New year, new toys, and lessons I learned from 2011 – Part Deux

So, to the second and happier part of this mini-series of a blog post (this is taking forever!).

With all of that rage swimming throughout my head during the inevitable downtime in the film making season around new years, I summoned up to courage to finally go “big” in updating my microphone kit.

With great trepidation (and possibly stupidity, who knows, this could seriously backfire) I ended up getting these bad-boys:

Don’t know what they are? If you’re not a sound person you can probably be forgiven, but if you are a sound person… Well, I won’t dwell on that.

To clarify, these are the new MKH-8000 series of microphones, coming from Sennheiser. There has been a lot of web chatter about these compact condensor mics, and, in response, Sennheiser has been equally evasive about their technical specifications (although their marketing department was going bonkers). Even after talking to the Sennheiser representative for the Sydney area for about an hour, Peter, I was none the wiser as to their true worth in the field (for that is where I aim to unleash them).

But, despite all the confusion, and the claims of a “new industry standard” (although that claim is partially true… Sennheiser aren’t exactly a small manufacturer), little has been written on the more film friendly MKH8060 and MKH8070, the spiritual successors to the venerable MKH418 and MKH816 beasties.

So, I have taken a giant leap of faith and jumped on board the bandwagon, a defining factor of which was the fact that as RF condensor mics, they were, theoretically more durable than the traditional AF condensor mics a la Neumann.

Currently, my experience with them is limited to 2 hours of playing around with them at the Lemac store in Sydney (much thanks to Ross Boyer there, cheerfully helping me fulfil my gear slut dreams).

So far my first impressions are this…

I am in love with the MKH8070, less so with the MKH8060, but for practicality I opted to purchase one of them as well.

Why am I in love with the MKH8070, typically the more lumbering of the two, you ask? Well, there are several reasons. In comparing it to the MKH816, I was pleasantly surprised that it was, probably not amazingly light, but significantly less hefty than its predecessor. Properly balancing it on my Rycote mount and I think I could happily boom with it for hours.

But that wasn’t the best thing about it. The MKH816 was notoriously difficult to boom with. Apart from its weight, and its narrow pickup pattern, I found that, when an 816 went off-mic, it was immediate and jarring. The MKH8070, however, was different. In the two hours I was able to play with it, I found its mid and low range lovely and warm, there was definitely more character in this new mic, which can be good or bad depending on the user, for me, I could not complain, while it was as clinically nuanced as any Sennheiser I have ever used in the higher frequencies. Despite its warmness, it was still able to “pick out” dialogue from longer distances of 3m or more (I think, didn’t actually get the measuring tape out), even with a rumbling air conditioner threatening to swamp it, which I attribute to the slight bump up starting around 1Khz. Pending logistical and usage issues, I hope this becomes a common tool I employ when recording external dialogue. The one thing I was pleasantly surprised with was the extremely smooth roll-off when going off-mic. It was beautiful, really, the control over the colour change despite its pickup pattern was something to be in awe of.

In regards to the MKH8060, I was less impressed with it. In general use it is probably a quibble. On mic, it was as gorgeously luscious, but nuanced as its big sister, and I expect would be quite easy to mix in with the 8070 in post (a problem I have experienced in the past as ranted about earlier). One thing I noticed was that the 8070 was significantly more sensitive than the 8060, in fact, when I plugged the 8060 in I had to dial down the fader by about 30% to even maintain a usable level. The only issue I have with the 8060, and I don’t know how big this is, I suppose it all depends on the boom operator, but there is a severe drop off in the higher frequencies when the subject moves off mic on an 8060. I would call it “cliff-like” it really was that pronounced (“I was like woh, woh, woh… what just happened!?). Subject one moment… Barry White the next.

Anyway, these are just musings in a unrealistic environment. My next job is starting next Tuesday, and I should have more to say about my new babies after that. For now, I’ll just sit here and gloat…

Full Disclosure: I have no association with Sennheiser. I am new to sound recording having only done it professionally for 3 years. None of my opinions here may be relevant to anything, at anytime, anywhere, take them with a grain of salt (now to dust of my hands, that’s my arse off the line).

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