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Budget parabola set-up  


Paul Archer
Posts: 11
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Joined: 8 months ago

I got a Tascam DR05 digital recorder c2years back and have been using it for nocmig and other (close) recording opportunities since then but as I wanted to 'do more', I realised that a dedicated microphone would be needed.

Looking at rifle-type mics initially, their shortcomings (esp the fact that they dont amplify the sound) made me narrow the choice to a parabolic reflector solution of some sort. And there things might have stopped as the entry cost (>>€750) for a Telinga set-up rendered it out of budget. Since then, I've come to learn of the Dodotronic options and the ~ €400 price-point for these makes them much more attractive.

Then at the end of last year I came upon a UK manufactured parabolic mic from https://parabolicmicrophone.co.uk/ and in January, I bought the 500mm dish plus the K2 high sensitivity low noise microphone (for 3.5mm-jack). 

Pic of full set-up in use

Including some other parts, the costs were c€140 for the bits I bought, with a nice Brexity bonus of having to pay a further €40 for customs etc before delivery.  So, all in (without the cost of the digital recorder) I was on the road for well under €200. A (reasonably good) set of headphones is also needed to use with the mic as the "directability" of it is such that it is only with headphones that you will sense the sweet-spot of the sound when you have mic pointing right at your subject.          

The overall results have been very good. A few of the recordings I've made with it are on Xeno-canto

Whimbrel

Common Snipe - drumming

Reed Bunting

Whitethroat

Used on a tripod, this is easy to set up for noc-mig recording too, albeit as a non-weatherproofed rig, so pick your nights well !

No parabolic reflector is easy to carry around, and this one is no different; they are bulky and pretty awkward; that said, this one is very light and (so far) robust. It weighs just over 1kg with my DR attached on a self-made bracket, so can be carried on a strap over your shoulder when birding without any strain, but things get messy when you also have headphones to manage (plus bins', plus 'scope, plus camera.....!!). 

 

A quick summary of the good and bad points:

GOOD

Overall excellent results, see above. You get what you pay for in mics and this is one a cheap option for sure, but delivers a very good result

No plug-in power required - the K2 is an active mic that comes with its own PP3 powered driver pack

Lightweight; >1Kg with DR attached to the rig 

 

BAD

The 140mm focal length of parabola means that the stem that holds the mic protrudes well beyond the rim of the parabola meaning that it is vulnerable to damage and not great for storage, but so far, so OK on that front. 

The sound can suffer from saturation distortion (as on Reed Bunting above) if conditions are too good ! ie close subject with loud song

Low level white-noise hiss is noticeable on all recording: not severe, but can be a bit annoying (this could be common to many mics - I'm not sure)

 

As an entry into using a parabolic reflector & mic, this set-up offers a very good result within a reasonable budget and - treated carefully - will satisfy new users to the field of bird sound recording.  

 

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Paul Archer
Posts: 11
Topic starter
(@paul-archer)
Active Member
Joined: 8 months ago

Attached is my set up with the DR attached on a metal bracket to the parabola handle

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