Sandpaper storage shelf (aka, I got a saw for my birthday, and needed an excuse to cut stuff)

Here is the completed shelf in its current location.

Here is the completed shelf in its current location.

I turned another year older recently, and for my birthday, my wonderful wife bought me a Ryobi One+ battery powered circular saw.

Of course, If you get something like a saw for your birthday, you instantly need to find something to cut.

I had to sit through an entire day of work before I could play with it, so after work, I stopped off at Bunnings on the way home, and bought a couple of sheets of MDF. I had an idea to make a shelf to store my sandpaper neatly.

Every time I make something like this, I always manage to stuff up in my measurements, and this time was no different.

When measuring up the MDF for the sides of the cabinet, I seemingly picked the narrow sides, instead of the long sides.

However, I measured and cut the the top and bottom with clearance for the sides Plus the sandpaper, but the front and back only had a little extra leeway, and the paper wouldn’t fit if I added the sides in the same way.

I didn’t have enough MDF to cut 2 new sides out, so instead, I used the sides, and the bottom, but cut another top that was the width of the bottom, Plus the thickness of 2x sheets of 12mm mdf. this meant I wouldn’t eat into the size of the top shelf.

The bottom was slightly larger than the rest of the compartments, as A: I was lazy and B: I wanted to try and make a little drawer for other bits and pieces, so I got away with using the original bottom.

I cut the slots for the 3mm MDF with the saw as well. If I did something like this again, I’d probably try and get a 3mm bit for my router, as for each slot in the MDF, I had to do 2 overlapping cuts with the circular saw. A lot of people do this kind of work on a table saw, but as I don’t have one of those, and I do have the hand held circular saw, that’s what I used.

As it was, Come assembly time, I discovered I wasn’t quite accurate enough with my slots, and while some were OK, a couple were a little too tight. While trying to tap the shelves into position, I was actually driving the sides apart. with a few knocks from a mallet, and some clamping and extra glue, I managed to get things to fit up well enough again. I’ll have to be a bit more careful next time. Its all a learning experience.

So, its not exactly an action shot, but

So, its not exactly an action shot, but here is the saw after cutting the slots for the shelves

I was impressed with the performance of the saw. After a couple of hours of working with it, not working full time obvously, but working it enought that I thought I might have dropped the battery a bit, the battery was still reading fully charged on its built in meter. I think I’m going to like these 5 amp hour batteries that I bought to go with my Ryobi One+ gear.

Out of glueup, and the shelves fitted.

Out of glueup, and the shelves fitted.

Boya BY-V01 stereo on camera microphone

Today, I’m looking at the microphone is the BOYA BY-V01 Stereo X/Y Mini Condenser Microphone.

This cheap stereo microphone is available on eBay and other locations, for about $30 Australian. I bought it wanting something cheap and low profile to sit on my camera most of the time, so I can get better sounding audio when I’m shooting, and I don’t want the bulk and clutter of the Rode Videomic.

From the outside, it looks OK. It’s a nice size, doesn’t stick out too far, and seems reasonably built.

The mic in place on my Canon 650d

The mic in place on my Canon 650d

But fairly quickly, you’ll establish that while it does work, it does have some fairly hard to ignore issues. I was hoping, being an externally powered microphone, it would a reasonable level of gain on the output of the mic, but it appears that there isn’t a whole lot of additional amplification given to the recording level.

This isn’t ideal for most DSLR cameras with microphone inputs. They are often build with budget preamps if they are luck enough to have mic inputs at all. The high noise recordings aren’t the greatest. Usually, the best thing to do is to have a microphone that has a strong output, or run an external mixer or preamp so you can turn down the inputs on the camera.

But that’s not the big issue on this microphone.

The sound recorded to camera appears to be flipped from what you would expect, With the left channel coming from the right, and vice-versa. That is a fixable issue by either flipping the channels in post, or re wiring the mic, but the point is, you shouldn’t have to do either. Also, to make matters worse, even if you do fix it, the sound image is not properly centered. If a sound is coming directly to the front of the mic, it will appear to come from one side of the mic.

I suspect the source of this problem comes from the fact that this microphone is not actually an X/Y microphone like advertised. If you pull the mic apart (like I did), It is actually appears to be a mid/side microphone.

Being  a mid/side microphone isn’t an issue (apart from the misleading labelling), I am guessing the side capsule is not performing as an accurate figure 8 microphone, and it is biasing one side just a little bit.

Boya microphone array internals

Boya microphone internals


My verdict on this microphone is that its probably not worth the $30. I wouldn’t buy it again. If you have a camera with on board microphones (like most, if not all you’d consider mounting this to), You will likely get audio that is as good as, if not better than this microphone. Sure, there might be some purposes that see it being useful, like using it with the little deadcat in windy environments, that would probably yield slightly better results than the internal mic. The sound quality isn’t great, I’d say close to the on camera ones on the 650D, and it has issues with the stereo reproduction. I’d think twice about buying this mic. Save your money. for a little more you can get something a little better from a name brand like Rode, or Tascam. You’ll get much better results there.

Replacement shock mount bands

What do you do when you need replacement rubber bands for a microphone shock mount,  but cannot find them anywhere (at least anywhere that would ship to me here in Australia)?

You improvise.

I started off using  lots of small standard rubber bands,  but that didn’t work the greatest.

The old rubber bands didn't work so well

The old rubber bands didn’t work so well

Brain wave!

Pushbike inner tubes, like one massive rubber band in a circle!

Pushbike inner tubes, like one massive rubber band in a circle!

Pushbike tubes!

I can cut them to the size I need,  and they are a bit sturdier than half a dozen of the thin ones.

Just cutting slices off the tire

Just cutting slices off the tire


There really isn’t much to this, so the pictures will pretty much tell the story. You cut off slices of tube.


This is what we get

This is what we get


Then you mount them on the shock-mount, and you’re done.

Then we just slip them into place. As good as a bought one.

Then we just slip them into place. As good as a bought one.


The resulting shock mount works much better than my original effort. all the small rubber bands really didn’t hold up so well. These inner tube ones work great.

Quick and simple laptop mod – a tape measure

Here is a very quick post to show an idea that I had recently.

Its so small, that It’s hardly worthy of a post, but I thought someone might find it interesting.

Often, I’ll find it handy to know how big something is while surfing the net, or trying to size up something I’m looking at, and I’ll either need to go find a ruler, or make a rough guestimation of the size.

Then I had a brainwave, what if I stuck a ruler to my laptop?

printable rulers can be found at various places on-line, and I found a neat short ruler at, which is the one pictured below:


Ruler closeup

I printed it out, measured it for accuracy, and adjusted the size a few times and printed again until the accuracy was close enough for my liking before cutting it out and sticking it down with double sided tape.


The little ruler was a neat size, but I thought a longer ruler might be helpful, so I was going to find a larger ruler to print out, then I thought of an easier idea:

Ikea give away paper rulers at their stores, and I’ve had a bunch kicking around for ages. I thought I could save myself some trouble, and use one of those.

Instead of printing off another ruler, this time, I chose to go the lazy route, and cut up an Ikea measuring tape.

I split it down the middle, so i could use both the inches, and the centimetre  measurements, and stuck them down to the laptop with double sided sticky tape like before.

Laptop displaying rulers

As you can see from the pictures, the results aren’t exactly super neat and fancy, but they do exactly what I want them to do.

Hopefully someone can find this simple idea useful.

SQN 4S Series 3a Field mixer, and Attenuation cables

My new field audio kit

My new field audio kit

Recently, I added a field mixer to my collection of audio gear. I’m looking at getting more into audio production for video, and figured a field mixer was a very handy place to start. When this mixer came up on eBay, it peaked my interest. It was packing quite a bit of extras for a pretty good price. I ummed and Arred, before giving in, and buying it. Along with the mixer the extras included the bag, a break away cable, a pair of Sony headphones that look like they are as old as the mixer, and a few XLR cables. Basically an instant field audio kit. WOOT!


Attenuation cables

As you might be able to see in the picture, I have teamed up the mixer with my Zoom H4n, and I’ve been working on the best way to link the two devices.

The easiest way is XLR out of the mixer, into XLR of the Zoom, but due to the Zoom’s limitation of not accepting line level inputs, this connection has to be a mic level one, and I end up having to turn up the Zoom’s preamps quite a bit to get the levels where they should be. This isn’t optimal, as it introduces a lot of noise back into the recording, which is precisely what I’m avoiding by going with a mixer / recorder combo.

Best results I’ve gotten so far is coming out of the mixer line level, and attenuating the levels down until they are at a level the Zoom H4n can handle. I’m still going into the Zoom as a mic signal, but by choosing an appropriate level attenuator,  I can set the Zoom’s input levels much lower than using the mic outputs of the mixer (with the -30db cables, I can set the Zoom’s inputs to 20, instead of the 70 or 80 it’s at coming out mic level)

I messed round trying to find something that worked, scouring the internet for attenuator circuits. There is quite a lot out there that want to teach you how to work out your own values for attenuators, but it was rather difficult to find a straight forward circuit that says “Use X and Y resistors for an attenuation of Z”. Eventually, I found this Proharmonic article, which was nice enough to give some clear figures for attenuators.


a -30dB pad schematic

This is my rendition of a U bridge attenuator. For other values, please check out their article, linked above.





To get a sense of how it performs, here are a couple of samples:

I hope this has been helpful to people out there. I’m off to record myself talking about nothing for a while, until I can find something more interesting to record.


Tascam iM2 stereo microphone review

OK, so the Tascam iM2 is hardly anything new, but I just got my hands on one, so I thought I’d write a quick review

I’m testing this on my 4th generation iPod as that is the newest iDevice I own. I will make it clear that this will NOT work on a iPhone 3gs, as I’ve tried it, and the phone doesn’t detect it.

The tascam iM2 is a stereo microphone, in a Near Coincident microphone pair configuration

It is a 16 bit recorder, not 24 bit like the rode iXY, but it is a fraction of the cost. This doesn’t make it useless. 16 bit is still perfectly usable, you just need to be a little more observant of your recording levels than you would if the same device was 24bit.


iPod attached to iM2

iPod attached to iM2


Connecting the Tascam iM2 is quite easy, just it into the dock connector, and away you go. The app I’m using is Rode’s Rode Rec app. There was a Tascam one, whoever it didn’t work reliably on my ipod. It would freak out, and require a force close of the app. On going to update the app to try to fix the Tascam app, the appstore notified me that it was no longer avaliable. Rode Rec seems like a better program anyway. It does have its good and bad points, but its the best app out there I could find for this use.

Rode Rec picks the stereo mic up without a problem. The free app restricts you to 44khz which is perfectly usable, however, by updating to the pro version, it unlocks 48khz which is slightly better if your planning to use the recordings in video (The differences should be marginal, however thats technically the best way of doing things)


Snap and go

Snap and go


Back side of the microphone

Back side of the microphone


The main problem with using the iM2 on my iPod is that the headphone port on the iPod is on the same end as the dock connector, meaning there is no way to monitor my recordings. This is a bit of a bummer, but I guess it can be worked around, mostly by “guessing” its recording good audio. A dock connector extender might be useful here, however I don’t have one, so that isn’t tested.

So how does it sound?

I’ve uploaded a very quick comparison between the iM2 and the Zoom H4n to Soundcloud so you can listen for yourself. Its far from scientific, but it gives a clear indication of the performance of the mic.


What I found was that surprisingly, the Tascam has a lot less hiss than the inbuilt Zoom mics. Even when adjusting the mics to match closely in signal levels, there is a much more prominent hiss in the Zoom’s tracks.

The Zoom had a slightly better stereo image however, where the Tascam sounded slightly flatter.


So is it usable? I think it is. I think it should make a great recorder for impromptu recording sessions, and should be capable of great atmos tracks while tripping around. I’ll be certainly keeping this near by at all times. Which is, coincidently, an advantage of this. Its small enough that I can leave it tucked in my bag, with my ipod, and be ready to go at a moments notice. The biggest issue will be remembering to make sure the ipod’s battery is charged.


See the problem?

See the problem?