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Old April 19th, 2010, 10:56 PM   #1
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Sanken CS-3E - A magic mic?

At NAB, I checked out the Sanken CS-3E, and I was stunned with its performance off axis for low frequencies. Is this mic made with magic or what?

In the test, I did three things... I gave it very high frequencies by hissing with a very his "Ssss". I then gave it high mids with an "Shhh" sound. Finally, I gave it voice fundamentals of about 200Hz with an "Mmmm" sound. In each case, I rotated the mic at about a foot away from on-axis to 180 degrees. Here are the results...

With the "Ssss" sound, I could hear the lobes come in and out from about 22 degrees to about 90 degrees. This wasn't magical. It's what I expect. It was nearly silent at 180 degrees, which is slightly magical.

With the "Shhh" sound, the amplitude rolled off smoothly, which is exactly what you want. Again, at 180 degrees, it was magically quiet.

With the "Mmmm" sound I heard the magic. The thing rolled off smoothly with 180 again being quiet. Amazing! I've never heard a shotgun that could pull that off.

By comparison, I went to the Sennheiser booth to try the MKH-416. With the "Ssss", I didn't really get a rolloff. There wasn't much rejection off-axis for the highest frequencies, but no funny lobes either. The "Shhh" rolled off nicely with no lobes. Very nice. But the low frequencies didn't roll off at all.

So, how did the two mics compare? Well, the gain on the Sennheiser was MUCH higher than the Sanken and I couldn't adjust it, so I couldn't really do a fair comparison. That said, the show floor gave a constant bass boom that overwhelmed everything else. On-axis, my voice sounded fine, and going off axis was like turning down a tone control. The Sanken, on the other hand, didn't suffer from an ambient boominess at all. When I went off-axis, my voice simply got quieter.

After that test, I have lost all interest in the MKH-416. I'd just as soon get the Rode NTG-3 for a similar sound at a lower price. But my dream mic? Definitely the Sanken CS-3E. It's narrow, so proper technique is critical, but if you ask me, it does exactly what we want a shotgun to do. The only flaw was the lobing at the high frequencies, but frankly, speaking off axis, it was barely detectable. The bottom line is that my voice sounded nice and clear with the Sanken. With the Sennheiser, my voice sounded nice, but the rest of the show floor sounded like it was in a drainpipe.

So, that was my limited experience on the show floor. Do the people who own these mics and use them to make a living have a similar experience? Am I all wet? Is the Sanken really a magic mic?
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Old April 20th, 2010, 12:18 AM   #2
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Thanks Jon that equates with what I've heard and the 416 good in its day .. is an old design now.

But for another surprise I suggest you repeat those tests with the NTG-3.

Cheers.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 01:04 AM   #3
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The biggest thing the 416 has going for it at this point is durability imho, and known for being bulletproof in basically any condition imaginable.

Sadly, that's a reputation a mic can only get after years of trial and error in the field.

There may be better sounding mic's than the 416 (it is a very old design), but if you want a mic (or backup mic as it's often used) that's nearly guaranteed to work when everything else fails, the 416 is still a great choice.

That said, the CS-3e is certainly an amazing mic and I agree its off-axis is magical.
And lets not forget, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic ;)
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Old April 20th, 2010, 01:28 AM   #4
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I wonder how much of the 416's mystique is due to pros owning it, liking it, and learning its sound back in the day. Any new mic will sound different - and worse to that operator. And, yeah, that they're bulletproof is a huge part of becoming an industry standard. The other aspect, of course, is that they've been more likely to be used on a soundstage than on a tradeshow floor.

Speaking of magic, the new Schoeps digital mics sound fantastic too, based on their sample recordings. I don't know that the Sanken has as steep a rejection curve, but it has a similar ability to knock down the whole signal off axis. The Sanken isn't cheap, but it will probably be a bargain compared to the new Schoeps mic.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 10:41 AM   #5
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Well I guess I better just throw out all that great sound that I got from my Sennheiser 416 because the 416 is OLD!!!

I'm not saying that there's not a better mic. I presume the Sanken is wonderful (haven't had the pleasure to use one myself). But to say that the 416 is used only because it's durable, or that because people are familiar with it is ridiculous. It's used because people know it sounds good.

And to base any claims on a test done on the NAB show floor is just plain silly.

Not intending to put anyone down, just trying to be real.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 11:45 AM   #6
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The Sanken CS-3 is not the typical "interference tube" design. It's a good mic for sure. Better than a 416 or other high-end shotguns is subjective. Sure, in some environments.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 08:25 PM   #7
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For sure, better depends on the application. On the trade show floor, it was night and day.
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Old April 21st, 2010, 09:49 AM   #8
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The CS-3e is hardly a new microphone.
It's a phased array mic, the "3" denotes three elements. The "e" denotes the later revision, Sanken updated the design to improve S/N. Sanken should know how to make a reliable mic, they work in conjunction with NHK. I've used the Sanken CMS-10 (10 element phased array mono/stereo) and it does have a certain magic. I have their CS-1 one on my EX1, not quite the same magic as the CS-3e but its great for an on camera mic as its short.
Rode mics are great, I have quite a few of their studio mics but for location audio their shotguns really don't come close to what Sanken and others can achieve with phased array mics. In all fairness though phased array mics are not cheap.
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Old April 21st, 2010, 12:38 PM   #9
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That it's a phased array makes sense. It does really well with rejection across a wide frequency band.

At work, we have a couple of Sanken COS-11D omni lavs. Being omnis, they can't offer any off-axis magic whatsoever, but they sure sound great with the human voice. According to the US Sanken rep at NAB, the COS-11D and CS-3E are built to match well.

Yesterday, I was part of an interview shoot with a full crew. The audio guy used a 416 and a Tram with Lectrosonics wireless. He used a field mixer with a send to the XDCAM. I'm looking forward to hearing the raw results, since I have a feeling for the challenges of environment during the recording.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 05:41 AM   #10
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Jon. I started with a 416, which is still a wonderful mic and still have a use for it, but when I got my CS-3e I put away. The Sanken is a truly wonderful mic that I use 90% of the time. As you noticed, it has very little coloration off axis. It performs very well indoors and does save me from changing out mics alot of the time. I don't know if I would describe it as magic, but it's my 1st choice in microphones now.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 12:48 PM   #11
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That's great info, Jon,

In what conditions do you prefer the 416? Outdoors, I would expect. Maybe it has less handling noise, works better on certain voices, or is more rugged in harsh conditions?
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 05:30 PM   #12
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I find the 416 a better performer in the damp and as you said, harsh conditions.
It is a more rugged mic and stands up to more abuse. Also, it is less susceptible to RF interference. However, I see there is a mod for CS-3e to correct that.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 05:51 PM   #13
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Such a simple mod it's a wonder Sanken didn't include it earlier than serial 2791. Cheers.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 07:38 PM   #14
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I guess I am weird but ever since I had an audio post business, I have never been a fan of the 416. Is it heavy duty and reliable? Yes. Does it sound good? Eh. it sounds okay IF the boom operator is really good. I find the sound of the CS-3E to be much better than the 416 but since I am not that impressed with the 416, I would say that the Sanken sounds really good.

Don't know if you listened to my off axis response test in my article of the CS-3E? You might want to take a listen, it sounds as if my test was similar to yours.

As I Hear It - Choosing the Right Microphone

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Old April 24th, 2010, 01:05 AM   #15
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Yeah, Dan, different test, similar kind of result.

When the rep mentioned that it had very good 180 degree and bass rejection, I did my Ssss, Shhh, Mmmm test. I think he was very pleased with the results.

I like the sound of the mic when on axis too. There's a bit of an exciter effect to it. Maybe not as accurate as a Schoeps CMC641, but very pleasing without being unnatural.
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