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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Shotgun Microphone Roundup

Shotgun Microphone Roundup

By Sam Mallery
Published Friday, March 30, 2012 - 1:24pm
Shotgun microphones are used to capture sounds such as dialog in film and video productions, for “spot” miking specific areas on sets, stages and installations, and for creating Foley and sound effects. These microphones feature a distinctive long and vented “interference tube,” which helps reject sound from the sides and rear and focus on the sounds directly in front of them. They are very sensitive and detailed sounding, and because of their sensitivity, suspended shock mounts are almost always used to attach them to boompoles, video cameras, stands, etc. Their increased sensitivity also makes them susceptible to wind noise, so additional wind protection is mandatory for outdoor use.
There’s a wide variety of shotgun microphones available at B&H. In this roundup, we’ll take a close look at some popular models, explain what makes them desirable in what situation and include links to high-wind protection for each one. All of the microphones in this roundup are considered “short shotguns.” None are more than 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length and they all have XLR connectors. All require phantom power unless otherwise stated. If you need a comprehensive and easy-to-understand explanation of what shotgun microphones are and how they’re used, be sure to check out the B&H InDepth Shotgun Microphone Buying Guide.


Rode NTG3 B&H Signature Series

The Rode NTG3 B&H Signature Series is an RF condenser shotgun microphone with a special design that enables it to operate flawlessly in damp environments. The ability to survive the hard-knock world of field production and to function in challenging weather conditions is essential for anyone needing to work outdoors. The NTG3 excels in these areas, but where it really delivers is in sound quality. Simply said, it sounds and performs like a microphone that costs several hundred dollars more. The NTG3 comes with a compact, pipe-shaped aluminum case, and an equally formidable 10-year warranty. It was designed and built at Rode’s headquarters in Australia, and the limited edition B&H Signature Series features a matte-black finish. This gives the microphone a subdued visual presence, and is far less reflective when working around lights. The NTG3 is also available with a nickel plated finish. Compatible accessories include the Rode Blimp, a complete high wind protection system that’s available in B&H Signature Series matte black, or in the normal gray color. For less intensive wind, you can use the separately available Rode WS7 windscreen.


Rode NTG2

If you don’t have the budget for a higher-end shotgun mic, there are a few options that do an impressive job at an attractive price. The Rode NTG2 is popular in this regard, and it’s one of the few shotguns that can be powered by either a single AA battery or phantom power (a clear explanation of phantom power is provided in the Shotgun Microphone Buying Guide). The AA battery power option is useful if you want to plug this microphone into the 1/8” input on an HDSLR camera (which requires an impedance transformer like the Pearstone LMT100), or use it with a wireless transmitter that lacks a phantom powering capability. The sound quality of this microphone is very good, but not as outstanding as the NTG3. It also lacks the RF aspect of the NTG3.


Rode NTG1

If the NTG2 sounds appealing, but you don’t need the AA battery powering ability, you should check out the Rode NTG1. It’s essentially the same microphone without the AA battery compartment. Because there’s no battery slot, the NTG1 is more than two and half inches (63.5mm) shorter in length and weighs two ounces (56.7 g) less. Like the NTG2, it features a low-cut switch to filter out unwanted low-frequency sounds (like rumble from footsteps and vehicles). Its short size makes the NTG1 a great choice for mounting on video cameras. Both the NTG2 and the NTG1 are compatible with the Rode Blimp (available in both B&H Signature Series black or gray). For less-intensive wind, both mics are compatible with the Rode WS6. Those on a tight budget can affix the Pearstone Fuzzy Windbuster around the included foam windscreen for additional wind protection.


Audio-Technica AT875

Another favorite microphone for people with more limited resources is the Audio-Technica AT875. A typical reaction to a microphone that’s priced this low is to assume that it sounds terrible, but the performance of the entry-level AT875 is actually quite good. Just under seven inches in length (175mm), it’s the shortest shotgun microphone in this roundup. Shorter microphones like this are an excellent choice for mounting on video cameras, because the mic won’t protrude too far in front of the camera. For use in high wind conditions, the Rycote S-Series Windshield Kit is recommended. For lighter wind, the Rycote 033032 Softie is the way to go.


Sanken CS-3e

The Sanken CS-3e is popular among location sound professionals, but tends to be a bit cost prohibitive for hobbyists. This microphone employs a set of three directional capsules that form a unique “mic line array,” which ultimately gives it superior off-axis rejection. Most shotguns aren’t effective at rejecting low-frequency sounds to the sides and rear, but the CS-3e is, and it also features an incredibly small rear lobe (the area behind the mic that picks up sound). This makes the CS-3E less likely to capture unwanted reverberant sounds when used indoors, and it’s a better candidate when you need to boom close to a ceiling, HVAC vents, noisy camera rigs and lights. For use in high wind conditions, the Rycote Windshield Kit 4 is compatible, and for lower wind situations, the Rycote 033052 Softie is the one to get.


Sennheiser MKH 416

No roundup of shotgun microphones would be complete without the Sennheiser MKH 416. This microphone has remained the tool of choice in professional productions for decades, with its nearly indestructible build quality and infallible all-weather RF condenser design. Its sound quality is rich and alive and helps the human voice to cut through to the front of a mix. The directional sweet spot on the 416 is rather tight, meaning that this microphone will have a narrow focus on the sound source directly in front of it, while doing a good job of rejecting nearby sounds. The compatible high-wind protector for the 416 is the Sennheiser Blimp System, and the Rycote 033052 Softie is the one to use for lower wind conditions.


Sennheiser MKH 8060

The Sennheiser MKH 8060 is a short shotgun microphone that offers a big sound and a great deal of versatility. Like the MKH 416, the MKH 8060 features an RF condenser design. It has a very rich and natural sound and shares the ability to bring the human voice to the front of a mix. Unlike the MKH 416, the MKH 8060 is more forgiving of off-axis sounds—that is, when not pointing directly at a speaking person, the voice will merely sound lower in volume, and not thin and artificial as delivered by other microphones. There is no low-cut filter or pad built into this microphone, but if you need them, they can easily be added with the separately available MZF 8000 module. The MKH 8060 is a part of Sennheiser’s modular 8000 series, which offers many options for microphone capsules and rigging accessories. You can learn all about this system in this B&H InDepth review. The compatible windscreen systems (if not using the MZF filter module) are the Rycote 3-Lite Kit blimp, and for light wind the Rycote 033032 Softie.


Schoeps CMIT5U

One of the most respected microphones for capturing natural-sounding interior dialog on a boom pole is the Schoeps CMC6 MK41. However, when you cannot place that microphone close enough to the sound source, or if you’re booming outdoors, one of the best tools to use in its place is the Schoeps CMIT5U. This is an extremely lightweight microphone with a very open and natural sound and is among the best sounding short shotguns on the market. The CMIT5U features three built-in filters: one adds a 5 dB boost at 10 kHz (to compensate for reduced high frequencies when the mic is used with wind protection), another cuts lows below 80 Hz (to reduce wind noise and rumble) and the third gently rolls off frequencies below 300 Hz (to compensate for any proximity effect when the mic is positioned close to a sound source). The microphone is also available in a low-profile gray color, the Schoeps CMIT5UAG. The compatible blimp system is the Rycote Windshield Kit 4, and for light wind, the Rycote 033032 Softie.


Neumann KMR81I

The Neumann KMR81I continues the solid tradition of the company’s offerings with a great sounding shotgun microphone that also exhibits extremely low self-noise. It has a wide frequency range (20 Hz to 20 kHz), which makes it a viable option for recording voice-overs and for capturing more lifelike sound effects and Foley. When you don’t need the full frequency range, a built-in low cut filter can be engaged to remove unwanted rumble, which is handy for when it’s used on a boompole. A switchable 10 dB pad is provided for miking a loud sound source. The KMR81I comes with a nickel finish, but it’s also available in a black (the Neumann KMR81IMT). The Rycote Windshield Kit 4 is compatible for use in high wind conditions, and the Rycote 033042 Softie can be used in lighter wind.

Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article. If you’re interested in microphones that are used on boompoles for capturing interior dialog, check out this B&H InDepth roundup. If you have any questions about shotgun microphones, we encourage you to submit a Comment below.
  Frequency Response Low Cut Pad RF  Max. SPL Power Length & Diameter Weight
Rode NTG3 40 Hz - 20 kHz No No Yes 130 dB 44 to 52V phantom 10 x 0.74" (255 x 19mm) 5.8 oz (163 g)
Rode NTG2 20 Hz - 20 kHz Yes No No 131 dB AA battery or 24 to 48V 10.94 x 0.87" (278 x 22mm) 5.7 oz (161 g)
Rode NTG1 20 Hz - 20 kHz Yes No No 139 dB 24 to 48V phantom 8.5 x 0.9" (217 x 22mm) 3.7 oz (105 g)
Audio-Technica AT875 90 Hz - 20 kHz No No No 127 dB 11 to 52V phantom 6.9 x 0.8" (175 x 21mm) 2.8 oz (80 g)
Sanken CS-3E 50 Hz - 20 kHz Yes No No 120 dB 44 to 52V phantom 10.6 x 0.75" (270 x 19mm) 4.2 oz (120 g)
Sennheiser MKH 416 40 Hz - 20 kHz No No Yes 130 dB 44 to 52V phantom 9.8 x 0.75" (250 x 19mm) 5.82 oz (165 g)
Sennheiser MKH 8060 50 Hz - 25 kHz No No Yes 129 dB 44 to 52V phantom 7 x 0.75" (177 x 19mm) 3.9 oz (111 g)
Schoeps CMIT5U 40 Hz - 20 kHz Yes No Yes 132 dB 48V phantom 9.9 x 0.8" (251 x 21mm) 3.2 oz (89 g)
Neumann KMR81I 20Hz - 20kHz Yes Yes No 128 dB 44 to 52V phantom 8.9 x 0.8" (226 x 21mm) 5.1 oz (145 g)

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