Today I had the pleasure of meeting Timo from Sonar Surround at the SAE alumni convention in Berlin. He developed a new line of hydrophones that are based on the underwater technology of Reson, a company usually producing equipment for military purposes, sonar systems and marine research. The microphones of Reson are of the highest quality, but because their business laid exclusively in the industrial and military area, those superb hydrophones were not available for the consumer market yet. Sonar Surround will change that. The TC 4032 hydrophone has the most natural sound quality and the lowest signal-to-noise ratio one can imagine. We did a very quick shoot-out of my DPA 8011 hydrophone against the TC 4032 in a small aquarium in the booth of Sonar Surround at the convention. Only the high output level of the in-build mic preamp of the TC 4032 with literally no audible hiss was reason enough to get excited. I had to lower the gain input at my Sound Devices recorder to zero while the DPA hydrophone had to be preamplified to about 30 dB to get the same input level with correspondingly much more noise floor. Here are some short sound bits that we produced with a pipe bubbling into the aquarium and recording simultanously with both microphones. First the DPA:

Then the same take with the TC 4032:

The difference might even get clearer with this second sound bit of water dripping in the aquarium. In the background one can hear the chatter of the people at the convention which is transmitted over the glas and the water in the aquarium. Again first DPA 8011:

Then the TC 4032:

The deeper rumbling are footsteps on the wooden floor of people passing by… I hope it gets clear how much better the TC 4032 sounds and how balanced the frequency range is. The typical sharpness and biting higher mids of hydrophones on the market – which is already rather soft with my DPA microphone – is completely avoided with the TC 4032. And the low noise design of the Sonar Surround microphone is especially helpful when recording sound sources from far away distances, because that’s where the hydrophones I know add too much noise to the signal. Moreover, this comes at a prize roughly the same than for the DPA. Of course the flagship status of the TC 4032 is not affordable to everybody, but still this is the highest audio quality one can get in the mid prize range for the first time. Sonar Surround has some smaller and less expensive microphones as well so it might be worth a look. And if I sound like a sales person here, I’m sorry for that. I was just carried away by some crazy ideas that would be possible with such hydrophones… By the way: does anybody wants to buy my DPA 8011 second hand?

More about underwater recording and an overview of other hydrophones can be found here.