The realm of microphones and recording audio can be a rather tricky world to wander in. With all these products featuring different polar patterns, designs, and price tags, it can be daunting to find the right one for your needs. One microphone commonly used in film production is a boom mic, more specifically a cardioid boom microphone.
In the video below, acclaimed audiophile Curtis Judd compares three high-end professional microphones that you may consider for your next production. The comparison includes the Sennheiser MKH 8050, Schoeps CMC641 and Audio Technica AT4053B revealing their strengths and weaknesses when used for recording dialogue while indoors.
For those of you who may not be aware, the main difference between a traditional shotgun microphone and a cardioid microphone is the pick-up patterns. Shotgun microphones have what’s called a directional pickup pattern, meaning that it only picks up sound that is directly in from of it.
These microphones are also known for their long barrel designs. While this specification can help block unwanted sounds from the side, the audio out is less forgiving when the microphone is off-axis. On the other hand, cardioid microphones pick up a wider space of sounds in front of them. Yet, this may also lead to the recording of some unwanted sounds but is typically considered as an advantage when capturing sound indoors.
That being said, let’s take a closer look at Curtis boom mic comparison. After a series of tests that involved recording different voices and levels of noises, it’s safe to say that you really cannot go wrong with any of the three microphones. All of the units performed admirably in all tests, without any microphone showing a clear and deal-breaking flaw.
First on the list is the Sennheiser MKH 8050. It’s a compact super cardioid condenser microphone with a modular design that consists of the MKHC 8050 super-cardioid capsule and the MZX 8000 XLR module output stage. The mic has a crisp sound offering a wide frequency response of 30 Hz to 50 kHz.
The Schoeps CMC641 is another excellent alternative to shotgun microphones when recording dialog indoors. The system is based on the modular CMC6 preamplifier and MK series capsules. Just like the MKH8050, it’s a super-cardioid condenser mic that boasts wide, linear frequency response curves and superior audio quality. The system includes the CMC6 preamplifier, MK41 capsule, SG20 microphone mount, B5 pop-filter, and case.
Last but not least, comes the Audio-Technica AT4053b. Unlike its counterparts in the lineup, it has a hypercardioid pickup pattern that minimizes off-axis noise and improves the isolation of the sound source even further. The unit consists of the company’s AT4900b-48 microphone body and AT4053b-EL hypercardioid head capsule. A switchable high-pass filter is also available aiming to reduce low-frequency noise along with a -10 dB pad that picks up loud sound sources. The package includes a microphone stand clamp, a windscreen, and carrying case.
As we can hear, each unit handles both male and female voices very well during the narration tests as the Schoeps microphone seemed to perform the best. Nevertheless, Curtis considers the difference to be almost negligible. In the self-noise analysis, on the other hand, the Audio Technica microphone came in at the ‘loudest”, although again with an RMS of -56dB, that can be easily reduced with noise reduction.
While all three microphones performed similarly, Curtis does note that the produced results are limited by the nature of the conducted tests. So, if you’re seriously considering either of these three or any mic for that matter, it would be in your interest to go out and test the microphones in your shooting environment to see which works best for your needs.