3 Best Shotgun Microphones for Filmmaking

3 best shotgun microphones for filmmaking - decibel peak

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Do you want to work in the film industry? Well, you’re going to need a shotgun microphone!

That’s why we’re looking at some of the best shotgun microphones for filmmaking. To be more specific, I’ll be recommending the best shotgun microphones for boom pole operators.

If you ask me, you can’t just mount a shotgun microphone to your DSLR…

That defeats the ENTIRE PURPOSE of using a high-end shotgun microphone!

So, you can easily find many cheap alternatives if you’re planning to skip out on the sound guy. However, I won’t be covering any of them because I’m a sound guy myself and wouldn’t use anything other than the THREE microphones I’ll be recommending today.

In other words, this article is dedicated to aspiring location sound mixers/recordists.

I was in the same position as you when I started, so let me share my experience…

Best Professional Shotgun Microphone – Sennheiser MKH 416

Sennheiser Pro Audio MKH416-P48U3 Super-Cardioid Shotgun Tube Condenser Microphone
Sennheiser MKH 416
TypeShotgun (Condenser)
Polar PatternHyper Cardioid
Frequency Response40 – 20,000 Hz
Impedance25 Ohms
Accessories– Microphone Clip
– Foam Windshield
– Storage Case

If you think it’s too expensive, then you probably picked the wrong industry…

The Sennheiser MKH 416 is worth EVERY PENNY and is currently the industry standard when it comes to shotgun microphones on film sets.

It’s essentially your “passport” into the world of location sound mixing/recording.

So, why exactly is the Sennheiser MKH 416 praised so much?

Well, for starters…

  • It’s virtually indestructible
  • It’s moisture-resistant
  • It’s got an EXTREMELY flat frequency response
  • It’s basically like a “laser beam”

To elaborate on that last statement, the Sennheiser MKH 416 is one of the most directional microphones I’ve ever worked with.

Even from far away, it can still focus on any sound source.

Before you say anything… YES, that technically means that you can mount it on your DSLR camera and still get amazing results.

HOWEVER, the Sennheiser MKH 416 sounds better and better the closer you get it to your target. It’s even better if you get it on-axis.

That being said, even off-axis recording (like a typical boom operator would) yields fantastic results. It’s difficult to make this microphone sound bad!

It’s also got an extremely low self-noise which is a sure-sign of quality!

The only thing to keep in mind with Sennheiser MKH 416 is that there’s a slight presence boost in the top-end. It might result in excessive sibilance, but that can easily be taken care of with a de-esser in post.

Best Sound-Alike Shotgun Microphone – Deity S-Mic 2

Deity S-Mic 2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone
Deity S-Mic 2
TypeShotgun (Condenser)
Polar PatternSuper Cardioid
Frequency Response20 – 20,000 Hz
Impedance75 Ohms
Accessories– Microphone Clip
– Foam Windshield
– Storage Case

If you’re on a budget, then luckily for you the Sennheiser MKH 416 has a sound-alike.

The Deity S-Mic 2 sounds surprisingly close to the Sennheiser MKH 416 and I get the feeling that this was intentional.

Don’t get me wrong, Deity makes excellent microphones at a reasonable price.

However, the Deity S-Mic 2 is probably one of the best sound-alikes I’ve ever heard and it only costs a fraction of what the Sennheiser MKH 416 costs.

If you don’t believe me, check out THIS VIDEO.

To be honest, I would’ve probably gone with this option if I knew about it BEFORE purchasing the Sennheiser MKH 416. OH WELL!!

That’s why I wanted to let you know about it.

It actually seems like you’re getting a lot more value when it comes to the storage case. You can even purchase the Deity S-Mic 2 as a bundle which includes some addon gear from Rycote.

Personally though, I wouldn’t do it.

What you really need is a microphone capsule with a furry windshield. That’s something we’ll be talking about a bit later, so just trust me on that one for now.

Best Budget Shotgun Microphone – Audio Technica AT897

Audio-Technica AT897 Line/Gradient Shotgun Condenser Microphone (Renewed)
Audio Technica AT897
TypeShotgun (Condenser)
Polar PatternLine + Gradient
Frequency Response20 – 20,000 Hz
Impedance200 Ohms
Accessories– Microphone Clip
– Foam Windshield
– Storage Case

I’ve been hearing lots of great things about the Audio Technica AT897 so I decided to include it.

It’s actually even more affordable than the Deity S-Mic 2, but it definitely doesn’t sound like the Sennheiser MKH 416. Still, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound great!

What’s interesting about the Audio Technica AT897 is that it uses a peculiar polar pattern which they refer to as line + gradient.

Now, the “line” polar pattern simply refers to the interference tube that are signature of all shotgun microphones.

However, the addition of a “gradient” element apparently assists in rear rejection.

That being said, the Audio Technica AT897 is still a serious contender at an incredible price.

It’s also interesting that its frequency response is stated to be 20 – 20,000 Hz which would indicate that it performs better than the Sennheiser MKH 416 (40 – 20,000 Hz) in the bottom-end.

The AT897 also includes a high-pass filter that cuts anything below 80 Hz.

Lastly, one of the most useful features on the Audio Technica AT897 is the fact that you can ALSO power it using an internal AA battery.

If you’re using a portable recorder like the Zoom H6, that can significantly extend its battery life.

Are Shotgun Microphones The Best Choice for Filmmaking?

YES. If we’re talking about dialogue, shotgun microphones are the microphone of choice for filmmaking.

They’re also used to record sound effects for Foley outdoors AND indoors.

However, you’ll most likely need to consider specialized microphones if you want to record special effects like explosions and gunshots.

Also, you may also want to consider ambisonic microphones to record ambient sound.

What about lavalier microphones though?

There’ll definitely be times when you have no other option, but lavalier microphones should always be your LAST RESORT.

They’re essentially the GoPros of the microphone world (to paraphrase Curtis Judd).

Shotgun microphones should always be your FIRST CHOICE when it comes to filmmaking. To be more specific, a shotgun microphone AND a location sound mixer/recordist.

If you’re going to mount the shotgun microphone to your camera, you might as well use a lavalier microphone instead.

So, you’ll definitely be needing more than just the shotgun microphone.

Sadly, most beginner location sound mixers/recordists usually cheap out on the accessories and completely RUIN the sound quality of their shotgun microphone.

Here’s a list of what you’ll be needing…

  • High-end boom pole(s) (K-Tek, Ambient, etc…)
  • High-quality shock-mount (Rycote, etc…)
  • Microphone capsule (w/ furry windshield)

In regards to boom poles, I personally work with K-Tek. To be more specific, I’m currently using the K-Tek 102CCR Klassik Graphite Boom Pole which is EXTREMELY light.

Aluminum is good, carbon fiber is great, but graphite is another thing altogether…

If you want an excellent shock-mount/microphone capsule bundle at an affordable price, just got with the Rode Blimp.

I personally bought a second-hand Rycote WS4 bundle, but I’m honestly disappointed with the quality. Considering how much it costs new, I expected much better…

Other than that, just make sure to have your cables (and backups) and you’re set!

Summary: 3 Best Shotgun Microphones for Filmmaking

If you need to compare the microphones we covered today, here’s a table that outlines the key features side-by-side…

Sennheiser MKH 416Deity S-Mic 2Audio Technica AT897
TypeShotgun (Condenser)Shotgun (Condenser)Shotgun (Condenser)
Polar PatternHyper CardioidSuper CardioidLine + Gradient
Frequency Response40 – 20,000 Hz20 – 20,000 Hz20 – 20,000 Hz
Impedance25 Ohms75 Ohms200 Ohms
Accessories– Microphone Clip
– Foam Windshield
– Storage Case
– Microphone Clip
– Foam Windshield
– Storage Case
– Microphone Clip
– Foam Windshield
– Storage Case

Now, there’s obviously more than 3 shotgun microphones on the market…

HOWEVER, I really did my research when I started doing location sound mixing/recording and wanted to save you some time.

If you don’t trust my recommendations, you’re more than welcome to consult other websites.

I’m telling you though, you seriously can’t go wrong with the Sennheiser MKH 416.

If you can’t afford it, then go with the Deity Mic-S 2.

It’s that simple! I use it for everything that involves recording outdoors and I even use it on my live streams/YouTube videos.

I’m even considering using it to record other things… I’ll keep you posted when I do!

So, which shotgun microphone will YOU be using on your next film project? Let us know in the comments and feel free to ask me any questions there as well.

I hope you found what you were looking for today! Make sure to join the dB_Network on Discord and to support Decibel Peak on Patreon if you enjoy the content and want access to MORE.

Thanks for reading, now go out there and make some noise (or record it)!

Sources

https://en-ca.sennheiser.com/mkh-416-p48u3

https://deitymic.com/s-mic-2/

https://www.audio-technica.com/en-ca/at897

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