A shotgun mic housed inside a Blimp and Dead Wombat setup might be more at home with TV and radio sound crews, but I bought one to add to my arsenal of podcasting gear. Why? Because there are times when I need to record an interview or produce a special feature outdoors and I was sick of the wind ruining my audio!
Nothing sounds less professional in outdoor recording than the low, rumbling sound of wind in your production. Yes, there are steps you can take to reduce it like switching on the low-cut filter on your microphone and playing with the EQ in post but really, the aim should be to eliminate it as much as you can at the point of recording.
There are lower-cost options for helping to combat wind noise. In fact, there are different types of windshields available at different price points but ultimately, if it’s still causing you issues, a blimp is what you’ll end up looking at.
How do I know? See the image below – I’ve been through the budget and mid-range options before finally conceding and buying the Rode Blimp.
The one to the left of the shot is a generic eBay deadcat I bought. After some experimentation, I wasn’t happy so I moved onto the one in the middle – the Rode WS6 which features a foam layer, as well as the artificial fur layer. It also has a rubber base which further assists in helping to keep out wind noise. I still wasn’t happy.
The only way to show you why I felt like I needed the Blimp was to set up a simple test that demonstrated the effectiveness of the two products mentioned above. We’ll then perform the same test with the Blimp.
Table of Contents
The Test Setup
As I write this, the office window is open but there isn’t much wind, certainly not enough to put all three products through their paces.
Next to me however is a fan. Quite a large fan it is too which should provide plenty of ‘wind’ for our tests.
The microphone we’ll use will be the Rode NTG2. It’s a great XLR shotgun mic which doesn’t cost the earth yet provides great audio when recording on location.
Here’s the setup before adding any of the above windshields to the mic. Glamorous? Definitely not. Effective? Hopefully! The fan was set to rotate to emulate gusts of wind.
First, let us listen to a clip of the mic with no windshielding at all.
As you can hear, it’s pretty bad and you wouldn’t want to be outdoors with just a bare shotgun mic like this. Let’s see how effective the different products are and then we’ll get onto the Blimp.
The Generic eBay Windshield
I don’t even think that this is made for this specific mic. For it to fit properly, I have to first fit the foam windscreen and then put this over the top. However, for this test, I simply placed it over the mic without the foam one as it didn’t matter how secure it was while I was indoors.
Here’s the result.
As you can hear, there’s a big difference between this and the bare mic but in my opinion, the wind noise is still unacceptable.
The Rode WS6
When I bought this, I had high hopes for it. Costing a few multiples of the generic version and with the foam and rubber bells and whistles, I expected a significant improvement in performance.
Let’s see what it sounds like.
Not much different! There’s still too much wind noise present for me. Not that I think this was a waste of money, I still use it over the shotgun mic when it’s mounted to my camera when out filming video projects. It serves as a nice on-camera option for back-up audio.
The Rode Blimp Test
Considering the cost of the Blimp, I really needed this to tick all of my boxes. It’s an item that I don’t use too often so to justify the investment, it needed to live up to expectations.
Let’s see how it performed in this test.
That’s more like it! There’s hardly any noise from the gusts and the fan was set to full power with the end of the Blimp only a few inches away from it.
I think it’s safe to say that for this test, it outperforms the other two options by quite an incredible margin. It’s no wonder the broadcast crews use them.
So, the first test passed, but what else does it have going for it? Let’s work our way through the components.
At the very end of the handle, there’s an XLR connector and a 3/8” thread mount for a tripod or boompole. The XLR connector is made by Switchcraft with the one inside the handle being Neutrik. The cable which runs in between the two is made by Mogami so top-quality components have been used.
The handle its self features rubber front and back plates which are grippy, and the shape of them fits well in the hand.
Towards the top of the handle, there are two adjustments – one to move the handle along the Blimp housing (ie front to back horizontal movement) and the other to tilt it backward and forwards. The components of the adjustment mechanisms are made mainly of plastic (just one of the handles is metal) but I assume that’s to save weight because, in its primary use, a boompole operator will be holding it for extended periods.
You just need to be careful that when using the metal adjustment handle, you don’t trap the cable under it which I’ve done a few times.
The Blimp Housing
The housing of the Blimp is an all-plastic design, again I suspect to reduce weight. That’s clearly been achieved as the unit it only 550g.
There are a few component parts, all of which are shown in the image below. It comprises of the front and rear dome, the main housing, a locking rail, and a Rycote Lyre suspension shock mount system.
The suspension system is easy to use, durable, and effective. I understand that in older versions of the Blimp, an elastic band system was used so the Lyre definitely seems to be an upgrade and therefore the one you want to go for. It comes complete with a spacing guide, and the position of each mounting bracket can be moved by using the supplied hex key.
The shotgun mic is fitted and the Blimp built very quickly with two small plastic levers locking the handle and shockmount into the housing.
The supplied Dead Wombat is also straightforward to fit if a little light but I suppose that’s necessary to avoid large voids where the wind could get through to the microphone. The Wombat comes with its own comb to keep it in good condition and it’s also washable although I’ve personally never bothered with either of these things.
The Blimp in Action
As the test proved earlier, it’s incredibly effective at it’s primary job – to cut out wind noise and stop it from ruining your audio.
On top of this, the suspension system does a good job of dealing with handling noise and due to the light weight of the system, it’s not heavy to hold when recording dialogue.
It’s one of those purchases that caused me to take a bit of a gulp when I pressed the ‘buy now’ button due to the cost and how little I knew I’d use it. However, I’m so glad I did invest and it’s one piece of gear I own that I’ll never sell. Even though I don’t use it regularly because a lot of the podcast audio I record is indoors, knowing that it’s on hand when I do need to go outdoors is very reassuring. Every time I’ve used it, it’s performed brilliantly.
If you’re also recording video footage and you have somebody who can operate the mic, a boom handle is a must. It allows the mic to be held just out of shot yet still close to the speaker (shotgun mics work better the closer the mic is to the subject but of course, for video, it needs to be out of shot). Usually around 12” is achievable.
The Rode Boompole is the natural choice for pairing with the Rode Blimp. It screws into the end of the handle, is lightweight and extendable.
If you get the boompole, you’ll also want some cable clips to go with it. These help tidy up the cable which runs from the XLR output at the bottom of the handle on the Blimp down towards the handle of the pole.
Wireless System for XLR Microphones
If you don’t want a cable trailing from your Blimp to your camera or digital recorder, a wireless system like the Rode RODELink Newsshooter Kit (Amazon) is a great solution.
Simply plug the transmitter straight into the XLR output on the end of the handle and you have a wireless, windproof shotgun mic system ready to go. The unit can also supply phantom power to your mic.