SENNHEISER SHOTGUN MIC
Q I’m assembling my first serious audio kit, and I’d like some advice about which shotgun could serve as my main boom microphone. I work on a lot of documentaries and travel to shoot them overseas usually, so size, weight and performance are all considerations. My budget is very limited, but I want the best I can buy for a modest budget of around $400. I want to spend more, but adding in a boom pole, mount, bag, recorder/mixer, lavs, I think this is all I can budget. What do you recommend?
A Since you mention a "serious audio kit," I assume you need something with a name brand and a quality reputation, plus good performance and reliability. As far as shotgun microphones, we live in an era of almost too many choices; there’s truly a plethora of great equipment on the market. If you had a normal professional budget with which to acquire your shotgun, the recommendation would be easy. But most of those candidates are in the $900 to $2,000 price range. If you need to be in the $400 or under category, I have a new recommendation I recently put to work on a series of interviews I did for the press package for a new TV show, the Sennheiser MKE 600.
A little history is appropriate here. Sennheiser has a well-known reputation as a manufacturer of popular microphones that are in common use in production all over the world. As far as shotgun-type microphones, there used to be two price ranges for Sennheiser. The lower-cost line was the ME 66 microphone, which has served for the past 20 years as the de facto inexpensive Sennheiser shotgun line. (The ME 66, including power supply and mic capsule, ran about $400 to $500.) The MKE and MKH series handled the high end (the industry-standard MKE 416, about $1,000, the MKH 60, about $1,500), both of which serve as Sennheiser’s flagship professional shotgun lineup.
Enter the new MKE 600. It’s shorter (10 inches long) and narrower (20mm diameter), and weighs less than its discontinued cousin, the ME 66. The MKE 600 has an AA battery compartment for use when 48V phantom power isn’t available. In regard to audio quality, all of the MKE 600 specs are a noticeable improvement over the ME 66. My time with the MKE 600 proved to me that it sounds superior to the ME 66, which I used for years. The sound quality is smoother, yet crisper in a more nuanced way. This type of audio quality is normally elusive in sub-$500 microphones. I also own and use on occasion the Sennheiser MKH 60, and while the MKE 600 doesn’t sound quite as nice as the MKH 60, it’s very close.
Now for the kicker: The MKE 600 retails for a mere $329.95. The fact that, in blind tests, it comes very close to its more expensive $1,500 cousin, the MKH 60, and to my ears, sounds smoother and less harsh than the $1,000 MKE 416, means you’ll be recording sound quality at a whole new level for a lot less money than you could have just a few months ago. I would suggest you seek out a local pro audio dealer and audition the MKE 600 against other shotgun microphones in its price range. I think you’ll find the results to be obvious.