The Audix SCX1 in action on a recent documentary shoot at an auto shop. The SCX1 is mounted using a Rycote Lyre Mic Suspension Mount.
The Audix SCX1 Hypercardioid
I had been putting off buying a new hypercardioid microphone for too long, which is why I recently purchased the Audix SCX1 microphone.
My company has been happily working with the Audio-Technica AT875R short shotgun for the past few years as our main microphone, both as an on-camera scratch and ambient mic and on a boom for interviews. We’ve owned and used much more expensive microphones in the past, such as the Schoeps CMC641 and the Sennheiser MKH-50, and have enjoyed the focused and neutral sound quality that a fine microphone like those can provide.
However, I’m not a pro sound mixer. It’s difficult to justify spending roughly $2,000 for a top-of-the-line microphone.
Generally, I prefer to hire pro sound mixers any time we go past a single talking head, whether that’s coverage of moving subjects, multiple subjects in an interview or anything narrative.
Shotgun vs. Hypercardioid Microphone
For those times when I’m shooting a single-subject interview, though, I wanted to have a hypercardioid microphone for rooms that have reverberant or echo-filled characteristics. But in case you’re not familiar with microphone pickup patterns, here’s a way to keep it simple:
- Shotgun microphones generally have a narrower pickup pattern, but a result of that narrower, more focused pattern is that shotguns typically also have a decently sized pickup pattern to the rear of the microphone. This rear pickup pattern area is what typically hears reverberant room characteristics when you’re recording in a room that’s filled with hard, reflective surfaces.
- A hypercardioid microphone typically has a wider, less-focused front pickup but also less pickup at the rear of the microphone. So when you use a hypercardioid in a reverberant environment, it will typically pick up fewer of the usually undesirable room reflections. Hypercardioids also can usually pick up two subjects at a time, if the subjects are close together, more so than a shotgun microphone can.
Comparing The Audix SCX To The Competition
Generally, the Schoeps CMC641 is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, supercardioid microphone available. When I began looking at hyper- and supercardioid microphones to purchase (hyper- and supercardioid microphones are close in pickup pattern but not exactly the same), I wondered if there was a candidate that could give me most of the benefits of the Schoeps but at a lower price.
After a lot of reading and research, listening to recordings and a couple of visits to a local audio retailer, I narrowed down my decision to either purchase the Audio Technica AT4053b hypercardioid or the Audix SCX1 hypercardioid. Both are well regarded in the sound mixing for picture business, and both retail for around $500 to $600.
After recording some interviews with both of them, I ended up purchasing the Audix. The sound was a little clearer and a bit more neutral to my ear, although it was a tough decision as the Audio Technica sounded very good as well, and I’ve always been a fan of Audio Technica microphones in general.
I’ve been shooting with the Audix now for three months and, so far, I haven’t regretted my decision once.
It’s always difficult to use adjectives to describe something as nuanced as sound quality, but here’s how I’d characterize it: The Audix, to my ear, both plugged into my Canon C200 direct or into my Sound Devices MixPre-3, has a transparent yet slightly lively quality to the sound and tends to let voices punch through an edited mix.
What I found interesting is that I’ve used the Schoeps CMC641, which is an industry standard for a reason, but the Audix SCX1 shared a lot of the same sound characteristics—for less than a third of the cost.
In microphones, the law of diminishing returns is in effect.
The Schoeps does sound better to my ears, but how much better does it sound versus the cost to buy one? For me, the Audix is an excellent value. It’s ruggedly and precisely crafted and sounds almost as neutral as the Schoeps.
So, if you have the budget, you can buy the Schoeps, and you’ll be very happy with it. But if you can’t afford to spend that kind of money but still are in pursuit of recording the best sound possible on a lower budget, the SCX1 HC may fit the bill.
As far as features and technical specifications, the Audix SCX1 HC is a hypercardioid condenser, and when you open the nicely crafted wooden box that Audix ships it in along with a mic stand mount and foam windscreen, it’s impressive how small the SCX1 is.
I utilize a Rycote Lyre microphone suspension mount on my K-Tek boom pole, and the Audix is so short that I have to plug it into the XLR cable before mounting it to have enough of the body of the mic to fit into the suspension mount and still have enough microphone body left to put on a Rycote Dead Cat wind protection or the included Audix foam windscreen that I use when shooting interiors.
If you’re a video shooter or someone else who needs to record high-quality interior audio, I highly recommend that you supplement the shotgun microphone that you probably already own with a high-quality hyper- or supercardioid microphone. It will improve the quality of your dialogue tracks when recording interiors, especially in rooms that have a lot of reverberant characteristics.
The Oscar SoundTech 801 Lavalier
I have two of the Tascam DR-10L recorders that I occasionally use when recording subjects where using a wireless isn’t possible or at least not desirable. The DR-10L is a very small stand-alone recorder that comes with its own lavalier microphone.
I recently used a pair of them on a documentary shoot where we didn’t have a professional sound mixer with an outboard recorder to record a wireless feed, and I was shooting with a small mirrorless camera on a gimbal without a place to mount two wireless microphone receivers.
I placed one DR-10L on one of the subjects and just hit record and recorded their audio for hours. Of course, I wasn’t shooting video for hours, continuously, but the audio recorders were recording the whole time.
When I returned to our office and downloaded the audio to take a listen, overall, it didn’t sound too bad for a standalone $189 digital recorder.
But the included, inexpensive Tascam lavalier microphones left something to be desired as the sound was a bit muffled. It was usable but not premium sounding.
I chalked this up to the fact that the Tascam DR-10L costs just $189, including the recorder and a lavalier microphone. So the microphone is obviously not a high-end microphone.
I next decided that I’d try out another lavalier with the Tascam DR-10L: the Oscar SoundTech (OST) 801 lavalier.
I ordered two of them, one for each recorder, from Dave, the owner of Oscar SoundTech (oscarsoundtech.com).
By the way, customer support was very good. In fact, Dave got right back to me with answers to a couple of technical questions I had about the mics. Also, the Oscar SoundTech website is pretty basic, but you email Dave to obtain the most current price list.
The company presently offers three lavaliers: the 801, 802 and TL-40.
The 801 is a flat rectangular microphone that bears a resemblance to the Tram TR-50B and Sonotrim lavaliers, which are both industry standards that retail for about $250 to $350 each, depending on the options they’re ordered with. The 801 includes a slight high-frequency bump to compensate for being placed under wardrobe.
The 802 is the same microphone but without the high-frequency bump, better for exterior placement where the mic element can be seen.
The TL-40 is a smaller and differently designed microphone with the mic element placed at the end of the body of the microphone.
I already own two Tram TR-50B lavaliers and have used them for years and really like the sound that they produce for me, but both of mine are hard-wired to an XLR power supply, and I didn’t want to rewire them.
So I needed to buy two new lavs for the Tascams. And I wasn’t interested in spending $250 to $350 on a microphone for a $189, lower-end digital recorder.
Here’s my take: The Oscar SoundTech 801 lavaliers arrived, and I have since used them with the Tascam DR-10L recorders. They sound considerably crisper and clearer than the stock Tascam or RØDE lavaliers sound, and the value equation is excellent. I was able to purchase each OST 801 for less than $100.
I mount them to talent using the Rycote Overcovers that I wrote about a few issues ago. These are a small fur cover with a second piece of hypoallergenic sticky disc that fastens the lavalier to the fur cover. You peel off the back cover of the sticky disc and place it either on clothing or skin.
The extra-high frequency bump on the 801 works perfectly to offset the slight reduction in highs using this mounting system. If you’re in search of a great-sounding lavalier microphone at a very reasonable cost, I’d suggest you check out the Oscar SoundTech lavaliers. They represent an excellent value and sound much better than their price would lead you to believe.
Dave at OST can wire them to almost any type of connector you need, to work with any wireless system on the market. Also, the OST mics are available in three color options: black, white and tan.