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Sennheiser MD 421/431/441 Dynamic Microphones
Old 16th September 2011
  #1
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Sennheiser MD 421/431/441

I love my 441. It's a dynamic with some of the clarity of a condenser and a lot of the smoothness of a ribbon. On the downside, it's rather big and pops like crazy. I've researched the 431 on this board and others, and some people say that it sounds a lot like a 441 and others that it sounds a lot like a 421. Which puzzles me because I don't think the 441 and the 421 sound very much alike (at any of the 441 settings). Would someone who owns those three mics care to chime in?

[Edit:] And to muddy the waters a little more: The 431 and 431-II have different frequency graphs. The 431's presence rise is less pronounced, with also a dip in the sibilance range (6-7 kHz). More surprising, though, is the polar diagram: for some reason, the 431's polar diagram is near perfect even at 16 kHz, while the 431-II's isn't. (As for the 441's, let me know if you find a polar diagram that goes beyond 8 kHz.)
Attached Files
File Type: pdf MD_441_BDA.pdf (641.8 KB, 308 views) File Type: pdf MD431II_bda_eng.pdf (507.4 KB, 338 views) File Type: pdf MD_431_18241_0392_Sp5.pdf (748.1 KB, 435 views) File Type: pdf MD421II_Instructionsforuse.pdf (300.4 KB, 215 views)
Old 16th September 2011
  #2
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I have the 441 and 421 (both vintage), I do find them similar though have more uses for the 441, more of an all rounder. Never even heard of the 431, off to google I go...
Old 16th September 2011
  #3
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The 431 apparently uses some of the same parts (capsule) as the 441. I think George Massenberg used the 431 on snare , and kind of started a thing about it. Its still a great live vocal mic and was kind of the creme de la creme of live vocal mics in the 80's and 90's. You'll notice Kurt Cobain singing into one on his legendary january 1992 SNL show. I have a 441 and don't use it a whole lot. Best use I have for a 441 is live vocals through a PA. It smokes any mic in that application imho. Unfortunately, i do FOH for bands that have 3-5 vocals, and the 441 requires a specific monitor ring out which is really not possible in throw n go situations - so beta 58's it is.
Old 16th September 2011
  #4
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I have all 3 (all original versions), but I would not like to compare them.

I have never used them in a situation where they could be compared, I use them for different things.

Yes the MD 431 "ProfiPower" is a great vocal mic.

I got my 421 s/h in about 1972, the 441 s/h in about 1977 and the 431 new in about 1980.
Old 16th September 2011
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
I have all 3 (all original versions)
I saw that during my search. I was going to shoot you a PM.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
I have never used them in a situation where they could be compared, I use them for different things.

Yes the MD 431 "ProfiPower" is a great vocal mic.

I got my 421 s/h in about 1972, the 441 s/h in about 1977 and the 431 new in about 1980.
The MD 441-U works very well on my (spoken) voice -- better than the MKH 416 and Gefell M930. I could solve the popping problem with a pop filter (duh!) but the "cumbersome" aspect would remain. That's why I wondered if I could hope for a very similar smooth sound from the 431, just with less options, popping, and size.
Old 16th September 2011
  #6
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Just want to chime in here and say that I am in love with my 441. I am out to get a 421 as well, but it's pretty far down my list. 441 goes great on just about anything. I tracked violin with it recently. As far as spoken word goes, I usually end up on a tube condensor. I agree, it pops, and all those switchable options are sometimes not needed, therefor in the way.
Old 16th September 2011
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinocelt View Post
I saw that during my search. I was going to shoot you a PM.

The MD 441-U works very well on my (spoken) voice -- better than the MKH 416 and Gefell M930. I could solve the popping problem with a pop filter (duh!) but the "cumbersome" aspect would remain. That's why I wondered if I could hope for a very similar smooth sound from the 431, just with less options, popping, and size.
Curing the popping problem on a 441 is actually quite easy.

Just have it off-axis.

Point the mic. at the mouth slightly from the side - the plosives will go straight past and not into the mic. and the mic. will still pick up the sounds beautifully.
Old 16th September 2011
  #8
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Quote:
all those switchable options are sometimes not needed, therefor in the way.
Enter 541?


Henk
Old 16th September 2011
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
Curing the popping problem on a 441 is actually quite easy.

Just have it off-axis.

Point the mic. at the mouth slightly from the side - the plosives will go straight past and not into the mic. and the mic. will still pick up the sounds beautifully.
I did that already. Not just slightly from the side but at at 60° angle. It's still popping more than my other two mics in a straight line. I don't even understand how that's possible.

Anyway, as I said, using a pop filter would be an easy solution.
Old 16th September 2011
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinocelt View Post
I did that already. Not just slightly from the side but at at 60° angle. It's still popping more than my other two mics in a straight line. I don't even understand how that's possible.

Anyway, as I said, using a pop filter would be an easy solution.
How old is the 441?

Could the foam inside have turned to dust and need replacing?
Old 17th September 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Willett View Post
How old is the 441?

Could the foam inside have turned to dust and need replacing?
Ah. Right on target, I believe. I got it used. It doesn't have as much as a scratch, but the foam inside the box had turned to dust and been removed. The foam inside the mic probably didn't fare any better. -_-"
Old 17th September 2011
  #12
Gear Nut
Not familiar with the 431, but use a 441 and 421's extensively. In my opinion, 421's are great workhorses but the 441 has it outclassed. I use it on snare top a lot, but its also an easy pick whenever a player walks in with midrange written all over him. Eg.. bagpipes, accordion, trumpet.

Detailed like a condenser, lush like a ribbon, sturdy like a dynamic. 421's are great for what they are, but Toyota and Mercedes Benz are in different classes for a reason..
Old 18th September 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanH View Post
Not familiar with the 431, but use a 441 and 421's extensively. In my opinion, 421's are great workhorses but the 441 has it outclassed. I use it on snare top a lot, but its also an easy pick whenever a player walks in with midrange written all over him. Eg.. bagpipes, accordion, trumpet.

Detailed like a condenser, lush like a ribbon, sturdy like a dynamic. 421's are great for what they are, but Toyota and Mercedes Benz are in different classes for a reason..
*nod nod nod*

That's why I'd like to know if the MD 431 is closer in sound to the 441 (yeah!) or 421 (I'll pass).
Old 18th September 2011
  #14
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From what I can remember, the 431 sounds a lot more similar to the 441 than the 421. It doesn't really have the low/high end extension of its big brother, and I believe there is a little bit of a presence peak in the response tailored for vocal applications. It never sounds scratchy or nasal the way a 57/58 can though. Very good mic, and the best thing is it's so dirt cheap used. One of the best kept secrets out there I'd say.
Old 22nd September 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camus View Post
From what I can remember, the 431 sounds a lot more similar to the 441 than the 421. It doesn't really have the low/high end extension of its big brother, and I believe there is a little bit of a presence peak in the response tailored for vocal applications. It never sounds scratchy or nasal the way a 57/58 can though. Very good mic, and the best thing is it's so dirt cheap used. One of the best kept secrets out there I'd say.
According to the graph, there is indeed a presence peak, though not as pronounced as the 441's in brilliance mode -- which, to my ears, sounds a tad artificial. I prefer the natural near-linear extension of the 441, but it doesn't mean the 431's default presence peak wouldn't suit me, should it sound more natural.
Old 23rd September 2011
  #16
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On a related note: I'm very disappointed in Sennheiser's customer service. I filled up a form on their website and left them a message to ask questions about the MZW 40 and MZW 441; I received a "we'll get back to you" automated email, and then nothing. One week later, having not yet received an answer, I tried again. Same "we'll get back to you" automated email. One more week has passed. Still no answer.
Old 23rd September 2011
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DanH View Post
In my opinion, 421's are great workhorses but the 441 has it outclassed. I use it on snare top a lot, but its also an easy pick whenever a player walks in with midrange written all over him. Eg.. bagpipes, accordion, trumpet.
sorry, meaning you use the 441 when you really WANT to capture all that midrange, or when you really DON'T want all that midrange?
Old 25th September 2011
  #18
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431 vs. 431-II

To muddy the waters a little more: The 431 and 431-II have different frequency graphs. The 431's presence rise is less pronounced, with also a dip in the sibilance range (6-7 kHz). More surprising, though, is the polar diagram: for some reason, the 431's polar diagram is near perfect even at 16 kHz, while the 431-II's isn't. (As for the 441's, let me know if you find a polar diagram that goes beyond 8 kHz.)

I've added attachments to my opening post.
Old 25th September 2011
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by binarymilton View Post
sorry, meaning you use the 441 when you really WANT to capture all that midrange, or when you really DON'T want all that midrange?
Looking at it from the other direction, the 421's failure to extend means your mic and your source are both going to emphasize the same thing. The 441's not scooped by any means, and you're not de-emphasizing the midrange by any means. Rather, the 441 will pull in the rest of the picture and make sure the mids stay in context.
Old 25th September 2011
  #20
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I might be the odd man out here as I've never really gotten great results from my 441. I even sent it to a tech to check because I thought it might be compromised due to its age (It turned out to be in perfect working order).

I don't think it's a bad sounding mic but for any application I've tried it on I found better options and often these are dynamics as well like the 421, 57 AKG D19c or the venerable Shure SM7b.

Of course these are all very different sounding mics but again, I never had that 'wow'-moment with the 441 so far. Racking my mind now I do remember putting it on a Music Man amp that was breathing fire from a powerful blues harp palyer. It sounded very good though I didn't try other mics.

Seems like it's a good choice for sources that tend to be a bit thin or bright sounding? What do I miss?
Old 25th September 2011
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
What do I miss?
Well, my intended usage is pretty specific: Audiobooks. I don't need to cut through a mix, but I need a recording that is both articulate and non-fatiguing. The MD 441 has heretofore given me the best results.
Old 25th September 2011
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker View Post
I might be the odd man out here as I've never really gotten great results from my 441. I even sent it to a tech to check because I thought it might be compromised due to its age (It turned out to be in perfect working order).

I don't think it's a bad sounding mic but for any application I've tried it on I found better options and often these are dynamics as well like the 421, 57 AKG D19c or the venerable Shure SM7b.

Of course these are all very different sounding mics but again, I never had that 'wow'-moment with the 441 so far. Racking my mind now I do remember putting it on a Music Man amp that was breathing fire from a powerful blues harp palyer. It sounded very good though I didn't try other mics.

Seems like it's a good choice for sources that tend to be a bit thin or bright sounding? What do I miss?
Floor toms and hihats
Old 25th September 2011
  #23
I have 421's and one 441. Forgive my lack of science on this evaluation.
I feel I've got a strong sense on what the 421 can handle, I'm confident in its applications. (close mic'ing toms, loud electric guitars, kick drums...)
However, the 441 has a mind of its own. It will wow me with how perfect it can be, then it'll blow my mind how it won't be the mic for a given task. I've never been able to use it on a vocal. All that said, I love it more than the 421. It's mysterious
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