Dubai-based sound recordist David Thirion gives us his take on the new Sennheiser MKH 8060 and 8070 mics. On a recent TVC production, I had the opportunity to test two MKH microphones from Sennheiser. We were to shoot on the beach and at Jumeirah Beach Park in Dubai for the commercial. For my set up, […]
Dubai-based sound recordist David Thirion gives us his take on the new Sennheiser MKH 8060 and 8070 mics.
On a recent TVC production, I had the opportunity to test two MKH microphones from Sennheiser. We were to shoot on the beach and at Jumeirah Beach Park in Dubai for the commercial. For my set up, I decided to use a PSC Alphamix Mixer, a Sound Devices 744T HDD Recorder, Lectrosonics for wireless applications and the PSC Boom Poles. As we shot in summer, I was concerned about the humidity affecting the microphones. Normally, I wouldnt be worried about an RF condenser fighting humidity (even the 70% we had that morning right next to the water) but in this case, both the MKH 8060 and 8070 are modular microphones so I was nervous about the moisture seeping through the slightest open space between the capsule and the preamps. But I found out I was worrying for nothing. They were fine. Now that I was reassured that the weather wasnt going to affect the mics, I looked at what these two beasts had to offer. The first sequence we shot was on the beach. The conditions were good for me to try the MKH 8060. For each shot, we conducted a few rehearsals. I tested my regular MKH 416 (a classic Super Cardioid/Lobar pick up pattern with a sensitivity measured at 25mV/Pa) and then switched to the MKH 8060 for an on-the-spot comparison.
MKH 8060 Sensitivity:
The 8060 has a sensitivity measured at 63mV/Pa! That is two-and-a-half times more sensitivity than the 416. I was blown away. Every time I would use the 416 and then plug the 8060 back on, I had to bring my mixer preamp level down a fair bit to not overload the signal. I could even lift up the boom for wider shots and still have enough signal because this mic is that sensitive. For a sound recordist, thats fantastic news.
When I first began to test the MKH 8060, I thought that it was the equivalent of a 416 but much more sensitive. When I started to pay more attention to what I would hear, I realised that this was not just an improvement on the sensitivity of the microphone itself but also on the intelligibility of the mic. (By this, I mean the way it reproduces the sound that we are trying to capture). I could really make out a clear difference between the low, medium and high frequencies. There was a much better presence without making it sound unnatural. It is just a very well built microphone, pure and simple.
The 8060 and the 416 are both Super Cardioid/Lobar pick up pattern microphones. But the beauty here is that the MKH 8060 is shorter than the 416. In fact, it is 75mm shorter (with the analogue module) and still has a greater attenuation of off axis sound without colorations. I could really hear an improvement. The volume is just much lower on the side than the sound source in front of the mic. Also, as this mic is so sensitive, when used on a wider shot, you need not fear losing your subject due to a too tight directional microphone. So far, the MKH 8060 has performed pretty well with an improvement on sensitivity, intelligibility and directivity. Another interesting feature is that it can become a digital microphone.
The MKH 8060 is a modular microphone (you can change the module by unscrewing it from the mic capsule itself and then exchange it for another one). In this case, you can replace the analogue module or preamp (MZX8000) to a digital one (MZD8000) that provides AES42 format. You can also add a filter unit (MZF8000) that would provide a low cut as well as a -10dB switch PAD that could be very useful in some situations. So I hear you say: “Weve read all the pros, what are the cons?” Indeed, there are some characteristics to consider when buying a microphone.
With regards to the MKH 8060, one of my concerns would be the weight. The microphone capsule itself is 80gm. Whenyou start adding modules, however, the weight goes up substantially. With the analogue module, the mic weighs 112gm. If you want to add the filter module, the weight goes up again. If you repeat the operation with the digital module, it is 65gm and 96mm long compared to 32gm and 30mm long for the analogue one. Another one of my concerns is the price. From what I hear from Sennheiser Middle East, the retail price on the MKH8060 would be approximatively $1400.00. For that price, you have the microphone capsule, the MZX8000 analogue module, the foam windshield, the clip and a carry tube. Although I dont have an exact figure yet, the MZF8000 filter module itself would be around $400.00.
I also havent got a price for the digital module so it could be a fairly expensive microphone when you add up all of the other accessories. But at the end of the day, as a sound recordist by profession, I feel you should invest in quality and in the knowledge of the potential of this tool when it is completely accessorised.
Now, lets look at the MKH 8070. The 8070 is a mic I dont use much in my field. Nevertheless, I still tested it out for the same TVC shoot and it was actually quite helpful in some situations.
MKH 8070 Sensitivity:
It has a great sensitivity measured at 112mV/Pa. You have to hold on to your socks when using it. It would be best used in situations where you dont want to run around with it at the end of a boom pole. It is sensitive enough to be placed at the corners and sides of football fields and could still pick up enough signal to create a good broadcast sound mix that would be rich in the small but important details of what is happening on the field. It could also be used in feature films as, on wider shots, it is sensitive enough to still pick up good intelligible dialogues.
Once again, a significant improvement from Sennheiser. It sounds rich, clean, well balanced and no colourations even with such an off-axis sound attenuation.
While we were shooting at Jumeirah Beach Park, we were quite close to the road, which in the morning is often busy and creates serious issues for the sound department. So I decided to use the 8070 to see if I could eliminate the unwanted sound and we were impressed with what we received from the shoot. A few shots would require work in post production but it would be fairly minimal. How does this mic work? It works on the principle of significantly reducing the side axis by using an interference tube. To elaborate, sound comprises different frequencies. You have frequencies from a lower end to a higher end; low frequencies will have a longer wavelength and higher frequencies will have shorter wavelength. So when the sound has a wavelength longer than the tube itself, itll be picked up normally by the capsule.
And when the sound has a wavelength shorter then the tube itself, because of the design of this tube, itll reject and interfere with that sound hitting the side of the mic. Therefore, the sound is still picked up but with a reduced level. And so the longer your tube is, the greater the side rejection will be as itll reject longer wavelength than the 8060 for instance.
So, just by placing the mic at a specific angle to the road and to the subject, you can cancel out most of the aforementioned unwanted sound. As well as the MKH 8060, the MKH 8070 is also a modular microphone.
Therefore, all the same modules you would use on the 8060 could be placed on the 8070. As with the 8070, there are also some points to consider before you purchase it. For me, the first two elements that need to be addressed would be the weight and the size of the mic. It is a very heavy tool to manipulate when it is in its basket and at the end of a well-extended boom pole. When you are shooting in summer in Dubai, 300gm for the mic itself at 432mm length is something that requires serious consideration.
Accessories for the MKH 8060 and 8070:
In terms of accessories, you do have a very good range of different remote extension cables (MZL 8003 and 8010), table stands (MZT 8000 and 8001), a range of extension tubes (15, 30, 60 and 120 cm) and the bar connectors (MZGE 8000 and 8002) make it possible to adapt for ideal custom boom install and the MZH-8000 for ceiling mount installation.
But lets not forget the main accessories. The suspension/pistol grip (MZS 20-1) was particularly good for my taste. I really liked the fact that it was rigid and very lightweight at the same time. I didnt have the problems I sometimes have with the inVision models from Rycote where the suspension is so flexible it allows the mic to touch the basket on fast moves with the boom. The Basket windshield and hairy cover are also available (MZW 20-1 and MZH 20-1). Good design and easy to fit onto the pistol grip. We liked this because we can do it fast. My last test was the MKE1 lapel microphone. Testing lapels is always tricky for me because I am used to a certain microphone I have had for years. And I am not the only sound recordist who feels that way. Nevertheless, I was intrigued to test this Lavalier for two specific reasons:
1. Sennheiser agreed to reintroduce the MKE1 due to a high demand from the audio operator community.
2. It could be a very strong ally to the Sanken COS 11 because of its size.
The New MKE1:
This mic was tested on a documentary. The result was superb. I found the same quality I find in my Sanken: warm, rich, velvety, excellent frequency response and high speech intelligibility. The beauty of it is that the mic itself is smaller then my COS 11 but it still has a very high sound pressure level of 142dB! Not bad for a 3.3mm capsule! It also has a new membrane design that makes it extremely sweat resistant. Its special gauze and multi-purpose cap offer additional protection from moisture. The 1mm thin cable is reinforced with Kevlar which makes the cable much stronger and durable. Colourwise, you can order the mic in black, white, brown, beige and light beige. You can also acquire the MZ1 accessory box which includes the MZO 1 mini clip (black and white), the MZM 1 magnetic mounts (black and white although it must not be used on somebody who has a pace maker, two bands for magnetic mounts (both white), the transparent MZV 1 cover up for underclothing purposes, MZW 1 windshield mesh (black and white), four foam windshields (black, white, brown and beige), the ZH 1 pin or vampire clips (black and white) and finally, protective covers for when makeup is applied on the talent on site. It is really unfortunate though that you have to purchase an accessory box!
This microphone itself already costs $439.95 from one of our favorite New York superstores and then if you want the MZ1 box set, you have to add another $119.95 on top of that. That would make people think twice about buying it.
To conclude, we have three new beautiful tools for the sound recording industry. These new microphones are well thought through and well designed but this engineering comes at a price that I see as a fairly steep investment. Once youve tried them though and see the potential of the new era of digital applications, its sometimes difficult to resist the temptation to purchase them. The question is: are you willing to take that step further or do you want to remain with the analogue side of the industry. Sooner or later, well have to surf the digital wave and that is where I believe Sennheiser has been really clever in introducing the new MKH 8000 series and crossover modular products that allow you to migrate from the analogue to the digital world gently. This new series could be ideal for those with restricted budgets who would choose to expand their accessory box module by module.
Symmetrical RF transducer
Excellent transient response
Reliable under tough conditions
Can interface with digital systems