I found out about Bubblebee Industries when I was searching for shotgun microphone windshields on the web. They didn’t exactly float to the surface – I had to dig into the results – but I was intrigued by the names they give their products and the design. And so, I asked for test units and got their Windkiller and Spacer Bubble Kit.
All of Bubblebee’s products have a nice, black design. They turn your microphone into a cool looking design object. The products come in various sizes to fit different shotgun microphone lengths and types. I tested with a Sennheiser MKH-416. First things first: it’s incredibly easy and simple to fit out a shotgun microphone with one of these windshields.
I started out my trials with the Windkiller, a simple to use all-in-one solution for protecting a microphone against the wind. It’s basically a fur with an open cell foam inside. The Windkiller I got was the long-haired model. It’s an attractive solution because you simply pull it over the front of your shotgun mic. Also available is the “Windkiller, Short-Haired” which is primarily conceived for lighter wind situations and run-and-gun camera-mounted mics so that the fur doesn’t appear in the camera frame.
My first test with the Windkiller was to see if there’s a loss of signal or frequency response in contrast to the bare mic. There was only a fraction of signal loss (below 1dB) and with white noise playing through the speakers, the frequency range of the microphone remained entirely intact, with a very slight – barely visible on the spectrum display – loss in the highs in most tests. However, in some tests and at around 80Hz, there was a -40dB continuous hum that wasn’t there without the windshield mounted.
When I asked Bubblebee’s PR about this, he pointed it out to me this could be due to a grounding problem. I ruled that out myself before, but as the conversation progressed he mentioned a few other things with regards to the Bubblebee products, one of which was a casual mention of the fact that you need to ensure the front of the windshield doesn’t touch the front of the mic.
I was already aware of that, but as the day progressed and I couldn’t find what was causing this, I started thinking that I might have been pushing the Windkiller and Spacer Bubble too far backwards or not far enough. I reasoned that this might cause the silicon rubber ring to somehow interfere with the mic’s capsule.
So I experimented with the position of the silicon ring. It didn’t take me long to realise that the continuous hum only appeared when I mounted the Bubblebee without actually looking where the ring would end up. When I started mounting the windshield concentrating on the ring being just past where the capsule is, the hum disappeared. I could repeat this both with the Windkiller and the Space Bubble Kit, so that solved the problem.
The conclusion is that any hum you may experience is not due to a design flaw of the Bubblebee windshields, but to carelessness when mounting them and that, in turn, is forgivable because mounting these things is so easy you don’t think it will matter.
The conclusion for the Windkiller and Space Bubble was that they don’t differ much as far as the first test is concerned.
The wind test turned out even better. I first tested with a (relatively) silent ventilator at about 45 degrees sideways the microphone. That ensured the motor noise was reduced to a minimum while the blowing stream of air hit the mic full out. With the Spacer Bubble on its own (no fur) and the fan at a distance of 1m, the air flow was almost inaudible.
With the same setup, adding the short fur added a bit of blowing sounds with the ventilator at a distance of 30cm. The long hair fur removed most of the blowing sounds with the ventilator in that position. The Windkiller behaved in the same way as with the long hair fur mounted on the Spacer Bubble.
My final test was to go outside on a windy day with 5-6 Beaufort and wind gusts of up to 70km/h. The results were quite spectacular. Without any protection at all, the microphone produced a lot of booming and blowing – totally painful to your ears and making dialogue unintelligible. The Bubble Spacer took most of the booming away but couldn’t cope with the wind gusts. The short-haired fur was. The long-haired fur didn’t seem to do much in the wind conditions I was in, which is actually a promise that it won’t have any problem with attenuating worse wind conditions. The long-haired Windkiller was overkill with 5-6 Beaufort and 70km/h gusts.
Bubblebee’s fur and windshield products are fine products for recording in windy and even stormy conditions. They’re very easy to use, which makes them very appealing, and they make your shotgun mic look really cool. They’re quite inexpensive too.There are Bubblebee windshields and fur covers for almost every shotgun microphone (and for Lavalier mics as well, of course). For a Sennheiser MKH-416, the Bubblebee Windkiller costs €80.00. The Spacer Bubble Kit costs €180.00 and includes the Long-Haired and Short-Haired covers, and a handy storage/carry bag.
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