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Cyclone and Nano Shield: comparing handling noise

April 24, 2023

Back in October 2022 I posted a blog article on some tests of various windshields I have: these included the Rode blimp, the Rycote Nano Shield and the Rycote Cyclone. The tests were all about performance in wind, but, of course, windshields also vary in terms of their suspensions. This matters to some degree with field recordings with mics on static stands (where vibrations can travel up the stand), but is especially relevant to mics on boom poles, be that for field recording or, more commonly, production sound for film or TV. With the Cyclone just edging the Nano Shield in terms of pure wind performance (and the Rode blimp not actually far behind), I was interested to test whether it also edged its smaller but newer sibling in terms of handling or other transmitted noise: in general use I wasn’t certain as conditions/use never quite match. Does the floating basket design of the Cyclone outweigh the newly designed lyres of the Nano Shield? How crucial is lyre compliance? And I must admit my curiosity was also raised further by some negative rumblings about the handling noise of the Nano Shield, not least on JWSound (a forum for sound production professionals): was I missing something?

So to some tests. First off, I should clarify what models I have tested: the Cyclone is the medium model (a 2021 model), while the Nano Shield model is the NS4-DB, with the improved sock design (using the same 3D-Tex material as used on the Cyclone) and the modified swivel arm for the suspension: both these updates were part of a free kit supplied by Rycote to address a resonance issue that some experienced with the original design (though some sound production professionals have suggested with only partial success). For mics, I used Rycote’s own HC-22 shotgun mic, for the reasons that I have a pair of them, they have an unusually good low-frequency response (useful for highlighting handling noise and exposing the limits of any suspension), and they have low self-noise (8.5 dBA) that helps reduce any distracting hiss when cranking up the gain to hear and measure handling noise. Needless to say, I didn’t use any high-pass filtering to remove the low frequencies for the purposes of these tests, and, of course, I double-checked to see if the mics really did produce the same level output by using a 1kHz test tone. The mics were mounted on a short stereo bar (at 175mm centres) mounted to a Gitzo carbon-fibre boom pole extended to 2.6m (8ft 6″). All tests were done indoors to reduce distraction of environmental noise and to remove wind from the equation.

The Nano Shield (left) and Cyclone (right) suspensions sans baskets: the Cyclone’s C-arm has been removed, but it’s still pretty chunky when used just for its suspension.

The Cyclone vs Nano Shield without baskets

First up, I tested the bare suspensions: that is the mics mounted in the windshield suspensions, but without the baskets. With the Cyclone I also removed its chunky C-arm, which is only necessary to support the basket. With the Nano Shield I used blue-lined lyres, which are 62 shore: the 100g weight of the HC-22 shotgun mic is within the range of mics that Rycote suggest should be used with such lyres (ranging up to the 150g MKH60). Using the stiffer green-lined lyres (68 shore) certainly made for more handling noise, so you need to be careful – as always with Rycote suspensions – not to use too stiff a lyre. With the Cyclone, the choice was a bit harder, not least as the shore numbers across the two different lyre types do not equate: for example, given that the Rycote mics are not yet on any compatibility chart, the Rode NTG1 (at 105g almost the same weight as the HC-22) is shown as compatible with 62-shore Nano Shield lyres and 72-shore older style shores (as used in the InVision mounts and in the Cyclone). Initially, I carried out these tests, therefore, with 72-shore lyres in the Cyclone, but the results were poor compared to the Nano Shield, so I swapped out to 62-shore lyres and results for the Cyclone improved. I can see why Rycote recommend 72-shore lyres for such mic weights, however, since manic/very shaky movement of the Cyclone suspension when enclosed (i.e. in later tests: see below) caused the mic to wobble wildly, generating a lot of noise and with obvious danger of hitting the basket. So, to summarize, for all tests I used the recommended and appropriate lyres in the Nano Shield, but for the Cyclone I used a more compliant lyre than recommended, but which gave better performance in all but the most extreme test: in essence, I used the suspensions I would choose for such mics in normal booming for dialogue or field recording.

With the bare suspensions I did four simple tests:

1) holding the boom pole statically in the H position (above head, arms bent nearly ninety degrees at elbows);

2) holding the boom pole in the less flexible but easier crucifix position (i.e. pole behind neck, arms extended horizontally along the pole);

3) holding the boom pole under one arm, which is rather harder, but allows control of mixer; and

4) the H position again, but tapping the pole near its base to test louder noise/stronger vibration transmission along the pole. Here is the sound file arising for the Cyclone (there is a brief silence between each of the four short clips):

And here is the sound file arising from the Nano Shield:

In each case you can hear a distinct difference: the bare Nano Shield suspension is producing significantly less handling noise than the Cyclone. Looking at one of the tests in a spectrum analyzer, as a typical example, we can visualize the differences:

Comparison of the noise in a static H position between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom), both without baskets.

The sound is all very low frequency (below 80Hz ) and peaks around 25Hz, with about 10dB difference between the two in this example. It represents transmitted noise resulting from straining and shaking muscles and, of course, would be less with a fresh, fit and experienced boom pole operator: it is not often than being a weakling and an amateur is an actual advantage, but a worse-case scenario is useful here to highlight differences. There was, as expected, a smaller difference (around 3dB) in the more stable – and muscle-relaxing – crucifix position. Of course, a mic with more bass roll-off would exhibit less handling noise, and even what was recorded in these tests can be removed by use of a high-pass filter.

Nano Shield with basket and 3D-Tex sock (left) and Cyclone with basket (right).

The Cyclone vs Nano Shield with baskets fitted

To compare the Cyclone and Nano Shield with their respective baskets fitted I expanded the tests (still using the boom pole at 2.6m (8ft 6″) extension) rather, not least as I now had wind protection for the two mics, as follows:

1) holding the boom pole statically in the H position (above head, arms bent nearly ninety degrees at elbows);

2) holding the boom pole in the less flexible but easier crucifix/cruciform position (i.e. pole behind neck, arms extended horizontally along the pole);

3) holding the boom pole under one arm, which is rather harder, but allows control of mixer;

4) the H position again, but tapping the pole near its base to test louder noise/stronger vibration transmission along the pole;

5) cueing (quick rotations of the boom pole as if moving aim of the mic from one speaker/actor to another);

6) boom swinging – 3m/10ft horizontal arcs;

7) moving the mics up down around 1m (3ft) quickly, as if making a sudden adjustment;

8) holding the boom pole in the H position, but shaking it quite significantly (about 25mm/1 inch) up and down, to really push the suspensions; and

9) testing cable slaps (again rather exaggerated) at the base of the boom pole to test transmission of potentially different frequencies;

Here are the sound files arising (again, there is a brief silence between each of the short clips):

As with the sans basket tests, the Nano Shield significantly outperformed the Cyclone in eight of the nine tests. The one exception was that there wasn’t a lot of difference in the outcome of the underarm static boom pole holding; and I repeated the tests several times to check. The most significant difference was with the shaking test, but, as discussed earlier in the post, this is very much the consequence of the 62-shore lyres in the Cyclone allowing major lateral and vertical movement of the shotgun mic with such extreme handling.

Here are the spectrum analyzer screenshots for each of the nine tests:

1) Comparison of the noise in a static H position between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom).
2) Comparison of the noise in a static crucifix position between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom).
3) Comparison of the noise in a static underarm position between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom).
4) Comparison of the noise in a static H position between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom), with tapping of the boom pole at its base.
5) Comparison of the noise between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom), whilst cueing.
6) Comparison of the noise between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom), whilst swinging the boom pole.
7) Comparison of the noise between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom), whilst moving the mics up and down.
8) Comparison of the noise between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom), whilst shaking the boom pole.
9) Comparison of the noise between Nano Shield (top) and Cyclone (bottom), whilst slapping base with cable.


While my previous tests for wind performance favoured the Cyclone, these tests of the performance of the suspensions showed that the Nano Shield has the edge. This is reassuring in terms of booming: since getting two Nano Shields I have much preferred them at the end of a boom pole (due to smaller size and lower weight) to a Cyclone, but had wondered if I was losing out in some way, especially given the online rumblings. Of course, these tests are limited in range and by the models of windshield and, indeed, mics used: whilst I can be confident that the Nano Shield is a good choice vs the Cyclone for booming with my HC-22 shotgun mics, other sizes of the two windshield types and different mics may produce different results. I’d be rather surprised if results were reversed, but it can’t be ruled out. Why some others are getting problems with the Nano Shields is unclear: evidently, seriously skilled professional boom pole operators may do things with boom poles that are beyond my usage or imagination! In some cases it may be that the upgrade kits haven’t been applied or, indeed, that too stiff lyres are being used for the mic in hand: both would seem unlikely in the hands of an experienced professional, but, in the absence of any details of the exact set-ups causing issues, perhaps one shouldn’t make assumptions. Certainly, I must confess that before these tests I was using the stiffer green-lined lyres (68 shore), rather than the more suited blue-lined lyres (62 shore). For very light mics, it is the red-lined lyres (55 shore) that will be needed, and these are neither supplied with the Nano Shield kits nor, indeed, easily available.

Audio Gear

Rycote’s first microphones – review and tests of the HC-15 and HC-22 shotgun mics

October 13, 2021

New microphone manufacturers appear from time-to-time, but when I heard that Rycote – with over 50 years of well-respected design and manufacturing of microphone windshields and suspensions – were producing their first microphones, this stood out as something rather different: both their reputation and experience with other mics suggested that this could be an intriguing addition to the market. Given Rycote’s long involvement with broadcast and film sound, it isn’t that surprising that the two mics are both shotguns: one 15cm long and the other 22cm, giving rise to the HC-15 and HC-22 names. The specs fueled my initial interest as did the fact that they are made entirely in the UK at Rycote’s factory in Stroud. The price is interesting too, with the HC-15 costing £560 and the HC-22 £575 (ex VAT). This places the mics in slightly underpopulated territory, well above the list prices for the Rode NTG5 and NTG3, but well below the list price of the Sanken CS1-E or, say, the Audio Technica BP4073. Many staples of location sound recordists – such as the various shotgun mics made by Sennheiser, Schoeps and DPA – are more costly still. So, intrigued by all this and knowing Rycote to be a friendly and approachable company (see, for example, their help with my oversized LDC mic windshield), I asked whether they would let me review and test the mics: a few email exchanges later, and the mics arrived last week – no conditions/obligations applied nor, indeed, any timescale for their return! They included some foamies and a Classic Softie kit, with a Nano Shield (out of stock) on its way soon.

The approach

I don’t know about you, but I’m not overly excited by mic reviews – usually vlogs – that involve unboxing and reiteration of the published specs, in this case readily available online on the Rycote website, along with some tests of the mics in an unlikely location (e.g. with shotgun mics locked off above a vlogger’s head in their indoor studio). Of course, there is a value in comparative tests of mics, despite the danger (for shotgun mics) of these ending up being grouped in static arrays, but the number of professional shotguns available means that this is outside the scope of what I can do: for the nuances of Mic A vs Mic B there is no substitute for testing and working with both mics yourself and no review or on-line test is going to replace that. Rather, the focus of this review is a series of more real-world tests with the two Rycote mics, some out and about on location, with the aim to see if the Rycote mics are contenders for serious use. Sometimes I use another mic for the purpose of comparison, or to illustrate a point, and mostly I use the HC-15 and HC-22 together – which at least helps clarify the differences between the two. Sometimes I use the HC-15 and HC-22 in combination with a fig 8, to see how they stand up is the mid mic in a mid-side stereo pair: common use for a shotgun mic. But you won’t find any tests of the mics mounted on a camera: I’ve yet to find a need for this, and my gut feeling for such use is the compromised positioning means a more modest shotgun (and perhaps one without P48) will do the job.

Rabbit rabbit

With dialogue or speech recording being key uses for a shotgun mic, I was keen to put the Rycote mics through their paces on voices. There are many different aspects to this, but the ones I was keen to test were overall sound (Rycote describe their mics as ‘precise’ and as having ‘a crisp sound with some additional warmth’) and off-axis response (how coloured is the sound off-axis?).

For this test, I went to a small local theatre (the Sheringham Little Theatre) to use its stage: not a huge sound-treated stage, but a step up from a village hall, and did some tests with the writer (Chris Sainton-Clark) reading excerpts from his one-act play ‘My Other Half’ statically (with the mic on and off axis), and moving about (to see how susceptible the mics are to comb filtering in such a less than ideal interior space). To make it easier to follow the various positions, I have put this test into a video. Oh, and, yes, I know the 180 degrees off-axis test is fairly mad!

Putting the shotgun mics into tougher conditions, I then dragged Chris onto the pavement outside the theatre to ad lib as if for an interview (quite fairly, he chose to promote the theatre where he works!) against the backdrop of the entrance (which houses a bustling café), with noisy traffic and people behind the mic on a busy junction at the centre of the town:

Play it again, Luke

Rarely is a shotgun mic much use in a music studio or, even, for remote location recording of music (e.g. in a church or concert hall), but sometimes the polar pattern of a shotgun mic is necessary. Recording music is also a good test of any mic, so to put the Rycote’s mics to this use I chose to record a guitarist in an indoor non-studio space (a woodcarver’s workshop).

Here are the two mics used to record ‘Moth to a Flame’, written and performed by Luke Chapman. I’ve also included a third version, with the HC-22 paired with an AKG CK94 (i.e. SDC fig 8 mic) to show how the Rycote mics perform as the mid mic and a mid-side stereo pair. The sound is just as it came off the mics, recorded into a Sound Devices MixPre-3.

And here is a short video with clips of Luke Chapman playing the guitar and singing, with the sound (as shown on the screen) switching from HC-15 to HC-22 to HC-22+AKG CK94 mid-side. Again, there is no editing or effects. The limitations of using a single shotgun (even if in one version, combined with a fig 8 side mic) for recording both guitar and vocals simultaneously are evident, and not something I would normally do (in fact, I’m currently recording an album with Luke using three fig 8 LDC mics), but it worked rather better than I thought. And, of course, sometimes a shotgun mic (or shotgun-based mid-side pair) might be an effective solution: e.g. a run-and-gun recording of a busker in a noisy street.

Let’s get physical

While the sound of the mics is the focus of this review, another aspect not clear from the specs is the physical nature of the mic. That is the build quality (insofar that this is clear without dismantling it and using it for years in all conditions), the handling noise (shotguns are forever on the move, at the end of boom poles or on pistol grips), and susceptibility to wind noise.

Build quality seems excellent. With no high-pass filter or pad switches, there are no moving parts to assess, so it’s a simple design. The mix of materials is unusual feeling, but not in a bad way. The brass barrel of the pre-amp (as opposed to the aluminium of the capsule section and interference tube) has a bit of heft (though these are light mics at 90g and 100g): this takes the centre of gravity of the HC-15 a little back from the red ring, and with the HC-22 it is around the paired slots behind the diaphragm. Access to the innards is evidently by release of the brass circlip in the XLR socket, which seems preferable to a screw (the circlip also grounds the mic body to pin 1): I didn’t open up the mics though…The wooden cases are classy, well made and close in a satisfying way (simple pleasures!): not sure many would use them in the field though. More attractive is the lack of gubbins with the mics: no additional equipment means you aren’t paying for things you so often don’t need.

Close-up of the XLR socket with circlip.
How they come: just the mics, the rather lovely cases and the simple cardboard packaging.

Testing for handling noise transmitted via a boompole required some deliberately bad booming aiming for maximum transmission of vibration to the mics (on an Invision 7 suspension). Unsurprisingly the two Rycote mics are pretty similar, with all the unwanted noise below 50Hz (and therefore addressable by a low-cut filter, if not, of course, by better technique). By way of comparison, here are test files for the HC-15, the Oktava MK012 with the hypercardioid capsule, and the AKG CK93 (hypercardioid), which reveal no major differences:

Wind noise on a mic varies with polar pattern, of course, and, while wind protection from a slip-on foam cover, through softies to a full blimp can address the issue, it is good to examine the baseline susceptibility. For this – not least given relevance to actual use – I have just gone for some simple fast boompole swings, with the mics mounted together. The HC-15 and HC-22 are not that different, with the HC-22 (reflecting better rejection of the sides) performing better than the smaller shotgun:

The susceptibility to wind appears pretty normal for a shotgun mic and even lower-cost versions perform well. Here for example, is the HC-22 compared to the Rode NTG1 (levels adjusted to reflect sensitivity), with the latter a bit quieter:

But comparing the Rycote shotguns to other types of boompole mics – in this case hypercardioids – shows a significant difference: even the more wind-susceptible HC-15 easily outperforms the AKG CK93 and, by a huge margin, the Oktava MK012:

Silence is golden

Of the specs the one that immediately stood out to me was the 8.5 dBA (+/- 2 dB) self-noise. This is about as low as it gets for a shotgun mic (think Sennheiser MKH 60 at 8dBA) and is much better than most of the professionals’ favourites. Diaphragm size is a significant factor in mic self-noise, and, while the size isn’t published, Rycote have told me that a 17mm-diameter diaphragm has been used (not bad in a 19mm-diameter mic body). Of course, not all mic manufacturers measure self-noise in the same manner nor is all self-noise the same, so my first test with the mics was to record nothing. Well, as near nothing as possible outside an anechoic chamber or a nuclear bunker: in the hallway of my house in a rural village, I closed all doors, turned off the mains electricity at the consumer unit, and left the two mics recording into a Sound Devices MixPre-3 (EIN -130dBV/-128dBu) along with a Rode NT2-A (at 7dBA in the same ball park). Self-noise was indistinguishable between all three mics. There’s not a lot of value to uploading WAV files showing the slight hiss with gain cranked up wildly, simply to confirm the published spec, but listening to the boompole handling-noise sound samples above makes clear the difference between the Rycote mics and mics with higher self-noise (the AKG CK93 self-noise is 17dBA and the Oktava MK012 self-noise is 18dBA).

Final thoughts

These tests are neither exhaustive nor especially technical: no anechoic chambers or such like were involved. Nor do they rigorously compare the HC-22 and HC-15 to a whole range of other shotgun mics. But the process of carrying out the tests has shown me that Rycote’s first foray into mic design has huge merit: these mics thoroughly deserve to be considered as alternatives to familiar mics above and, indeed, below their price point. The low self-noise and healthy output makes the mics obvious contenders for nature and effects recording; the same attributes, low weight and good off-axis sound make them contenders for film and TV sound; and the same specs/construction for the two models with different interference tube lengths mean that they are ideal if you want to swap seamlessly from one type of shotgun to the other. Having got my hands on them, I certainly don’t want to send them back to Rycote!