shotgun mic

Here’s the situation… your station, and most of your competitors, are probably all using pretty much the same mics and processors to produce your spots (does RE20 and 528E sound familiar?) What can you do to make your sound more unique?

Shotgun mics are normally used for TV and film to capture natural-sounding voices at a distance. But when the right shotgun is worked reeeal close (like radio folks do), some interesting things happen to the sound. Everything becomes extremely focused. The room noises are rejected much more than with any regular cardioid-pattern. A certain amount of acoustic compression takes place within the mic, even before the processor in the rack gets hold of the sound.

This is part of the “secret formula” for those huge-sounding movie trailer voices. But you can’t just use any shotgun. Many don’t behave well when worked very close. They prefer to be a few feet away from the action.

Sennheiser MKH416 and ME66/K6 are favorites among the move trailer crowd. I have had good success with Audio-Technica AT8035. The new Rode NTG3 looks promising, but I haven’t got my hands on one yet.

Need something new from your Production Guy? Try a shotgun (mic)

4 thoughts

  1. A/B comparisons, let’s be honest now, how do the Mics really match up quality wise. The MKH416 has an Oooo factor to it which is what we all want, but might not have the budget for. Does the AT8035 have that same distinction or anything close to it; performing with the internal mic compression you made mention of. Though not mentioned with a favorable price like the AT, how would the Rode NTG2 compare?

    I’ve used the Sennheiser MKH 416 only a couple of times and it has unbelievable quality. I unfortunately can’t afford it. So if the AT or Rode were even close it would make for a purchase that could be justified until one could afford the Sennheiser.

  2. I haven’t tried all of the shotgun mics, but here are some observations:

    Shotgun mics are designed to be used several feet away from the sound source. And most of them do a good job of picking up the dialog and rejecting much of the surrounding noise. The low frequency boost that occurs when you work the mic close can be difficult to control. And some just don’t sound good at all when used close.

    I personally started with an AudioTechnica AT835b (predecessor to the current AT8035). I wanted to see how good a “less than $300” mic would compare to the Sennheiser MKH416. The AT835b sounds perfectly fine. It rejects a lot of room noise. It doesn’t get weird when I work it close. But the sound character is just “ordinary” rather than the “ooohh yeahhh” quality of the MKH416. In short, my $300 didn’t quite buy me the sound of a $2000 mic (duh).

    I recently tried out the Rode NTG3 (about $700). I compared it to the Neumann TLM103 large condensor studio mic for its overall character, and to the AT835b shotgun for its focus, compression, and noise rejection. NTG3 has a much fuller, richer sound than the AT835b. Getting close to the NTG3 never sounded bad; the bass boost was always articulate and controllable. And it sounded extremely nice even when compared to Neumann TLM103. Now we’re looking at a $700 mic that competes nicely against a $1500 studio condensor and a $2000 “super shotgun”. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the Rode mic for serious VO work.

    Now I’ve got to get the NTG3 and the MKH416 in the same place at the same time. Then we’ll see…

  3. please let me know when you A/B the Rode and the 416….I use the 416 daily but would love to purchase a less expensive back up

  4. Since you’ve mentioned this for voiceover (particularly promo/trailer work), another interesting test for you would be to compare this microphone against microphones that have multiple patterns. In particular, those that have a similar pattern to a shotgun mic (hypercardoid pattern).

    In my experience, I’ve found that while the 416 is nice, that it’s way too sibilant for a lot of people out of the gate in comparison to side address microphones that have the hypercardoid pattern. I don’t know why more people haven’t noticed this as of yet, but if you have a well-treated room, I’d check it out before making a decision.

    I know that my clients have been happy since I made the change.


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