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Shootout: Sennheiser MK4 vs. AKG 414 Studio Monitors
Old 6th September 2011
  #1
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Shootout: Sennheiser MK4 vs. AKG 414

So I recently got my hands on a Sennheiser MK4, and decided to put it through its paces. I decided to do a "shootout" comparison with an AKG 414. I'm including the sound clips for people to listen to for themselves. I also did a separate shootout with a Studio Projects C3 which I'm going to include in a later post (so as to avoid confusion).

For those curious about my methodology, both mics were set up so as to capture the same performance simultaneously. In each test the mics were placed end to end. Both mics were tracked through a pair of Focusrite ISA One Preamps and into the aux in channels on my mBox 2 Pro.

I'd love to hear what folks think.
Attached Files

Sennheiser_MK4_Vox_01.wav (1.41 MB, 12386 views)

AKG_414_Vox_01.wav (1.41 MB, 11460 views)

Sennheiser_MK4_Gtr_01.wav (2.31 MB, 10978 views)

AKG_414_Gtr_01.wav (2.31 MB, 10663 views)

Old 6th September 2011
  #2
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Here are clips from the shootout between the Studio Projects C3 and the Sennheiser MK4. The same methodology/gear used in the 414 shootout (above) was used to generate these clips.
Attached Files

Sennheiser_MK4_Vox_05.wav (1.61 MB, 10209 views)

StudioProjects_C3_Vox_05.wav (1.61 MB, 9979 views)

Old 6th September 2011
  #3
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Very cool of you to do this. I'll listen when back in my studio.


Cheers.
Old 6th September 2011
  #4
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Which 414 was used??
Old 7th September 2011
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tripster View Post
Which 414 was used??
The XL S.

It was purchased very recently, so it's not one of the vintage ones I've heard people gush about (I have a friend with a 414 from the 70's that he swears by - I'll have to compare the two at some point). Anyone out there have a chance to AB a vintage 414 with a newer one?
Old 7th September 2011
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chrisc_o View Post
Very cool of you to do this. I'll listen when back in my studio.


Cheers.
Thanks Chrisc_o.

I figured this would be useful to those interested in the MK4. I have my opinion about what I hear in these files, but I'd rather keep it to myself for the time being (so as not to color anyone else's take on what they hear).
Old 7th September 2011
  #7
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Listening on Sony MDR-7506 on a laptop...they all sound pretty dang similar. With a gun to my head my pick here is the Studio Projects mic.
Old 7th September 2011
  #8
Gear Nut
 

On the acoustic I prefer the sennheiser but they are both just ok imo (pretty different though).

On vocals it looses to both the akg and the studio projects, a bit too nasal (for this voice).
Old 10th September 2011
  #9
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That was really awesome to hear. Thanks. You wouldn't happen to have a "blue bluebird" and/or an "AT4040" that you could shoot out with the mk4 would you? Thanks!
Old 10th September 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jefarrell View Post
That was really awesome to hear. Thanks. You wouldn't happen to have a "blue bluebird" and/or an "AT4040" that you could shoot out with the mk4 would you? Thanks!
Can't say that I have either of those (although I understand why folks might find shootouts with those mics relevant/helpful). I chose the 414 because it is a respected, industry standard that many engineers are familiar with. I chose the SP C3 because it was the only cheap, Chinese LDC I had kicking around, and I thought that it would be useful for folks to hear how the MK4 would compare with that sound.
Old 10th September 2011
  #11
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forget the mic, tell me about the acoustic guitar, and how the mic was placed. I thought it sounded very nice
Old 10th September 2011
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gainstages View Post
forget the mic, tell me about the acoustic guitar, and how the mic was placed. I thought it sounded very nice
The guitar was a recently acquired Larrivee OM 03 (I love the way small bodied guitars record). The mics were placed end to end, pointing at the 14th fret from about a foot away from the guitar. Nothing fancy I think a lot of people mic a guitar using this general technique. By all means, try it out!
Old 13th September 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gainstages View Post
forget the mic, tell me about the acoustic guitar, and how the mic was placed. I thought it sounded very nice
Agreed!!! And the Sennheiser sounds fantastic on it! Very rich and detailed...lots of sparkle. I prefer it over the 414 by a very wide margin in the guitar clips. Nice!
Old 14th September 2011
  #14
Gear Maniac
I prefer the 414 on both tracks over the Sennheiser. That surprises me because I have that model of 414 and always thought it sounded too bright. But the Sennheiser here is brighter than the 414. The Sennheiser here has some high end content that I find distracting and not adding anything to the sound. I listened on Sennheiser HD600 headphones.
Old 14th September 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ric4001 View Post
I prefer the 414 on both tracks over the Sennheiser. That surprises me because I have that model of 414 and always thought it sounded too bright. But the Sennheiser here is brighter than the 414. The Sennheiser here has some high end content that I find distracting and not adding anything to the sound. I listened on Sennheiser HD600 headphones.
Well, I suppose I've waited long enough to throw my opinion into the fray...

Ric4001, I agree that the Sennheiser is bright (significantly brighter than the 414). I definitely prefer the 414 on the vocal. What surprised me is that I preferred the Studio Projects C3 to the Sennheiser on the vocal as well (I thought it had more presence). I really wasn't expecting the Sennheiser to sound "scooped" but that's how I would describe it. As for the guitar, I agree with Hossman777 that it captures the nice "sparkle" of this acoustic, and I can see how some might prefer the MK4. Of course much depends on how you want to use it in a mix. I could see using it for recording a rhythm acoustic track (I don't think I'd need to use a HPF on it). On the other hand, I don't think I'd want to use it to record a "lead" acoustic guitar (playing single note lines). For that I'd prefer the 414.
Old 14th September 2011
  #16
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One More Test

In the interest of being thorough, I thought I'd post two more sound files. This is a shootout between the MK 4 and the Studio Projects C3 on fingerpicked acoustic guitar. Again, I used the same methodology and gear that I used in the tests above.
Attached Files

Sennheiser_MK4_Gtr_07.wav (3.08 MB, 8877 views)

StudioProjects_C3_Gtr_07.wav (3.08 MB, 8877 views)

Old 15th September 2011
  #17
i prefer both the Akg and the SP over the sennheiser on acoustic. More natural highs
Old 16th September 2011
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aerophone View Post
i prefer both the Akg and the SP over the sennheiser on acoustic. More natural highs
Pretty interesting, wouldn't you say?
Old 3rd November 2011
  #19
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wow, my mk4 sounds rather different to me. interesting! probably my choice of mic placement - I always adjust a mic to sound it's best and when I do shootouts I don't keep the mic in the same place. which is why I don't do shootouts for anyone other than myself for my own comparisons.

each mic at it's best sounding position is what counts to me (I'm NOT saying that you didn't do that, but most people don't do that so you likely didn't do that either).

for me the mk4 sounds pretty amazing just a few inches from a voice, often 2 or 3 inches away. and while getting really close can make many mics sound better (not just proximity effect, intimacy and presence change dramatically as well), you still hear the sonic signature of the mic close up and I've gotten some amazing sounds on vocals this way over the years.

but overall this thread makes me unimpressed with the mk4.

quite different from another shootout I heard online a year or two ago where the mk4 really shines. wish I could remember the url, I know it wasn't on gearslutz.
Old 3rd November 2011
  #20
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I've had some good results using the MK4 up close as well. It gets sharp REALLY quick once you start backing off more than 6 inches. Still, I think I need to take a break from these threads. I started out loving this mic, but now I'm convinced I need to to sell it and get something more suitable for male vocals. How easily I'm swayed!
Old 3rd November 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarboy94 View Post
I've had some good results using the MK4 up close as well. It gets sharp REALLY quick once you start backing off more than 6 inches. Still, I think I need to take a break from these threads. I started out loving this mic, but now I'm convinced I need to to sell it and get something more suitable for male vocals. How easily I'm swayed!
Follow your ears. If you like how it sounds and you've figured out a way to use it so as to get good results with it, then keep it around.
Old 3rd November 2011
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkelley View Post
wow, my mk4 sounds rather different to me. interesting! probably my choice of mic placement - I always adjust a mic to sound it's best and when I do shootouts I don't keep the mic in the same place. which is why I don't do shootouts for anyone other than myself for my own comparisons.

each mic at it's best sounding position is what counts to me (I'm NOT saying that you didn't do that, but most people don't do that so you likely didn't do that either).

for me the mk4 sounds pretty amazing just a few inches from a voice, often 2 or 3 inches away. and while getting really close can make many mics sound better (not just proximity effect, intimacy and presence change dramatically as well), you still hear the sonic signature of the mic close up and I've gotten some amazing sounds on vocals this way over the years.

but overall this thread makes me unimpressed with the mk4.
For this shootout I stayed as scientific as possible (same performance, same distances, identical preamps, etc...). Interesting that you were able to use the proximity effect on the MK4 to get better results. I don't like to HAVE to get too close to a mic while singing. Furthermore, I don't like to ask a client to get right up on the pop shield (that can be a little gross if you know what I mean). Also the increased possibility of bumping the mic and ruining the take starts become a bigger factor.
Old 4th November 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarmax_99 View Post
For this shootout I stayed as scientific as possible (same performance, same distances, identical preamps, etc...). Interesting that you were able to use the proximity effect on the MK4 to get better results. I don't like to HAVE to get too close to a mic while singing. Furthermore, I don't like to ask a client to get right up on the pop shield (that can be a little gross if you know what I mean). Also the increased possibility of bumping the mic and ruining the take starts become a bigger factor.
definitely - a mic that sounds incredible on lead vocals from 8" to 12" back is an incredible thing to have around.

However IMHO (just for my experience here...) it's not necessary at all to worry about having the singer up really close imho - most singers are used to eating mics on stage and think it's how it should be done. I've always had trouble forcing singers to stay back from a mic actually, even with a pop filter. Amazing when I think of how many times that I've had a singer push the pop filter stand closer (Either behind my back or just by pushing with thier faces against it). Maybe I need to bolt that thing down. I used to use it on the same stand but then you get noises when they push against it.

Maybe I need to record less aggressive singers LoL
Old 4th November 2011
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkelley View Post
definitely - a mic that sounds incredible on lead vocals from 8" to 12" back is an incredible thing to have around.
You make a good point. Not all mic proximity effects are created equal. You also had a good point earlier in the thread about comparing mics in a more subjective way (by finding each mic's optimal placement even if they differ). Of course if you used that approach for a shootout like this (and post it in a gear forum), the results will immediately be called into question. Nonetheless, the point is well taken. Thanks for the insight.
Old 4th November 2011
  #25
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hey man, mutual {{respect}}

fully appreciate what you did in this thread. I agree, how else could you have done it without getting flamed? although I suppose the shootout you did followed by a similar redo but in what you felt were the most musical sounding positions for each specific mic - that might be the only way to please everybody.

but that's not just twice the work but more like 4 times the work thanks to all the mic experimenting involved, and no matter what, as you're likely thinking, people would be saying "why'd you put mic A 3 inches from the source? I always found if you turn it 20 degrees and keep it 1.7 inches from the source and put a pencil in front it's better than a C12!"
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