Posts Tagged ‘Sennheiser MKH8020’


Recording the silence of nature is a difficult challenge. Nevertheless. it’s worth it because it can be so rich of interesting microscopic sounds. Finding this silence is not easy and finding an acceptable microphone is yet another challenge.
Sennheiser MKH20 has been for many years a very popular omni mic for nature recordings. It has a very low self noise and is a natural sounding mic. It is a mic which can always make a perfect recording, for every task on the field.
Later Sennheiser made MKH8020, a smaller version with similar character but with frequency range up to 50Khz which is perfect for FX.
I have searched for other omni mics, but never found any that were comparable.
But now Nevaton seems to have made something interesting with its new MC59. In this case MC59O, which is a omni microphone. I have still not had a long experience with this mic so I should not give my opinion about it. But anyway this mic seems to be outstanding in many ways. It has the lowest noise floor I have ever seen in spectrogram and it is going to be at last one of my favorite mic for music recording.
So lets talk about how I compare these three mics.
I went to the country side to aware traffic and got as much silence as possible. I have access of around 50 m² garage, which is an ideal size and a perfect place for microphone comparison, if I get a calm weather and low traffic in the county. To have the „sound source “ of silence to focus on. I used two small ticking alarm clocks in around two meter distance, each side from the mic rig. Also a pocket radio within three meters in front of the rig at as low volume as possible (see picture). All of those items give an incredibly low sound, it was necessary to stop breathing to hear something. The sound sources gave a perfect insight how clearly the microphone could detect the weakest soundwaves in the silence. If you can hear this low sound reflecting between the walls inside this 50m² garage, the microphone is even better for nature sounds recording.
Sadly there is a lot of background noise in the audio pieces because of extreme traffic in the county this November day when I made this comparison. Most cars on their studded winter tires, which made an endless noise pollution in dozens of kilometers all over the county.
I placed the microphones in the middle of the garage (see picture) and used a Sonosax SX R4+ recorder & SX-AD8+ additional mixer.
All mic pairs were on their own Tbar (see picture).  MKH8020 on Ch.1&2, MC59O on Ch.3&4 and MKH20 through the mixer on Ch.5&6. All gain was at 50dB and LPF filters, 24bit / 48Khz.
I think the AD8+ mixer had the same preamps as the recorder. But because it is not in the „same case“ as the recorder, I think you should keep that in mind as it can probably affect the results of MKH20 in its comparison.

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First three audio samples are straight from the recorder so it sounds in very low level. *

MKH20   Spek spectrogram & Frequency

MKH8020   Spek spectrogram & Frequency

MC59O   Spek spectrogram & Frequency


Same audio samples again but with +19dB added gain to the original recording, combined 69dB of gain. *

MKH20   RX6 spectrogram & RX6 WAV  & Frequency

MKH8020   RX6 spectrogram & RX6 WAV  &  Frequency

MC59O   RX6 spectrogramRX6 WAV  &  Frequency


Audio samples goes through 100Hz HPF and normalized up to -5dB which increased the gain between 27- 30dB, or combined 97 – 100db *

MKH20   RX6 spectrogram

MKH8020   RX6 spectrogram

MC59O    RX6 spectrogram


The comparison
Looking on the spectrograms, it shows that Nevaton has a notably lower noise floor. All of them have a similar noise below 10Khz but on MKH20 & 8020 it starts to increase between 12Khz -15Khz.
The MKH8020 has slightly higher overall noise compared to the MKH20 and MC59O seem to have the same low level of noise through the whole frequency range. Something I have not seen before .
MC59O shows a nice clarity above 10Khz. The weak clicking sounds from the alarm clock in the MC59O spectrogram is clearly visible up to 18KHz, but it almost disappeared behind the self noise above 10KHz in both MKH20 & 8020.
But listening to the audio samples of MKH8020 and MKH20 they seem to have higher a mid-range between 2KHz to 8KHz. It means that Sennheiser can be a better choice for most common nature recordings because most of the natural soundscape is actually below 8Khz (at least in Iceland). That leads to the thought that  MC59O can be a very good mic for live music recordings, because of a less „aggressive“ midrange can mean a warmer sound. I have already used the MC59O once over an orchestra with a very nice result.
MC59O seems to be very sensitive for air pressure. Those moments when a light gust of wind hit the garage, the dBfs meter jumps much higher on the MC59O channels than on the MKH channels. Most of the strongest subsonic waves seem to be below 5Hz (see picture). If this is really an air pressure, not a mic failure, I can see lot of challenging and interesting recording projects for this mic in the future.
But this MC59O pair seem to have a downside. They are badly matched, even though I ordered a matched pair**. It is clearly audible, when I record constant wide frequency background sound the balance is not the same as on the MKH20 & 8020. So as it is, I am not sure I can use this pair for nature recordings. In this test one of the capsules seem to have sharp 30dB drop at 85Hz and another 25dB drop at 145Hz (see picture). It is a lot in such a sensitive and important frequency. But the problem can be as well something else so I need to make more tests and comparisons as soon as I can. I will post the result here when it is done.
Nevertheless I have used the pair over an orchestra in combination with MC59C (cardioid) which gives a wonderful result.

All of the three mics are pretty equal in quality so it is almost impossible to choose which one is the best.
I will always love the old MKH20 workhorse. It has never failed on the field, does not matter what kind of foul weather it has to go through. It has proof it can withstand high humidity anywhere on this planet. I have even lost the pair in glacier lagoon, highly polluted with sulfur without any measurable damage.
Those two MKH20’s in the test were not a matched pair, as Sennheiser does not offer these mics as a matched pair. Anyway they sounded like they were matched.
After a very bad experience with my first MKH8020’s when they made a high noise under the cold environment at -5°C, I am now going to trust them more and more each year. It seem like Sennheiser have fixed the problem. This MKH8020’s are nicely matched as they are intended to.
The surprise in this comparison is the Nevaton MC59O. I finally found a omni mic which has lower noise floor than MKH20, without loosing the finest details, plus with extra sound clarity above 10Khz.

See the whole picture gallery
* All audio samples above are mp3 at 256kbps 44kHz.
Original recording at 24bit/48Khz
** 20th of February 2020 I got new nicely matched capsules from Nevaton

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Nothing could be further from the heady drama of his opera „Faust“ than Gounod‘s cheerful, melodious „Little Symphony for Wind“. Its infectious nonchalance and easy gracefulness has made it a favorite with amateur as well as professional wind players. Though it was written when the composer was 70 years old and has the formal structure of a classical symphony, ever one of its four movements breathes youthful gaiety and Gallic charm. The second movement, Adagio, is a lyrical, finely sustained melody, mainly for flute. The final Scherzo, with its bright, staccato, syncopated theme, is remarkably „modern“ for its time, and shows that Gounod was keeping a weather eye on his younger contemporaries*.
This recording was made the 23rd of November 2013 with members of Iceland Amateur Symphony Orchestra in Seltjarnarnes church. Keep in mind that the orchestra comprises mostly those who earn their living in occupations other than music so this is a perfect performance.
This is a binaural recording with Sennheiser MKH8020 mounted into foam dummy head. The sound is rather harsh in some mid range frequencies and the reverb may have been better and lasted longer. This might be repaired in post, but I am not interested in such thing. Good recording is more important. I think this poor sound is mainly because the design of the hall (church). Also is the microphone placement difficult to change during the concert. But anyway this stereo recording is a nice example of binaural recording. Normally, headphone is required while listening, but in this recording the instruments in the performance are dancing nicely between the channels so it is nice to listen in both headphones and speakers.

Charles Gounod – Petite Symphonie

Hér er upptaka frá tónleikum Sinfóníusveitar áhugamanna í Seltjarnarneskirkju frá því 23. nóvember 2013. Er þetta lítil sinfónía eftir Charles Gounod sem hann samdi sjötugur að aldri árið 1885 fyrir níu blásturshljóðfæri.. Var það félagi hans og flautuleikarinn Poul Taffanel sem pantaði verkið sem sver sig í ætt við blásaraserenöður Mozarts.
Upptakan er gerð með svoköllaðu “binaural tækni” sem gengur út á að staðsetja hljóðnema í kúlu eða bolta sem líkist mannshöfði. Þannig má oft ná mjög skemmtilegum umhverfishljóðritunum sem oftar en ekki er best að hlusta á í góðum heyrnartólum.
Flutingur blásara á tónverkinu er afbragðs góður, en upptakan hefði alveg mátt vera betri. Miðjan er yfirmótuð á einhverjum tíðnum sem gerir hljóminn svolítið harðan á köflum. Gera má ráð fyrir að það reiknist að stærstum hluta til á eigin tíðni salarins. Þá hefði mátt vera meira eftirhljómur frá salnum. Þarna skiptir bæði salurinn og staðsetning hljóðnemanna miklu máli. En því miður er ekki hægt að finna bestu staðsetninguna á meðan á tónleikum stendur. Það getur því oftar en ekki varið hrein heppni að ná góðum upptökum með einfaldri steriotækni.
Hljóðfæraleikarar gáfu leyfi fyrir vefvæðingu hljóðritsins.

  Download mp3 file  (256kbps / 37Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices 788
Mics: Sennheiser MKH8020 (Binaural)

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In 10th of February 2013 I recorded a concert with Amateur symphony orchestra.
The program contained a wonderful melody “Senur” composed in four chapters by Sigurður Sævarsson. It was composed for string orchestra and obo. Both the orchestra and the soloist, Guðrún Másdóttir, played it flawless. Hereby is the first chapter of Senur without any post work.
I was pretty happy with the recording result, even though the concert hall (a church) sounded terrible for recording. It has a very harsh sound and difficult peaks in some resonance frequencies.
Over the orchestra I used a Jeclin disk with a double pair of mics, parallel MKH8020 and MKH20 in 45°+45° (as shown on the picture).
Close to the soloist there was a pair of MKH8040 and far behind in the hall was a pair of SE4400 with spaced Omni (70cm).
Past months I have got a few emails where people ask me for a sound sample with my Jecklin disk. So here are two samples, both almost the same, but one is recorded with MKH20 in 45°+45° and the other one with parallel MKH8020.

“Senur” fyrsti kafli

Sigurður Sævarsson hóf söngnám við tónlistarskólann í Keflavík undir handleiðslu Árna Sighvatssonar. Þaðan lá leiðinn í Nýja tónlistarskólann, þar sem hann nam hjá Sigurði Demetz Franzyni og Alinu Dubik. Hann lauk þaðan prófi vorið 1994. Sama ár hóf Sigurður söng- og tónlistarnám við Boston University í Bandaríkjunum, þar sem kennarar hans voru William Sharp, Charles Fussel, Sam Hendrick og Martin Amin. Hann lauk þaðan meistaraprófi í báðum greinum vorið 1997.
Helstu viðfangsefni Sigurðar hafa verið óperur og kórverk. Tveir geisladiskar haf verið gefnir út með verkum hans. Hallgrímspassía kom út árið 2010 og Missa Pacis kom út 2011. Nýjasta verk Sigurðar er Jólaóratórían sem var frumflutt 2. desember 2012.
Sigurður samdi “Senur” upphaflega fyrir óbó og strengjakvartett, að tilhlutan Eydísar Franzdóttur óbóleikara. Verkið var frumflutt á Myrkum músíkdögum 2012 og hefur verið flutt nokkrum sinnum síðan í Tékklandi og Þýskalandi. Sigurður umritaði verkið fyrir skömmu fyrir óbó og strengjasveit og er sú gerð verksins frumflutt hér.
Guðrún Másdóttir hóf að læra á óbó í Tónskóla Sigursveins D. Kristinssonar 14 ára að aldri. Hún lauk þaðan fullnaðarprófi árið 1992 undir handleiðslu Daða Kolbeinssonar. Hún sótti nær öll námskeið Sinfóníuhljómsveitar æskunnar undir stjórn Paul Zukovsky á árunum 1985-1991 og hefur nokkrum sinnum leikið með Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands. Guðrún hefur leikið með Sinfóníuhljómsveit áhugamanna óslitið frá byrjun árs 1991. Hún er í stjórn hljómsveitarinnar og hefur umsjón með vefsíðu hennar, en aðalstarf Guðrúnar er staða tölvunarfræðings hjá fyrirtækinu Mentor.


Recording with Sennheiser MKH20
Download mp3 file. (256kbps / 9Mb)

Recording with Sennheiser MKH8020
Download mp3 file. (256kbps / 9Mb)

Recorder: Sound Devices 788
Mics: Sennheiser MKH20, MKH8020, MKH8040 and SE4400
Picture of the Jecklin disk

Recording with MKH20(+8dB) and MKH8040.
MKH8020 and SE4400a are turned off.

If you do not see the Sound Cloud link above, please press on this link: https://soundcloud.com/fieldrecording-net/senur-chapter-one

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