Sennheiser is introducing some new mics for creators to use on consumer-level cameras and phones, including an update for its popular camera-mounted MKE 400 shotgun microphone and new phone-friendly lavaliere microphones.
The updated MKE 400 shotgun microphone looks to be an upgrade in many ways from the previous version — it’s got a new design, which incorporates a windscreen (it also comes with a furry wind sock), a built-in headphone port, and, blessedly, can automatically turn on or off with your camera. It also now comes with a free wind blocker for when it gets really breezy. That should help reduce the number of times you finish recording, only to realize that you didn’t actually capture the audio you were hoping for (something I’ve absolutely done before).
It’s also now designed to work with mobile devices like phones or tablets; it comes with both a standard TRS cable meant for DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, as well as a TRRS cable that should work when plugged into a phone’s headphone jack. Or, more likely, a 3.5mm to USB-C or Lightning adapter. With the microphone’s built-in headphone jack, you should even still be able to monitor when shooting with a phone (or with a camera that only has a mic-in and no headphone out).
The new features should help make Sennheiser’s microphone a more compelling competitor to Rode’s latest mics — the older version of the MKE 400’s lack of auto on/off and comparatively outdated design made it a tough sell when compared to something like a Rode VideoMic Pro. It's nice to see Sennheiser catch up with the rest of the market.
All the upgrades to the MKE 400 do come at a bit of a cost in the battery department, though: Sennheiser estimated that the old MKE 400 would last 300 hours off a single AAA battery, while the new version only advertises 100 hours of use off of two AAAs. The mic still retails for the same $199.95.
Meanwhile, Sennheiser’s new XS Lav mics are meant to be worn on a shirt collar or lapel and could be useful for creators looking to get better audio, but who don’t want to use a large shotgun-style microphone. The clip-on mics comes in two versions: one with a 3.5mm TRRS plug, and one with a USB-C plug for dongle-free use with phones or computers. Sennheiser had previously made a lavalier mic for iPhones that plugged in via Lightning, but it seems like to be no longer widely available. (You can find one that mysteriously looks just like it at Apogee.)
The USB-C version should be the most widely-compatible, as it’ll be useful for both Android phones and single-audio-port computers (plugging it into a combination headphone jack on, say, a MacBook would make it difficult to use headphones, but you could use the USB-C port instead). iPhone owners will want to look at the XS Lav with the 3.5mm connector, though an adapter will be required.
The 3.5mm version costs $49.95, and the USB-C version costs $59.95 — both are less expensive than the $79 Rode smartLav Plus.
Both the MKE 400 and XS Lav USB-C can also be purchased as part of a “Mobile Kit,” which adds $30 to the price and includes a tiny tripod and phone clamp mount.