At NAB 2013, K-Tek unveiled their new Nautilus mic suspension system and Zeppelin prototype that will solve key issues for the field sound engineer.
For over 15 years, K-Tek has been a trusted manufacturer of boom poles, suspension systems, and other audio support accessories in the media industry. Their products are still put to use today on many popular entertainment and news productions all over the world.
Unwanted noise is often caused by environmental situations or mishandling equipment, that is then detected by the microphone. To prevent this, products like these help reduce handling noise and/or wind, without affecting the pickup of your subject.
The Nautilus is a unique suspension system both structurally and aesthetically. Each of the suspension rings can unlock and be adjusted up and down its rail to accommodate a wide range of microphones, from shorter hypercardioids to full size shotgun models. It can even support long gun mics like Sennheiser’s 18-inch MKH 8070 model, just by adding another Nautilus ring onto the rail.
Another very important feature that sound engineers look for in mic suspension is isolation from handling noise. Because of its shape, the Nautilus is capable of movement on all three axis - forward & back, left & right, up & down. Suspension systems usually create one or two pressure points on the mic, which can transfer handling noise from a boom pole, affecting sound quality. Microphones will also clip onto the Nautilus at two points, but its round shape helps spread out the stress evenly, reducing this effect.
At first glance, the Nautilus rings seem to be made of ordinary plastic material. But after aggressively bending and twisting each ring far beyond what could happen in the field, it’s clear that these were far from that. While the exact composition of the material is a “secret formula”, K-Tek created a fine balance between strength and flexibility to ensure enough isolation while keeping the microphone secure.
The model shown on the convention floor still has some minor tweaks that need to be addressed, but the final production model should be available sometime in mid-Spring. Pricing is yet to be determined, but should be in the same range as their other suspension models.
K-Tek also showed us a new Zeppelin windscreen prototype, aimed to release sometime this Summer. This windscreen is more compact than other systems by Rycote or other manufacturers, and also incorporates the new Nautilus suspension system inside.
The new Zeppelin will tackle problems that other popular systems may have. First, they wanted something that would not require as much assembly and disassembly whenever accessing the suspension chamber. They also didn’t want to use any glue, because of possible breakdown of materials over time, which can cause unwanted noise and eventually needing replacement altogether.
All of the “ribs” on the Zeppelin system are made of a glass-filled nylon, and are held together by tension, with a locking ring at the tip securing it all. This reduces structure noise while providing a heavy duty protection for the mic. If one of these ribs were to break, K-Tek can send a replacement part that can easily be swapped out.
To access the chamber, all you need to do is unscrew one knob holding the front end of the Zeppelin, and slide the front half off to the side. The front half does not completely detach from the rail system, which easily slides back into place when you’re done switching microphones. The back half is secure by default, but can be removed when routing cable through its base and into the chamber, which on film sets only needs to be done at the beginning and end of day. So for professionals that have certain mic choices for each environment, the K-Tek Zeppelin will save them crucial time in swapping them out.
These upcoming Nautilus systems will address key issues with currently available solutions, while providing recordists with the flexibility of having a single setup that accomodates for a wide variety of equipment.
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