New Gear: Heil PR-781 Microphone

I almost have my station setup to where I’m satisfied. Everything is controlled within arms reach to where I can operate the computer and radios at the same time and with ease. During  2011 NEQP, It got un-comfortable operating a couple of hours in while lurched over my  Yaseu MD-100 desktop microphone. I think it led to less operation and just a lack of motivation. For the 2012 NEQP I wanted to be more comfortable. I purchased a  Heil Pro Headset ($140 + Cable) and modified a Radio Shack tape recorder foot switch to work with my  FT-950. This years contest turned out to be a lot different in 2012. I doubled and almost tripled last years score. It was due to being comfortable and dedicated  to staying on the air.
I love the Heil Pro Set but I don’t like the way it sounds. The one I purchased uses the HC-4 Element. From what I’ve read on the Heil website that the HC-4 was designed for mainly contesting or DX. It cuts off the low frequency and focuses on the HIGH parts of your voice. Meaning the rumbling lows in your voice (if you have any) will be mostly removed.

Here is a youtube video of how I sound on the Heil Pro Set using a SDR Receiver

You will notice there is little to no bass on my audio. It has a narrow bandwidth which is great for contesting. It Could help you break a pileup because your “Cutting” in with the sharp audio. In my personal opinion (I am not a audio expert by any means), it’s a great microphone but it’s not for everyday use or ragchewing. Maybe the Pro Set Elite has a much wider response  and would be worth  the extra $$$ for it to be used as a everyday microphone.
Now I am back to being hunched over the Yaesu MD-100A8X ($150). I am getting more uncomfortable the more I’ve been talking on the air. It ended up where I was propping up my head with me arm while talking. The constant pressure from my arm caused some issues with my Jaw. I ended up grabbing the mic stand by the stem and using it that way which was awkward. YAESU claims the microphone could be separated from its base but I am not sure what they mean by that. Could the microphone be used without the base? It does have a TX button on it and it has a 8-pin port on the back of the microphone itself.  The cable that comes out of the base to connect the microphone is very short (6 or so inches?) and would not really allow you to “Seperate” the micrphone unless you somehow make a cable that connects from the back of the actual microphone to the transceiver.  I wasn’t sure of the pinout of the actual microphone and I wasn’t going to open it up to find out.

Here is a video of what I sound like using the MD-100

After being uncomfortable and  finding out that a lot of  my Jaw pain was insult of applying pressure to it often (I also do it at work), I decided enough is enough and wanted a new microphone. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the MD-100 and after tuning the FT-950 Parametric EQ to my liking, I’d often get reports on  how “GUD” my audio was. I actually took pride on getting positive comments and people asking what microphone I was using.

So now that I need a new microphone, I figured I can upgrade at the same time.  The only true requirement is to be able to mount the microphone on a boom. I was also thinking to use the microphone if I ever get into Podcasting. This led to a major road block. There are hundreds of  different microphones out there. There are  some that should not be used in Amateur Radio but there are many that could. I wasn’t sure what to get so whenever I heard a really nice signal on the air, I would look up the call to see if I can get what kind of microphone was being used. It helped a little bit but there is still a wide range of microphones that are out there. From the very expensive condenser microphones down to microphones that are used with computers. I also had a budget of $150-$200 for a microphone and really didn’t want to go over it.

I ended up going with Heil PR-781.

Heil PR-781 W/ Yaesu Bal Cable

The reason I wanted to get the 781 is because it’s designed with Ham Radio in mind. I know I can get a microphone that could do almost all the same things for cheaper but I’ve purchased Heil Sound products before and had nothing but good things come from them. And if something does happen, their support/customer service is outstanding. Try getting support for your drop shipped microphone and you will know why.

I wanted to go all out and get EVERYTHING for the microphone.  That includes the microphone ($175), shockmount ($100), cable ($40), and boom arm ($120) which would end up costing  $415. That costs more than what I paid for my Amplifier. There is no way that I am going to spend that much money when I am already spending a lot on something that I already have. I ended up buying  just the microphone and cable which with the sales HRO is having at the time, I ended up paying less than $200.  The reason I paid for the cable instead of making my own is that I don’t have XLR connectors, 8-Pin connectors or any cable to wire one up with. I also read that the FT-950 needed a balanced input and there  a issue with the FT-950 can get RF  into the cable so I bit the bullet and got the cable.

The only issue I have is to where I am going to mount the microphone since I didn’t purchase  a mount/boom. I went up to the attic and sure enough I found some desk lamps that had booms. I thought the lamp head was similar in weight to the microphone  so I thought I can get rid of the Lamp, keep the boom and fit it to the microphone holder. It ended up to almost a perfect match. I wouldn’t be able to swivel the microphone left and right but I didn’t mind. Once I mounted the microphone, I found out that the mic is a lot heaver than  the lamp and was pulling down the springs and not staying where I placed it. The solution that problem was rubber bands. I placed a bunch of rubber bands along the spring and balanced the microphone perfectly. Also got  rid of any spring noises.

Another great thing about the FT-950 is that it has a decent parametric EQ built right in. I can adjust how I sound from the radio instead of buying a mixer board. I used the settings suggested by Heil Sound but tweaked them so my lows would stick out and give my voice a bassy feel to it.

Here are my FT-950 Settings

  • Menu #62 – TX BPF (Maxium Signal Width) = 1-29 (100-2900hz wide) or 2-28
  • Menu #91 – Frequency = 200hz
  • Menu #92 – Notch or Boost = -4 (db) (Heil Suggests -15 which eliminates a lot of bass, Good for DX)
  • Menu #93 – Bandwidth = 6 (Heild Suggests 5)
  • Menu #94 – Frequency = 700hz (Heil’s site says 400hz which the radio can’t do. 700hz is the minimum)
  • Menu #95 – Notch or Boost = -0 (db)
  • Menu #96 – Bandwidth = 5
  • Menu #97 – Frequency = 2400hz
  • Menu #98 – Notch or Boost = +8 (db)
  • Menu #99 – Bandwidth = 5

Menu items 91, 92 and 93 are for your low range. This will give or take away all the lows or bass in the signal. Items 94, 95 and 96 are for your mids and 97, 98, 99 are for your highs and will make your voice more coherent (unless you have marbles in your mouth) . Well… That’s what I think it does for me.

These settings are the ones that I use for Ragchewing (seem to be doing more and more). It wouldn’t be much for contesting or chasing DX. At this point I will change the Settings to narrow up the signal and get rid of some or most of the bassy lows that are in my audio.

Here is a Youtube video on how I sound

After watching the video a couple of times, I think it’s great for 75M Ragchewing but not so good chasing DX. I will have to find a happy medium and remember the settings.

Just for reference, I also made a video of what the MH-31 hand microphone that comes with FT-950 sounds like.

It’s been a week since I’ve been using the microphone and I really like my purchase. Already got some good audio reports. Now I want to get the podcasting side of it going.

Thanks for reading