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Low self-noise shotgun microphone
  • I have SoundDevices Mixpre and I'd like to get good microphone to it.

    I have already MXL FR-300 but I'm pretty disappointed with it. When I boost gain enough so that I can pick sounds with high sensitivity from 1,5m - 2m, there is a lot self-noise in the signal.

    To ensure that there wasn't problem with e.g. my cables, I did another test with Electro-Voice RE50 and there was absolutely zero noise. I know this is different mic since it's dynamic but atleast it proves that the connections are not the reason.

    At there is good comparison between shotgun microphones. It seems that there is really big differences between mic self-noises. E.g. AUDIO TECHNICA AT897 has pretty loud noise, I'd say that sound clip is unusable. But e.g. SENNHEISER MKH-416 has virtually no noise at all and the tone in her voice is excellent.

    I don't understand why anyone would buy e.g. AUDIO TECHNICA AT897 ? Is that much self-noise really acceptable to someone?

    Anyway I'd like to get some recommendations about shotgun microphones. Based on the test above MKH-416 is a winner for me but that test doesn't cover everything. Requirements:

    • Low self-noise
    • Can pick sound from 1,5 - 2m away
    • Good tone
    • Price range <1000$
  • 32 Replies sorted by
  • I have already MXL FR-300 but I'm pretty disappointed with it. When I boost gain enough so that I can pick sounds with high sensitivity from 1,5m - 2m, there is a lot self-noise in the signal.

    It is not really a surprise, while not all noise can be self noise here. As FR-300 is very good mike for recorders having good sensitivity. But it results in more noise, if you use really good preamps.

  • I can only imagine that something is wrong with that test of the AT897 to show so much noise. My AT875R has a similar SNR spec, and sounds much less noisy than that AT897 test.

    The AT875R has high sensitivity, which can reduce the noise from your pre-amp. Then again, so does your MXL FR-300.

  • MKH416 is a great mic.

    All mics can pick up sounds from 1.5 to 3m easily, the question is how much gain you have to apply to get the signal to a nominal level (aprox -20db), i.e. how sensisitive they are. The more gain you have to apply the more important it is that both your mic and pre-amp be quiet. You've already taken care of half the equation with the SD MixPre. For the mic, aim for one with a s/n ratio above 75db.

  • Thanks for good info.

    I did some research and was surprised that Rode NTG-3 sounds pretty much same as SENNHEISER MKH-416:

    . Specifications are almost identical (SNR ratio 81dB, Frequency Response 40Hz to 20kHz etc.) and Rode is also advertised with low self-noise. And the price is 35% less in my local store, so it seems that NTG-3 is the winner.

  • Just got a Sennheiser ME66 - will be testing soon. I will post results. I'm running straight into recorder with no mixer, so this may not apply to you, but will post results anyway.

  • Don't overlook ebay! I bought a 416T used on ebay for $350 INCLUDING the phantom power supply (MZA14TU) from sennheiser. I think no one bid because the seller was in Ireland and many people have a fear of buying from someone outside their country - their loss, my gain (no pun intended...)

  • @matt_gh2

    What kind of recorder are you using?

  • @spacewig I will be testing my Senn ME66 with 2 recorders - a Zoom H4N and a Roland R-05. I have used them with a Audio Technia AT899 lavalier and found a sweet spot with the R-05, and prefer that. Will let you know how the mic works with both recorders once I test.

  • See my experience here: I ended up with ME66/K6 and Roland R-26 and after six month I am still very happy with this combo. I had the AT897 for a test and was dissapointed so I sent it back. I my comparision under field conditions there was no big difference to Rode NTG-2 which has low sensitivity and a lot of noise. Hope that helps.

  • I have a Rode NTG-2 which I use with my SD MixPre. I can push the levels all the way and hardly get any noise. If you have more budget, go with the NTG-3. Sennheiser ME66 is also good. If you record outside you will absolutely definitely need wind protection, so factor another $300-$500 into your equation.

  • The H4N is disgustingly noisy. I mean you just cannot use this as a shotgun mic preamp unless you're recording an elephant fart or a chainsaw from a distance of around 2 inches. I would not draw any conclusions regarding a mic if the H4N is part of the gain stage.

  • @spacewig I think you're right re: Zoom H4N. In working with lavalier mics, I prefer the Roland R-05 as I was getting some noise with the Zoom H4N. Maybe it's even more noise with shotgun mics. I'm just now testing my ME66 shotgun mic. When you say "I would not draw any conclusions regarding a mic if the H4N is part of the gain stage.", do you mean using mic and H4N without a mixer like SD MixPre? Thanks.

  • @spacewig do you mean built-in mics of the H4N? Its preamp on the XLR inputs is exellent and accessing SD card is noisless. Maybe you've got an slightly damaged device, let it be checked- otherwise H4N is really great. I use it often as 4-track recorder for classical music live performances (with another pair of mics via external phantom power supply plugged into chinch 3,5mm on the bottom side of H4N) and it sounds just brilliant!

    @tonalt does it have to be shotgun and hypercardioid? Did you try Neumann KM184? It is smooth and very natural sounding cardioid, so 1,5-2m are no problem, but you can put it also VERY close to the source. If you get a pair, it works also great as ORTF.

  • @matt_Gh2

    Yes, I mean the preamps in the H4N are really noisy. The external mics are ok for relatively loud sounds. The unit, and others like it, is primarily targeted at musicians to record their jams or musical ideas when inspiration hit, and not intended for picking up conversation in a quiet setting from a mic sometimes placed a few meters/yards from the talent where clean gain becomes a necessity. Having said that, the H4N is fine as a line-in recorder, i.e. mic>preamp>recorder. I use a DR40 specifically for that purpose.


    The overwhelming majority of instruments are MUCH louder than the human voice. Next time you have a chance try recording 2 people sitting side-by-side with the H4N about 3 meters/10 feet away. Adjust the gain of the H4N so that the AVERAGE loudness is around -14db (peak around -8db). Now listen to the result in a quiet room through reference monitors/headphones and you'll see what I mean by noisy.

  • @spacewig Thanks - good info.

  • How to bypass Zoom H4n preamps and connect it properly to SD MixPre:

  • try recording 2 people sitting side-by-side with the H4N about 3 meters/10 feet away.

    You don't need to make such effort. One person 5 feet away is enough to hear how crappy these PreAmps are. I had it, I sold it, I lost almost 200€ and I would sell it again for the Roland R-26. The H4n may work if you have a high sensitive and low noise mic and are able to put it very close to the audio source so you can keep the gain low - but that's not reality!

  • Actually, the mic preamp I put up on this forum performs really really well in terms of clean gain and costs like $60 to make. Of course you have to actually build it but if you don't want to dish out $500+ for a decent pre it's well worth the effort. I use mine all the time, runs on two 9 volt batteries and there is just no comparison between it and the shitty preamps found on most portable recorders.

  • @MirrorMan Could you post some audio samples? With different gain settings. I'd like to get some reference audio file to see what it should look like. Now I'm not really sure anymore.

  • for @tonalt @spacewig @peaceonearth and others... Here's a quick test using the Rode NTG2 and two different recorders with the GH2, a Tascam DR-100 and Zoom H4N:

    I'll try to make a separate test using just the preamps of the audio recorders vs the MixPre.

  • I've got an NTG3 and it is the best mic I've owned. Before that I had an old mkh-416t which sounded great but the rode is a hotter mic with a lower noise floor and is pretty versatile. It's the only shotgun I've used that sounds fine indoors in reflective spaces. I'm also going through a mixpre and line in to my fs100.

  • Here's another quick and simple audio test, this time comparing a Rode NTG-2 and a Sennheiser K6-ME66. Both are medium sized shotguns and have the option to run on an AA battery which allows them to be plugged directly into the GH2 (with proper cable and adapter). Using the Pasadena Pulse setting at 'level 3' I made 3 recordings. The first 2 are a direct comparison and the third a 'proximity test' with the Sennheiser. The Sennheiser is quite a bit more sensitive than the Rode but also has just a slight bit of noise with the GH2. But I'd say the Sennheiser is one of the best sounding mics I've heard with the GH2 (but is also more expensive ;). I made a 320k MP3 which I hope uploads here ok.

  • @MirrorMan I have a few questions I hope you can answer to your post above? 1. Is there a particular XLR to 3.5mm adapter you recommend? 2. I suppose there is no audio monitoring in this setup besides the bars on the LCD. Is that right? 3. Can the audio levels be adjusted during recording on the GH2? 4. When applying the Pasadena Plulse settings to hacks that don't have it, I suppose they can be entered manually, right? Thanks.