The New Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone

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Sennheiser has just announced the new MKE 600, a shotgun microphone that clearly captures sound sources from short distances. The new MKE 600 is the most affordable XLR-based shotgun microphone that Sennheiser has ever offered, but its lower price doesn’t detract from its abilities as a high grade production tool. The MKE 600 is remarkably short in length and impressively lightweight, and it's been designed to provide a very balanced, high caliber of sound with a directional pick-up pattern. I had the opportunity to give this new mic a short test drive, and I was impressed by its clear sound capture, how well it rejected sounds from the sides and rear, and its versatile powering options.

When you test a microphone, the most important of its attributes to consider is overall sound quality. Since the MKE 600 is made in Germany by Sennheiser, a brand that has a strong reputation for making excellent-sounding equipment, I had high expectations for this mic. The MKE 600 didn't let me down. To my ears, it had the crisp and clear quality that you expect from a good shotgun mic. Dialog sounded focused and present, and its off-axis rejection of sounds to the sides and rear was exceptionally good. Range-wise, it behaved like most shotgun microphones do. The closer the MKE 600 was positioned to the person speaking, the better the recording of their voice sounded. But ultimately, I wanted to know if this mic sounded like a true professional tool or a compromised budget piece of gear, and it definitely sounded like the former.

The new MKE 600 features a switchable low cut filter which reduces the amount of low-frequency sounds that the microphone can pick up. Using a low cut filter is useful when recording dialog, because speech mainly takes place in the mid- and high-frequency range, so recording low-frequency sounds is unnecessary. It’s also useful when shooting outdoors, or when the microphone is mounted on a boompole or a video camera. An activated low cut filter can help to cut down on distracting wind noise, and it can decrease the handling noise that is transferred from the connected boompole or camera.

Most XLR shotguns require phantom power in order to operate, while others depend on batteries for power. The new MKE 600 is one of only a few shotgun microphones that gives you the option to use either phantom power or a single AA battery. While this may seem like a minor detail, it’s really a big deal. The battery-power option means that the MKE 600 can be used with video cameras and wireless systems that lack phantom-powering capabilities. The MKE 600 also has the shortest overall length of any AA powered shotgun on the market. I tested it out with a Zoom H4n portable recorder, using an alkaline AA battery inside the MKE 600 at first; then I switched to phantom power. Performance-wise, the microphone behaved consistently with both powering sources.

The Zoom H4n gives you the option to supply the connected microphone with either 48 or 24 volts of phantom power. This way, if the microphone you’re using can get by with just 24 volts of power, you can conserve battery life. I tested the MKE 600 with both 48 and 24 volts of phantom power, and it worked just fine with either setting. When you use phantom power with the MKE 600, a built-in green LED stays illuminated when power is detected, and the built-in On/Off switch is deactivated. 

When you use a battery to power the MKE 600, a built-in red LED flashes for one second after you turn it on. The short flash lets you know that the battery is operational and that the mic is on. The built-in red LED will also stay illuminated to inform you that the battery is low. When the red light comes on and stays on, it means that there is a maximum of eight hours of life left in the battery. Another nice touch is that you can physically switch the mic off, so you can be certain that the battery won’t be depleted between takes.

The MZS 600 camera-mountable shock mount is included with your purchase, and I liked its low-profile design. In place of a rubber-band-style suspension system, it features two short rubber legs that support a mic clip. A camera shoe mount is built in, and a 1/4”-20 tripod thread is integrated into its base, making it possible to mount the MKE 600 on a tripod. With a separately available 3/8”- to 1/4"-20 adapter, the MZS 600 can be used on a boompole as well. A flexible hook is provided at the rear of the shock mount that’s just large enough to hold an XLR cable, which made it easier to manage the cable. However, it will be beneficial to also have a more advanced shock mount like the separately available Pearstone DUSM-1, which features adjustable angles and a built-in 3/8" thread for boompoles.     

If you plan on shooting outdoors, it’s highly recommended to also purchase additional wind protection for the mic. An MZW 600 foam windscreen is included, which is useful for drafty indoor environments and very light outdoor work. However, foam windscreens typically don’t offer enough wind protection for normal outdoor use. Sennheiser makes a high-wind protector called the MZH 600 windshield. It’s available separately, and it fits the MKE 600 perfectly. The MZH 600 features a combination of foam and fluffy faux fur that diffuses wind noise for confident outdoor use.

Because the MKE 600 can be powered by an internal AA battery, it’s possible to connect it to recording devices and cameras that don’t have XLR inputs, such as the 3.5mm microphone inputs found on HDSLR cameras. No cables are included with this microphone, so Sennheiser makes the separately available KA 600 coiled cable specifically for connecting the MKE 600’s XLR output to mini-plug mic inputs. You can also use the Pearstone LMT100 impedance matching transformer cable for this purpose as well.

With its included MZS 600 shock mount, durable metal construction, multiple powering options, low cut switch and power indicator LEDs, the Sennheiser MKE 600 has brought a new level of capability to the entry-level shotgun microphone market. It’s a great new choice for budget-minded journalists, filmmakers and videographers.

Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone
Pick-Up Pattern Supercardioid/lobar
Frequency Response 40 Hz - 20 kHz
Sensitivity With 48V power: 21 mV/Pa
With battery power: 19 mV/Pa
Max. SPL With 48V power: 132 dB SPL
With battery power: 126 dB SPL
Equivalent Noise Level With 48V power: 15 dB (A)
With battery power: 16 dB (A)
Output Connector 3-pin XLR balanced
Low Cut Switch Yes
Power Switch Yes, with LED low battery warning
Power Supply 48V ± 4V (P48, IEC 61938) via XLR-3
Or AA battery (AA size, 1.5 V/1.2 V)
Current Consumption With 48V power: 4.4 mA
Battery Life Approx. 150 hours
Operating Temperature 14 to 140°F (-10 to 60°C)
Low Battery Indicator <1.05V (approx. 8 hours of remaining operating time after
initial display)
Included Accessories MZS 600 shock mount, MZW 600 foam windscreen, carrying case
Dimensions (D x L) 0.79 x 10.08" (20 x 256mm)
Weight (without battery) 0.28 lb (128 g)

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I wish I could hear a sample of the mic in action

How does the quality and performance compare to their ME66 shotgun?

How is this mounted on a boom pole for indoor shoots? Ie. Shooting a video with a few actors and boomed from above? It seems like this is similar to a me66 but with warmer sound?

I'm going to hook up my MKE 600 to a Tascam DR-40. I'd like to use the AA battery option to extend the life of the DR-40's internal battery. BUT, I'm hooking up a lavalier to the other mic input and need to phantom power that mic. So, does anyone know if having the MKE 600's phantom come from the battery AND having the phantom power option enabled on the Tascam damage either one?