Countryman E6s Even Smaller Earset Microphone

Countryman has built a well-deserved reputation for high quality headset microphones. Their MHW (Isomax) headset has been respected for decades, and in the last several years, their tiny-size / big-sound E6 earset microphone has become the standard for singers and speakers, from churches to broadcast to corporate events. More recently they’ve upgraded the E6 to the E6i, with minor improvements in fit and finish.

Building on the enormous success of that tradition, Countryman has introduced the newest member of the Countryman headset mics: the E6s mic. Targeted primarily for theater applications, the E6s is essentially an E6i with a much shorter boom: about an inch and a half, placing the microphone element just forward and above of the ear – either ear: it’s easily reversible.

This week, we had a chance to test the new E6s mic, alongside its famous big brother the E6i.

Our first impression is that the new mic is, if possible, even less visually distracting than the E6i was. On the old mic, people sitting further back than the fourth row had real difficulty even seeing the mic. With the new E6s, it’s easy to not notice when you’re talking face-to-face.

I can see why Countryman is thinking about theater applications for the mic: it positions the element in the perfect position for that craft, where makeup artists have been taping tiny lapel mics for years. Only this mic is nearly instant-on, instant-off, making it possible for one mic to serve several actors. Unlike previous solutions, no tape is required. And unlike its bigger brother, the new E6s can be instantly positioned for either ear.

We also tested the E6s in singing and for speaking applications, comparing it against the well-known excellent performance of the E6i. The results were very encouraging, albeit somewhat predictable:

• The E6s sounds nearly identical to the E6i: the same brilliantly clear consonants, the same solid mid-frequencies. Depending on the positioning of the older E6i, some voices might have found a bit of a proximity effect adding some boominess to their voice, which I generally am not fond of: that problem is completely absent from the E6s.

• Since the mic element is twice as far from the source (the mouth), you hear the room quite a lot more. If you’re in a small, bright room, you’ll hear a fair bit of reverberance in a recording, but in a live application, you’ll not hear this nearly as much. In a church environment, recording the pastor’s mic will capture substantially more of the congregation as well.

• Countryman had informed us that they had made the E6s slightly more sensitive, owing to the placement of the capsule further from the mouth. In spite of the inverse-square law, the signal from the new mic in the new position near the ear was several dB hotter than the old E6i next to the mouth. Not a big change, but the difference is noted.

• The ability to resist feedback was significantly different. Since I’m a sound guy first, this is a big deal for me. The E6i, by virtue of the mic’s very close proximity to the mouth, is pretty darned good about resisting feedback. The E6s, being three or four times as far away from the mouth – though that’s still fairly close – is more susceptible to feedback. But let me make this clear: The E6s was still orders of magnitude better than a lapel mic, any lapel mic!

• The E6s makes for a far easier job positioning the mic. The E6i, if positioned poorly, could have a problem with plosives or breath noise (positioned properly, it had neither). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to grab a speaker’s face and position the E6i more carefully. The E6s inherently avoids both of those problems by positioning the mic well away from the mouth.

Conclusion: The new, smaller E6s is a very fine microphone. I expect that it to be an outrageous hit and widely copied – as the E6i has been – for use in the theater industry. The part that surprised me though, was how very usable the new E6s was for live sound. Don’t use it with stage monitors, though in-ear monitors are fine. Don’t use it in front of loudspeakers of any kind, actually.

But if you’re a public speaker – whether pastor or business presenter – and your main sound system loudspeakers are either off to the side, or well overhead, then this may work really quite well for you. If you are concerned about the look of a boom microphone alongside your face – particularly if you’re on camera – then this may be a life-saver! Just don’t ever use it with stage wedges, and you’ll be very happy.

By David McLain

David is a church sound and projection system consultant with CCI Solutions in Olympia, WA. He has been working with church AV systems since 1978.
He is also co-podcaster of the Sound Theology Podcast.
David McLain | Technical Geek| CCI SOLUTIONS
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