When it comes to video production, audio can be thought of as one of the most important aspect of the final production. Without quality audio accompaniment, viewers can quickly lose interest and move on.
Many of the microphone reviews on the internet seem to cater to individuals that use the microphones in an indoor environment where you have different variables to contend with. As I do not do a lot of indoor video shooting at the moment, this review will be solely based on my microphone needs in an outdoor environment.
My specific audio needs cater to me as a photographer looking to do video interviews and capture ambient sounds. With my current microphone consisting of a third party lav mic and a Rode Videomicro, I was looking to upgrade to a better microphone that would suit my needs.
In doing so, Sennheiser was kind enough to send me three of their MKE series microphones for me to test. This blog post will give you a summary of how each of the three microphones excelled in comparison to each other.
As of this writing, Sennheiser’s MKE series of microphones consists of four microphones: MKE 200, MKE 400, MKE 440, and MKE 600. I was sent the latter three microphones where each one differs from the other in specific ways, so I’ll try and illustrate this below.
My main purpose of upgrading was two-fold: To get an on-camera microphone that would excel in picking up vocals at a decent range away from the camera in an outdoor environment, and to being able to capture ambient natural landscape sounds for my landscape videos. I knew it was going to be difficult to find one microphone that excels in both aspects so I was eager to find out if these ones were up to the challenge.
MKE 400, MKE 440, and MKE 600
Right off the bat, I noticed a clear difference in audio quality coming from these microphones compared to the Rode Videomicro that I was using. While it’s not entirely fair to compare the Videomicro with these Sennheiser microphones (given the price differences), these ones produced less bass, creating a clearer and crisper audio in comparison.
Here’s a summary table giving you the highlights of each microphone. You can click the model names to jump to Sennheiser’s website for all the technical details.
|Description||On-Microphone Options||Battery Life||Additional Notes|
|MKE 400||Highly directional super cardioid on-camera shotgun mic.||On/Off button, low cut filter, headphone output jack with volume control, 3-step sensitivity switch, 3.5mm TRS and TRRS cables included||100+ hours with 2 AAA batteries||Comes with deadcat; Mobile Kit option includes a Sennheiser clamp and Manfrotto Pixi tripod.|
|MKE 440||Stereo super cardioid on-camera shotgun mic.||On/Off switch, low cut filter, 3-step sensitivity switch, 3.5mm TRS connectivity||100+ hours with two AAA batteries||An optional furry wind shield is available.|
|MKE 600||Super cardioid shotgun mic.||On/Off switch, low cut filter, XLR to 3.5mm TRS cable included||150 hours with one AA battery or phantom powered||Comes with a foam wind shield, shock mount cold shoe adaptor, and carrying case|
Here’s an overview of my thoughts from each of the microphones coming from a photographer’s perspective, using the microphones in an outdoor environment.
Notes on Settings
I set the microphone and Nikon Z 9 settings accordingly so that at arm’s length away, I was registering just about -12dB on the Nikon Z 9 audio meter.
- Low cut filter: ON
- Audio gain: High
- Deadcat or foam wind shield on whenever available
Nikon Z 9 settings:
- Low cut filter: Off
- Microphone sensitivity: 13 and 17 (out of 20)
- Frequency Response: Vocal
- Attenuator: Off
- Mic powering: Off
The settings above allow me some room to increase the sensitivity level on my camera to further my reach or provide louder sounds at the 1.5m-2m mark.
|MKE 400||MKE 440||MKE 600|
|Overview||This compact on-camera mic is perfect for on-the-go video production when you want better audio than what’s coming from your camera. The super cardioid pickup pattern is fairly sensitive so when outside, I found it usable up to about 1m-1.5m from the camera. Moving slightly left and right from centre did not noticeably diminish the sound.|
It also picks up a lot of wind noise so I would always put on the provided deadcat and have the low cut filter on when in use outdoors. My voice tends to be a little on the deeper side so this filter actually made my voice a little clearer in my opinion.
|The differentiating feature for this microphone is its stereo recording capability. With two compact shotgun mics arranged in a V pattern, its sensitivity was one of the greatest amongst the three. Moving to the left or right of the microphone will alter where the sound is coming from so your listeners will get a sense of sound direction.|
On its own I found the wind muffling ability to be quite good. By turning on the low cut filter on the microphone, it further improved the vocal sound quality even when standing directly behind the microphone.
Its usability was the greatest still picking up usable audio at about 1.5-2m in front of the microphone.
|This directional microphone on its own had the best rejection of ambient noise of all three microphones being tested. I found its sensitivity to be the highest of all three—given that there is no gain control on the microphone itself, I found the sensitivity of this microphone almost equalled the sensitivity of the MKE 440 with a +20 gain setting.|
Its usability was about 1m-1.5m standing directly in front of the microphone. Moving left or right to the camera, you will hear a slight drop in sound level.
You do hear a little bit of wind noise with this microphone. I found the supplied foam wind shield had very little effect on the sound of the wind blowing on this microphone. I would spend a little more and buy the deadcat to improve on wind shielding performance.
|When used on an iPhone 12 Pro Max, I found this microphone to sound pretty good at 0 or +20dB gain on the microphone. More bass seemed to be present creating a pleasing sound altogether. The iPhone 12 Pro Max has a stereo microphone so this mono microphone sounded a little quieter as a result. See below for additional notes.|
I have sample audio coming from each microphone up on my YouTube account. Click play below to hear the vocal and environmental sounds from each microphone.
The best use-case I am referring to here would be solely for outdoor purposes. Your camera’s audio meter and settings may differ from my Nikon Z 9 so please set your settings accordingly.
|MKE 400||MKE 440||MKE 600|
|Best Use-Case||On-the-go video production where voice is coming from directly in front of camera. If you stray too far from the camera, the voice will get mixed in the ambient sounds making it more difficult to hear. Always use the deadcat when outdoors, and turn on the low cut filter.||On-the-go video production when you want stereo sound to provide a sense of direction to your viewers/listeners. Turn on low cut filter to further reduce lower registering sounds. Voice can be coming from up to about 2m away from the camera for a decent listening experience.||Video production for when you want the best noise rejection (of these three) and quality voice recordings from directly in front of camera at a range of up to about 1.5m away.|
The microphone that I would likely use the most would be the MKE 440 and the MKE 600, depending on what it is I am recording. For ambient sounds and voice recordings the MKE 440 had the best balance of all three. The MKE 600 excels in recording anything directly in front of the camera and the MKE 400 will be the one to use when I want to keep my gear light and simple.
Additional notes to consider for each MKE series microphones, as I was testing them out in the field.
MKE 400 Mobile Kit Caveat
The MKE 400 mobile kit consists of the Sennheiser MKE 400 microphone, a Sennheiser clamp, and a Manfrotto PIXI mini tripod.
A Small Detail
If you look at the photo on the left, you’ll notice the iPhone is in portrait position. When in this orientation you will be forced to raise the iPhone up a fair amount so that the cable does not hit the base of the clamp (see below). On mobile devices where the cable attaches elsewhere, this shouldn’t be a problem.
This can leave the whole setup a little precariously balanced on the tripod. As sturdy as this tripod is, caution should still be used in this case.
MKE 600 On-Camera is Pointy
The MKE 600 microphone is the longest microphone of the MKE series. This being said, be warned that the end of the microphone will stick out behind the camera when you put it on the hot shoe of the camera (see image).
You may want to use your Live View LCD screen to view your screen in this case.
The MKE 400 and MKE 440 microphones do not protrude behind the camera as much.
MKE 440 TRS Cable Compatibility Woes
With more high-end mobile phones coming out with stereo speakers and microphones, off-camera microphones should follow suite by providing additional options for mobile devices.
The MKE 440 is compact enough to use on a mobile device and would make for a perfect solution to this—if the cable were compatible with mobile devices.
Mobile devices require a cable with a TRRS connection, which essentially transfers to the device, signals for left and right channels and a microphone channel. On the other hand, a dSLR or mirrorless camera uses a TRS cable that only transfers the signal for the left and right channels.
The TRS cable attached to the MKE 440 is not detachable making it incompatible with mobile devices. If the cable on the MKE 440 were detachable like on the MKE 400, this would allow us to choose between a 3.5mm TRS or TRRS cable, letting us choose the device we want to use it on.
MKE 400 Photo Gallery
MKE 440 Photo Gallery
MKE 600 Photo Gallery
Do you use an on-camera microphone with your camera? If so which one? I’d love to hear your experience with various microphones too.
Pin the image on the left!
Go to Sennheiser’s website: https://en-ca.sennheiser.com.