Panasonic WM-61a or other DIY solution for recording human voice?


Nature recordists seem to love the Panasonic WM-61a capsules. But do these have any serious flaws for close recording of human voice? Would anybody of you strongly recommend against these in that regard?

Also, should a DIY interviewing mic with these capsules technically be any different than a simple pair of binaurals (e.g. is phantom power required here etc)?

I'm planning an experimental radio documentary with zero budget. So I was thinking of building a pair of (really simple) binaurals for capturing atmosphere, and a "regular" mic (again, as simple as possible) for doing interviews.

I've no experience with mic building and only minor experience with soldering, though. So thanks for any advice and encouragements!


Posted 2015-02-03T17:23:28.050

Reputation: 135



Panasonic got out of the electret microphone capsule business several years ago. But certainly there are many vendors of similar commodity electret capsules out of the usual places. The Panasonic WM-6x series was legendary for a couple of reasons: They were dirt-cheap, and they had pretty flat frequency response.

But they were not noted for having very good dynamic range and they were not particularly quiet. The dynamic range could be improved somewhat using the "Linkwitz Mod". But there was no solution for the self-noise problem other than buying 100 of them and selecting the quieter samples.

I can only think that "Nature recordists seem to love [them]" because they were cheap (disposable) and reasonably accurate. I wouldn't think they would be all that useful for recording low-level sounds (like ambient background, etc.)

Nothing particularly against using them for recording voice. Certainly they need protection from plosives (like a pop/blast filter). But extremes in level (like whispering or shouting) would not be something it could handle well.

All electret capsules require power often called "plug-in power" which is a few volts. Phantom Power is a VERY different (and completely incompatible) method of powering microphones. Using an electret capsule as a voice mic rather than for a binaural pair makes no difference to powering requirements.

Connecting an electret capsule to most 3.5mm microphone inputs couldn't be simpler. But connecting one to a higher-end XLR type mic input is a rather different matter. Certainly there are ways to do it, but you have departed the concept of "cheap and simple".

Richard Crowley

Posted 2015-02-03T17:23:28.050

Reputation: 1 849

A very informative answer, thanks! As for electret capsules, would you personally have any preferences over the Panasonic WM-6xs? – martz – 2016-05-16T07:50:38.337

They are all nearly-identical, "jelly-bean" components in my perception. There may be some brands/models that have better performance. I would check with the online forums that specialize in nature recording to see what the community's latest favorites are. – Richard Crowley – 2016-05-16T15:52:47.507


These should be very good. A cheap soldering iron off eBay, and 6 wm61a's for about 12 UKP (in case you have an accident)...

I'm just in the process of getting a few more of these mics for binaural recordings (proper binaural, not stereo) I've used them in the past, and are very good.

I'll be experimenting with these that I get this time round, in about a month's time. I've some other very cheap mics that I use with a binaural head on sound cloud - check out Frank the terrorist -

Hope to be live streaming with a raspberry pi, and on the 3G network very soon too.

Perhaps we may have something in common?

Regards Alan

Frank the terrorist

Posted 2015-02-03T17:23:28.050

Reputation: 11

thanks for your thoughts. a pack of 6 WM-61a's is already on its way, and i'll definitely build a pair of binaurals as well, so there are some crossing interests indeed. :) but i'm also interested in how good these mics are for interviewing people (compared with a higher-end omnidirectional dynamic mic for example). another person said they sound "too thin" and suggested Primo em172 capsules instead. but the panasonics are cheaper for n00b experiments, so i'll test these first. – martz – 2015-02-17T18:06:45.717

FOLLOW-UP: i really like your stuff, thanks for pointing! it's indeed similar to what i'm planning to do (but my stuff will involve more "direct" interviewing, though). on which recordings did you use the "wired"/in-ear binaurals? (that's what i'll try building first.) – martz – 2015-02-17T18:21:41.757


here's me demonstrating my WM's which I placed inside my ear canals - not recommended! - if anyone wants to try that - do not blame me for your doctor appointments with ear/drum damage....!! it's an unlisted video.

– Frank the terrorist – 2015-03-01T12:20:30.100

excellent demonstration, this answered many of my questions (also, the wm-61a's sound really good to my ears!). thanks very much! i was thinking of turning a pair of old/cheap in-ear headphones into binaural mics, though. but the potential ear/drum damage is indeed a serios argument against all this. :/ – martz – 2015-03-02T16:12:46.780

Mattt.. the reason I used the disclaimer is purely to save me from being sued if someone had an accident when doing it. of course you could always make some plaster casts of your ears and save yourself ear ache. Only just seen your reply, sorry about that - my wm61a's had arrived a while ago, but my mate who would have let me make the new rubber ears seems to have gone awol! – Frank the terrorist – 2015-03-27T18:04:04.137

Hey Mattt..I've built another dummy head, this one is using the WM61a's, I've noticed an increase in volume compared with the mics that came with the audio line-out amplifier prebuilt, I just swapped out the original mics for the WM61's.the audience are the proof of said quality, by reading their comments up to now, I've thrown in a few 3D distractions that is a little cruel for the type of content the audience is used to, can you believe that the ASMR community really seem to like this combo...

– Frank the terrorist – 2015-06-14T08:54:24.847