices and habits, sans electronics, to sound better.

But, I agree with you about some of the wonderful "enhancements" hams are using nowadays. If the definition of enhancement is to take something and make it as terrible as you possibly can, we're right there.

I don't answer anybody whose modulation I can't tolerate. That's almost anybody using any bandwidth-expanding technique (high end, or low end -- doesn't matter), since my TR-7 can't tolerate it. My rig has a 4kHz BW flooring filter in its first (48 MHz) IF, non-adjustable. In this way, it's a 27 year-old version of an Orion...just Drake implemented it 25 years earlier, and it's not DSP-defined nor adjustable, it's a crystal filter in the first (VHF) I.F. The wi-fi signals just don't make it through and sound horrible, even if I use an AM filter in the second I.F. There's still enough other stations to work.

WB2WIK/6
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by AE6IP on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
WB2WIK,

It's interesting that you should make the distinction between tv and radio, and bring up live performance, as my own experience as an audio engineer is radio, recording, and concert sound reinforcement.

Fields in which, in my experience, it's routine for the mics to be at some distance from the user. There are a few exceptions, but it has been my experience that the exceptions tend to be people trying to compensate for poor choice of mic.

Your mileage has clearly varied, but, again, I say: don't treat all mics alike. Rather than rules of thumb, use the mic the way it was designed to be used.

 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WA2JJH on May 1, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Marty is correct about lavalier microphones, such as the sony ecm-77 ,senheisser microlave, and the tram.
They are all condenser mics. They all have almost no low end response. They all have a 1.5V battery for the obligatory FET that follows the condenser element.

They work best about 12"-18" away. They pop and have syballance if used like a HAM mic. Right in front of the mouth. I also worked in TV. The microphones they use are NFG for ham. A typical Sony ECM-77 has a freq response from 150hz-10khz. This optimises the mic for TV-ENG use. The low end is rolled off. Bassy mics sound terrible on TV. The condensor mic handles female reporters voices better too.

Sorry I strayed off topic. However, one of my rigs is a TR-7. I agree they are the worst with hi-fi ssB
I guess the 2.3khz second IF makes the hi-fi SSB even worse. I thought the HI-FI guys all got pink tickets and hi-fi SSB was dead. I Know 14.178 is no longer the big HI-FI scene. BTW on a TS-850 HI-FI SSB sounds like broadcast AM. One has to have a wide filter selected indeed to get the nice sound. It almost sounds like there is a carrier. However there is no carrier.

Some of the pink ticketed hi-fi guys used DSB with roll off at 4.2 khz almost like vestigial sideband.
I own a TS-850 also. It became a popular hi-fi rig because as you know it will do DSB if you make the wrong filter selection.

Steve.... One other question. Yes the TR-7 does have a very similar 1st IF as Orien. Why do you consider the TR-7 a 27 year old ORIEN? Except for a similar first IF, they are very different rigs after that. Just asking, I am curious what other similarites you see in the two rigs. I have not been inside an ORIEN yet.
I consider them both top notch.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N9XV on May 1, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I agree with you Steve!

Some of the best communications audio I ever heard was on the aeronautical frequencies between pilot and controller. There is a couple of police agencies in the area where I live that also have excellent communications audio. It almost makes me want to call the one agency (on the non emergency line) and compliment them on their great sounding audio but, I dont think they would understand!

One bad example of communications audio is when a dispatcher is talking to one car and you can hear 6 or 7 different conversations going on in the background at the station. The more elaborate agencies have a separate room or enclosed area for dispatch duties.

I would spend $500 on an "airline pilot" grade boom-mic headset before I would spend it on desk mics and equalizers.

- - - anyway, your point is well taken and some would do good to heed the advice.

73,

Kevin
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by NJ6F on May 1, 2004 Mail this to a friend!

Good article

Now, we are not going to have anything to talk about.

If you covered the weather with the same accuracy the bands will go dead hi.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K1CJS on May 2, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. I would say talking "across the mike would improve the audio just to the point of significantly reducing the "popping" and rushing air sound effects.

How about an article now about how to eat and drink coffee and other beverages without leaving a bit of everything on the mike screen/case. ;-)
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by W5HTW on May 2, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<<<Professionals using pro makes do not get up-close-and-personal with their mics. They keep them at a professional distance.>>>

<<It depends on the microphone. In some cases, the mic on the host's desk on a tv talk show isn't even on--it's just there for show. >>

In a talk studio situation we used lapel mics on the participants but with a HUGE RCA broadcast mic (and it did work!) in the center of the table. Mixing was done outside the studio and the RCA merely added presence to the real sound. However, prior to adding the lapel mics we did use the RCA as our only audio source, and in a quiet studio it worked very well. We added the lapel mics to help round out the audio and provide more punch.

In our FM on-air studio we used Seinhausers, with pop shields and yes, indeedy, we kissed the mics. For me, with a hearing problem, if I turned the monitor gain up high enough to hear myself in the cans, there was feedback, since the cans were feed through types. (Allowed me to hear other things in the studio.) IN our AM studio we used older Turner mics, someone's strange idea, but they worked very well for our purposes.

On my web site is a photo of me in Pete Drake's recording studio in Nashville, and I was definitely NOT 18 inches from the mic. It did, as the photo shows, have a pop filter. I was probably 8 inches away, and could have been closer.

<< WB2WIK When I discussed a broadcast studio, and announcers being up on their mikes, admittedly I was referring to radio and not television. TV newspeople, etc. are trained to be on camera and looks mean a lot; radio announcers aren't, and looks don't mean much, but the *sound* means everything. I've worked only in radio, and cannot recall any radio station studio where the announcers weren't on their mikes, and the equipment adjusted for using the mikes this way.>>

In all the radio stations where I worked, we kissed the microphone. Kept the gain low-medium, to eliminate background (air conditioners, phones, tape recorder motors, blowers, etc.) Also it increases bass response, which was rather important, as it's awfully easy to sound tinny. And it's a darned good thing looks were not important! I would have been out of a job! (Though I did voice-overs for TV spots now and then, but only appeared on camera a couple of times. Did act in a local-yokel country music 'soap opera' for a while. But TV was not my thing! No way to make dinero from my looks!)

<<In live vocal/band performances, the singers are almost always on their mikes, and for good reason. The instruments are miked and balanced carefully, as are the vocalists, and the vocalists mikes should not be picking up the instruments -- at least, not much.>>

Also most low-end and "weekend band" systems develop feedback awfully easily, and play in very bad acoustical places with high ambient noise levels (bars, for example! Been there, done that.) High end podium mics tend to be much better in that regard, as are the lapel mics used by your friendly (or not) TV anchor person.

In ham radio I use a desk mike, but, as someone noted, I use it like a hand mike. I pick it up and snuggle. I have an amplified D-104, and I disabled the amplifier, as I have a mental block against amplified microphones. I also have a D-104 that does not have an amplifier, on my Viking II, and the maximum audio setting is a '4' out of 10. And again, I snuggle and just about eat the lollipop.

With the original Icom 706 and its HM103 mike, if I get an inch away from it, modulation drops and highs go up. And, again, I do not run the compressor, as I'm pretty much anti-compressor, too! The 706 works very well at no more than an '8' on the mic gain.

On the Drakes I use a Shure. Same thing - treat it like a hand mike. Snuggle, snuggle, snuggle. And I get nice audio reports.

Sure had a lot of fun, though, with the CBers of the 1970s, who bought the Turner Plus 3 or Plus 4, turned it full blast, and assumed they were "tossing a few more pounds up the coax." Yeah, buddy. You could hear the wife rattling dishes in the other end of the house!

Enjoy
Ed
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by G4DYO on May 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<<You know, guys who talk across their microphones rather than into them>>

Talking across, rather than into, a microphone prevents sibilation, ie the sound of hissing or breathing on one's speech. UK air traffic controllers are trained to use that technique and I've used it all my life. Always had excellent reports on the audio......

I use a Heil mike in a boom headset (not Heil make) and always position the mic slightly below my lips. Anyone using such a setup with sidetone will immediately hear the deterioration in audio quality if they move the mic up in front of their mouth.
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KA5NEE on May 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I agree that talking straight into a mic is more likely to emphasize the sibilants (high-frequency hisses) inherent in s, ch and z sounds, and also the consonant pops that result from the sudden release of air in p, t and k sounds. These sounds are distracting, and contribute little to the information content of the speech. I have also heard an amazing amount of "wind noise" from air exhaled through the speaker's nose -- a little distracting.

However, there are mics made for straight-on use. I remember a mic from a railroad switchman's "lunchbox" portable that was meant to be talked straight-on -- it even had a rubber bar across the windscreen where you were supposed to put your upper lip. The reason was the very noisy environment in which it was used -- a railroad switchyard. The windscreen reduced the consonant pops, and the speech was copiable over the ambient noise.

Talking across a mic may sound much better, if it is designed for that. The only way to know is to monitor the audio, or, better yet, sample the demodulated audio from your transmitted signal, so you can detect RF feedback distortion, as well as AF modulation quality.

I have read that the optimum location for a speech mic element is below the lower lip, and an inch or two away from the face, depending on the voice, mic, and acoustic environment. This area has been measured to have the optimum sound pressure without consonant pops or sibilance.

Obviously, this article was thought-provoking (!!), and opinionated, but also well-written and useful.

73,
Tom, KT9OM
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by VE6XX on May 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Hello All: Steve: Thank you for possibly one of the most informative articles in a while. I take no issue with your observations, & I have a particular disdain for this "wideband audio" nonsense on SSB. I understand Riley has set these folks straight. You & I have spoken on SSB (17 metres) so I guess that means that my IC-706MKII-G with stock mic & no compressor must be OK... TeeHee! The practise of talking across the mic is an old one. The RCAF taught controllers to do so(as evidenced by the previous comment about UK ATC types)& many land mobile companies, including Motorola I believe, reccommended this technique for their variable reluctance hand mics. I have listened on a monitor receiver & watched on a service monitor, & the audio was more pleasant to listen to IMHO.
I habitually talk across my mic when mobile Steve, but I have never asked an opinion of anyone to determine whether or not there is a benefit to speaking directly into the mic or across it. A situation that I will remedy immediately. It is entirely possible that you are correct & I am doing myself a disservice by talking across the mic....I shall solicit opinions from people whose opinion I value!!
Thanks again for a first class submission Steve, & you always sound excellent on the air.
CHEERS! Brian
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WA2JJH on May 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Someone said they used TURNER mics in broadcast AM ang got good results. I have an explaination.
Like the title of the thread, it is not the microphone it is you.

TURNERS were excellent mics. Just too many used too much gain.

The elements were very high quality ceramic. the TUNER super side kick uused a high quality magnetic element. Turner also put a humbucking transformer in the side kick. The side kick actually had a negative feedback gain pot. It was adjusted thru a bottom hole.
Negative gain as we know reduces distortion.

I used a TURNER super side kick on my Drake TR-7.
I use maximum negative feedback, and almost zero gain on the top gain control.I have to use the mic like a handheld, very up close.

Because of the humbucker/impedance matching transformer, their are 2 RF chokes in the mic.
I never got a rf or ground loop burn when my lips touched the chrome. The magnetic element is actualy
about the same in quality as the non DX heil element.

I get many unsolicited nice audio comments.
If uou look at the last Drake catalog, you WILL see a Turner base mic for the TR-7! In the photo there is no gain control. My bet is that it is the super side kick magetic element eith humbucker, minus the pre-amp circuit.
The Military also used Turner mics. The ceramic element
has a good high end response, and low bass responce. This is what heil is doing with Thier magnetic DX element

Some rigs have mic amps that do not give good high end response. They must be turned up to get good high end response. You will sound like a CBer.
In this case, simply turn the mic gain down on the rig, and use just the smallest amout of gain on the pre-amplified mic.

Turner went out of business. The new power mic companies did not have a clue to good audio.
There is a difference between a POWER mic and a PRE-amplified mic. IN MANY CASES, IT IS NOT THE MIC.....IT IS YOU!!!
I can see why one poster said they used turner for Broadcast AM.

The non turner so called power/echo/roger beep microphones deserve their horrible reputation!
Turner never made an echo/laugh box/echo beep/memory
obsenitymicrophone!



 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K5UJ on May 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
<<<On the Drakes I use a Shure. Same thing - treat it like a hand mike. Snuggle, snuggle, snuggle. And I get nice audio reports.>>>

That's nice but this is why desk mics are ridiculous. They were originally made to be used with PA systems where the user pushes a button and makes a brief announcement from time to time, and with xtal elements for AM txers where you didn't have to get right up on the mic. Hams see the element, PTT sw. and stand all in one package and it appears to be an attracive deal. But to use them with dynamic elements you either have to contort your body by leaning over to the mic, or turn it into a hand mic by picking it up and holding it, thereby defeating the purpose of a mic stand. Leaning over is okay for a brief PA announcement but most hams operate and tx for longer periods. Go to a shack or field day, or special event demo where the op is using a 444, D104, Ten Tec mic or some other single unit mic and they will almost always be trying to turn it into a hand mic. So either get a hand mic, or get a mic on an articulated boom with a foot or hand switch to key the rig, kick back and have the mic in front of you. You CAN have it both ways : )
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WA2JJH on May 4, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
K5UJ makes and others make a good point. No matter how you slice it, one has to use a base mic, exactly like a handheld.

Problem is hand mics have been known to drop to the floor, unless you have a bracket. I have known of more people almsot pulling their rig off the desk with a hand mic.

Base mics make the shack look nice. The Shure-444 is nice mic with a good output voltage(the pre-amped one is a waste of money, the mic is plastic. It will always pick up stray RF)Perhaps the plastic case will prevent RF burns to the lips. If your not grouned well, you can have many watts on a metal mic.

One project of mine is to take a Turner+3 vintage base mic, and remove the pre-amp. In place of the pre-amp I am going to put in one of those microsized speech processors. These processors do actual RF CLIPPING.

True RF external clipping is done by up-converting the mic elements audio to a 500kc RF signal. The RF signal is RF clipped, filtered, and downconverted back to processed audio. Cost is about $90.Forgot who sells the external true RF clipping board.
It is worth it to get true RF speech processing. It is greatly superior to ANY audio speech processing, even audio DSP processing. 6-9db of RF compression will make your signal stand out better in a pile up.

Do not just throw away the Turner pre-amp. It can be used as a mic to line level adapter. One can also add one of those 5-10 watt audio IC's to the output of the pre-amp. Presto, you have an el-cheapo electric guitar amplifier or PA amplifer!

The TURNER +3 or super side kick base mics sell on ebay for $25 bux. TURNERS may also turn out to be collectors items.

73 de MIKE
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by G5FSD on May 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
If you talk for so long that you can't hold the handheld mic any more, you're probably boring people.

Keep your overs short enough, you won't find it so difficult to hold a mic to your mouth.

:o)
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K4CMD on May 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Don't you talk "across" a boom mike element?
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WB2WIK on May 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
K4CMD, I've never talked across a boom element. The boom element is right in front of my lips, where it sounds the best.

The little lightweight headsets made for cellular/PCS telephones that place the microphone about halfway up your cheek sound terrible about 99% of the time and could easily lead to "Can you hear me now?" "No, I can't!" commercials.

Then, modern cell/PCS phones sound very bad with their internal microphones, too.

BTW, the preamplified Turner and Shure mikes referenced in a few posts here are all successors to the original models which were not amplified and contained only transducer elements. The Turner +2 and +3, and "Super Sidekick" were spinoffs from the original Turner 254 and 454 desk mikes (available with either crystal or ceramic elements) which were good products but too "short" to be seriously used as desk mikes; as such, almost everyone using one ended up hand-holding it. Silly.

The Shure 444T was a spinoff from the original 444, which was a very good sounding controlled reluctance desk mike that at least had an extendable "head" that could make the mike almost tall enough to use seriously as a desk mike. It sounded great on many types of transmitters, as well as PA systems, if used properly.

I made a boom mike out of a Shure 444 by using only its headpiece, clamped to a gooseneck boom. It sounded very good back in 1970, and still sounds very good today.

WB2WIK/6
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by WA2JJH on May 6, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
The shure 444 is excellent. However if you get the one on ebay with a pre-amp, the pre-amp should be bypaased. The element has good high end. However the case of the 444's are plastic. I had a 444t and got RF feedback all the time. I took out the pre-amp. This has happened to many that baught the 444T sight unseen on ebay.

There is also a handheld version of the D104. It uses a crystal elememt. Has an excellent freq. response for ham. The crystal element has a very bright tone to it. However XTAL elements are easy to damage. It is not as drop proof as magnetic.
Astatic, I think is still in business.

I have purchased many microphones on ebay. They are an item that ships well. AGN, most of the mobile d104's
have an amp in them. Either remove it or keep the mic gain on your radio very low. The late model ones have a tone control. under $35 seems to be the ebay price.
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by 8P6NE on May 6, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Steve: Great stuff. I long ago switched to Bob Heil's boom-mic/headsets for all the reasons given. Some "audio infatuees" also get into knots with mic's that have built-in pre-amps in the bases- hence the endless permutations of "hi -pre-amp setting w/lo mic gain on radio" vs. "low-pre-amp w/ hi mic gain" . These guys also deserve a little help. Like; "read the manual" or "read the manual again".

Also, hail to the ops who give their friends an HONEST on-air audio check!

KUTGW (keep up the gud wuk)73, Tony Webster, 8P6NE, Barbados
 
 
by JJ1BDX on May 8, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Another excellent thoughts of Steve.

Recently I tried a few gears on my IC-706mkIIG, even preprocessing my voice using a multi-band compression technique with a sound-editing software. I finally decided to abandon all the so-called enhancements, however, and go back to the plain old HM-103 hand microphone, the one which was included in the IC-706 package. I also tested a headset microphone using a cheap electret condenser mic element, and I found no significant difference when I used an Audix OM-3xb (something like Shure SM58), or the headset, or the HM-103.

Overmodulation, too much compression, and too much gears which could destabilize the whole system (due to RFI, etc.) are harmful indeed. I guess, however, a speech processor or level compressor is still effective when you want to cut through a pileup, providing that the ALC and modulation level is properly set to avoid overmodulation.

After reading this article, I turned down the mic gain and the compressor output level, for a bit clearner modulation. Training yourself for a better speech always gives you something much better than tweaking the machines, indeed.

73 de Kenji JJ1BDX/3
 
RE:  
by A9KW on May 10, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Use the hand mic and we will all be better off,hifi audio is for home audio
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by K4JRB on May 10, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Right on. I use Heil Boom mic sets and about an inch from the mic is always the best. Plus always use the monitor circuit (I don't buy a transceiver without one!). The monitor will tell you when the mic connection is bad or feedback is getting into the circuit, too. I use my RF processor in my transceivers to give me DXer punch. But be careful not to overdrive or splatter. Its best to have your signal be loudest on the frequency where the Dx is listening not scattered all over the band.

I agree on WI-FI SSB. They sound terrible. I have a Yaesu FT 920 with an equalizer in it and finally cut it off and added 225Hz of base andnow it sounds fairly good. I have never found anequalizer to be worth the effort. I also operate some AM still and am amazed by the number of AM hams who try for broadcast quality. I assume most of these hams never operated AM in the 1940's or 50's. My late 1950's AM was fully plate modulated with a audio driver with a good clipper and negative feedback. I admired W3PHL and his ultra modulation. I can't imagine trying to use broadcast quality to get thru the late 50's QRM. I placed well in the ARRL and CQ WW on AM phone so my rig was working. Even today the guys who cut thru on 3885 AM
are not using Hi FI audio but rigs like the Globe King or T-368 (made by B&W).

We need more articles such as this one....

Dave K4JRB
 
RE: It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by KA1XO on December 1, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Steve,

Great article. I can remember back in the 'sixties when AM was the rage on six meters, how different cheapo microphones would sound over the air. Crystal mikes were most plentiful and yes, most people would sound like they were in the lobby of their apartment building.

I found a great mike for SSB very recently:
The Shure 562 Noise-Cancelling Low Impedance model made specifically for radio dispatch. The mike body is only three inches long, has an internal foam screen under the metal mesh, and screws directlyon to a 5/8 mike thread like the Radio Shack gooseneck, or a Heil Small Boom. The roll-off is cultured for human speech, at normal speaking levels, and the manual urges users to speak directly into the mike at about a one inch separation "or less." Reports from other stations show this mike performs better than the Yaesu desk mike that looks like an SM-58, better than a Heil HC-4 installed in a hand-held mike, and better than a D-104.

FWIW.
'73,
Hal
W4HBM
 
It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!  
by N2WJW on July 2, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
>>>>Why is it that only about ten percent of all hams using the phone bands actually sound good on the air?<<<<

In my opinion this number is exaggerated!

I can tune just about any band here in the North East and not even think about how the other guy sounds...that means that I can fully understand him. While I know we can all benefit from some speech training/therapy (including myself) and also improving some bad radio habits, the problem is not so much the 90% of us that "dont sound good" other than you being highly critical of what its nothing but a hobby.
 
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