Ambient Tiny Mike ATM216
If you are a documentary or social and event videographer you probably carry around far to much equipment and I am sure that halving the weight and size of components will help in your daily work. Batteries and power supplies you are normally stuck with, but I have been testing out a very small microphone and portable mixer from Ambient with the appropriate name of ‘Tiny Mike’ and ‘Tiny Mix II’. Whilst this is not a technical audio review I have been comparing these audio devices for suitability in the more mobile situations like documentary and event videography.
I will start with the ‘Tiny Mike’, which as the title suggests is a very small microphone. It is of an electret design with a wide frequency range. Designed to be very directional it can be called a shotgun microphone albeit a very small one.
I normally use a Sennheiser K6/ME66 combo on my JVC 5000 and Sony DSR250 cameras. I have found this to be satisfactory in normal use and for me it has become the standard that I can compare against. The Tiny Mike is marketed as a miniature shotgun microphone suitable for documentary and broadcast applications with the added advantage that it is small and therefore useable on smaller cameras like the Sony Z1.
On unpacking the Tiny Mike I was very surprised at just how small it is, just under half the size of a Sennheiser K6/ME66. The build quality and materials used remind me of the quality associated with German engineering; no Chinese plastic here. The microphone is nearly six inches long and half an inch wide, and it weighs just a few ounces. The microphone kit is supplied with a foam windshield, a hot-shoe mount and a cable. Additional mounting solutions include a kit to mount onto a Sony viewfinder like the DSR 250. Also available is a furry windjammer.
It is a very cool piece of kit and when you look closer you find that Ambient have made some good decisions in how you mount and power the mike. Firstly the actual mounting system is made from a very tough light alloy, which has been precision machined and anodised to ensure longevity. The upper bracket is designed to allow you to position the mike to the right, left or above the bracket and it is mounted to a standard hot shoe by shock resistant rubber bands. The microphone comes with a normal foam windshield and the connecting cable plugs into the rear via a miniature plug that is keyed for safety.
My first test was to mount the microphone alongside my normal K6/ME66 on the Sony DSR250 and shoot a wedding. Using the optional Phantom 48 volt cable supplied by Ambient to plug into channel 2, I set the microphone up as normal. Through the headphones I could not tell the difference and to be honest I could have been using two K6/ME66 microphones. It was when I started to edit that I learned just how good the audio from the Tiny Mike was. I was expecting this very small mic to not have the range or directional qualities of the K6/ME66, how wrong I was. The sound recorded is of very high quality and even in the situation of picking out voices at a distance, it becomes apparent that this is a heavyweight contender. Directional ability is of paramount importance and when filming events or documentaries you must be able to rely on the mic collecting your audio properly and the Tiny Mike excels in this area. It is as directional as the ME66 and has the range.
Having both microphones mounted at the same time could be a problem if you wanted to mount an on-camera top light, Ambient do however have an optional extra (bar with two hot shoes) that allows you to retain your hot shoe. Having both mics mounted did not cause me any additional problems and to be honest I might just quietly put the K6/ME66 into storage and rely on the Tiny Mike. It saves huge space and is an equal in sound quality.
Why have another microphone in your arsenal? Tiny, small, light come to mind and this is without compromise. Yes you can really travel light, as I have on some occasions recently. I have a very small Sony DSR-PD1P DVCAM camcorder, as you can see in the picture it is about the size of a very small book, its main problem is a very naff stereo microphone on the top of the camera, which has the ability to make anything and everything sound awful. So enter the Tiny Mike, the lead fits straight into the mike jack on the camera and the difference is amazing, proper audio for a change. This one use has paid for itself, but there are others, you can add this tiny microphone to your collection and use it with a minidisk recorder for sound recording, put it on top of a pole for a very light boom mic, or use it with equipment where normal size microphones are just too cumbersome. This microphone is small and light but has professional qualities that ensure its usefulness. I am still amazed at how small it is and in use it becomes blatantly obvious that it does an extremely professional job.
So the Tiny Mike most certainly sits in the professional camp, it can compete with other microphones that are larger, heavier and much more expensive. And I’ve left the best bit for last, the Tiny Mike costs a fraction of a K6/ME66. It is priced at just £206.00 plus VAT and it has the ability to perform on equal terms if not more and in my opinion has more uses than its larger competitors – try fixing a K6/ME66 to a small camera. Ambient supply various cables to allow connection to different systems and they include 3.5-volt Sony type and +48V Phantom Power. All in all a very competent performer indeed.
TINY MIX II
The Tiny Mix II is a 2 channel passive mixer designed to give consumer cameras the ability to use two microphones; well that’s what the documentation says. What it does not say is that this is another piece of high quality engineering that has been well thought out. The build quality of the Tiny Mix II is on an equal par with the Tiny Mike; the same usual German engineering quality.
Things that are small normally have massive plugs, large switches and clumsy ergonomics, enter the Tiny Mix II. Yes it is small about 2.5 inches long, 1inch wide and 1 inch high. In that small package are two toggle switches for channels, a 3v battery, two volume controls incorporating battery off and mono link and three micro connections with keys for input and output. All this in a tiny block of alloy that allows connection to a hot shoe and allows a Tiny Mike to be mounted on the top.
I have tried out the Tiny Mix II on various inputs and it works just as advertised, the inputs are on the front of the unit and are micro keyed sockets similar to the Tiny Mike’s. The output is slightly different in that it has five pins so you can output twin feeds via the supplied cable. You could for instance use the Tiny Mike on one channel and via an optional adapter a radio mike on the other. So basically this unit is a very small mixer that gives the user the ability to have two inputs into a small non-xlr camera. I see this being very useful for those with the smaller Sony HDV (non xlr) cameras – you now have the opportunity to use better audio equipment without compromising the small form factor of these new cameras.
Even in this small piece of equipment they have managed to put the facility for a 3-volt battery to power a mic if required. By allowing low cost, small cameras to be in a position to capture high quality audio the future looks bright. I can see this being used in various applications, particularly extreme sports and dangerous filming environments. Using the combination Tiny Mix II with Tiny Mike allows you to have quality audio in a very small cost effective package.
Ambient Tiny Mike & Tiny Mix II are available from Ambient Recording in Germany.
Tiny Mike ATM 216: £206.00
Tiny Mix ATX 201: £218.00
Furry Winjammer ATMWJ: £29
Tiny Mike/Mix ATM 216XII package: £424.00
(all prices ex vat)
About Jim Panks
Jim Panks lives in the East Midlands and has a thriving Documentary and Event filming business. His passion is in raising the levels and abilities of other videographers to professional standards. He is always looking for new challenges.
Reviewed by: Jim Panks
Review Date: 01-07-2006