Audio / Hands-on Review

Cut Background Noise with the Sennheiser MD-46 Handheld Interview Microphone


The Sennheiser MD-46 is an interview microphone specifically designed for electronic news-gathering (ENG) purposes. Unlike many interview mics, which are built with an omnidirectional response, the MD-46 has a cardioid polar pattern (though an omnidirectional version exists in the form of the MD-42). Its dynamic capsule features excellent background-noise rejection as well as low wind and handling noise. The microphone is 9.8” (250mm) long, making it easy to hold out to your interviewee without the need to stand uncomfortably close to them. Another standout feature of the MD-46 is its unbelievably light and balanced weight, at 0.79 lb (360g).

Upon learning that this microphone has a cardioid pattern, I thought that it would be interesting to test it against an ordinary cardioid dynamic vocal microphone. After all, cardioid vocal mics are certainly not in short supply. Other than the weight, what would the difference really be?

In a series of interviews, I put the MD-46 head-to-head with Sennheiser’s e935, a personal favorite of mine. The comparison yielded a much more distinct list of differences than I had expected. While both microphones have tight polar patterns and excellent off-axis rejection, the MD-46 is optimized to capture dialogue and eliminate any interfering sound.

The polar pattern of the MD-46 is much more shallow than the e935, causing a very distinct dropoff in signal level when the subject is more than 2.5” from the grille of the mic. And at a distance of 10 to 12 inches, the subject is barely audible. This is excellent for attenuating background noise. In an interview I did under heavy background noise, ranging from 76 to 82dBA on my decibel meter, my subject and I were clear as can be when we spoke directly into the microphone. The background noise was certainly present in the track, but not to the point that it caused any intelligibility problems in our conversation.

The off-axis rejection was also much more powerful on the MD-46. Beginning at approximately a 30-degree angle off the capsule, there begins a big drop-off in signal—and as you approach 90° it becomes almost entirely attenuated, even when speaking loudly and in close proximity. Again, these restrictive elements of the MD-46’s polar pattern make it almost impervious to background noise.

In terms of sound, it was clear why the MD-46 is an interview mic and the e935 is a vocal mic. The MD-46 has a slow transient response, which reduces its pickup of plosives and, especially, sibilance. This also allows it to be operated at higher gain levels without clipping, as a fast response to sibilant syllables would cause signal spikes and potentially, clipping. The frequency extremes of the MD-46 are also de-emphasized, creating more focused interview audio. The low end of the microphone’s response begins to curtail around 200Hz, which also assists in its rejection of rumble, wind, and handling noise. The high end is smooth—Sennheiser lists it extending as high as 18kHz—but I would estimate that it begins to slowly roll off beginning around 13.5 to 15kHz.

Simply put, the MD-46 optimizes the signal you need for speech clarity and attenuates everything you don’t. For ENG interview purposes, it excels even under unreasonably noisy circumstances, delivering incredibly clear and listenable dialogue.

To learn more about the MD-46 interview microphone, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.

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How does the MD46 handle loud barking dogs outside an uninsulated recording room or outside in the open during an interview?

Do you have an equivalent quality mich with a headset (earphones)?

Hi Sio -

No microphone can eliminate ambient background sounds completely.  So much depends on the offending sound's level and pitch and the otherwise ambient noise floor.  The best remedy is close miking and perhaps editing the "noise" later in post.  Here is a headset that offers isolation and ambient noise reduction:

The Sennheiser HMD 280-XQ Dual-Ear Headset with Supercardioid Boom Microphone is a high-quality communications headset ideal for professional use. The headphones have large dynamic drivers to produce a wide frequency response. The flexible boom mic can be worn on either side and has a supercardioid pickup pattern that has been specially-designed for excellent performance in high-noise areas.

The around-ear design provides a high level of ambient noise reduction and long-lasting comfort, while the adjustable headband fits virtually any head size. The single-sided coiled cable provides an adjustable amount of slack and keeps tangles to a minimum. The cable is also replaceable for convenience. The cable has a 3-pin XLR connector and a 1/4" headphone plug for connection to professional systems.