Light on the Head, Heavy on Sound
Mic-headset combinations typically are associated with sports play-by-play and live remotes. But innovations in audio over the Internet have opened up a new need for broadcast headsets.
The cost of a microphone-headset combination can range from less than $20 for simple consumer VoIP units up to several hundred dollars for top-of-the-line sports headsets you see on NFL telecasts.
Parked comfortably in between those extremes is the Audio-Technica BPHS1, a stereo headset with a comfortable fit and a great-sounding dynamic mic element. The MSRP is $279, but it can be had for less than $200 through your usual favorite sources.
Anyone ‘Skyping’ back to their studios would be wise to consider a mic-headset combo such as the BPHS1 with an XLR-USB adapter.
The BPHS1 starts with stereo elements in sealed earcups, each element scoping out to 20 kHz for clarity. The plug is a full 1/4-inch TRS type, a surprise if you are anticipating the stock 3.5 mm plug and adapter combo so common today.
The use of stereo elements means you can hear the talkback from the studio in just one ear instead of both.
The dynamic cardioid low-Z mic has a large low end (primarily due to proximity) and a bright peak for intelligibility centered just under 8 kHz. This is a mic that will cut through the cheers at the basketball broadcast. The dynamic element means you won’t be sweating a phantom supply or a battery to stay on the air.
Further, the mic is mounted on a flexible rubber-coated gooseneck to bend and shape exactly where you want it. At one time, mic booms on certain headsets were permanently bent and all you could do was slide it back and forth. No longer. The BPHS1 microphone bends to your will, as it were.
The cable terminates in an XLR mic plug and again that 1/4-inch stereo headset plug, and can be detached from the headset for replacement or repair. Good idea: all headphone cables eventually get rolled over by chairs and some are easier to put back into service than others. While it looks as if this cable can take a little punishment, I would spring for a spare cable (BPCB1) now for use much later.
And because pop filters are the first things to wear away or fall off, the company wisely included three mic pop filters with the BPHS1.
As stated at the top, the BPHS1 is ideal for sports broadcasts. The tight cardioid pattern on the mic means minimal audio leakage from your partner in the booth. News-talk stations doing live field interviews can pack two of these in place of large mics, stands, separate headphones and all the extras that sometimes never make it into the remote bag.
But also stated topside, new technologies mean new uses. Many talents associated with Radio America programs frequently participate via Skype, the popular telephone/“picturephone” Web application.
Where inexpensive electret mics might be adequate for Skype calls, we require broadcast-quality audio, and a better mic invariably means a better end product. Anyone “Skype-ing” back to their studios would be wise to consider a mic-headset combo such as the BPHS1 combined with an XLR-USB adapter such as the Shure X2B.
Such a use will also demand a proper headphone connector. In an unusual twist, that will mean a reducing adapter, going 1/4-inch to 3.5mm.
Unlike familiar, bulkier headsets like the Koss Pro4AA with its manly threaded stud, the BPHS1 has a modern look and light feel. For some, maybe too light. People with smaller or narrow heads may find the set a little loose if they are moving quickly to follow play action.
But for clarity, ease of travel, comfort and snap-on simplicity of replacement, the Audio-Technica BPHS1 is a fine performer. Good price too.
For information, contact Audio-Technica in Ohio at firstname.lastname@example.org, (330) 686-2600 or www.audio-technica.com.
Alan Peterson is assistant chief engineer and production director for the Radio America Network in Arlington, Va.