Review: Sennheiser MKE 400
Hi-res phone cameras rarely come with commensurate audio. Sennheiser shoots to kill with this shotgun mic kit.
The term ‘content creator’ is thrown around a lot these days; always on the tip of the zeitgeist’s tongue. Video content is everywhere, and is an indisputably effective way of engaging fans if you’re promoting, for example, a music release. So whip out your phone on selfie mode and get recording, right? Not so fast.
For all the vast improvement we’ve seen in smartphone optics, the little omni mics accompanying them haven’t enjoyed the same attention. Though clear, they lack the adjustability and acoustic advantage of a dedicated microphone. Enter the Sennheiser MKE 400 Mobile Kit, offering not only the technology, but also the accessories, to shoot mobile video with great audio.
The mic’s plastic construction keeps weight down when mounted to your camera. It’s not reassuringly solid like the big-brother MKE 600 but it’s handsome, functional, and short enough to stay out of the way of lenses. It’s cold shoe and tripod-screw mountable and is powered by two well-secured AAA batteries for up to a quoted 100 hours. The active circuitry allows direct monitoring via a 3.5mm jack, with digitally-controlled volume, and a range of gain adjustment: -20dB, 0dB and +20dB. The high-pass switch introduces a roll off at around 200Hz, handy for cutting rumble in most voice-focussed situations.
Included in the Mobile Kit is a Manfrotto Pixi Mini tripod, a solid unit with a fiddly-to-level ball head, and a sturdy Sennheiser smartphone clamp. These two, combined with the mic, cables and furry windshield, set any smartphone-toting would-be vlogger up for stardom.
Housed within the mesh cylinder is a Sennheiser shotgun microphone, offering the sort of off-axis rejection a smartphone could only dream of. The unit in the MKE 400 is also shockmounted, and rejects handling noise quite well.
In an outdoor vlogging scenario, the microphone performed admirably: set up, plug in and get vlog-ready in moments. The microphone turns on automatically upon connection — useful for not running your battery down unintentionally. In combination with the high-pass filter and directionality, clarity of speech is impressive, especially in the high-mids and consonant range. Off-axis passing cars are attenuated well, even semi-trailer noise don’t spoil the show. In comparison, my mid-priced lavalier microphone lacked some of the sparkle (and off-axis rejection) of the Sennheiser.
For those looking at the rest of the MKE line, the sound of the 400 is a step up from the budget-friendly 200. My comparison suggested the 200 sounds comparatively ‘gained-up’ with less headroom. No doubt, the 200 stands as a good upgrade to onboard smartphone audio, while the 400 is a true sonic contender amongst the VideoMics and other small, camera-top shotguns from Shure, Audio-Technica and others.
NEED TO KNOW
Sennheiser MKE 400
Mobile Microphone Kit
RUN & (SHOT)GUN
For audio professionals and home recordists, what does the MKE 400 offer that your studio mics don’t? Flexibility. Instead of being chained to a mic stand, the Mobile Kit version of this mic frees you to film anywhere, with straight-to-phone audio that’s ready to share — no editing, DSP or noise reduction required. Without the high-pass filter engaged, it will even do a decent job of recording music. You can conduct a live-streamed studio tour and decide on demoing a synth on the spot, switching from voice clarity to full range pretty easily.
As far as connectors are concerned, there are TRS and TRRS minijack leads for connect to you laptop or your smartphone (via an iPhone adapter, if that’s the way you swing).
If you’re a creative who shoots some basic video content, or a solo musician looking to up your social media presence with studio tours or livestreams, the Mobile Kit will get you off the ground quickly, and your videos online even quicker.