This latest addition to the affordable Evolution range brings Sennheiser's renowned K-series technology within reach of the project studio.
The Sennheiser Evolution range is a popular, affordable collection of microphones intended for home and semi-pro studios, and live sound applications. The range comprises mostly moving-coil mics, many with specific instrumental applications in mind, and includes the E602 bass mic, the E604 and E608 clip-on drum and woodwind/brass mics, and the E609 hum-compensating guitar amp mic. There are also several robust moving-coil vocal microphones (E825S, E835, E845, E855), which received a very favourable review back in SOS August 1998, and a rugged back-electret model (E865) providing higher-fidelity vocals in physically demanding live applications.
The latest addition to the Evolution brand is another back-electret called the E664, this time intended principally for drum overhead applications and therefore filling an obvious gap in the otherwise very comprehensive range. The publicity for this new model states that it is a 'limited edition', and that's because it is actually Sennheiser's more expensive K-range modular mic: the K6P/ME64 combination, to be precise. Apparently, rebadging the K-series duo for the Evolution range was the fastest way to address the pressing requirement for a drum overhead mic in the Evolution range, although it is also a rather expensive solution for Sennheiser.
I gather a bespoke Evolution model is already in development, which may well incorporate the same capsule as the current unit, but in simpler housing which will be less expensive for the company to produce. This will eventually supersede the E664, although Sennheiser could not give me a time scale. In the meantime, the E664 represents a significant bargain as its list price is substantially lower than the identical K6P/ME64 combination.
This matt-black anodised mic, measuring 22mm in diameter by 158mm in length, is supplied with a rubber standmount adaptor and a nylon carrying bag. The back-electret capsule provides a cardioid polar response, with a decently low self noise of 16dBA (IEC rating), high output at 31mV/Pa, and maximum SPL of 130dB (for one percent distortion).
The K6P preamp body accepts phantom power supplies between 12V and 48V, drawing a modest 2.2mA. It includes a rather pointless slide power 'on' switch and a low-cut switch, the latter introducing a 6dB/octave filter falling from about 250Hz and intended to provide proximity compensation.
In terms of frequency response, the mic already exhibits a gentle bass roll-off from 250Hz, being about -6dB by 50Hz — so the switchable filter in the preamp body is unlikely to be required in practice. This mic also possesses a broad two-octave peak in the high-frequency response centred at around 10kHz and reaching almost 6dB at its maximum. This gives the impression of a very crisp and detailed sound character with lots of 'air' and presence.
I was in something of a quandary as to what to compare the E664 with — something at the E664's price level, or something around the price of the K-series? Rummaging through my microphone cupboard I found three worthy contenders to cover all bases: the Beyerdynamic MCE93 (similarly priced to the E664), the Neumann KM184 (a little more expensive than the K6P/ME64 combo), and Sennheiser's class-leading MKH40 (four times the E664's price, but a long-time favourite). For source material I was able to try these mics simultaneously in front of voice, acoustic guitar and a variety of percussion, including the intended drum overhead role.
The E664's performance was fairly similar to that of the Beyer, albeit with a much greater output level. The quoted noise performance is identical, but the Sennheiser needed much less gain, so would be a better bet with budget mixers or inferior preamps. Both mics exhibited relatively broad cardioid responses, but with well-defined rear-rejection nulls. The E664 sounded significantly brighter and more detailed, but much less full at the bottom, compared to the MCE93. This would be a case of horses for courses, though, as the Evolution model worked extremely well with percussion and as a drum overhead without needing loads of EQ.
Putting the E664 up against the Neumann KM184 was a bit of a shock! These two mics sounded extremely similar, although the Sennheiser produced slightly more output level again. Those listening were eventually convinced that the Neumann was smoother and more refined, but the differences between these two mics were disturbingly small in every regard.
Finally, I tried it against my favourite cardioid, the Sennheiser MKH40. This model is as flat as a ruler and deathly quiet — two factors which always impress the moment the mic is faded up. In comparison with the E664 the latter's tilted spectral balance was very obvious, and although not ideal in some situations, it proved advantageous in its intended application, as I have already mentioned. The MKH40 had the edge in terms of background noise — although this is unlikely to be a concern to most users — and also had a notably tighter cardioid pattern with stronger rear rejection.
Overall, the Evolution E664 is a cracking good microphone at a very attractive UK price. It complements the rest of the Evolution range perfectly, and is an ideal mic for drum overheads or general percussion duties, as well as performing very nicely with acoustic guitars. Its gentle bass roll-off means that vibration through the mic stand is unlikely to become a problem, and the high-frequency peak provides masses of detail and presence. The E664 won't be around for ever, so snap it up while you can — the review pair are definitely staying with me!
- Exceptionally good price/performance ratio.
- High output makes it ideal for use with budget mixers.
- A cost-effective way of breaking into Sennheiser's up-market modular mic series.
- Tilted frequency response won't suit everything.
A good general-purpose cardioid condenser mic, ideally suited to the task of drum overheads within the Evolution range, but certainly not limited to that role. In its current K6/ME64 form, the E664 represents a significant bargain.
Sennheiser UK +44 (0)1494 551551.