The Best Shotgun mic for $300-400 (ME66/AT897/other?) at DVinfo.net

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Old September 18th, 2004, 10:57 PM   #1
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The Best Shotgun mic for $300-400 (ME66/AT897/other?)

I am ready to invest in a nice shotgun mic to improve on the crappy on board mic. I will mainly be using it for some event videography, corporate videos, documentaries and eventually a feature. I have $300-$400 to spend. I want to invest in a good mic that I wont regret getting in the future. What do you folks recommend? the ME66, the AT897, or another mic? I keep hearing some bad stuff about the ME66, but Sennheiser is Sennheiser. Please give me suggestions below....
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Old September 18th, 2004, 11:20 PM   #2
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It depends on which camera you use.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 12:07 AM   #3
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I'g go with the 897, spent what's left over on a good K-tek shock mount (KSM)
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Old September 19th, 2004, 12:37 AM   #4
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Sennheiser is good

It's a schizophrenic issue in regards to sennheiser.

Sometimes the quality of the video camera dictates which microphone works the best, which is actually backwards and frankly not fair to the reputation of the microphone manufacturer.

I would say the sennheiser ME-66 is a terrific mike, been out for 7 years and still going strong. I would STRONGLY recommend that you turn off all auto settings as they relate to the camera audio input.

If you cannot turn the auto audio function off, your video camera is very limited no matter what microphone you use.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 09:22 AM   #5
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I'll second Bryan's advice. You NEED a shockmount and the 897 is a solid and reasonably-priced choice.

If you were going to consider the me66 then you'd be absolutely NUTS to not just get the 4073a... it's $80 more then the me66.

I owned an me66 and I thought it was the greatest mic you could get for the price... and up to maybe TWICE the price. Well, it isn't. The me66 is very thin and unnatural sounding AND MOST IMPORTANTLY it's not even all that directional... the off-axis and rear rejection on the me66 isn't HALF as good as the 4073a. I've owned both and tested 'em in an A/B environment AND in practical use.

The widespread acceptance that the me66 is such a great mic is just another one of those things which is ALSO responsible for the widespread acceptance that WE, in the video world, CAN'T compete with Hollywood on sound. I used to use my me66 and think, "Man! This things sounds great! But even still I wish I could get natural, warm, studio like sound that they get for Hollywood movies..."

Well, 80% of that battle is GETTING THE MICS THEY USE. The 4073a is a professional, Hollywood caliber mic. The me66 isn't. They don't sound or work the same.

The 897 is not as "hot" of a mic as the me66... so if you had something other then the DVX you'd be better off with the me66, just for the hotter signal which reduces the need for better internal pre-amps for your camera. Since you have a dvx that's not really a big issue and the weaker, but better sounding, mic will give you the best results AT A LOWER PRICE.

Just so you know I'm not digging on Sennheiser... remember that I BOUGHT an me66 and owned it for years AND I even got a FULL Rycote blimp/furry for it which cost MORE then the mic! Right now my favorite shotgun is the Mkh60 and my second favorite is the Mkh416... so believe me... I LOVE Sennheiser stuff... I've even bought 4 pairs of Sennheiser headphones through the years and given them as gifts 'cause they're so nice... It just happens that the me66 has a reputation that is undeserved. The me66 is NOT in the class of the higher-end Sennheiser mics... EVEN THOUGH the At4073a, at ONLY $80 more then the me66, IS.

When the me66 came out it was around $300 and the At4073a was around $650-$700. Well the reputation was EARNED by everybody buying a $300 mic... the fact is the me66 price has BLOATED up to $450 and the 4073a price has LOWERED to $530.

So you can either get a $300 mic for $450... a $300 mic for $280... or a $700 mic for $530... your choice.

The 897 is a bargain priced shotgun with a good sound and it'll maintain it value. It's a solid choice to hold you over until you can get something in the next class up... which the me66 isn't.

You may even find that the 897 stays in your mic bag forever... and the K-Tek CERTAINLY will.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 10:29 AM   #6
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Why I like the ME-66

The fact that the ME-66 is not super-directional is a plus in my book.

ME-66 is also an excellent voice-over mike. The ME-66 maybe "live" but I solved that issue by using a -10 to 20 pad. At least tell me you've used a pad on a non-digital camera because if you haven't, you haven't fairly tested the microphone.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 02:03 PM   #7
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Where can I find the 4073a for cheap?
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Old September 19th, 2004, 06:37 PM   #8
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The absolute best price available for the At4073a is $530 from B&H. They have their nearest competitor (who has a special on this mic) beat by $20... everybody else is around $600 for it.

Sorry about my voice, but whatever, it's still an apples to apples i.e. A/B test... CLICK HERE for me66 and 4073a sound clips.

Notice that the Sennheiser is crisp and clean, but not very natural sounding... the AT is warm and natural, but still crisp and detailed... the best portion of this test is the last half where you hear the exact recording by having each mic on ch1 and ch2 so it's a split recording of the same event at the same equalized volume. At about 00:02:40 you hear me at 3' from both mics... the FAR superior reach of the 4073a just begins to shine here where it's OBVIOUS that it's got way more reach then the me66. At 3' the me66 goes from sounding thin to sounding like a cell-phone... and the 4073a hardly changes tonal character. It still sounds like I'm close to the mic even though I'm the same 3' away.

EDIT: Earlier I typed some ramblings in this post about dying friends and life problems and all the things which make me wonder why anybody cares so much why one mic is better then another, or feels the need to defend one mic over another. Personally I don't care what you get. If it were me in your shoes and I didn't have phantom, I'd get the 897... having phantom means the 4073a. If anybody has the me66 and likes it, great. Bryan Beasleigh, Dave Largent, Ken Tanaka, and I have all done A/B tests including the me66 and other mics... I guess I'm the ONLY ONE out of us who couldn't get rid of my me66 fast enough when I heard the difference, BUT we ALL heard the difference using our individual setups. Who knows? Maybe our little tests will eventually fade away and the me66 snowball can get back on track... I can't believe how much people will defend the me66 in comparison to these other mics... but in all honesty, if you're happy I'm happy. Buy and use whatever suits you.
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Old September 19th, 2004, 09:10 PM   #9
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<<<-- Originally posted by Matt Gettemeier :
I owned an me66 and I thought it was the greatest mic you could get for the price... and up to maybe TWICE the price. Well, it isn't. The me66 is very thin and unnatural sounding. -->>>

I couldn't DISAGREE MORE. You know there is a switch on the ME-66 so you can roll off the bass if you want. If you don't want to roll off the bass, you don't. I personally don't like to roll off the bass unless I have a lot of background wind because with the bass rolled off it does sound thin, but it DOES NOT sound thin if you set the switch to not roll off the bass.

And you most definitely need to use an audio pad if you are recording to a "normal" XLR style input of camera with a "normal" peak to peak volt that was standard before the digital cameras came out. Most of the newer digital camcorders have INFERIOR audio input peak to peak voltage and it may be the camcorder that
is coloring the quality of various microphones.

<<<-- Originally posted by Matt Gettemeier :
When the me66 came out it was around $300 and the At4073a was around $650-$700. Well the reputation was EARNED by everybody buying a $300 mic... the fact is the me66 price has BLOATED up to $450 and the 4073a price has LOWERED to $530.
-->>>

Sounds like urban legend to me. The top sennheiser microphone piece and the bottom sennheiser power supply were separately priced. To buy both the power supply and the microphone the combined cost was well over $300, I think it was around the $450.00 price. It didn't go up in price because of reputation as you claim, it's always been in that price range.

I hope we are not comparing apples and oranges here. Are these other microphones you mention powered by a single double A battery? If not, it is pointless to be comparing them so I am assuming they are also powered by a single Double A battery.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 12:26 AM   #10
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Hmm... now I wish I hadn't edited my rather blunt initial reply. I paid $350 for my me66 2.5 years ago... yeah, it's the two parts... K6 pre and me66 cap.

I don't care if you want to ignore the audible results of every person on here who has actually taken the time to do them or if you want to dispute ALL of this just so you can feel like you've got yourself a nice mic there.

Fortunately, for as poor as I actually am... $80 is nothing to me. If a person has phantom power available, such as Carlos does (dvx)... and they STILL get an me66 then I hope it's everything they wanted. I'm glad everytime somebody argues how great the me66 is... Frankly I'm getting tired of pointing out the obvious differences in mics. Let me emphasize OBVIOUS differences. For every guy who argues how great the me66 is... somebody else out there is reproducing audio using a 4073a and getting results on a tremendously higher level. Keep buying the me66s up everybody! You're only making those of us who can pop an extra $80 for the 4073a sound like we're using $5K audio kits... when in reality it was as simple as getting a way better mic for just a little more money.

If you care to use your ears maybe you can tell me if you hear any difference in these two mics... the me66 and mkh416... scroll down for FOUR seperate files.

CLICK here for the .pdf file for the me66 and see on page 4 that from 500hz to 60hz the frequency response steadily drops EIGHT db... know what that means? Little BASS... and THAT'S with it in the FLAT position... I owned one for two years... I'm quite familiar with the flat vs. rolloff.

CLICK here for the .pdf file for the 4073a and see that from TWO THOUSAND HERTZ all the way down to FIFTY HERTZ that the frequency response drops ZERO DB... know what that means? WAY MORE BASS... which means FLAT FREQUENCY RESPONSE not PLUMMETING FREQUENCY RESPONSE... which means NATURAL SOUNDING MIC as your own ears can attest if you'd stop lying to yourself because your too proud to consider another mic's superiority.

CLICK here for the .pdf file for the 897 and see that this mic ALSO DOESN'T DROP 8DB FROM 500HZ TO 60HZ, BUT RATHER IT'S A FLAT, I.E. WARM, I.E. NATURAL SOUNDING MIC... So if you want to make this argument based ENTIRELY on mics with the option of battery/phantom... I STILL say get the 897... unless you NEED a hot output mic... why use a pad to control a hot mic that doesn't sound as good as a CHEAPER mic which DOESN'T require that pad?

I BOUGHT ALL THESE MICS. I didn't buy ONE MIC and push my opinion on everybody else just so I could feel good about my ONE MIC... Why don't you buy $5K worth of mics LIKE I DID... and then tell us what the differences are? You're basing your whole "mastery" of mic knowledge on your one purchase there. If you even go into Coffey Sound or Location Sound... RIGHT IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD then you can bring your me66 and try out some other mics. Unfortunately it's going to be frustrating if you're capable of facing reality.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 01:35 AM   #11
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Alexandro
You breaze in about every two months and disagree with everyone, then you disapear.

Matt you most certainly have a good handle on everything audio.

Me I don't like the ME66 and I never really did but then that's why they have more than 1 brand of microphone.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 01:36 AM   #12
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Matt,

I for one appreciate the time and effort you have put into compiling and researching this information. I have been trying to make my mind up about what to buy and loking for advice in all kinds of places (earlier thread), but actually hearing the mics is great. I was thinking of an me66 initially, attracted (probably) because of the 'rave' reviews from owners as well as the 'bargain bucket' price, but after hearing your files I am definately going to get the 4073a.

Just a question though - any idea on the AT835B or AT815? I cannot understand AT's pricing structure over here in the uk - the 815 is 200 but the 815S (stereo version) is 725, thats wierd as the usual difference between the mono & stereo is only minimal in their range. I may buy and 835 or 815 as a back-up or for other purposes (mono of course!).

Thanks mate.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 07:07 AM   #13
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Stephen, I'm sorry I don't have any experience with those particular AT mics.

Just in case anybody needs an extra bump as to why I like the AT so much CLICK HERE for a comparison of the 4073a (first) and the 416 (second).

I bought both of these mics (as I did ALL the others... except the Schoeps... thank you Joe K. for lending yours)... and the 4073a was $530 and the 416 was $995. Do I think the 416 sounds better then the 4073a? Yes... but I think there's a lot less difference in the 4073a and 416... then the 4073a and me66... and, as I've been stating, you can HEAR that the AT is at least in the league of the 416. Take particular notice of the off-axis and rear rejection, which is only a couple db inferior to the 416... whereas the me66 has a tail that works 75% as good as the front of the mic! Point the XLR end at the speaker or the cap end at the speaker... it only makes 25% difference! Now listen to the AT... the xlr end of the mic knocks off 75% of my voice. THIS is what we buy shotguns for... directional microphone with reach.

I know a lot of people who own me66s, so I try not to be too abrasive about that mic. As I said, it really IS a clean and clear sounding mic which CAN be useful... it's just that there are other choices which I feel represent a better VALUE at this point.

I've been trying to find a price on the me66 from an old post... 2 years ago it was $350 or so... If I didn't have to go to work I'd keep looking... but I gotta' go for now. Just LAST year B&H sold it for $380.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 01:44 PM   #14
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<<<-- Originally posted by Bryan Beasleigh :

Alessandro
You breaze in about every two months and disagree with everyone, then you disapear.

Matt you most certainly have a good handle on everything audio.

Me I don't like the ME66 and I never really did but then that's why they have more than 1 brand of microphone. -->>>

--------------------------------------------------------

What does how often I come here have to do with this discussion?

You could easily have said I breeze in here and defend the ME66 every couple of months, and that would have been just as true and much less negative on your part.

You also don't address the core issue that I raised, are you guys comparing a microphone with an internal battery (the ME-66) with one that does not have an internal battery?

My application for the ME-66 is primarily voice overs, opera and E.N.G. and the wider pick-up helps for a more even pick up. Which now raises the question, if the ME-66 has a wider pick up, then how can it drop off more than the other mikes you tested unless the test involved a stationary object with no head sweep, a situation that I find never comes up.
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Old September 20th, 2004, 01:57 PM   #15
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For video work, sometimes you need to create the most isolated sounds possible, but sometimes you don't.

You don't always want ultra directional sound studio audio when you are in a "live" environment that is being videotaped, it can sound fake.

The fact that the ME-66 has less of some qualities you find attractive also means there will be some environments where the ME-66 will be the perfect microphone.

But this discussion is as much about does the 4073A run off of a 1.5 volt internal battery or not? If it doesn't run off of an internal battery, then you aren't comparing the same kind of microphone.

Phantom Powered Microphones in general are made to be used by sound guys who are concentrating on sound only. Phantom powered microphones being used by camera guys can inevitably lead to frustrating situations.

The DVX is in the shop and the camera person has to use a different camera that does not have phantom power.

A friend needs help on their own project and your microphone would be a big upgrade for their shoot but their camera does not have phantom power.

Just as you complain about how inferior you think an ME-66 is I could complain about camera owners who never upgraded the factory lens that came with ENG style Industrial cameras. Less than 1% of ENG camera owners ever upgraded their lenses.
The difference in low light is amazing between the higher end after market lens and the lens that came with the camera.

The real answer to the microphone issue is the ME-66 is a great all around easy to use microphone. If someone is SURE they know HOW they will be using their camera set up in all scenarios and will ALWAYS have access to phantom power, then go with a more expensive microphone.

No need to poo poo the ME-66 to get your viewpoint embraced.

When I shoot opera I found two ME-66's work quite will on stage specifically because they are not UBER directional and give slightly more ambience and reality to the sound. It's quite possible the ME-66 is an ideal microphone for that shooting situation.

I don't have the ability to move the microphones when they are set, so if singers are slightly off axis I still get very decent sound.

A different, more focused shotgun microphone might not give me the off axis fidelity I am currently getting.
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