Sennheiser has introduced a new stereo microphone for DSLR video cameras that breaks the mold of previous models, allowing stereo sound to be recorded that precisely follows the field of view of the camera’s lens.
Sennheiser’s MKE 440 is a surprisingly small stereo shotgun microphone that weighs only 5.8 ounces, while capturing focused stereo audio from the direction of the video shoot. The mic rejects the majority of off-axis noise from outside the camera’s field of view.
What’s different about this microphone is it uses two mini-shotgun elements that are suspended in metal tubes in a V-shape arrangement. This differs from mics in a single tube that perform as more conventional M/S, AB or XY stereo pickups. The design captures the audio that’s directly in the field of view of a 35mm lens. The stereo spread is very uniform and intelligibility is high. The mic was designed to mimic human hearing.
In tests, we confirmed the difference while using our Panasonic GH4 camera. Comparing the Sennheiser to our older Rode stereo mic, which was in the XY configuration, we could hear the difference. The MKE440 results in a narrower sound field than the Rode, which offered a wider pickup pattern and more reverberant audio. The Sennheiser rejected off-focus sound that the Rode did not.
The Sennheiser has a stereo, super-cardioid pickup pattern and features a frequency response of 50 Hz to 20 kHz, as well as a maximum sound pressure level of 132 dB. The mic is powered by a pair of AAA batteries and offers an operating time of 100 hours. A glowing LED lets the user know when the battery gets low. The mic delivers full performance with a low battery warning. I liked the design of the battery compartment, which is easy to access and is built well.
The pair of microphones inside the stainless steel micro-mesh capsules are internally shock-mounted to prevent handling noise. The outer mesh casing itself protects against wind noise, though Sennheiser sells an optional black furry wind cover, which I recommend for outdoor use.
For outdoor shooting, especially music, the Sennheiser offers an ideal pickup pattern. The mic will not get the wide ambience of a Rode mic, but its reach for the sound within the video frame is probably greater. It would be excellent for close-up two-person interviews, but probably not as effective as a mono shotgun with greater reach. The choice of a mic really depends on how it is used.
The MKE 440 includes a three-level sensitivity switch and a high-pass filter. In addition to the sliding on-off switch with an LED, the high-pass filter helps reduce low frequency and wind noise. The sensitivity switch adjusts the mic’s output to match the camera’s input sensitivity. This decreases dependance of the camera’s lower quality mic preamp.
The mic mounts to the camera via a standard size camera shoe mount and has a short coiled cable to plug into the camera’s mic input.
The camera is list priced at $349.95 and the optional windshield is $49.95. At a total of $400, the package is more expensive than most on-camera mics, but it offers a unique sound pickup pattern like no other on the market.
If your application calls for a microphone with such a pickup pattern, the MKE440 is a high quality, well-built device suitable for any professional video camera.
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