My new mic is probably overkill

Soooooo. I’m running one one of these guys now: The Heil PR781.

I figured one of the best transceivers in the game needs a mic made for “elite-class” rigs — to borrow some of Heil’s language. I went all-out and got a small articulating boom too. I don’t have a foot switch yet, but I can key the rig via the transmit button on the K3, use VOX (finally, my old radio didn’t have VOX), or use the PTT button in the HRD rig control window. I’ve been using the software solution and it seems to work.

With the panadapter, the computer, the rig and a mic on a boom, it’s really starting to feel like a radio station in my home office. It reminds me of those days some 16-17 years ago when I worked with WUSC, the campus radio station, back when I was an underachieving college student. Technically, I was licensed by the FCC way back then. To participate in the station, you needed a student broadcast license. It wasn’t as hard to get as a ham license, but I recall there was an exam, which I studied mightily for, followed by an on-air test that lasted a half hour or so. I think the on-air portion was just station policy, to ensure we knew how to run the sound board, how to answer the phone and take requests, how to speak and identify properly, how to cue up records, the DATs and CD players, etc. There were no computers in the WUSC station back then. The FCC would send you a “ticket” in the mail after your test had been processed, just like the ham licensing system.

Anyway, that’s just what comes to mind when I lean into this mic with my headphones on and start talking. This mic is very similar to the Sennheisers we used back at the college station.

Last night I tuned around 40 and 20 meters in an effort to find some DX to work and I really came up short. Oddly enough, tuning around the voice portions of the band seemed utterly foreign to me, having spent most of this year working digital modes, RTTY, and fooling around on CW. I felt like a stranger to the bands. I jumped into a few pile-ups and quickly jumped out, thinking CW or PSK would be a hell of a lot easier to deal with, instead of having to wait in line behind legal-limit OMs screaming their call sign repeatedly and forcing mindless ragchew on whatever poor European operator answered them.

Thanks to the P3, I finally managed to make a contact with an Italian who had just tuned up and started calling CQ. He was very loud, as the Italian stations typically are. The mic seemed to work… I didn’t get any kind of “nice audio” feedback, nor did I expect it. Moving along, I added a new entity to my log, a station in the Cayman Islands. He had a very weak signal, but I could hear him clearly and he heard me without any fuss.

I used Heil’s suggested settings for the transmit EQ settings. It’s basically a low-end roll-off and a high boost. I monitored my signal with the 817 and it sounded OK, maybe not as crispy as I’d like. I tried a flat EQ setting, and it sounded good, but it’s not the type of sound you want when you are trying to cut through noise. I returned to Heil’s suggested settings, rolled compression back a bit and turned up the mic gain. It sounds good as far as I can tell, but honestly, I think my voice is weird anyway — I tend to speak in low tones most of the time, but I can get fairly high-pitched too — so until I get a trusted ear to listen to my signal, I can’t really comment on what EQ settings are working best.

This mic is obviously made for professional audio recording, in which signals occupy significantly more bandwidth than the 2.7khz-ish default of single side band. So I realize any real advantage of this mic is likely lost in the RF aether. Although I imagine it would be great for podcasting or voice-over work.

Still, I like sitting behind the PR781. It lends authority and class to the ham shack.


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