Promising ‘next-generation wind and handling noise isolation for audio professionals’, does the manufacturer’s high-tech windshield system have what it takes to impress Jerry Ibbotson when paired with a selection of DPA mics? Let’s find out.
If there’s ever a company that has become synonymous with the type of product it makes, it’s Rycote. When you think of windshields for microphones, you think of the UK firm’s gear. I’d go so far as to say they’re in the same league as Hoover and Biro, with “It needs a Rycote on it” being a phrase I’ve uttered more than once. Sure, other windshields are available, but the guys from Stroud are pretty much the Daddies (and Mummies) at keeping wind away from microphones.
The company’s Zeppelinesque Modular system (hilariously dubbed Dead Dog or Dead Cat by a generation of users) set the bar in this field. In recent years its range of products has mushroomed to include Mini Windjammers for handheld portable recorders (indispensable), studio shock mounts and even stick-on windshields for personal mics and lavaliers – the Undercover and Overcover.
I personally am alarmed to look around my various bags and boxes of kit and count how much Rycote gear I have in my possession. A while back I went to Copenhagen to record some material about urban traffic for a BBC radio station. At one point I was cycling through the Danish capital with a DPA mic stuck to my cheek with a Rycote Stickie/Overcover combination to record a commentary as I wove through traffic. Later, I was again on a bike but this time holding a small Olympus recorder attached to a Rycote Portable Recorder Suspension kit and Windjammer. As odd as my behaviour sounds, using Rycote gear just seemed the most natural thing to do.
So pardon me if I seem strangely enthusiastic about the arrival of a new bit of kit from the Gloucestershire factory. The Cyclone range is a new family of windshield systems that aim to isolate mics from wind and handling noise.
They combine Rycote’s existing Lyre floating mount technology (used on everything from my portable recorder kit to full-on windshields) with an all-new external cover system. This uses a material called 3D-Tex, which combines acoustic transparency with attenuation of wind noise. In short, wind gets stopped but sound gets through. It’s wrapped around a composite (plastic) chassis with full internal wiring – you plug into the mic from the outside.
What makes Cyclone different is its size. I’ve been testing the Medium model and it’s still tiny compared to previous basket-style systems I’ve used. In fact it’s not much longer than a mic inside the classic Softie (the one that comes with its own hairbrush for fur maintenance, I kid you not). As I write this, the Cyclone is resting on my lap and, believe me, my thighs aren’t that wide.
The basket comes apart by loosening some locking tabs on the bottom and then pulling the case open. You’re then greeted with what looks like a complex bracket system, complete with red cabling snaking its way up. It’s part shock-mount and part mic-holder, with the Lyre mount at its heart. This is Rycote’s patented floating system that sees the microphone suspended inside the basket. It’s based around flexible sections of composite material and is actually very simple in execution, compared to having a mic sitting in a spider’s web of elastic.
The chunkiest part of this whole arrangement is the section that sits at the bottom of the basket and attaches to the boom pole (or in my case, hand grip). This also has some shock-absorbing jiggery-pokery going on inside it so the Lyre mount itself is fully floating inside. I had a good peer at the workings and can confirm that it all looks jolly clever and extremely well engineered.
I had intended to test the Cyclone with my own staple RØDE NTG 3 shotgun – a mic I tested for Audio Media years ago and then bought – but the nice chaps at DPA distributor Sound Network sent me something else to use: some samples from the d:dicate range.
The d:dicate range is made of a number of capsules and preamps of varying sizes and configurations. If you marry the MMC4017 capsule with the MMP-B preamp, you get a d:dicate 4017B. I won’t run through every combination I was sent to play with but I have to say that even just handling the mics, I was impressed. The build quality is exactly what you’d always expect of DPA: beautiful.
I plumped for the 4017 shotgun capsule and MMP-B preamp, which features two on-board filters than you activate by turning a pair of rotating rings. One is a 4dB boost at 8kHz (in theory to compensate for using a windjammer) and the other is a bass roll-off below 120Hz to reduce wind noise or handling rumble. There’s also a permanent high-pass filter at 50Hz.
The 4017B shotgun (technically hyper-cardioid and pictured below) can handle peak SPLs of 152dB before clipping and is designed for camera systems, ENG or broadcast work and even studio recording. The mic is small – just 210mm long – and fitted easily inside the Cyclone. It plugs into a Neutrik connector, which is already pre-wired into the basket and leads out to another on the boom/handle mount.
The basket then snaps back together and I have already found that the more times you do this, the more it becomes second nature. It’s held together by a combination of magnets and rotating latches and the former mean you can almost throw the two halves at each other and they snap into place. Once the latches are turned, the mic is safe and snug in its new home.
I tried a little experiment first – hooking the mic to the preamp on my Focusrite Scarlett and setting up Adobe Audition CC to record. I did some voice recording, reading a section of Roald Dahl’s The Twits that had been my eight-year-old’s homework. This was just to test how the DPA sounded in the Cyclone and the answer is – amazing. It was a little flat at the top but then I’d left the high boost filter turned off. A touch of EQ and the voice sounded incredible (not my performance, the mic’s). It was clear but mellow and almost hypnotic in its smoothness. I’m starting to sound like a Jazz reviewer but it really was that good.
But that wasn’t the real test I wanted to perform. I popped the basket apart from that the mic was exposed. Then I very gently blew towards it from about a foot away. Nothing potentially damaging for the capsule but enough to peak at about -24dB, compared to my Twits reading of -18dB. This was pure rumble – the kind of thing that can wreck any recording.
I then popped the basket back together (a one handed job by this point) and repeated the exercise exactly as before. Nothing. The meters on Audition barely registered anything and on playback all I could hear was my initial breathing, no rumble at all. The Cyclone had killed the man-made “wind” before it could reach the microphone.
I’m sure that a sufficiently strong level of air movement would get through the hi-tech covering, but then, in the real world, you probably have the option of at least shifting the mic away from the direction of the wind. I was aiming it straight into the nose of the Rycote.
How about handling noise or rather, isolation from it? I made some deliberately over-the-top movements with my arm, waving the Cyclone about in a way that would possibly get any boom operator immediately fired and probably never re-hired again. The only significant noise was from my own limb flapping about.
I have since tested the Cyclone on a field recorder and the results were equally impressive. It’s cleverly designed, brilliantly put together and does exactly what is asked of it. It keeps away wind and isolates microphones from both rumble and handling noise. It is also compact and flexible to use. Getting to a mic inside one of these is a five-second job. I’m not sure how it would fare in wet weather, because I tested it at the tail end of the summer of 2016, which was most un-British in its warmth, but it looks like it’s built for it. I still swear by my trusty Softies for day-to-day use but the Cyclone takes things to another level.
As for the mic that I tested it with, well the d:dicate 4017B may have a rather fancy name but it retains all of DPA’s traditional values, like top-end build and design. The modular system of separate capsules and preamps is extremely flexible and, the more I think about it, very clever indeed. But you buy microphones for their sound quality and with the 4017 you get that in spades. Or as DPA might say, s:pades.
- 3D Tex material provides ‘excellent acoustic transparency and superb attenuation of wind noise’
- Magnetic Z-Locking System for fast opening and closing with just one hand, if required
- Takes the existing Lyre technology and incorporates it in a Floating Basket Suspension
- Suitable for extreme weather recording
- Available in Small, Medium and Large
RRP: Small = From £475.20; Medium = £487.29; Large = £499.20
Picture: Inside the Rycote Cyclone Medium shown with a Schoeps CMIT5U
Jerry Ibbotson has worked in pro-audio for more than 20 years, first as a BBC radio journalist and then as a sound designer in the games industry. He’s now a freelance audio producer and writer.