On-Camera Microphones from Sennheiser

Share

One basic way to improve the sound quality of a video camera is to utilize an external, on-camera microphone. The microphone that’s built into your camera is typically of low quality and usually picks up lots of handling noise (the sound of your fingers and hands making contact with the camera). An external microphone can provide better overall sound quality; it can be directional (reject unwanted sounds from the sides), and it can be isolated from the body of the camera with an elastic shockmount. Sennheiser manufactures some popular on-camera microphones. They offer a complete lineup that can outfit compact camcorders and HDSLRs with mini-plug microphone inputs, as well as professional XLR-based shotgun microphones.

From Back to Front: MKE 400, MKE 600, and the MKH 8060.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the Sennheiser MKE 400, MKE 600, ME 66, MKH 416, MKH 60 and MKH 8060 shotgun microphones. The MKE series of microphones offers great sound quality to budget-conscience users, the removable capsules of the ME series of microphones offers modular versatility, and the MKH series of microphones features RF condenser transducers, which provide low-noise performance and weather-resistant operation. 

From Back to Front: ME 66 Modular Series, MKH 416 (shown with XLR cable), and the MKH 60.

The MKE 400 

If you shoot with an HDSLR or a compact camcorder, and your camera features a 3.5mm mini-plug microphone input, the Sennheiser MKE 400 is one of the most compact and best-sounding options available. It features metal construction, and a single AAA battery provides it with more than 300 hours of operational time. Like other shotgun mics, the MKE 400 excels at rejecting ambient sounds from the sides. A shockmount is built into its integrated camera-shoe adapter, which helps reduce vibration noise. A sensitivity switch boosts the pickup power of the MKE 400, and a wind filter can be engaged when you’re shooting outdoors; however, we still strongly advise using additional wind protection.

If you plan on using the MKE 400 outdoors, the separately available MZW400 Wind-Muff is the best option. Not only does the MZW400 diffuse rushing air with a layer of fur on its exterior, it also encapsulates the microphone in a chamber, to create a barrier of space around the mic, which helps to lessen the force of wind. A nice perk is that the MZW400 is sold with a compatible XLR adapter, so if you ever needed to plug your MKE 400 into a piece of equipment that features XLR inputs, such as the Sound Devices Mixpre-D, you can do so. If you plan on using the MKE 400 on a boompole, you will need an adapter. The bottom of the mount on the base of the MKE 400 features a female 1/4"-20 tripod thread, and boompoles have a male 3/8” thread, so an adapter like this Impact 3/8” Female to 1/4"-20 Male is required.

MKE 400
Pick-Up Pattern Supercardioid/lobar
Frequency Response 40 Hz to 20 kHz (with and without windshield)
Sensitivity Volume switch in minus position: 8 mV/Pa
Volume switch in plus position: 20 mV/Pa
Max SPL Volume switch in minus position: 126 dB
Volume switch in plus position: 118 dB
Equivalent Noise Level Volume switch in minus position: 21 dB (A), 32 dB (CCIR)
Volume switch in plus position: 16 dB (A), 25 dB (CCIR)
Power Supply 1x AAA battery, 1.5V 
Operating Time Approx. 300 hours
Helical Cable Length: approx 7.9" (200mm)
Diameter: 0.09" (2.3mm)
Output Connector 3.5mm stereo jack
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx 5.1 x 0.83 x 2.44" (130 x 21 x 62mm)
Weight 0.13 lb (60 g)

The MKE 600

If the camera, mixer or portable digital recorder you use features an XLR input, the Sennheiser MKE 600 is a shotgun mic that offers a lot of versatility, premium sonic performance and precise German build quality at a very reasonable price. A couple of attributes that make the MKE 600 stand out from the pack are its short length and light weight. Another big plus is that it can be powered with either a single AA battery or with phantom power. This is beneficial because HDSLR cameras cannot supply phantom power. When you do use phantom power with the MKE 600, a built-in LED will stay illuminated. When you’re using a battery, this light on the mic will only flash once after you turn it on (in order to conserve power).

A low-cut filter switch is provided on the body of the MKE 600, which is useful for cutting out low-frequency sounds that you don’t necessarily need to record. These low-frequency sounds can come from the hum of an air conditioner, the rushing sound of wind or the vibrating noise that you often get when mounting a shotgun microphone directly on a camera. If you’re going to be shooting outdoors with the MKE 600, the separately available MZH 600 fluffy windshield is a required accessory. The MKE 600 comes with the MZS 600 shockmount, which helps to isolate the mic from vibration noise, and allows you to mount it to the shoe of a camera. However, like the MKE 400, an adapter such as the Impact 3/8” Female to 1/4"-20 Male is required to mount the MZS 600 to a boompole.

Because the short and lightweight MKE 600 is such a handy solution for camera-mount usage, B&H offers it in a kit, which includes a short right-angle XLR cable and a Pearstone DUSM-1 shockmount (which doesn’t require an adapter for boompole use). If you shoot with an HDSLR camera or a camcorder that only features a 3.5mm mini-plug mic input, B&H offers this MKE 600 kit, which comes with a short impedance-matching XLR-to-mini-output cable and the Pearstone DUSM-1 shockmount. If you shoot with HDSLRs and cameras that feature XLR inputs, and you want the ability to use either kind on-camera and do boompole work, the B&H Sennheiser MKE 600 Complete Kit hooks you up with everything you need.

MKE 600
Pick-Up Pattern Supercardioid/lobar
Frequency Response 40 Hz to 20 kHz
Sensitivity P48 powering: 21 mV/Pa; Battery: 19 mV/Pa
Max SPL P48 powering: 132 dB; Battery: 126 dB
Equivalent Noise Level A-weighted P48 powering: 15 dB (A); Battery: 16 dB (A)
Power Supply 48 V ± 4 V (P48, IEC 61938) via XLR-3 or battery / rechargeable battery (AA size, 1.5 V/1.2 V)
Current Consumption P48 powering: 4.4 mA
Operating Time with Battery Approx. 150 hours
“Low Batt” Indicator < 1.05 V; approx. 8 hours of remaining operating
time after initial display
Operating Temperature 14 to 140°F (–10 to 60°C)
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 0.8 x 10.1" (20 x 256mm)
Weight Without battery: 0.28 lb (128 g)

The ME 66

When you’re in the process of creating a video production, your microphonic needs can change from shot to shot. Sometimes you’ll need a medium-sized shotgun microphone that you can mount to your camera or a boompole, in order to capture sounds that originate from a couple feet away. Other times you’ll need a wired handheld microphone. The ME series of microphones from Sennheiser offer a lot of versatility, because different microphone capsules can be attached to suit various needs.

There are two power modules in the ME series, the K6 and the K6P. Just think of these as half of the microphone. The K6 module features a slot for a AA battery, so you can power the attached mic capsule with either phantom power or the battery. The K6P module is for phantom power only. The module of your choice is screwed onto the capsule of your choice. Perhaps the best, all-around shotgun capsule for on-camera and boompole work is the ME 66. For handheld microphone needs, you can use the ME 65 capsule to capture sounds that are somewhat far away; the longer ME 67 shotgun capsule is also available (which, unfortunately, is too long for on-camera use). For smaller camera rigs, the less-directional ME 64 cardioid capsule is a good option.

The various components of the ME series of microphones are sold individually, or in complete kits, with all of the parts that you need. The ME 66 is available in a kit with the K6 power module, or in a kit with the K6P module. Likewise, the longer ME 67 capsule is available in a kit with either the K6 or the K6P powering module. There are also numerous B&H kits available that bundle in all the necessary accessories for on-camera and boompole usage.

ME 66
Pick-Up Pattern Supercardioid/lobe
Frequency Response 40 Hz to 20 kHz
Sensitivity Free field no-load sensitivity: 50 mV/Pa ±2.5 dB 
Max SPL 125 dB
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) Capsule module only: 0.89 x 8.7" (22.5 x 221mm)
Weight Capsule module only: 0.14 lb (65 g)

The MKH 416

All of the microphones in this article are built really well to stand up to the abuse of field production; however, the Sennheiser MKH 416 has one of the best reputations in the industry for durability.  It’s known for being as tough as a tank, while still providing premium sound quality. If you plan on shooting indoors and out with the possibility of working in extreme weather conditions, this microphone will be an excellent choice.

The pick-up pattern of the MKH 416 is fairly tight. This means that you have to be a little more careful when you aim it at the sound source that you want to pick up. However, one of the benefits is that it excels at rejecting unwanted sounds from the sides. If positioned properly, the MKH 416 can be really useful in noisy locations. While it’s popular for on-camera and boompole use, many videographers also use the MKH 416 as a studio microphone for voice-overs.

Even though this microphone will continue to happily operate in frigid cold or extremely hot conditions, it still requires ample wind protection. For light outdoor use, the 033052 Rycote Standard Hole Softie is a good tool to use. For high-wind situations, the Sennheiser Blimp System will keep your audio from distorting.

MKH 416
Pick-Up Pattern Supercardioid/lobe
Frequency Response 40 Hz to 20 kHz
Sensitivity @1000 Hz: 24 mV/Pa  ±1 dB
Max SPL @1000 Hz: 50 Pa
Phantom Powering 48V ±12V
Current Consumption 2 mA
Operating Temperature 14 to 158°F (–10 to 70°C)
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 0.75 x 9.8" (19 x 250mm)
Weight 0.39 lb (175 g)

The MKH 8060

When people are choosing camera equipment for their video projects, one of their number-one concerns is image quality. If you’re the type of person who’s willing to make budgetary sacrifices in order to obtain a camera with a sharper lens, you should really consider doing the same with your audio gear. At the end of the day, your number one concern is the overall quality of your finished product, and good audio equipment will help you reach this end just as potently as good camera gear will. Think of the Sennheiser MKH 8060 as the audio equivalent of a fast zoom lens—complete with creamy bokeh, premium German glass, a metal mount and weather sealing.

Powering the MKH 8060 with a battery is not an option—phantom power is required. However, since the body of this microphone doesn’t have to make room for a battery compartment, it can be much smaller, and the MKH 8060 is remarkably compact at only 7 inches in length. This microphone is made up of two parts: the MKH 8060 capsule and the MZX 8000 Analog Output Module. The output module screws onto the capsule, making it a functional microphone. Other components can be attached to the MKH 8060 capsule, such as the MZF 8000 Filter Module, which adds a -10 dB pad and a high-pass filter, or the MZD 8000, which turns the MKH 8060 into a digital microphone with an AES42 output signal. All of the modular accessories for this microphone are explained in detail in this B&H InDepth article.

While it’s a great plus to have the option to use modular accessories, the main reason you would want to invest in an MKH 8060 is its stellar audio quality. Its ability to capture dialog and other sounds, accurately and clearly, make it more desirable than most of the other shotgun microphones on the market. Its light weight and incredibly short design make it even more appealing for on-camera use and for boompole use as well.  If you plan on using the MKH 8060 on a camera, you’re going to need a shockmount with a shoe adapter, such as the K-Tek K-CAM-SM. The MKH 8060 comes with a decent foam windscreen; however, a more robust fluffy windscreen is still required for outdoor use, so we recommend this Rycote Standard Hole Softie. A solid, hard-shell plastic tube is included with the MKH 8060, which is the ideal size and weight to protect the microphone when you’re in transit. If you’re in need of a complete boompole-and-camera-mounting solution for the MKH 8060, B&H offers this Deluxe Kit.

MKH 8060
Pick-Up Pattern Supercardioid/lobar
Frequency Response 50 Hz to 25 kHz
Sensitivity  -24 dBV/Pa (63 mV/Pa)
Max SPL 129 dB
Equivalent Noise Level 11 dB (A) (DIN-IEC 651); 23 dB (CCIR 268-3)
Nominal Impedance 25Ω
Min. Terminating Impedance 2kΩ
Phantom Powering 48V ±4V (P48, IEC 61938)
Current Consumption 3.3 mA
Operating Temperature 14 to 140°F (–10 to 60°C)
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) W/ MZX 8000 XLR module: 0.75 x 7" (19 x 178mm)
Weight W/ MZX 8000 XLR module: 0.25 lb (112 g)

The MKH 60

Modular microphone systems like the MKH 8060 are appropriate when you desire versatility; however, there’s something to be said for a solid, purpose-built microphone. The MKH 60 from Sennheiser is a shotgun microphone that delivers top-notch sound quality, in a solid, non-modular chassis. Even though the build quality of the MKH 60 is robust and weatherproof, the microphone is still very lightweight, and its 11-inch length makes it a good candidate for on-camera use or for boompole mounting.

Even though all shotgun microphones are designed to reject ambient sound from the sides, the MKH 60 does a more effective job of it, and exhibits exceptional directivity. It’s designed to provide a very low noise floor, for cleaner sound capture, and it features an electronically balanced output.

There are three recessed switches on the body of the MKH 60. One switch provides a -10 dB pad, for capturing louder sounds, another switch compensates for lost high-frequency sounds when the microphone is used inside a windscreen, such this compatible Sennheiser blimp system. The third switch rolls off low frequencies at 100 Hz by 5 dB, to cut unwanted wind and handling noise. A low-cut filter is always applied on the MKH 60 at 50 Hz and below.

It should be noted that even though the MKH 416, MKH 8060 and MKH 60 require phantom power to operate, they can still be used on with an HDSLR camera when an active XLR adapter box is used. With the addition of a Beachtek DXA-SLR Pro or a juicedLink RA333 Riggy Assist, you can reap all of the sonic benefits of these premium shotgun microphones with your HDSLR camera of choice.

MKH 60
Pick-Up Pattern Supercardioid/lobe
Frequency Response 50 Hz to 20 kHz
Equivalent Noise Level 8 (15) dB
Max SPL 125 dB
Nominal Impedance 150Ω
Min. Terminating Impedance 1kΩ
Phantom Powering 44 to 52V
Current Consumption 2 mA
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 1 x 11" (25 x 280mm)
Weight 0.33 lb (150 g)

It should be noted that while adding an on-camera microphone improves the sound quality, compared to the built-in mics on a camera, this practice is often inadequate for capturing dialog and other sounds that originate from more than a few feet away from your lens. Using a boompole and a longer microphone cable is often a requirement to capture dialog properly. When a shotgun microphone is positioned no more than 18 inches away from a speaking-person’s mouth, the recorded audio will be more focused, it will have less echo and, most importantly, your audience will not be distracted by subpar sound.

Additionally, if you plan on using any of the aforementioned microphones outdoors, either mounted to the camera or to a boompole, we strongly recommend using additional wind protection. All of these microphones come with a spongy, foam windscreen, but unfortunately these constitute inadequate protection when used outdoors. Shotgun microphones are very sensitive, and even mild gusts of wind can create distracting wind noise in your recordings. We have included suggested products for additional wind protection in the description of each microphone. See "Microphone Size Comparison Chart" at end of article for actual relative sizes of mics mentioned.*

Thanks for checking out this B&H InDepth article about on-camera microphones from Sennheiser. If you have any more questions about these microphones, you can stop by our SuperStore in New York City and speak to a B&H Sales Professional, give us a call at 1-800-606-6969 or join us online for a Live Chat.

*Microphone Size Comparison Chart:

Items discussed in article