Sennheiser MKE 400 Mobile Kit, now also mobile audio
There is always a controversy -based on this case- that this type of equipment involves a decrease in the quality of the content produced because it allows dispensing with certain personnel needs. The MKE 400 does not make this claim, far from it. It is a disruptive concept with an exceptional quality and foundations.
By Yeray Alfageme
When listening to many videos on social media, one would think that the video’s sound was recorded in the bathroom of some old house. Many amateur filmmakers are familiar with the problem: the image is sharper than the real thing, while the sound is incredibly horrible. Sharp images from family visits or campsite trips are, after all, easy to achieve with a latest-generation SLR camera or smartphone. But the small built-in microphone on these cameras produces sounds that could come from a metal cube. The solution: the MKE 400 plug-in microphone is a quick and easy way to provide clean sound of a standard that Sennheiser has got us used to, thus matching sound with the visual quality of small recording devices.
When it comes to the video of the last family party or children’s sporting event, one not only wants to see the show, but also hear it: a clear voice, clean sounds and no ambient noise interference. The high-quality MKE 400 directional microphone doesn’t just record what’s happening in front of the lens. Ambient noise from the sides is muted. For example, it would not capture cars or clusters of people that are too far away. Once attached, you will not want to remove it ever again. And doing so is not necessary even for changing batteries.
The MKE 400 is not only a high-quality supercardioid gun microphone that is about twelve centimeters long, but it comes equipped with a preamp which allows us to choose between three different types of sensitivities along with a low-pass filter below 200 Hz. From the directionality of the capsule itself, to preamp and frequency filtering, it is designed so that the sound of our camera -whether a DSLR such as a mobile phone or even an action camera- will be heard, at least, as well as the image is viewed.
Internally, the capsule is coupled with a suspension system that prevents bumps on the camera or buttons pressed by accident from interfering with the captured sound while the windscreen, included in the kit, prevents major distortions in motion or under adverse situations.
The directionality of the microphone remains quite stable from 250 to 8000 Hz, which will avoid strange sensations due to the different directionality depending on the frequency of the sound. Both at 90 and 270 degrees, all frequencies experience considerable attenuation, thus avoiding annoying noises and focusing the sound on the action of the scene.
One of the most important steps when recording audio is checking levels and monitoring sound. While some cameras have a headphone jack, not all do, and that’s where the headphone monitor output comes in. Connect any 3.5mm headphone directly to the MKE 400 and use the built-in volume control to mark your recordings.
The frequency response of the MKE 400 does not leave the creative staff that uses it for the first time indifferent. Already in the previous response graph we can see how from 100 to approximately 10,000 Hz response is practically flat with a variation of less than 6 dBV. This improves even with the low-pass filter as by attenuating capture below 200 Hz, it allows for an even flatter response curve.
The MKE400 can be attached very easily to the camera’s hot shoe. Now all you need to do is connect the coiled cable to the mic input and you are ready to go. Operation is as simple as attaching the microphone. With a few simple adjustments, the microphone can be adapted to the recording environment. Is a strong wind blowing? Pull out the windscreen supplied with the device immediately and turn on the low-cut filter. This filters out wind noise effectively. Is the sound source too quiet? Using the toggle switch, increase volume sensitivity and children’s voices that are already quiet will also be heard loud and clear. By the way, the MKE 400 is also ideal for modern applications such as YouTube clips. Since it is really light (60g), you can barely feel the camera’s microphone. And it offers 300 hours of operation.
Furthermore, the mobile kit version that we have had the opportunity to test includes a Manfrotto PIXI mini-tripod and a clamp for smartphones by Sennheiser used in other products of the German brand. The clamp is made of solid aluminum and provides soft rubber grips for a secure hold on almost all devices. It includes a 180-degree adjustable locking wheel to rotate it and be able to record videos vertically, although whenever that happens a kitten dies, we all know that.
The Manfrotto PIXI tripod is a lightweight and durable-build mini tripod featuring a ball head and button-lock mechanism for flexible positioning and a firm grip. The rubber feet provide a non-slip grip on most surfaces and the extendable legs allow a comfortable hold to capture vlogs with greater stability.
In addition to the clamp and tripod, this mobile kit comes with two spiral cables, a three-contact one and a two-contact one with safety thread to connect the MKE 400 to any 3.5mm jack; a wind filter that fits our microphone perfectly and a carrying bag. In addition, we can purchase a 3.5 mm jack to USB-C cable converter which makes it connectable to any latest generation iPhone not having an analog audio input. All this -two AAA batteries included, of course- makes this kit the ultimate complement for our smartphone and forget about recording short-films, video clips and even vlogs and videos for social media with poor sound.
The MKE 400 solves problems that some creatives haven’t even noticed. The body generates noise when handling the camera and the rubber-feet swivel mount kit developed by Sennheiser manages to reduce it greatly. At the same time, operation is so simple that even professionals can have a MKE 400 in their microphone case because it is a microphone for every situation.
The MKE 400 is hardly a match for its bigger sibling, the Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun microphone, an old acquaintance of any field sound technician; but it is certainly a must-have accessory if we create a lot of content with our mobile devices and want to bring audio on par with video.
• Size: 126 x 67 x 37 mm.
• Frequency response (audio): 50 – 20,000 Hz.
• Max. sound pressure level: 132 dB SPL.
• THD, total harmonic distortion: <1% at 50 mW.
• Weight: 93.5 g.
• Microphone jack/receptacle: 3.5mm minijack with two or three connectors.
• Power supply: 2 AAA / LR03 1.5V batteries.
• Headphone jack: 3.5mm minijack.
• Output power (headphones):
– 105 mW (16 Ω impedance).
– 70 mW (32 Ω impedance).
• Capture pattern: super cardioid.
• Sensitivity (open field, no load, at 1 kHz): -23 / -42 / -63 dBV / Pa