Following on from the Q&A after my screening at the Titirangi Festival of Music, I thought I would do what Reddit call ASK ME ANYTHING. I totally appreciate for some people email or online comments are a better form of expressing themselves or asking questions than at a public screening. So for anyone who has seen my residency work feel free to ask any related questions.

But also every week or two I get a random email from someone, asking for sound related advice or something… If it was someone I do not know, then I usually asked them to post their question at the SSD website (i.e. a public site where other people could also comment or provide answers, so it isn’t just my opinion). Sadly SSD had a melt down & some people who weren’t at all involved in creating & defining SSD decided to merge it with a completely unrelated Stackexchange topic. (If you ever need a good example of how to mismanage a very focused user group, that is one for the history books!) So this post is going to be my own personal replacement for SSD!

While I am always happy to help people that I know or have some form of direct relationship with, I will direct all randoms to this post & will provide any thoughts or opinions (not answers) so that its not one-to-one but hopefully many-to-many!


So ask me anything! Preferably in english… but no rush – this is primarily intended as a resource for the random email questions 🙂

Please note: if you have never commented here before, your question won’t appear immediately. Due to the robot-spammers I have to manually approve the first comment from anyone new. Apologies for the little delay but your comment or question won’t have disappeared, its just waiting patiently….

38 thoughts on “AMA

  1. bassling

    Am I right remembering you were looking at producing a contact mic? Thought there was a post here a while back saying there was something in the works.

    Also, got a recommendation for good cheap-ish battery operated pre-amps? Preferably with Hi-Z capabilities for piezo or guitar inputs.

    1. tim Post author

      No, I have never had any plans to make hardware… beyond my realms of experience/desire 😉

      re preamps I can only reccomend what I know, which is Sound Devices 302 preamp. But have never tested it with piezo or guitar, all my contact mics have their own preamps… make your own?

      1. bassling

        Maybe you were saying you knew of someone who was going to be producing them? Maybe I’m confused.

        I’ve made a few contact mics following Alan Lamb’s instructions:

        But, yeah, it’s all about the pre-amp. He recommended Fishman brand. I found I got bassier recordings of ‘the wires’ using a guitar pick-up. Some of the pictures on your post about Lamb’s wire recordings show the property where I was living:

        These days I have a Barcus Berry but I’ll have a go at following the instructions on that link you’ve shared, thanks.

    1. tim Post author

      hmmm tricky question… as it really needs a definition of ‘sound design’ so i don’t misunderstand the question, but i’ll try to answer it in all forms…

      FILM SOUND DESIGN, ie in terms of creating, editing & supervising a film soundtrack:
      – ProTools for all sync-to-picture editing
      – Soundminer Pro for accessing sound library
      – Filemaker, Excel, Quickeys, A better finder rename, Text expander (& other utility apps i cant remember right now) for wrangling data…

      That list, along with mics, field recorders & a few plugins is all I really need.
      Everything else is non-essential..

      I own & use a bunch of other stuff, but it is only if a project requires it that I work with it. I am more interested in results than process. Generally speaking, what happens in front of the mic has more influence than anything that happens afterwards…

      Apps & plugins include
      – AudioSculpt
      – Metasynth
      – GRM Tools plugins
      – Izotope RX plug & app
      – LowEnder plug
      – TL Space & Altiverb plugs
      – EQuality + The Drop plugs (the only two EQs I need)
      – Massey L2007 limiter plug
      – ableton LIVE apps + lots of VSTs

      i had a Kyma system for a while, but didnt keep it…. like Max/MSP it takes a huge investment in time to actually create results & those results are only viable IF the project requires it, not vice versa…

      i own lots of other stuff but its used for music, not film sound design….

      does this help?

  2. Laplume


    I’m a stereo of time lover (like ortf system), especially for ambiance, but I was wondering about is usability in a movie process ?


    1. tim Post author

      I havent struck any problem using ORTF for film… Of course it depends on the shot & perspective as to how recordings are used & also important to remember how wide a cinema screen is e.g. sometimes I take one side of a stereo recording and offset it by 1 minute so that LR are discrete elements (i.e. so there no phase or Haas effect issues)
      My approach to ambiences is outlined here:

  3. Alex


    Thanks for all your advice and help, I really appreciate it. I’m not an audio expert or sound engineer, but I do have some experience working with audio equipment. I’m wanting to do some field recording to enhance the sound in my animated shorts, so I was wondering if you had any recommendations? I’ve researched a little on the Zoom H4n, but really don’t know if this is the right investment for this work.

    I’m looking to record ambient sounds, ranging anywhere from flowing water, trains, crowd noise, and rustling of foliage. Can you recommend any single device that would be able to record these types of sound for quality videos? I’d like to stay around to $200-$500 range, but could go upwards of $1000 if there is tremendous value at that price level.

    Thanks again for your help and advice!

    1. tim Post author

      Hi Alex
      Basically you get what you pay for. A cheap handheld recorder will get good>ok results with louder sounds, but will struggle with quieter sounds. So a cheap recorder & mics will cope with “flowing water, trains, crowd noise” but may struggle with “rustling foliage”

      The Sony D50 had one of the best reputations for handheld recorders but is no longer available new, but the newly released model the Sony D100 might be worth looking into, bhphoto have it for US$750

      Did you read this article & comments:

      It really depends on how long term you want to think & your expectations.
      In the short term the Zoom may satisfy you, but if you use it a lot you may find yourself wanting to replace it after six months or a year…

      My best advice: don’t buy anything unless you have tested it yourself.
      Surely you can find someone local who owns a handheld recorder?
      Getting the advice of someone who owns what you are thinking of buying will give you insight & potentially save any disappointment
      But even more important, record a few sounds with it yourself (loud & quiet sounds) and then transfer them to your ‘puter and listen

      Also make sure you budget for proper wind protection, nothing is more disappointing than wasting a great recording opportunity due to wind noise

  4. Sudipto

    I am trying to get into bird sound recording with a Marantz PMD661Mk II and a Sennheiser ME66. For the powering module my choice was K6. My equipment supplier says he has ready stock of K6P. Is there any qualitative difference between the two, particularly in terms of recording quality?
    My recorder has phantom power so P will be fine with me. But I insisted on K6 because my back up recorder is an Edirol R09HR that does not have phantom power. In case I have to use that one I will need battery power.
    However, if there is any significant difference in recording quality I don’t mind going for the P.
    What is your opinion?

    1. tim Post author

      Having never used that mic or recorder I’m sorry but I dont have an opinion. You’ll have to find someone who has compared them, or better rent/borrow them & compare them with your own ears

  5. Sloop

    Good Day,

    I would like to set up a recording field on my property.
    I have one acre of flowers, bamboo, orchids running water. Lots of birds, bamboo swaying, bells, gongs. The recorder would be located indoors(if that makes sense) at a fixed location. I would like to source and mix sound from from different locations on the property. I would like to use the sounds to accompany a sunrise photo i publish on my facebook page.

    I have sound recording experience, but i left that work in 1975. In addition to my art caree, I install commercial sound and video systems in hotels and large homes here in the Virgin Islands

    Can you advise me on recorder, mixer, and microphone?
    Which brands? i know you get what you pay for. This is an investment.

    Thank you for your consideration.


    Thank you

    1. tim Post author

      Hi Sloop – fascinating idea, the first concern is really weather – how much rain do you get there? Having the recorder indoors makes sense for protection and for powering, but to capture general ambiences and specific elements means you will need mics outside, potentially with long cable runs… Let me have a think

  6. Russell Gorsky

    Hi Tim,

    I hope you are doing well. I am in the market to buy a pair of DPA 4060’s, and I am curious how you set them up. Do you have them in a blimp? If so, how do you keep them secure and tight so they don’t slip? Also, for mic positioning, do you them spaced wide normally or close together?

    Hope to hear from you soon!

    1. tim Post author

      It depends how/why I am using them as to how I rig them

      For example when recording ambiences with my full setup I record with MKH8040 stereo ORTF in centre, and an MKH70 spaced wider left and another MKH70 spaced wider right. I add the DPA 4060 into the outer side of each of the MKH70s fluffy, so as to use them as spaced omni mics.

      While travelling I am using the 4060s as detailed in this post
      I am putting them on the end of carbon fibre boom arms so as to have a 4 channel recording rig via a single tripod.

      As for wind protection, I don’t have dedicated blimps for the DPAs – I use two layers of Rycote fluffy protection. First is their tiny lavalier wind protection

      And the second layer is a soft fluffy which I bought ages ago for use with on-camera microphones.

      For attaching these to eg my boom arms I have a small velcro cable tie, which when the mics are stored keeps the cable untangled, and when in use keeps the 4060 in place by wrapping around the boom arm.

      I’ve seen mention of people using a coathanger to space/mount the 4060s, but that seems a little odd when you consider the cost of the 4060s – surely there is a more elegant and highly evolved solution. I suspect most recordists want to be stealthy when recording & not draw attention to themselves – the last thing I’d want to record is people sniggering about the guy waving a coathanger around! Also for film use I prefer more widely spaced omnis – my MKH8040s are a better solution for a tighter stereo image than closely spaced omni mics (although I love Michael Raphaels idea of hiding the 4060s in a hat/beany for total stealth use!)


  7. manuel morasse

    Hi. would simply like to know what is the setup used in your last post, for recording piano sound. Specifically, what are the mics used.
    All the best.

    1. tim Post author

      Hi Manuel – I am in Japan doing some field recording, so I use same mics & recorder for piano recording – close mics are Sennhesimer cardioid MKH8040 x2 ORTF, wide/room mics are omni MKH8020 x2… I like the idea of being able to use room verb so I can mix/move between close detailed sound and wider diffuse sound…

  8. João Marco


    Can you write something about your mkh70 vs 8070 test? The 8070 is much more sensitive in the specs…

    I’ve a mkh70 deal, a second hand mic, about 700€, should I buy it? Is it a good reliable mic?

    Thanks in advance…
    João Marco

    1. tim Post author

      I only did some quick tests with the 8070 and cant find the session right now… As with all the 80X0 mics, the low self noise is hugely attractive… Hard to give advice re the MKH70 without knowing why you want it? ie what are you recording, where & why? And what other mics you have etc?

  9. Santiago Arcón

    Hi tim! thanks for the article, it´s very usefull. i want to record outdoors structures vibrations with some piezos but this article made me realize that i wouldn´t get a nice signal from a portable audio recorder, because of the impedance of the inputs. I was wondering if you can imagine a simple solution for this problem: to be able to connect the piezo to a protable recorder powered by batteries, without unwanted hi-pass filters. Thanks ins advance!

  10. Matthew

    those photo-lighting stands you use as mic stands when you travel…do you think they can handle an ORTF 8040 setup like the one you have? It seems like you use a different stand for that setup. It would help me to know this for deciding what to buy for travelling with one MKH 30/50 MS rig and one 8040 ORTF rig. Thanks so much!

    1. tim Post author

      hi Matthew – yes either of the Manfrotto stands would handle the 8040 ORTF – the bigger Nano defintiely would, but even the tiny one would too… I tend to use those nowadays and its only when travelling overseas where carrying multiple stands & tripods is a pain, that I might only take a small light tripod (as can then use it with cameras as well)

  11. Matthew

    Hi Tim, ever been to Cairns and/or Cape Tribulation, for recording or otherwise? I’m heading out there in July, just curious if you had any recommendations.

    1. tim Post author

      I haven’t sorry… hardly spent any time at in Australia – a weekend in Sydney years ago is about it!

  12. Fergus Pateman

    Hello Tim,

    I’ve just come across your site, and I’m loving the in-depth advice and descriptions of your work and philosophies.

    I’ve just had a look at the article below, and am wondering what the two ‘fluffies’ in the middle are that you use for the Kits 2/3. Are they Rycote BBGs? I own a pair of BBGs, but I struggle to use them effectively in anything other than soft wind due to wind getting in via the back of the microphones. I have covered the cable/connector in a pair of ladies tights which provides significant attenuation, but they still perform poorly under any significant gusts.

    Just wondering if you have any tips for coping with wind on a low(er) budget, aside from avoiding gusty spots to rig.

    All the best.

    1. Fergus Pateman

      Upon closer inspection it looks like they aren’t BBGs, and are possibly Rycote WS9s(???). Is ORTF possible with this configuration, or do the backs of the baskets collide?

      1. tim Post author

        They aren’t Rycote WS9s, they are Rycote Mono Extended Ball Gag MZL Suspension and are designed specifically for use with the MKH8040…
        More info on them here, but they are no use for any other mic as to minimize size you only use the capsule of the 8040

        I’ve never used Rycote BBGs – I do have a softy I got with one mic, which similarly only covers the front of the mic and found it to be not much use in any strong wind… Every mic I own has a full Rycote enclosure and fluffy, and my MKH70s also have a high wind cover (an extra fleece layer that can be added inside the fluffy)

  13. Jonas Schwarzwimmer

    Hi Tim!
    I was thinking of recording train tracks with a contact mic for a documentary about well..trains. My concern now is that the tracks are gonna behave kinda like a bell and not resonate because they’re fixed to the ground. Would it be feasible to use a contact mic in this instance? If so, should I go with the planar wave mic or is a contact mic without a pre-amp going to be able to produce a similar, yet more cost efficient recording?

    I am really digging this blog btw. It is a really helpful resource and I just wanted to thank you for making it.

    Hope you’re having a good day!

    1. tim Post author

      hey Jonas. it isn’t something I have tried so I am not sure – usually a good contender is a resonant body which if you put your finger on lightly you can feel the vibrations, so I am not sure how something heavy like train rails will behave. I seem to remember attaching contact mics to a train bridge in Osaka, so not directly on the rails but on metal plate which was part of the bridge trains were running over – so that might be another option to try. I’ll see if I can find those recordings as they might be useful as a reference – there is a photo on here somewhere of it

  14. hannes

    hello tim,

    do you use the MZF-8000 filter along with your mkh 8040s (in your extended ball gag)?

    did you also used your mkh8000s/rycotewindshields with your selfistick setup and was it stable/reliable?
    iam really curios about about this. just thinking about a convenient single tripod setup for 4 channels.

    and regarding multichannel recordings: what is your experience of the combination of ortf and ab in a stereo and 5.1 mix?

    thanks, hannes

    1. tim Post author

      No I don’t use the filter and I abandoned the selfy stick/single tripod approach. Its only advantage is convenience, I much prefer being free to choose mic placement based on the location and using ym ears to identify where sounds are coming from. My experience of using ambience recordings ORTF and spaced omni and discrete AB, 100% depends on what is onscreen ie what are the ambiences being used for and how. I wrote this article a while ago about my approach to editing ambiences for film:

    1. tim Post author

      You mean record sounds of nature? Yes and no. My sound library company is but we sell sound libraries not individual sounds… Try

    1. tim Post author

      I use JBL LSR28P main monitors matched with LSR12P subwoofer. These are a generation old now, the newer JBL LSR series have room correction built in (but are not as heavily built, the original LSR28P weigh a lot!)

      I have them set up as a 4.2 configuration, essentially a 4.1 (quad plus sub)
      But I have two subwoofers as my studio front is my main workstation, my studio rear is where my modular synth is. So when I work with my modular synth I turn off front sub and use rear sub, so i can still work in quad facing either direction, but the sub is in the right place!

      I used the LSR28 + LSR12P for monitoring throughout all of my film sound design career, and have always been very happy how my work translates to dub stage at Park Road Post.

      I also have a pair of JBL LSR25P which I use when travelling etc…
      They sound good, but need the sub…

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