Sennheiser MKH 406 by WarmJetGuitar
Got this one about 10 months ago and it's been used all the time in our small studio since then. Got it for cheap as a way to cheer myself up after having to sell an MCI machine I planned on getting up and running. Originally wanted an M88 but couldnt get in touch with the seller and found this one locally for 200 euro.
My biggest surprise has been how well it works on almost every lead vocalist I've tried it on, in fact it has replaced my Oktava MK-319 and Neumann KMS105 as the go-to mic for this job. Sounds very true to real life although with some flattering properties it's hard to put my finger on although some of the colour certainly comes from tracking through a half decent tube compressor and always recording on tape.
It's unhyped and also takes EQ extremely well. On lead vocals I tend to add a tiny bit in 5 to 7 KHZ and on backing vox I typically add some in the 15 KHZ region. It works wonders when doing the Roy Thomas Baker thing with having 3 to 5 singers repeating the same voices over and over again till I end up with 15 to 35 voices in all. Even better when adding another condensor on a long concrete corridor for natural reverb.
I use it the same way for handclaps. It sounds really good off-axis which is part of what makes it so usefull in this application.
I also really like it as a mono overhead for drums, below the snare and on hihats. Works well on piano and acoustic guitar. If I want the acoustic guitar to sound "sparkly" I reach for the EQ before hitting tape and add treble/high mids between 9 and 14 KHZ. But unlike many cheap condensers it rarely makes it harsh or reveal nasty distortion.
When I use it as an overhead instead of the MK-319 I don't have to low cut nearly as much as what it picks up from the toms and BD usually sounds good. The MK-319 is a kind of dirty in a nice way on the cymbals though, so it all depends what the song calls for. Below snare its a nice supplement to a M201 although I tend to gate it quite heavily to tame the bass drum bleed - to be expected for this kind of mic though, so nothing to really complain about. On hihat I kind of prefer the KMS105 but along with a cheap Superlux condensor the 406 sure works here too. Just have to make sure that the bleed sounds good though.
Spec wise it has some roll off below 80 KHZ and is rather flat to 20 KHZ. Sensitive old ****er, "hears" treble way better than most people over 20.
The only job where I don't like it would be electric guitar but got lots of other options for this so it doesn't really matter. Havn't dared trying it on bass drum and I usually run DI bass and just rent in MD421's if the cab needs a mic.
I realize that this post might be turning a bit religious and that if I had access to U-series Neumanns it would probably be less busy. But for what I can compare to it's a bloody bargain and the best mic I own. For instance I used to record the lead vocalist in my band using a vintage MD-421. After I no longer had access to that there was a while where I always had to mess around with different mics to get what I wanted. No more, MKH-406 and it's sorted. Another example would be a classic rock band I'm recording at the moment. I met them doing live sound for them and we hit it off. However I had a slight anxiety recording the singer as his voice sounded nasal on 58, BETA58 and 57 live. I mean, I dig his voice and his vibe and lyrics are great... sort of Neil Young like but the peakiness of the Shure dynamics clashed with his voice. Through three songs so far on the MKH406 I hardly had to EQ anything.
My setup are all analog low and "midend" so my experiences with stuff like U87's are limited and when I used one it was when recording in an unfamiliar enviroment. However I can compare it to SE's flagship Gemini and decent budget condensers like SE 2002, my Oktava MK-319 and Neumann KMS105, Golden Age SDC's, a few I've forgotten and harsh garbage like Røde NT-1 A and SE X1 (what an inapropriate name for one of the least sexy mics in human history). Can say that it smokes all of them except the Gemini as an all around lead vocal mic and more versatile on other sources. And a new Gemini are about six times the price I payed for this and I'd say they're equally good although obviously quite different.
Be aware these are old mics made between 1975 and 1985 and kind of fragile. Mine used to be moody, sometimes make some odd noise that I had to fix messing around with turning phantom power on and off or messing around with the XLR connector. Lately in a moment of temporary ******ation I dropped it and it died on me - however the capsule survived and Sennheiser in Copenhagen fixed it quickly. Since then the random noise have gone as the guy sorted this issue now he was at it.
It comes in a few different versions, so note that some versions need an adaptor from tuchel. In Germany and Scandinavia some of these older standards was around till not that long ago.
My only reason for not giving five in "sound quality" is that I don't have enough experience with high end condensers to truly be able to give top grades in this category. I would give it 4,5 if I could though.
All in all I can highly recommend this mic, a pro and classy sounding vintage mic for a very attractive price. However if you record quiet sources in a noisy enviroment you're probably better off with a high end dynamic, I certainly have to keep a safe distance from the fridge and my desks PSU while recording with this one.
Just for reference I mostly record rock 'n' roll, psychedelia and disco and tend to aim for early/mid 70's sonics. Doing the occasional folk or shoegaze recording too and no matter what I always reach for this as one of the first things.
Perhaps I shouldn't have posted this review, don't want the prices to go ape**** before I get a second one. But this is an underrated gem if you can find one in good condition.