I cut down a pool noodle (a long foam floatation toy for swimming pools) to serve as a window pass-through for the birdfeeder microphones. The foam cuts easily with a pocket knife and does a decent job of keeping out the last cold drafts of late winter, though I still take it out at night. A 2-inch deep slice at the halfway point is enough to pass the microphone cable through without compromising the window seal.
We get a lot of birds at our Ears In Space HQ birdfeeders starting in the late winter: black capped chickadee (the state bird), tufted titmouse, dark-eyed junco, woodpeckers (downy, hairy, red-breasted, and, rarely, pileated), white-breasted nuthatch, cardinal, house finch, and a few others. We have to take down most of the feeders when spring arrives and the local black bears wake up very, very hungry. But in the meantime, it’s busy – and noisy – at the feeders outside our kitchen window.
I built a stereo pair of small omnidirectional mics with a 40-ft. cable. I then attached it to one of the birdfeeder poles and ran the cable inside, to a mini mixer connected to a powered speaker and small recorder. Linda made fake-fur windscreens, smaller versions of the one she made for my Sony D-100 but this time with velcro closures, wrapped around smaller versions of the rubber chew toy from the previous post.
I’ve started building small microphones from electret condenser capsules by Primo as well as anonymous ones I’ve picked up over the years. I was going to call the Mike’s Mics, but that seemed too obvious; my friend Liz suggested I call them “Eponymous.” Liz is a poet and editor, and I trust her advice on words.
Artist and fellow ear-in-space Linda Aubry designed and made this faux-fur windscreen for my rubber chew toy basket described in part 1. So far it fits better and more easily than the Rycote fur, with some minor mods to the chew toy. It’s blocking the wind about equally as well, with no appreciable increase in high-frequency attenuation. Also, it makes the D100 look like The Heatmiser.
As Chris Watson puts it, wind makes noise when it stops. With only a foam or furry windscreen, the wind stops when it hits your microphone capsule and creates noise. This is why you see sound recordists carrying around mics that look like blimps: the microphone sits inside a metal or plastic frame, which is covered with soft materials such as felt, fake fur, or other fabrics. The soft materials slow the wind as it passes through the frame, but it’s the empty space inside that makes the biggest difference with cutting wind speed and preventing the microphone from being blasted directly with wind.
All-in-one recorders may come with a small furry or foam windscreen, which do OK with keeping out low-speed puffs of air from a speaking person or a curious animal’s sniffing snout. They can’t really keep out air moving faster than a light breeze. Even third-party furries like the Rycote Windjammer made for the Sony PCM-D100 can’t slow down the wind much. But you like your all-in-one recorder for its portability and quick deployment, right? Mounting it in a blimp windscreen the size of a rugby ball will make it hard to keep the recorder in your coat pocket or handbag.
In this project, I set out to build a windscreen basket for my Sony PCM-D100, using a dog’s rubber chew toy. Don’t worry, I didn’t take a toy away from a dog, and my cats have no interest. This is another project based on an idea I got from the ever-resourceful Michael Rosenstein.
This particular brand mesh-ball dog toy has one solid hexagon, so I cut that one out to make the opening. The ball was a good size to fit over the built-in mics of the Sony, though it partially covers the signal overload lights on the front as well as some of the sockets on the sides. This is a problem even when using the Sony’s furry windscreen alone; it’s down to the design of the Sony, a company famous for well-designed products but also for sometimes sticking with poor choices like allowing the Walkman brand to be the Wile E Coyote to Apple’s Road Runner.
Next I stuffed the rubber ball up inside the Rycote Windjammer. This can take a few tries to get it in straight.
Fitting this new combination over the Sony again is a bit of a challenge. The rubber “legs” of the inner structure want to fold up inside as you are trying to make the basket go over the top completely. Using a thin piece of wood or stiff plastic (like a picnic knife) might help at this point. The Rycote as a foam skirt that normally goes up inside; I rolled that down and put a rubber band around the bottom of it. This helps keep out breezes coming from behind.
Overall, there’s definitely an improvement in how my Sony experiences wind noise; it’s by no means perfect, and I’m looking at other possibilities like lining the inside of the rubber ball with a thin layer of felt or foam.
I cut off the two larger jacks and soldered large piezo discs onto each lead, then sealed the connections with shrink tubing and plasti-dip. I used red dip for the piezo disc that connects to the ring of the tip-ring-sleeve (TRS) mini-plug, which would be the right channel in a stereo configuration. I put “stereo” in quotes for this mic because, while it’s a two-channel mic that works great with a mini-plug input on any audio recorder, the recordings don’t attempt to depict a sound field like we expect from a stereo microphone array.
This means you can arrange the two elements in any relation to each other and it’s never “wrong.” In the above image, I clipped the two elements to each end of a strip of heavy watercolor paper, then left it out in the gently falling Western Massachusetts snow plugged into my Sony PCM D-100 digital recorder. The paper was heavy enough that it never became waterlogged, and was stiff enough that the snow made a satisfying pop upon impact. The result was a “stereo” recording of a tiny paper landscape.
In the below photo I’ve attached them to a wire shirt hanger, an adaptation of “The Watson,” a technique invented by environmental recordist Chris Watson for a quick, cheap, and effect stereo mount. (I’m not sure Watson himself invented the name for it.)