Sennheiser Mic Review

By Brent Handy
Contributing Writer
March 27, 2013

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Mics Reviewed:

Sennheiser e 903 dynamic handheld vocal/instrument microphone

Sennheiser e 604 dynamic drum/percussion microphones with Easy Clamps

Sennheiser e 602 dynamic kick drum/bass microphone

Sennheiser e 614 condenser hi-hat/cymbal/instrument microphone

It has been a while since my last contribution. In the past year, We have started a new record label, designing a new studio,
planned a tour, recording a very interesting Christian rock project, and completing some church installs. This review was done while
working said projects.

Sennheiser is a well respected, long time manufacturer of professional wired and RF microphones, headphones, IEM's, etc. It is
the parent company of microphone manufacturer, Neumann. Sennheiser is one of those brands that brings a sigh of relief to the touring
and recording engineer.

Let's dive in. I was sent the above mentioned mics. All of the mics arrived in individual cardboard boxes. Each box contained a
mic, a zippered pouch, documentation, the appropriate mic stand clip and diameter adapter. Nearly all mic manufacturers have
prepackaged drum mics now. Most of this mic package has been designed, built and voiced for specific drums/applications. But a few
may be used in non-percussion applications. This works out well for the church or studio on a tight budget.

The e602 is the kick/bass mic. Like most modern kick mics (Audix D6, Shure Beta52, etc), it has a built in boost for a pre-EQ'd
sound. When placed in/around a kick drum or bass amp, you are pretty much ready to go. I found the Sennheiser e602 to be
placement friendly. I always got usable results with/without EQ. Of course, no EQ is best.

Louie Weaver (of Petra fame) came in for some drumming sessions. I placed the e602 just inside the hole of the front head, on a
22" DW kick drum. I then tried the mic one inch from the head, just above the beater. Lastly, I placed it in the jazz position with the mic
outside of the kick, just above the hoop on the floor. The e602 performed well in all locations. If you want clickity-click attack, you can
get it. If you want more shell resonance, you can get it. If you need that 40Hz that people want nowadays (that doesn't really come out
of a kick), just add EQ. Kick wasn't all that we tried it on.
Next I tried the e602 on guitar cabs. The modern rock music demands more low-end out the guitar cab. I placed the mic dead
center of speaker in a Mesa 4x12 and Marshall 4x12 cabinet, loaded with 30's. Each powered by Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifiers,
Marshall JCM900s and a Marshall Plexi. I favored the e602 over the original American-made Shure SM57 for this application. It took
the SPL without wimping out.

The e604 tom mics have been around for a while. Some of my friends/engineers told me that these mics didn't sound good. What I
determined in recording and live sound tests is that they really are not too drastically different from MD421's on toms. What I believe to
be the reason people slam these mics is the variance in sensitivity and electronic output. Sensitivity differences are often the cause for
perceived differences in sound quality. This is true in amplifiers, speakers, etc. That is a whole other topic. If we were to mic a sax or
vocalist, I suspect that the 421's would win. But that is unfair. On toms, they are close enough for rock and roll once the gain was
matched. There certainly isn't a difference worth $125.00 per mic, per tom. And how many times does the drummer hit the toms
anyway? On the session Louie played on, e604's and 421's were used simultaneously with great results. You will be able to hear said
results on an upcoming CD. There will be some subtle gating, NO EQ and slight 2:1 compression.

A big reason for liking the e604's is their sound, but I like their size and rugged build quality. Many drummers today do not have the
available space for large mics between toms and cymbals. Many church and concert stages require clean, compact, TV/Video friendly
aesthetics. Sennheiser provided a flexible, easy-to-position mount. Most drummers will appreciate these plastic mounts. These
mounts may be disposable, but they are cheaper to replace than rims for a drum kit. The mics stay in place. While recording, I noticed
no conductive transmission of sound through the clips to the mics. The mount is more reliable than a MD421's clip after 10 years of
use. I had one of the 421's slip free during the test and nose-dive to the floor.

The e614's are Sennheiser's new low-profile "pencil" condenser microphones. They sound great. In comparison to my Audio Technica
AT4041's they are smoother on the top end, and less jangly in the upper mids. They are not at all bitey like a Shure SM81. I used two
for overheads, and one on the hi-hat on drums. I was very happy with the sound and the sensitivity of these mics. I tried them on a
grand piano, egg shakers, etc. Acoustic guitar and piano also sounded fine in a live setting. I think that this will be one of the
condenser mics to beat this year, in this price range.
The new e903 is a very versatile mic. It is a handheld mic. I have seen it marketed as a vocal mic and a drum mic. It may be used in
general purpose applications much like a Shure SM57. I used it as the top snare mic on a copper sided "black beauty", and on the
stock wood shell DW. The mic captured the full body and attack of the snare. I was very happy. In comparison, I would say that it is
much smoother sounding on the high end (3KHz to 10kHz) than the Shure Beta57, which it is designed to compete with. Some
application-designed mics do not allow for making EQ adjustments. Generally, the mic is so hyped that you have to make drastic
boosts or cuts to hear a result. Not so with this mic. I like it, right behind the MD431 on snare.

The e903 was placed in front of the guitar cabs mentioned above, as well as a Marshall MG100DFX solid state combo amp. The mic
can take the high SPL's. In a worship service, I tried it on female and male vocals. On stage, the mic had similar output level and lesszippy
high-end than the Shure Beta87. Aside from it being more sensitive to plosives (those popping "p" type sounds), I think that this
mic would be a great alternative to the Shure Beta86. The e903 sounds thick. It captures the breathiness vocalists. It is not as beefy
as the Neumann KMS105 in the low-end, but it is close enough for a savings of $500+/-. It had great off-axis rejection, much better than
the Beta87. This would make a great general purpose mic for a church/bands to have a multiples of.

The e614 is the newest member to the line. This small condenser mic is great for overheads, hi-hat, snare, piano, guitar, etc. It's sound
is pretty smooth. It doesn't sound hyped or splatty like the cheapo Chinese mics do. It has a realistic, usable sound. In live situations, I
prefered it over the Shure SM81 and AKG C451TL/BULS, and especially the Audio Technica AT4031.

I have always followed the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule. There are just some applications where change has been non-negotiable
for me. When I record traditional drums with dynamic mics, I use Sennheiser MD421's, period. When I record snare, I almost always
start with a Sennheiser MD431 or Shure SM57 on top. While working in LA in the 80's, I got a hint from Greg Bisonette's drum tech,
and started trying the Sennheiser MD441's on the kick. When a company comes out with a drum mic line, I get interested at first, and
then eventually find myself going back the stand-byes. This time I didn't mind a change.

Microphone tests are very subjective. What may be usable for one may not be good for all. I was fortunate enough to have great
instruments, great players and acoustics. Whatever the application, you will find that the Sennheiser Evolution (e series) will yield
great results for various styles of music. These great sounding tools won't break the bank. You should try them if you are considering
the various drum packages from other manufacturers, regardless of price.
One minor gripe. The stand size adapters are plastic. These are traditionally metal. I like metal. The ends don't strip when someone
uses the wrong tool to remove them. You may not use them at all. Just throw them in the spare mic bag with the other dudads you are
collecting.

Special thanks go to the people at Sennheiser USA for the extended use of the mics.









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