I want to approach this review from a standpoint of options. We all know as sound mixers that one of the holy grails of our profession would be a laving tool which works on every outfit, every time. Well, to the shock of no one, no such tool exists. However there are several tried and true tools which make it easier, and can even work for most situations.
I am going to forego a video demo on this review because, frankly, URSA has produced many amazing videos of their product and I can’t imagine it getting more informative than that. So be sure to take a look at their website.
Moleskin. Joe’s Sticky Stuff. Top Stick. If you’ve done any research or have been around in the industry, you’ve either heard of these or you’ve used them. This isn’t a list of what works, but rather of what works for some people in some situations. Again, there is no one tool which covers every scenario, but there are tools which cover more bases than others.
Above we have two common tools for use with two of the most common professional level lavaliers: The Sanken RM-11 (for use with the Sanken COS-11) and the DPA Concealer (To be used with the DPA 4060/61). Mind you I am calling these out as examples of reusable tools, rather than the single use top stick or moleskin that I mentioned before. Both of those are still great options to have in your kit, but the focus of this review is specifically concerning reusable tools.
Now here we have subject of this review: the URSA Mini Mounts for both the COS-11 and the DPA 4060/4061 respectively. All of the mini mounts are smooth as a baby’s bottom, with a firm, but not too firm, exterior. The purpose being to fend off the advances of a scratchy shirt or object which might rub up against the capsule. Because of their smoothness, they are able to accomplish this in ways which other options have not been able.
Neither the RM-11 or the DPA Concealer can compete in that way, but lets do a comparison of each below to see which comes out on top overall.
The DPA 4060/4061 version
Just look at that shiny exterior of the URSA Mini Mount! It’s so glossy that you could see your finger print in it. Flat on the bottom, and curved on the top, the Mini Mounts are intended to be placed onto the subject with a piece of double sided tape so that the smooth exterior can do its job. The microphone snaps in firmly, but not so firmly that you will be concerned that your expensive toy is going to be crushed. I’ll say firmly enough that it’s not going to fall out.
The DPA Concealer is meant to be mounted in the same manner (generally), however it lacks that washed exterior that can truly prevent scratches on the capsule. It is also much larger than the Mini Mount, and would be harder to conceal because of its high profile.
That all being said, it’s not as if there are no advantages to the DPA Concealer. The “paper clip” attachment is extremely useful because instead of using the body of the mount to diffuse the scratching sounds, it uses this metal piece to actually keep the clothes from touching the area near the capsule at all. To me, this is the most ideal scenario and in a lot of cases, that would make this my go-to mount.
The drawbacks to this are that, compared to the Mini Mounts, it is just so much larger, and that metal piece can sometimes be seen on camera, poking the clothing (especially on thin materials). The Mini Mounts can be hidden in even the most thin and form fitting clothing. Well, maybe not the MOST form fitting, because we’ve all been there. But let’s just say, on very form fitting clothing. It is narrow and can even be hidden between the buttons on mens’ dress shirts.
For these reasons, I am going to give the “win” to neither of them, and instead advise that you keep both in your kit. More options, means more options. If I could make it work in camera, then I’d reach for my DPA Concealer. But because of its size, that is often not an option, or at least not as attractive an option as the Mini Mount. And the Mini Mount will be able to cover a wider array of situations.
Kudos to both of them.
The COS-11 version
Let me start by stating that I have never been a big fan of the RM-11. I have felt that the rough rubber and the raised lettering have been a magnet for scratching sounds. Its certainly better than leaving the mic bare, but you have to throw some moleskin over it to try and counter the inevitable scratching. I’m positive that the RM-11 has its fans out there, and I’m not trying to rag on Sanken, but I wouldn’t say that a whole lot of R&D went into this as compares to URSA or DPA. Its square shape is also an issue. I wish that it had even slightly rounded edges. I suppose that you could cut it down that way yourself if you wanted to.
Now observe the Mini Mount. Its more narrow, the same height (with the mic inside the RM-11), and infinitely smoother. Unlike the RM-11 which almost requires moleskin to make it mount without scratching noise, the Mini Mount accomplishes this by itself, using only the small piece of tape on the bottom to mount it.
From a discussion point, I can’t imagine a situation where I would choose the RM-11 over the Mini Mount. The Mini Mount outclasses it in every department. This is just one man’s opinion, but I am confident that anyone who tried these side by side, would agree.
The Ursa Mini Mount is the clear winner.
*UPDATE* After getting some feedback from some members of the community, I want to add that there are some good uses for the RM-11 that I hadn’t considered here.
For instance, mixer Chris Harris (http://soundguy4film.com/) pointed out that the RM-11 does act as a high boost when used in one direction and as a flat response when used in the other. It also can more easily be sewn into wardrobes for when movies are organized enough to plan for that. So in that way, there can certainly be some benefits to it.
Hey! Speaking of that double sided tape to use with the Mini Mounts, it seems that URSA makes that too. The Stickies are cut to the exact specifications of the bottom of the Mini Mounts and end up being nicely convenient. Are they essential? Probably not, but they are nice to have so that you can move faster.
They stick pretty well. Just use some pressure and you’re off to the races.
The last thing that I wanted to touch on was the easy ability to add wind protection to the Mini Mounts. Using the Rycote Stickies and Overcovers, you can keep your mic capsule away from the material and tape the windscreen over top. This helpful when you’re working with a shirt that doesn’t block out the wind too well, and that seems to happen a lot more than it should. A lot of times you think that the shirt is thick enough, and then BAM, you start getting the crackles. So this is a helpful option to have.
Overall, I cannot be happier with the URSA Mini Mounts. Again, there is no one tool for any and every situation. But boy do these Mini Mounts come close. If you own a Sanken COS-11, a DPA 4060/4061, or a DPA 4071, seriously: go pick up some Mini Mounts. They will make your life a whole lot easier and they will help you get better sound.
Jared Elkin is a professional sound mixer located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.