For many years, I have been intrigued with microphones, and one particular type is the head mounted variety. Few head mounted mics I have tested before today sound great without post equalization. Today, I am going to compare two which share as many similarities as differences, from their respective prices, connections, polar patterns, and ways of mounting onto your head. They are the ModMic 5 and RØDE HS2. Ahead, I’ll describe them and you’ll be able to hear my test recordings, with a reference male reading of Spain’s 1978 Constitution Article 3, in two different acoustic environments.
In this article:
- What is similar between the ModMic 5 and the HS2
- What is different between the ModMic 5 and the RØDE HS2
- Why I mounted the ModMic 5 on this obscure Sony headphone
- Test recordings
What is similar between the ModMic 5 and the HS2
- Both are designed to be used on the speaker’s head.
- Both are condenser and require external power of some type (details ahead)
- Both free you from handling noises when the speaker touches her/his chest as a gesture.
- Both free you of presence changes has the speaker moves around in any direction, offering better consistency than any lavalier, podium, or boom-mounted mic.
- Due to their extreme proximity to the speaker’s mouth, both offer a higher signal to noise ratio (from room noise) than a lavalier in many cases.
- Both offer an omnidirectional pickup (although the ModMic 5 can also be switched to cardioid to reduce background sound even more).
- Both are acoustically mono microphones with a native 3.5 mm TRS plug to output the identical mono signal to the Left and Right channels when connected to a stereo input, although only the HS5 also features a removable threaded washer to lock it, when the 3.5 mm receptacle offers a locking thread, i.e. some body recorders and transmitters.
- Both can accept bias power (aka plugin power) directly. Ahead is information about using either mic with phantom power using optional XLR adapters/converters at extra cost, passive in one case and active in the other.
What is different between the ModMic 5 and the RØDE HS2
- MOUNTING METHOD: While the ModMic 5 is designed to snap onto your favorite headphones that you already own, the RØDE HS2 is designed to mount directly onto your head and rest on your earlobes. As a result, the ModMic 5 is ideal when you are planning to use full headphones (not earbuds), while the HS2 is ideal when you want to use earbuds for general confidence or IFB (Interruptible foldback, aka interrupted foldback or interruptible feedback) in a more discreet way.
- PICKUP PATTERN: The ModMic 5 is the first ModMic with a built-in switchable pickup pattern, so you can change it between omnidirectional and cardioid, according to the situation. The RØDE HS2 is exclusively omnidirectional. Note that any head-mounted microphone (even with an omnidirectional pattern) will often have a higher signal to noise ratio (i.e. background isolation) than many other microphones, due to the extreme proximity to the sound source.
- OPTIONAL CONNECTION TO XLR BALANCED WITH PHANTOM POWER: RØDE officially offers the VXLR adapter for ±US$10 (Amazon Link — B&H link), through which the RØDE HS2 can officially accept 48-volt phantom power. On the other hand, although the ModMic 5 doesn’t officially accept phantom power, you could use a PFA phantom power adaptor from Naiant, which converts phantom power into plugin power. If you special order it with the proper input and the extended mono barrel will full shielding, it will cost ±US$41.
- PRICE OF THE MICROPHONE: The ModMic 5 sells for ±US$70 (Amazon link) including windscreen, switchable pattern, inline mute, multiple cables and case. The RØDE HS2 (Amazon link — B&H link) costs ±US$300 including furry windscreen, and is available in black or pink, large or small. Both the ModMic 5 and the HS2 also include cable management accessories.
Why I mounted the ModMic 5 on this obscure Sony headphone
However, I chose this obscure Sony consumer model (obscure in the “broadcast” world, according to definitions 21 and 22 in this 2011 article), the ±US$16 Sony MDR-ZX110 (Amazon link — B&H link) not so much because of its low price, but because of its lower weight and size, which makes it more portable, while still offering closed-back cushions that isolate equally well (or poorly) depending upon your expectations. (Neither the MDR-7506 “broadcast” model nor the MDR-ZX110 consumer model offers complete acoustic isolation, and I have never found any production headphone that does so far.) Yes, the MDR-ZX110 has “extra bass”, but I don’t equalize audio with the MDR-ZX110, and there is nothing wrong with using a tool that emphasizes lower frequencies during a raw recording, to be more aware if there is any hum or rumble. I basically want to have good isolation, comfort and portability. If I do any EQ, it’s in post, not live. I did not add any equalization to the below test recordings: only low cut filtering and normalization.
I made some of these recordings in an indoor location that is not acoustically treated to get a real-world result, followed by a much more acoustically dead environment. All original recordings are made at WAV 48 kHZ (the absolute standard for video, as covered in prior articles) at approximately -12 dB. The published versions are normalized to -16 LUFS as covered in prior articles.
The first two simultaneous recordings were done with two different inputs of a Zoom H5 recorder (Amazon link — B&H link): the ModMic was connected natively via 3.5 mm and fed bias voltage (aka “plugin” power), while the HS2 was plugged via a VXLR adapter, and phantom powered. The recordings I made simultaneously have the ModMic 5 set to omnidirectional. Then the last pair of recordings is with the ModMic 5 set to cardioid, so you’ll hear less of the room, but also a narrower frequency response. I have normalized all clips to -16 LUFS as indicated earlier. I have published raw mono WAV files, which work directly with all modern, updated browsers.
In all cases, after the introduction, I read my English translation of Part 3 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. More info about that at TheRoyalSpanishCoverup.com or ElencubrimientodelaRealAcademia.com.
RØDE HS2 in untreated room
RØDE HS2 in much more absorbent room
ModMic 5 in omnidirectional setting in untreated room
ModMic 5 in omnidirectional setting in much more absorbent room
ModMic 5 in cardioid setting in untreated room
ModMic 5 in cardioid setting in much more absorbent room
Both the ModMic 5 (Amazon link) and the RØDE HS2 (Amazon link — B&H link) are impressively good, and should be chosen depending upon budget, style (i.e. whether you want to have full headphones on or not) and whether you absolutely need the directional pattern, despite a narrower frequency response. I am impressed how well the ModMic 5 isolates from the room reverberation in the untreated area, even in omni mode. Please comment below as to how each one sounded to you.
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