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Sennheiser MD 421-II Reviews
I got this mic to compliment my SM57 and Audix i5 in recording distorted guitar. At this stage its far more likely to just replace them.
Its got a tight, punchy low end that neither of the others do. Its mids are smooth, its high end clear and not in the least brittle or harsh (something I was having difficulty getting out of the SM57 and i5). Set your amp up right and a great metal sound falls right out of this thing, no fuss and minimal editing the sound after (I dont do any: I just EQ out some 100 hz and below 60 for room acousitcs at the input stage).
If I were to have any complaint about it, its that its high mids arent very aggressive. I tried an off axis 57 at about 1/3 the level of the 421 on the opposite side of the same speaker and I got the best of both worlds and lost nothing.
Oh, and it comes in a bullet-proof case and looks and feels as tough as nails.
An engineer friend of mine tells me its great for toms too. From its sound I can believe it, but I cant really tell you. All I know is, while not utterly perfect, this mic immediately became a cornerstone of my recorded tone.
Let me just start by saying that I really, really value this microphone. It’s a classic. There are some things about it that I wish were different, but on the whole its a fantastic piece of gear. Firstly, its as home on a drum kit as it is on a guitar amp or even as a room mic/vocal mic. Useful live or in the studio. It’s a very directional microphone, and as such it’s capable of rejecting a large mount of feedback and noise. This is probably the reason why I, along with almost every other engineer in the country, use them primarily as tom mics.
A 421 pointed at a tom gives the classic rock sound, its simple, its foolproof. Great pickup on the attack of the tom, plus enough low range extension to capture the actual tone of the instrument, and sensitive enough to capture the harmonics without sounding too harsh. There is almost no ‘proximity effect’ associated with the 421 as you can roll of the bass end to an extent to avoid this. Another bonus is that you don’t usually have to compress the output of the 421 either in this situation. This is a godsend for people who might not have a rack of compressors at their disposal, i.e. almost everyone.
The main downside for me is that the Sennheiser 421 isn’t as robust as id hoped it would be. Its not as sensitive as a condenser mic but not as bullet-proof as the SM57. That being said it is built like a big black tank, and it’s a much more complex piece of gear than the workhorse 57. Also, it sounds a bit lifeless in front of a bass amp at full volume, and as I’m a bassist this isn’t ideal for me.
It can be difficult for many people to come to terms with spending £300+ on something like a microphone, especially if music is just a hobby and not a business to them. The main thing I hear from people is "what I’ve got sounds just fine, no need to upgrade." This could be true, but consider this; a good microphone is a tool like no other. A good mic can be used in dozens of applications for years to come. This mic will literally last you the whole of your recording life, and because it’s such a versatile item, will payback the initial outlay in months. Get one. Get 3 if you can afford it.
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