Shure SM11 endures tropical terrain & aids in recording parrot communication study!
This is not the first time the Shure SM11 microphone has been selected for its durability – the SM11 has been the microphone of choice for NASA for many trips into space. On this occasion the SM11 was selected because of its ability to operate without problems in a climate that averages a stifling 95 degrees with 99 percent humidity (Venezuela).
Having initially selected an SM57 microphone (which also performed flawlessly and survived Venezuela’s heat and moisture-heavy conditions) Dr Karl Berg found that the parrots mistook the SM57 for a black snake, and parrots hesitated to get close to it, wanting to avoid exposure to predator danger!
The strong communication skills demonstrated by parrots urged Berg to document their sounds for a better understanding of the acoustic patterns and how they relate to human-like abilities. Interested in taking a more in-depth listen to the day-to-day conversations parrots have within nesting environments, Berg set himself the challenge of recording 1,000 hours of the bird’s communication. Berg tried a number of manufacturer’s shotgun mics that drew insufficient recordings because they could only be used outside of the PVC nests.
“The SM11 recordings are far superior to the ones I made with a shotgun mic. Rainforests are a very noisy place, so it was critical to place the mics inside the nests, directly next to the parrots, to ensure accurate sound recordings.”
Since installing the SM11s, Berg’s team has reached its goal of recording more than 1,000 hours of parrot communication. He also found a new use for the SM57s — recording parrot duets, a technique where he mounts the microphone on two birds’ neighboring nests to capture and synchronize back-and-forth chirping with video feeds.
“I’ve been very pleased with the Shure microphones,” says Berg. “Their rugged nature and ability to withstand high heat and moisture for up to five months in a nest at a time has definitely given our research team a window into these parrots’ lives that we were not getting before.”
Shure’s ability to manufacture products with a consistent level of high quality and durability is due in large part to the rigorous tests that each of its microphone models undergoes to ensure the final design performs consistently for their customers. The humidity test places microphones in a chamber set at 80 degrees with 95 percent humidity for 10 consecutive days. Hot storage and operational testing also occurs, subjecting microphones to the long term exposure of temperatures ranging from 120 to 140 degrees. If a microphone model does not pass Shure’s destructive tests, it is not released into the marketplace.