Sennheiser MKE 400 is an almost perfect airborne gun microphone-DIY photography

2021-12-16 07:57:18 By : Mr. Erric Tan

Hacker Photography-one photo at a time

Comments by John Aldred on August 30, 2021

In the past few years, as more and more people started to create video blogs and other content for YouTube, camera gun microphones became very popular. One of the more well-known and historic names in microphones is Sennheiser, who also made a pair.

They recently released the second generation of Sennheiser MKE 400 airborne shotgun microphone. Compared with the previous generation, it has undergone tremendous changes in appearance and quality. It is designed for use with smartphones and "real" cameras, and provides some great features for both types of users. I have been using it for a few weeks, so here are some of my thoughts.

After opening the box, you will immediately notice the general strange design of Sennheiser MKE 400. It has a very unique appearance, which is not available in other on-board gun microphones on the market today-obviously, except perhaps for other Sennheisers.

For most of them, you have the microphone unit itself, and then a separate shock mount, which can be placed in the hot shoe of the camera, and the microphone is installed in the shock mount. For MKE 400, the microphone head is shock-proof and installed inside the body of the device itself.

There are also some basic windshields, similar to the foam windshield that you might usually stick to the outside of a gun microphone, and are also built into the device. Essentially, everything is independent, and there is no need to worry about missing or damaged important components.

However, there are some additional accessories. The separate items are the fluffy windshield for more extreme wind conditions (basically, anything stronger than super breeze) and the audio cable to connect the microphone to the camera or smartphone.

Includes two cables. One is 3.5mm TRS and the other is 3.5mm TRRS. They all have a screw-in mount on the microphone end to provide a firm connection and prevent it from falling.

If you buy the MKE 400 mobile kit, it also includes a Manfrotto PIXI tripod (my favorite mini tripod) and a metal smartphone holder with a cold shoe mount for connecting the microphone on the top.

It also includes a pair of AAA batteries, which is how you power the MKE 400. I prefer the built-in battery, but it turns out that this is not a big problem. However, you need to put some spare parts in your bag just in case.

As mentioned earlier, the design of Sennheiser MKE 400 is very unique. Since the onboard gun microphone is designed for onboard use (a clue in the name), Sennheiser simplifies the design as much as possible for the end user.

Maybe it does sacrifice a little versatility, but it is designed for a specific task, and only for that task, it does bring the benefits of compactness and lightness.

But apart from the overall shape of the microphone itself, the location of the buttons is very logical and well thought out. The cable socket used to connect it to the camera or smartphone is located on the front of the device, not the back. This means that if you want to watch through the camera's viewfinder, it won't give you a headache.

It is also a threaded screw lock mount, which means it will not accidentally fall or loosen in the least expected situation.

On the left side of the microphone (left side, the operator’s perspective when standing behind the camera), we see the power button and basic audio settings. There is a 3-way gain switch on the left, a low-cut filter in the middle, and an on/off button on the right.

The power button is convenient, although somewhat redundant-at least for those who use a camera instead of a smartphone. This is where it is not important that the MKE 400 runs on a pair of AAA batteries. If you use it with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, it will automatically detect when your camera is turned on and automatically turn on accordingly. Similarly, when you turn off the camera, the microphone will automatically turn off and stop using battery power.

A pair of AAA batteries can be used for 100 hours, which means they will last a long time-in fact, I am still using my first pair of batteries and MKE 400 after a few weeks. However, when you use a smartphone, you need to manually use the on/off switch.

On the other side of the microphone, we have a standard 3.5mm TRS headphone jack for real-time monitoring-this is very convenient for smartphones and cameras without headphone output. Next to this, there is a simple volume switch that can adjust the headphone volume up and down.

The included fluffy windshield is designed to completely cover the microphone, and it works well. However, it may make it difficult to screw in the 3.5 mm socket of the cable connected to the camera, so make sure to screw in the cable before adding the windshield.

Although the microphone unit itself does have some basic windshield features, you almost always want to use a fluffy windshield when shooting outdoors.

I mainly use this microphone with Panasonic G80 (or Panasonic G85 for the US). In terms of image quality, it is an excellent camera, but in terms of audio, it is not that good. The preamplifier in this thing is very noisy, so you want a very strong signal to enter the camera, and the camera's recording level is set quite low.

Thanks to the MKE 400's three-way gain control (decrease or increase by 20dB), you can get a very strong signal, which means I can set the camera's recording level to -12dB. As you heard in the video at the top of this article, it is very good. Another option is to keep the microphone at the zero position and increase the camera gain to +6dB, but then you will introduce more hiss from the camera's built-in preamplifier.

In a completely quiet room, you can hear a bit of his voice from the microphone preamplifier, which can easily be cleared in things like Adobe Audition (the audio in the video above is unprocessed), but When you are out and about, you may not even notice its relationship with environmental noise most of the time.

Into the smartphone, you are using the headphone jack-if the phone you are using still has a headphone jack. If not, you are using a Type-C to 3.5mm TRRS adapter. No matter which way you enter, it is an analog signal, not a digital signal.

The sound coming into the smartphone is very good, although I am a bit disappointed because it does not provide a digital audio connection using USB. Sennheiser does provide an optional audio cable that can be connected to the Type-C USB plug, although it is still analog audio, not digital audio. I don't have one of them, so I use a standard Type-C to 3.5mm TRRS audio adapter cable.

However, to be fair, digital audio on USB is not a universally available feature. So far, the only airborne gun microphone that provides this feature is Rode VideoMic NTG. This is certainly not the basic function of a video blog (even with a smartphone), but it allows you to bypass the smartphone's preamplifier (eliminate any hiss caused by the smartphone), and it is very convenient to direct the voice-over on the computer Record into something like DaVinci Resolve or Adobe Audition.

This is not the function I expect the microphone to have, but I have become accustomed to it when using VideoMic NTG. I kind of hope that it will now become a standard function of camera microphones, and I would love to see it. However, if it is not the function you use, Then you will not miss it. This is certainly not a deal breaker.

However, one feature that impressed me was the built-in shock absorption function. When I walked up and down the rough terrain, the microphone hardly heard any processing noise, and it seemed that I didn't hear the bumps and percussions at all. Sometimes I walked around with it, I really think I would hear the bumps in the audio, but when looking back at those clips, I didn't hear the bumps at all and the sound was still clear.

The sound that is not directly in front of the microphone is greatly reduced, but not completely eliminated, as you can hear in the example in the video above. However, the ambient noise is significantly reduced to a level that does not interfere with the sound at all, even when standing only a few feet away from a rather noisy river bank. In a relatively noisy environment with sound around, it is easy to recognize the subject.

Most airborne gun microphones usually work well within a distance of about one or two meters, and then they start to fall off very badly. I noticed one thing about the MKE 400-although I did not show the sample clips in the video above, sorry! – It performs well even within a certain distance.

One day when I was out to play with a friend, I accidentally let it record. It was about 4-5 meters in front of the microphone and it absorbed our voice well and resisted the environmental noise. Yes, we are outdoors, so there is no reverberation problem to worry about, but this long-distance ability is worth noting.

In addition to recording the main audio for your video, another important use of the onboard microphone is to be able to record clear scratch tracks on video files for easy synchronization to separately recorded audio later-or if you need to synchronize multiple cameras An editor is shooting with more than one camera.

The MKE 400 may perform better at long distances than any other onboard microphone I have tried for this special purpose. Therefore, if you want to pick out a clear and unique sound for synchronization, which is much better than relying on the built-in microphone, then this is definitely worth a try.

The onboard microphone is usually very easy to use. So, there is really nothing to say here. I don’t use it on a smartphone very often, but when using it on a mirrorless camera, it is very easy to use. Put in a few AAA batteries, add cables, install them on the hot shoe, and you can start using it.

It turns on and off through my camera, so I don’t have to worry about running out of battery when I’m not using it, or forgetting to turn on the microphone when I want to record. If every video blogger with an active microphone has to manually turn it on and off, they will all face this problem at some point. This was the reason that initially kept me away from active microphones, but now that the technology has caught up, this is no longer a problem.

I like that the gain and low-cut filter settings are actual switches, not just buttons that cycle between settings. These settings can be easily bumped and changed without you even realizing it. Even if the microphone rolls around in your bag, these switches will stay firm.

However, there is a considerable missing feature that I haven't really mentioned so far, and that is the lack of secure channels. If you haven't heard of it before, this is where the microphone sends signals at different volumes on the left and right channels. This way, if the sound becomes very loud and cut off, you can still try to recover from it by lowering the volume of the recording.

This feature has always been used by recorders, because it is almost impossible to implement in things like phantom-powered XLR shotgun microphones, but as more and more people record directly into cameras, this feature has begun to become the standard for many power supplies. -Recent camera microphone. I have a few shotguns and compact wireless lav microphones, which provide built-in secure channel functions. This is a very valuable feature for me. When the audio cannot be monitored in real time when recording a video, it can save several shots, and it has become an almost indispensable feature for many video bloggers.

Fortunately, for some cameras, such as the Panasonic G80s I use for video blogs, there is a built-in limiter to help prevent clipping, although the limiter in the camera can only perform well. Therefore, you only need to be extra careful, set the gain setting on the microphone and the recording level on the camera appropriately, and don't make the sound too loud.

The latest version of Sennheiser MKE 400 left a deep impression on me. It looks great, and it sounds great. This is a serious microphone, without any gimmicks, and only provides functions that most users actually need.

When you look at performance and price, it definitely ranks high. Sennheiser MKE 400 basic kit is priced at US$199.95. The mobile kit is priced at $229.95.

In contrast, the basic kit of Rode VideoMic NTG costs US$249, not even including the fluffy windshield (an additional US$40). If you want a mobile kit, which also includes a Manfrotto PIXI, smart phone holder and fluffy windshield, it costs US$352 in total.

Sennheiser $229 vs Rode $352... This is a very convincing argument, especially when Sennheiser's audio quality is so good.

Yes, it does not have a secure channel, but depending on the content you are shooting and the audio restriction features available on the camera, you may find that this is not a problem at all for you and has no effect on the real world.

Overall, this is an excellent microphone at a very reasonable price. It has performed very well in my experience so far, whether it is the main audio source for video blogs or just for recording temporary tracks for synchronization, if you Yes, it's definitely worth considering picking up a new onboard microphone. If you own the original MKE 400, then it is a successor worth upgrading.

The Sennheiser MKE 400 basic kit is available now, priced at $199.95, or you can buy the MKE 400 mobile kit for $229.95, which includes all the functions of the basic kit, as well as a Manfrotto PIXI tripod and aluminum smartphone holder.

Submitted as follows: comments tagged as: camera microphone, comment, Sennheiser, Sennheiser MKE 400

John Aldred lives in Scotland and photographs people and animals in the wild in his studio. You can find more information about John on his website and follow his adventures on YouTube.

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John Aldred lives in Scotland and photographs people and animals in the wild in his studio. You can find more information about John on his website and follow his adventures on YouTube.

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