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  • Writer's pictureMike Bullock

Chew toy windscreens, pt. 1

The best way to keep wind noise from overwhelming your recordings is to keep a bubble of empty space between the inside of your wind screen and the capsule of your microphone.

As Chris Watson puts it, wind makes noise when it stops. With only a foam or furry windscreen, the wind stops when it hits your microphone capsule and creates noise. This is why you see sound recordists carrying around mics that look like blimps: the microphone sits inside a metal or plastic frame, which is covered with soft materials such as felt, fake fur, or other fabrics. The soft materials slow the wind as it passes through the frame, but it’s the empty space inside that makes the biggest difference with cutting wind speed and preventing the microphone from being blasted directly with wind.

All-in-one recorders may come with a small furry or foam windscreen, which do OK with keeping out low-speed puffs of air from a speaking person or a curious animal’s sniffing snout. They can’t really keep out air moving faster than a light breeze. Even third-party furries like the Rycote Windjammer made for the Sony PCM-D100 can’t slow down the wind much. But you like your all-in-one recorder for its portability and quick deployment, right? Mounting it in a blimp windscreen the size of a rugby ball will make it hard to keep the recorder in your coat pocket or handbag.

In this project, I set out to build a windscreen basket for my Sony PCM-D100, using a dog’s rubber chew toy. Don’t worry, I didn’t take a toy away from a dog, and my cats have no interest. This is another project based on an idea I got from the ever-resourceful Michael Rosenstein.

This particular brand mesh-ball dog toy has one solid hexagon, so I cut that one out to make the opening. The ball was a good size to fit over the built-in mics of the Sony, though it partially covers the signal overload lights on the front as well as some of the sockets on the sides. This is a problem even when using the Sony’s furry windscreen alone; it’s down to the design of the Sony, a company famous for well-designed products but also for sometimes sticking with poor choices like allowing the Walkman brand to be the Wile E Coyote to Apple’s Road Runner.

Next I stuffed the rubber ball up inside the Rycote Windjammer. This can take a few tries to get it in straight.

Fitting this new combination over the Sony again is a bit of a challenge. The rubber “legs” of the inner structure want to fold up inside as you are trying to make the basket go over the top completely. Using a thin piece of wood or stiff plastic (like a picnic knife) might help at this point. The Rycote as a foam skirt that normally goes up inside; I rolled that down and put a rubber band around the bottom of it. This helps keep out breezes coming from behind.

Overall, there’s definitely an improvement in how my Sony experiences wind noise; it’s by no means perfect, and I’m looking at other possibilities like lining the inside of the rubber ball with a thin layer of felt or foam.

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