After hearing, reading and watching many reviews of the Samson Q2U, I sought out to cure its only important Achilles heel. The Q2U is a hybrid dynamic “handheld” type microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern. It’s hybrid in the sense that it offers both XLR analog output, bidirectional USB connectivity with latency free monitoring. It also sounds great for the under US$60 price. The Q2U’s chief weakness is it’s extreme vulnerability to plosives. Learn ahead how I cured it and how the Q2U sounds after the cure, compared with the the Pyle PDMIC78. You’ll also learn how uniquely effective the Shure A81WS windscreen pop filter is, since it has three different layers of open-cell foam, each with a different porosity.
About plosives, popping and why the Shure A81WS is so effective
The following is courtesy of the first part of Shure’s FAQ #4172, a primer on reducing wind noise (including plosives) in microphones, since it is a great introduction to appreciate the A81WS.
A microphone responds to the movement of air and it does not care what caused the air to move. This means that a mic cannot distinguish between air movement originating from a talker, and air movement originating from local weather. Wind noise is a persistent problem with microphones but there are multiple ways to minimize unwanted noise.
Method 1: Attenuation of Low Frequencies using Electronics
Wind noise has a large amount of low frequency (bass) content, often described as “rumble.” Cutting out the extreme bass from a microphone signal is an effective method to reduce audible wind noise. For example, the Shure SM81 has a three position low frequency cut (roll-off) switch. One setting is a steep roll-off, the second is a gentle roll-off, and the third is no roll-off. This switch effectively reduces low frequency wind noise. Or the Shure A15HP accessory can be added to a microphone output to roll-off low frequencies.
Method 2: Layers of Metal, Cloth, or Plastic Mesh
Troublesome wind noise has a higher air speed than speech. A screen of very fine mesh or gauze will dissipate the energy of the wind air movement, and have minimal effect on speech. Essentially, the mesh takes a large gust of wind, and divides into numerous smaller gusts of wind, thus reducing the power of the gust. It is imperative that the mesh does not vibrate or rattle as this will cause unwanted mechanical noise. Layers of mesh, with different porosity, will increase effectiveness. The Shure SM57 has a fine metal mesh in the center of its rotating black grill. This mesh helps to minimize wind noise, including talker “P”-popping which is a type of wind noise. The Shure PS-6 “Popper Stopper” has nylon-like cloth mesh suspended in the middle of a rigid circle of plastic. Placed in front of a studio vocal mic such as the Shure KSM44A, the PS-6 slows down a blast of air from the singer’s mouth before the blast reaches the microphone.
Method 3: Open Cell Foam
A specific type of “foam rubber” provides a function similar to the aforementioned mesh. Open-cell foam is required for a microphone windscreen. Open-cell means there is a meandering path for the air to move from the outer surface of the foam to the inner surface. Close-cell foam, such as used for product packaging, cannot be used as air cannot pass through it. The inside of the SM58 metal ball grill has a layer of open-cell foam. Open-cell foam is also used for an external windscreen like the Shure A58WS. The external windscreen shape must be aerodynamic (no sharp corners) to eliminate turbulence noise as wind moves over the windscreen. The Shure A81WS is a very effective windscreen as it has three different layers of open-cell foam, each with a different porosity. Each layer works to slow down the wind noise and dissipate the energy. The effectiveness of an open-cell foam windscreen is a direct function of its diameter: bigger is better. However, too many layers of foam will roll-off the higher frequencies, so a balance must be found between audio quality and wind noise attenuation.
I believe that the A81WS presidential windscreen/pop filter (Amazon — B&H) has done an amazing job of that, and that’s why I have covered in in so many past articles with Shure and non-Shure microphones that fit, and why I went to the extreme with the Samson Q2U (Amazon — B&H) microphone.
Two simple steps to mate the Q2U with the A81WS
Above, the Q2U as it arrives from the factory, with the head.
Above, the Q2U as it appears headless.
- Unscrew and remove the head of the Samson Q2U (Amazon — B&H). No tools are required other than your own hands. (You won’t need the head anymore.)
- Stretch the opening of the Shure A81WS (Amazon — B&H), carefully but aggressively to allow inserting the Q2U into it, while maintaining a tight fit.
Above, how the Q2U appears with the A81WS on it.
My results with the combination of the headless Q2U with the A81WS
Above, the recording of the Q2U. It’s a WAV 48 kHz. Use WiFi or unmetered data to listen.
Above, the recording of the Pyle PDMIC78, for comparison. It’s a WAV 48 kHz. Use WiFi or unmetered data to listen.
Both microphones had the A81WS on it.
I am very pleased with the sound quality and plosive resistance of this combination. I really hope Samson will a eventually offer a version of the Q2U (Amazon — B&H) without any On/Off switch —like the Pyle PDMIC78 (reviewed here, Amazon — B&H) or the Shure SM57, or a locking On option, like on the Audio Technica AT2005USB (reviewed here and here (both in 2012), Amazon) or the Shure palindromic 545 (reviewed here, Amazon — B&H).
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