Sennheiser recently asked me to review two new MKH series microphones, and a new Lapel MKE 1
I had a job coming up and I thought this would be the perfect time to try the two MKH microphones out. The job was a TV commercial. We would shoot on the beach and in Jumeirah Beach Park.
For my set up, I decided I would use a PSC Alphamix Mixer, a Sound Devices 744T HDD Recorder, Lectrosonics for wireless applications and for Boom Poles it would be PSC.
We shot in hot weather and let me tell you straight away, I was concerned about the humidity affecting the microphones. Normally I wouldn’t be worried about an RF condenser fighting humidity (even the 70% we had that morning right next the water) but in this case, both the MKH 8060 and 8070 are modular microphones and I was nervous to have humidity going through the slightest open space between the capsule and preamps. But do you know what? It was just fine. Not a single problem.
Now that I was reassured regarding our weather forecast for that morning, I could concentrate on what those two beasts had to offer.
The first sequence we shot was on the beach. The conditions were good for me to try the MKH 8060. So for each shot did a few rehearsals. I started to rehearse with my regular MKH 416 (a classic Super Cardioid/Lobar pick up pattern with a sensitivity measured at 25mV/Pa) and then switched to the MKH 8060 for an on the spot comparison.
MKH 8060 Sensitivity:
The 8060 has a sensitivity measured at 63mV/Pa! That is two and a half times more sensitive than the 416! I was blown away. Every time I would use the 416 and then plug the 8060 back on, I had to bring my mixer preamp level down a fair bit to not overload the signal. I could even lift up the boom for wider shots and still have enough signal because this mic is that sensitive! Brilliant!
To be honest, when I started to test the MKH 8060, I thought that it was the equivalent of a 416 but much more sensitive. Then when I started to pay more attention to what I would hear, I realized that not only was there an improvement on the sensitivity of the microphone itself but there was also a huge improvement on the intelligibility of the mic. (by this I mean the way it reproduces the sound we are trying to capture). I could really make out a clear difference between the low, medium and high frequencies.
The 8060 and the 416 are both Super Cardioid/Lobar pick up pattern microphone. But the beauty here is that the MKH 8060 is shorter than the 416, in fact it is 75mm shorter (with the analogue module) and still has a greater attenuation of off axis sound without colorations. I could really hear an improvement, the volume is just much lower on the side then the sound source in front of the mic. And remember because this mic is so sensitive, when used on a wider shot, you do not have that fear of losing your subject due to a too tight directional microphone...
As you can read, it seems that the MKH 8060 is performing pretty well so far. It’s an improvement on sensitivity, intelligibility, directivity and what else?
Well what about the fact that it can become a Digital microphone? Yes, the MKH 8060 is a modular microphone. In this case, you can replace the analogue module or preamp (MZX8000) to a digital one (MZD8000) that provides AES42 format. You can also add a filter unit (MZF8000) that would provide a low cut as well as a -10dB switch PAD that could be very useful in some situations.
So I hear you say: “... we’ve read all the pros, what about the cons?...”
Indeed there are some characteristics to consider when buying a microphone.
With regards to the MKH 8060, one of my concerns would be the weight. The microphone capsule itself is 80gm; when you start adding the modules then it begins to add up. With the analogue module, the mic weights 112gm, then if you want to add the filter module it is also an extra weight. Especially if you repeat the operation with the digital module, which is 65gm and 96mm long compare to 32gm and 30mm long for the analogue one.
Now let’s talk a bit about the MKH 8070:
The 8070 is a type of microphone I don’t use much in my field. Nevertheless, I still tested it out for the same TV Commercial shoot and it was actually quite helpful in some situations.
MKH 8070 Sensitivity:
It has a great sensitivity measured at 112mV/Pa, you have to hold on to your sox when using it! It would be best used in situations where you don’t want to run around with it at the end of a boom pole.
Once again, an amazing improvement from Sennheiser. It sounds rich, clean, well balanced and no colorations even with such an off-axis sound attenuation. It is incredible, it’s that good.
So for the next set up after the one on the beach, we went into Jumeirah Beach Park and were shooting quite close to the Jumeirah Beach Road, which at that time in the morning, was busy enough with traffic to create a serious issue for me in the sound department. So I decided to use the 8070 to see if I could reject as much unwanted sound as possible and we managed to record most of what we had to shoot. Some shots are probably going to be worked on in post production but a minimum amount.
But how does it work?
Well, you need to know that this mic is working on the principle of significantly reducing the side axis by using an interference tube. What does that mean I hear you say?
Sound is composed of different frequencies, you have frequencies from a lower end to a higher end; low frequencies will have a longer wave length and higher frequencies will have shorter wave length. So when the sound has a wave length longer the tube itself, it’ll be picked up normally by the capsule. And when the sound has a wave length shorter than the tube itself, because of the a design of this tube, it’ll reject and interfere with that sound hitting the side of the mic. Therefore the sound is still picked up but with a reduced level. The longer your tube is, the greater the side rejection will be as it’ll reject longer wave length then the 8060 for instance.
So, just by placing the mic at a specific angle to the road and to the subject you can cancel out most of the aforementioned unwanted sound.
The MKH 8070 is also a modular microphone and therefore the same modules you would use on the 8060 could be placed on the 8070.
As with the 8070, there are also some points to consider before you purchase this microphone:
From a purely practical point of view, the weight and the size of the mic. It is, once in its basket and at the end of a quite well extended boom pole, a very heavy tool to manipulate. Especially when you shoot in the month of August in Dubai! 300gm for the mic itself at 432mm long makes it something you really have to consider.
My third and last test was the MKE1 Lapel microphone. Now testing Lapels is always tricky for me because I am used to a certain microphone I have had for years, and I am surely not the only Sound Recordist who feels that way. Nevertheless, I was intrigued to test this Lavalier for two reasons:
1. Sennheiser agreed to reintroduce the MKE1 due to a high demand from the Audio Operator Community.
2. It could be a very strong ally to the Sanken COS 11 because of its size.
The New MKE1:
I tested this mic on a documentary. Sure enough, the result was superb. I found the same quality I find in my Sanken: warm, rich, velvety, excellent frequency response and a high speech intelligibility. And the beauty of it is that the mic itself is smaller then my COS 11 but it still has a very high sound pressure level of 142dB! Not bad for a 3.3mm capsule!
It also has a new membrane design that makes it extremely sweat resistant; its special gauze and multi-purpose cap also offer additional protection from moisture. The 1mm thin cable is reinforced with Kevlar™ which makes the cable much stronger and durable. Colourwise, you can order the mic in black, white, brown, beige and light beige.
So to conclude, Sennheiser once again came out strong with three new beautiful tools that entered the world of the sound recording industry. These new microphones are well thought through and well designed but they do come at a certain price. It could be for some, a heavy investment.
However, if you think about it, once you’d tried them you would probably see the potential of the new era of digital applications. You need to ask yourself the question: are you willing to go that step further? Or do you just want to stay on the analogue side of the industry? Sooner or later, you’ll have to be ready to surf the digital wave and that is where I believe Sennheiser has been really clever by introducing the new MKH 8000 series, crossover modular products that allow you to move from the analogue to the digital world. This new series could be ideal for those with restricted budgets who would choose to expand their accessory box bit by bit.
David is a Belgian Sound Recordist who has been based in the Middle East since 2004. Starting his career 10 years ago as a Radio Broadcast Sound Engineer for the Belgian National Broadcast Company and moving onto location projects for over 7 years. He has credits for many documentaries, corporate videos and ENG network programs. And has worked alongside accomplished DoP’s and crews from all over the world.