Sennheiser MK4 Condenser Studio Microphone Review

October 23, 2012
By

PRODUCT REVIEW

It’s always seemed strange to me that the company who own Newmann in Germany, and have a big reputation in the headphone and live microphone market, have always seemed a bit under represented in the lower priced studio microphone marketplace.  The MK4 should help to correct this misconception, especially as it sells for under £200 in the UK, which makes it a very strong German manufactured contender against a lot of the competitors manufactured in China or manufactured using Chinese sourced capsules.

The Sennheiser MK4 is a condenser microphone for professional studio recording with a large 24-carat gold-plated diaphragm and, importantly, the diaphragm is manufactured in the same clean room as all high-end Sennheiser and Neumann condenser capsules.

At 485 grams in weight, the MK4 felt weighty and solid when unpacked and has a really nice retained screw holder when used without the optional elastic shock mount.

The MK4 has a fixed cardioid pattern and the on-axis frequency response is substantially flat with a very mild presence rise between 3 and 10kHz.

As always, the first test I did was with the spoken word which is a great guide to the ability of a microphone to transcribe naturally.

I found that the ideal distance between the microphone and speaker was around 5” to 6” (130 to 150cm) which gave an extremely natural recording.  There is some proximity effect, which of course has its uses, but even so I would avoid close mik’ing of vocalists with the MK4.  The low self noise figure makes this practical to do.

Moving on to acoustic guitar the results were favourable, with the full frequency response of the guitar evenly reproduced, especially in the low mids where muddiness in inferior microphones is often evident.

And finally, for this first part of the test, on to electric guitar.  In this case my Gibson Les Paul Standard playing though a VOX combo.  The first thing to say, is that this microphone can deal with very high levels of input, certainly beyond my own limits of endurance when we pushed the VOX combo hard in a small room.  The MK 4 is a real gem with electric guitar capturing both the body of the sound and the full harmonics that (for me) only the Gibson can produce.  For close cabinet mik’ing, it’s important to point the MK4 directly at the centre of the speaker if you want to get that raw excited sound.  Things dull down quite a bit if you mike off centre.

So after I’d had my fun, it was off to Alex Eden at his superb Factory Street Studio complex where the MK4 got the chance to feature in some of his recording sessions.  Here’s what Alex had to say.

Sennheiser  MK4 – Simple but effective
With a packed couple of weeks in the studio working on lots of very different projects from rappers through acoustic singer songwriters to rock bands the Sennheiser MK4 arrived at just the right time for me to put it through its paces.

Packaging
Opening the sturdy box, I would have any worries about damage if it was being posted to me, I found the mic well packed in bubble wrap and all the associated bits present.

Mic
The mic itself first struck me as modern looking without any attempt to look like something else, no U87 clone here then.  It’s well made with no no frills, the absence of a pad switch or bass roll off didn’t bother me as I tend to avoid using them anyway, however if you are planning on running it straight into your converters built in pre then these may be features you would miss.

There is only cardioid pick-up pattern but for the price that’s fine by me.  The mic runs on standard 48v phantom power and worked reliably without any problem at all for the whole of the time on test.

Clip
The clip is well made and functional, the angle adjustment tightens very firmly and there were no concerns about droop.  The clip was a quite flexible between the mic and knuckle joint which was slightly disconcerting when trying to position it but this may work to absorb shocks through the stand.  It comes with a brass thread adaptor a little sign of quality.  The mic itself screws easily into the clip and it is easy to position at any angle.  Now a shock-mount isn’t included with this mic and the optional extra is not very cheap at around £80, also the thread is different to the common far eastern mics and the body of the mic is to wide and tapered to fit any of my other cradles, so if a shock-mount is important to you this cost needs to be taken into consideration.

Bag
In the box is a very lightly padded drawstring bag which doesn’t offer much in the way of protection but is fine as a dust cover.

Manual
The manual is clear and well written with basic use instructions and some trouble shooting tips as well as a couple of hints about avoiding wind noise etc.  Useful for the beginner.

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