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How the 100% analogue Austrian Audio OC818 microphone can be remote controlled from an iOS/Android app
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How the 100% analogue Austrian Audio OC818 microphone can be remote controlled from an iOS/Android app

Whilst the Austrian Audio OC818’s DNA is steeped in over 60 years of classic Viennese microphone design, under the bonnet, it’s a wolf in sheep's clothing at the cutting edge of technology. The punchline; the OC818 is a 100% analogue large-diaphragm condenser microphone that can be controlled remotely using an iOS/Android App over Bluetooth.

Being a dual-diaphragm condenser microphone, the OC818 offers multiple pattern options from its front panel switch. Traditionally, trying to guess which one of those polar patterns will work best for your source whilst constantly moving between the live room and mix position is a challenge many engineers face day-to-day. Austrian Audio have sought to overcome this challenge by moving the control of the polar pattern selection to an app which allows you to assess each and every polar pattern for each and every source from the comfort of your own chair within the sweet spot of your studio monitors!

All of the OC818’s internal circuitry is completely analogue and can be adjusted using digitally controlled bias voltages. By adjusting these bias voltages remotely and leaving the signal path completely analogue, the OC818’s signal path is free from any troublesome digital noise that could find its way into the audio paths.

The OCR8 dongle is the external bluetooth device that enables this remote control to happen. It’s a small black USB stick-shaped device that holds the bluetooth tech and can be inserted into the OC818’s second diaphragm output to be powered alongside the mic’s 48v phantom supply; no batteries needed. When configured, the OCR8 + OC818 combo is more flexible than simply remote switching of a few front panel controls! The app provides access to more polar pattern options - 255 of them to be precise! - Pad and HPF settings, as well as a histogram that displays the clip status of the mic's circuitry over a 60 second window.

Let’s take a closer look!

OCR8 Dongle and PolarPilot App

The OCR8 works alongside an app called PolarPilot. This app is the main interface that enables control of the OC818 via Bluetooth. Downloadable for both iOS and Android devices, PolarPilot has a pattern slider that continuously blends between the pattern options that exist on the microphone’s physical switches. 

255 polar patterns are available using PolarPilot and they range from Omni to Figure-of-8 simply by adjusting the blend and biasing between the front and rear capsules of the CKR12’s dual diaphragms. 

Connecting OCR8 to the PolarPilot app could not be simpler. All you need to do to start adjusting OC818’s polar patterns remotely are the following steps:

  • Connect the OCR8 to the secondary output of the OC818

  • Engage 48v from the preamp connected to the OC818

  • Launch the Bluetooth settings of your iOS/Android device

  • Select OCR8 from the list of available devices

  • Enter the password - which is the serial number of the OCR8 dongle

  • Launch the PolarPilot app and begin controlling your OC818!

PolarPilot has a clean and simple GUI that displays the selected pattern so that you can get a visual cue as to how the pattern is capturing your audio source (and rejecting everything that isn't). The app allows for control of the Pad and HPF status of the OC818 so that you can fine tune your gain structure whilst being next to the preamp and without disturbing the mic’s positioning. You can also name the microphone for identification purposes if you have multiple OC818’s!

As we mentioned, the app's meter displays the last 60 seconds of audio passing into the mic and indicates if there has been any clipping of the mic's circuitry - particularly useful when trying to identify where clipping may be occurring within a full signal chain.

Once you find a Pad, HPF, and polar pattern setting that works well for your desired purpose, you can store that as a named preset from within your iOS/Android device and then recall the setting when it is next applicable. 

In addition, PolarPilot always writes your last setting to separate flash memory inside the OC818. It is stored in the “Black Circle” or “Preset” setting so can be recalled without the need for PolarPilot to be connected.

Due to the limitations of Bluetooth, it is not possible to connect multiple OC818’s to the same iOS/Android device, however you can copy and paste settings from one OCR8 to another by disconnecting and reconnecting your bluetooth devices - perfect if you need to quickly apply one pattern setting to a second mic for dual mic’ing/stereo applications.

So, now that the mic is being controlled remotely, what can you do with 255 polar patterns at your disposal?!

Adjusting Polar Patterns

The right polar pattern can be the deciding factor between a good recording and a great recording. Selecting the right polar pattern is crucial to help focus-in on the instrument that you are trying to capture and record more of the instrument and less of the bleed from the surrounding area. 

For example, if you are recording a drum kit and using the OC818 to capture the Floor Tom, you will want to capture as much of the body of the Tom as possible without also capturing the surrounding kit elements such as crash cymbals and rack Toms. In this situation, the mic can be set to Hyper Cardioid mode to reject as much of the audio to the rear of the capsule as possible.

Staying with the drum kit but moving to the overhead mics, having infinite control of the OC818’s polar pattern enables you to set them in Cardioid mode and then blend-in the amount of room ambience by slowly opening up the OC818’s polar pattern towards an Omni setting to achieve the best balance between direct cymbals and room ambience in the recording.

The same principle can be used when recording a piano to help adjust the ‘width’ of each microphone’s pickup pattern. A wider pattern captures more resonance and a greater range of ‘strings’ inside the piano whereas a tighter pattern will capture a more direct sound throughout a more targeted pitch range. The Bluetooth control comes into its own at this stage as you can adjust these patterns with the piano lid closed!

All of these changes can be made directly by the engineer from their mix position!

Putting aside this tech, the OC818 it is an impressive sounding microphone built to the highest possible Austrian standard. Its CKR12 capsule, handmade in Vienna, is immediate, intricate, and smooth at all frequencies with a sense of transparency that remains unique to the sound of the mic and never borders on ‘sterile’. But with the power that the OCR8, PolarPilot, and PolarDesigner (see further below!) brings to the table, the OC818 is a lot more than a great mic - it’s a life saving, can't-live-without-it studio tool that allows more flexibility in post production than ever seen before.

The PolarPilot app has a demo mode so you can download and get familiar with its interface without it needing to be paired with a mic. It's available in the Google Play store now for Android, and for iOS very soon.

You can also get a further overview of PolarPilot via Austrian Audio's own video:

Post-processing with the PolarDesigner plug-in

Rather than commit to a polar pattern during the recording phase, the OC818 can utilise its dual-output design as well as the PolarDesigner plug-in to adjust polar patterns in post-production once the mics have been recorded! For more information on PolarDesigner, check out our dedicated blog post coming soon!

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