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Q. Which omni mics are best for small ensemble recordings?

By Hugh Robjohns

The Sennheiser MKH20 — one of our Technical Editor’s favourite ‘ruler-flat’ omni mics.The Sennheiser MKH20 — one of our Technical Editor’s favourite ‘ruler-flat’ omni mics.

I’m looking for extremely detailed and natural omnidirectional microphones for two-channel small ensemble recordings on location. What would be your preference, from my shortlist of: Josephson C617SET, Gefell M221 or Earthworks QTC40? I’m not a fan of DPA 4006As, but how would a DPA 4060 set work? I’m not interested in tube or ribbon mics, but what other suggestions do you have? I usually rig the mics six to eight feet away from the sources, and sometimes closer in church. The problem I face in the US is that demo pairs are not available, and the dealers charge 20 percent restocking if I buy something and subsequently decide to return it! I’m using a Millennia HV32P preamp and a Tascam DA3000 master recorder, and also have a Nagra 7.

Carl Beitler, via email

SOS Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns replies: My personal preference would be for the Microtech Gefell M221s. I reviewed this mic back in SOS June 2013 (http://sosm.ag/jun13gefell), and was greatly impressed. The Josephson C617SET uses the same capsule, of course, and their electronics are fractionally quieter, but the Acoustic Pressure Equalising spheres which are supplied with the Gefell mics give them a significant edge in versatility to my mind.

Earthworks make some very nice, neutral-sounding mics, but they tend to be noisy in comparison with the Gefell (22dBA versus 15dBA) because of the very small capsule size. That’s something that’s necessary to achieve the extended high-frequency bandwidth which Earthworks prioritise, but I didn’t feel that the Gefell lacked anything in the upper regions.

The DPA 4060 microphones are astonishingly good for their size and price, but are inherently slightly compromised on the self-noise front, again, and have a tendency towards brightness that I don’t think you would appreciate. DPA’s d:dicate range, reviewed in last month’s issue, now includes the MMC2006 omni capsule, which essentially contains a back-to-back pair of 4060s internally (with a self-noise advantage). This ‘twin-diaphragm’ technology is presented as a lower cost alternative to the classic MMC4006 capsule, but the MMC2006 is not compatible with the company’s range of APE spheres.

As for other alternatives, I remain a big fan of Sennheiser’s MKH20s, which I think still sound slightly better than the newer MKH8020. I like the ability to switch them from nearfield to diffuse-field equalisation, to suit different applications, and I relish their amazingly low harmonic distortion, ruler-flat frequency response, and very low self-noise.

Published February 2016