First recordings with Telinga + MKH8020

Telinga first recordings...


As I’ve mentioned a few times I recently added a Telinga flexible dish and universal mic mounting kit to my recording setup – the universal kit lets you use whatever mic you like, and I’ve added an MKH8020 with the MZF filter for this purpose…. So what’s it like? Well yesterday I went for a drive over the road from Upper Hutt to Waikanae, crossing the Akatawera range, with the hope of getting away from traffic, to do some test recording. It was only when I got over to the Kapiti side of the hills that the cicadas started to become less diffuse, so I found a place to stop where I could hear individual cicadas scattered through the bush and had a listen, as per the photo above….

Before you have a listen bear in mind that the first cicada I recorded would be approx 20m away from me, up a tree. It was completely still, there was no wind but there was plenty of other activity (birds, other insects) going on around me. The thing that first struck me was predictably the directionality of the dish – I know thats the whole point of it but its only when you’re holding it and slowly moving it that you realise just how narrow its beam is. I will shoot some video to demonstrate this at some stage (I didn’t have a second tripod with me yesterday to do this effectively) but basically the cicada you hear below was on mic, but if I changed the angle of the dish by 1-2mm it was off mic, to the point of being very distant. The localisation is unreal! The other aspect that struck me was just how close sound becomes – with my eyes closed it felt like I could just reach out & flick that cicada off the tree 20m away! Anyway have a listen, first at real speed, then half speed, then quarter speed…

I walked up the road a bit & recorded this cicada, which was further away and in a tree with other cicadas – so it is less isolated…


Telinga first recordings...

Next I headed in a valley following signs to the Kapiti 4×4 Adventure company to Maungakotuktuku Scenic Reserve. The road into this valley winds it way up the side of quite a large hill, with the bush dropping away off the side of road. So I figured this might be an interesting location to try, and it served to teach me a valuable lesson with the Telinga, which I already knew from my MKH70s but it bears repeating. Directional mics such as these basically compress distance and have a very long depth of field (the opposite to a camera lens with shallow depth of field) so if you are aiming to record object A at a distance, then it is important what else is in the same line of sight/hearing in a straight line from your mic to object A and beyond. So this next recording I was on a steep hillside pointing down into the immediate bush on the side of the road, aiming to record insects, but it also captured distant birds, a very distant dog and a very, very distant chainsaw. And when I say ‘very distant’ I’d guess the chainsaw was 10-20km away!

The effect of compressing distance is something to be aware of, as simply changing your location by a few metres and your angle of attack can eliminate unwanted background action to a degree… On a slight side tangent, another thing to always be aware of when using directional shotgun mics is their polar response pattern – a typical shotgun mic is below:

Note that a side effect of the front narrow directionality is the rear sensitivity. So for example if you are recording from above pointing down at an object and there are a lot of birds above you, then that rear lobe may well pick them up more than what you would like, and recording from under pointing up with the rear of the mic pointed at the ground may create better isolation. Same goes for recording in the city and trying to minimise traffic behind you. Heres the MKH70 polar pattern, but you should check what each of your mics polar response is so you know if its an issue you should be aware of….

The last recording I’ll post is a short bit of an insect I recorded & what blew me away was that when I took off my headphones I could not hear the insect at all! Its a short recording as a vehicle came past & the insect stopped & didn’t start again….. But it illustrates what a fascinating new microscopic world of sound that I’ve been given access to – I wish I bought a Telinga dish years ago! And re the PNG trip, I’m used to hearing most insects in New Zealand, I just hope I don’t have any panic attacks when in PNG and hear very strange insects VERY close up, via the dish like they are inside my head!


12 thoughts on “First recordings with Telinga + MKH8020

  1. A J Lewis

    Awesome stuff! Opens up a whole new world it seems! Will have to see if I can DIY my own dish at some point 😉 Looking forward to hearing more, Tim 🙂

  2. Stavrosound

    Incredible! An insect library in the works perhaps? 😉 Would buy in a heartbeat, alwasy seeking interesting new insects. Might have to look into a rig like this, fascinated at what can possibly be found in the desert.

  3. Brian Smith

    Beautiful recordings, Tim! What you say about the very narrow “sound window” localization is really interesting. It sounds like a sort of “sonic microscope”. I’m looking forward to hearing other sounds that you capture.
    Thanks for this!

  4. Jon Strandberg


    thank you for sharing this! I´m happy you are satisfied with the Universal Kit. I especially like the Hillside recording – and the 8020 gives great detail.

    Telinga Microphones

  5. Sharad Apte

    Last few years I am using universal kit with Sennheiser ME62 microphone with K5 power module. I am satisfied with results. Can i use your Pro 4 pip and 5 pip also stereo DAT-mic and twin science.

    Please suggest me kit for beginners.

    1. Ola Sandberg

      Sharad, if you need help there is a good article about all the basics and the current manufacturers here:

      Recently there has been some ‘lively’ discussion on parabolics – on facebook and also the yahoo ‘nature recordists’ website – so perhaps now is a good time for a brief mini-guide:
      firstly, those of you unfamiliar with parabolics (inc. how they work etc) should check out the wide range of articles on the web – always read impartial ones. Manufacturers sometimes have articles on their site and the good ones do not make exaggerated claims about their products. It is also true that there are some articles online which fundamentally misunderstand the basics of parabolics, good sound and listening in general. If you’re unsure then ask around – you can, for example, post a comment here or ask a question on the ‘a quiet position’ facebook group, where over 2000 recordists with a wide range of experience will be able to offer advice. Always avoid articles on various ‘paranormal’ websites.

      In very basic terms, a parabolic mic / dish system is the closest thing to a zoom lens for sound – allowing distant sounds to be brought into sharper focus, while rejecting the surrounding ambience (in mono parabolic systems)

      It is possible to build a parabolic yourself and there are lots of ‘how to’ sites on the net.

      There are currently 3 companies selling complete parabolic kits (dish, mic & handle etc) that are worthy of recommendation. There is at least one other company on the market – based in the US and the subject of a fair amount of debate online. I can’t, in all honesty, recommend their products and would advise caution when considering their products. &
      Wildtronics (US company whose products I can’t, in all honesty, recommend. There are various issues, some of which are evident when listening to the sound samples on their site)

      As mentioned Telinga has a very long track record and receives consistently high positive feedback from fellow field recordists. Their systems are at the top end of the price range, but as with all things there is usually a good reason and I do know lots of folks who’ve had their Telinga’s for years and years. In my experience the best sound i’ve heard from a parabolic system is a Telinga universal fitted with a sennheiser capsule – not a cheap option but there’s an open and natural sound to this set up. Apart from the Universal above (which can be fitted with a couple of different polar pattern mics) the most listenable and open sounding systems use omni capsules. Sticking a hyper-cardioid (shotgun mic) capsule into a parabolic isn’t the best idea as it often peaks the key sound and in very simple terms it fights with the effect of the parabolic dish – remember a hyper-cardioid is in effect normally a long metal tube with a capsule towards the bottom & sound travels from the front towards the capsule – with a parabolic dish the focal point of the sound comes from around the dish itself & reaches the capsule on a horizontal plain (nb. there will still be some signal coming from other directions of course) – hence the reason an omni polar pattern provides the most listenable sound quality.
      Key factors to look out for inc.
      . good protection from handling noise
      . dish size – a larger dish gives better low frequency response
      . clean paths (by this I mean low self noise of the mic, well constructed electronics, phantom powering etc)

      . mono vs stereo – for most folks mono is what they’ll want from a parabolic but there are designs out there by all of the manufacturers that are stereo. Some have a mono capsule at the focal point of the dish & additional capsule/s in very near proximity, the result being to capture not only the prime sound but also some ambience around it. For species recording you’ll probably want to stick to mono (2 of the 3 designs allow you to select mono or stereo) but for more creative applications the stereo option can be useful, particularly on architectural acoustics.
      . look for sound samples on the makers websites AND elsewhere online – avoid sound samples that have any kind of processing (normalising, eq-ing or that have been recorded using only stills cameras – all of which have elements of either processing built in or do not have quality pre-amps – the better sites will have samples recorded with various recorders & for the ones with the best track record its highly likely you’ll be able to find a sample online using the same model recorder as the one you have)

      . 3 companies (Telinga, Lisn & Dodotronic) built and tested throughout development, and continually since, using professional, pro-sumer and entry level field recorders. One was developed using video and still cameras. In my opinion it is only possible to develop a decent microphone of any type when tested with the appropriate equipment. Video and stills camera’s have built in limiters that often can’t be turned off or other types of processing. It is of course quite possible to develop a parabolic based only on the physics, however field recording / listening has and is continuing to move forward and it is more and more understood that the role of pre-amps, processing, playback levels, subtle details of the mic capsule sound etc etc. make a big difference. For lots of folks perhaps just interested in collecting, for example, bird species sounds, they will perhaps be happy with any parabolic that in basic terms ‘does the job’ – but for those who want more than this the advice of any recordist would be to approach the choice of equipment with more thought and attention to how it ‘feels’ on the ear, rather than the physics. With conventional microphones for example, some people like the sound of Schoeps mics and some don’t – some like a Sennheiser MKH and some prefer the sound of a Sanken etc etc. Buying any mic on the spec sheet alone is not a good idea. Would you buy a car or a camera just on the spec sheet ?
      . if in doubt ask the community – the wide, varied field recording community is 99% friendly, supportive and open to the sharing of knowledge.
      . don’t be swayed by the science only – as with all mics, all techniques, the spec sheet or theory is only a part of the story. A good company will obviously let you know the key features of their products but those with a proven track record will not need to be critical of other makes. Put simply, the quality & wide usage of the product will speak volumes.
      . a good tip when purchasing any piece of kit is try to buy from those folks who have a reputation beyond their own products – so companies, staff / individuals who have a good reputation for their own work or who are active in the field in various ways. Avoid companies who say things like ‘the best’ or ‘better than everyone elses’ etc – good products speak for themselves. Its quite easy to spot the good folks….

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