If you are looking for the best shotgun microphone alternative to the Sennheiser MKH-416, something that is cheaper but nearly as good, well, quite frankly, you would be disappointed once you compare them side by side for their sonic fullness and isolation in relation to the MKH-416.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a range of budget shotgun microphones that can do a decent job for your indie film or online video projects.
But the reality is – the MKH-416 has pretty much been the minimum-entry industry standard for location sound recording since its first production in the 1970s.
It’s become so popular among Hollywood sound recordists that even audio-post professionals have grown accustomed to its sound and adept at editing it. This had led to a whole self-sustaining industry demand for the particular MKH-416 sound signature.
Every shotgun microphone that has appeared on the market ever since cannot avoid being held up against the benchmark set by the MKH-416.
The Rode NTG series of shotguns in particular appear to have been designed specifically to target this market demand for shotgun microphones costing much less than USD$1000, ie. the price of a brand new MKH-416.
Most of the Rode NTG shotgun microphones are in the price range of USD$300-$700, many of which caters to the DSLR filmmakers’ market.
The Rode NTG-3, for example, has for a long while been touted as the best alternative shotgun to the MKH-416. However, it does not have as tight a pickup pattern as the 416, which means it picks up more of the surrounding ambience or background noise than a MKH-416 would.
Thus, sonically, the Rode NTG-3 and the Sennheiser MKH-416 do not have a closely similar sound signature if you compare their raw recordings critically side-by-side. You can get a Rode NTG-3 audio to sound closer to a MKH-416 using a bit of audio-post “magic”, but therein lies the issue:
Many shotgun microphone alternatives require a slightly harder time in post to clean and match to achieve the so-called “Hollywood sound signature of a Sennheiser MKH-416.
It’s therefore hard to find a cheaper shotgun microphone that can live up to the standard set by a MKH-416 …, until quite recently!
By this, I’m referring to the newly-released Deity S-Mic 2.
The Deity S-Mic 2 is an improved model of its 1st generation version with new circuitry for a fuller, more balanced sound and reduced self-noise.
Its retail price of USD$369 puts it in the category of budget shotgun microphones and yet it outperforms the Rode NTG-3 (retail price of USD$699) in terms of trying to live up to the MKH-416 standard.
In fact, it sounds pretty darn close to the MKH-416 when you compare at the frequency response of these two microphones from field test recordings.
Note that these are actual field tests done by Joe from Joe N Tell, and not based on published specifications from the manufacturers.
Check out his video review of the Deity S-Mic 2 and the Sennheiser MKH-416 to listen and compare how these two shotgun microphones perform when they are placed side-by-side in different environments and varying off/on axis placements.
You would understand why he calls this a “crazy comparison” after the video. The Deity S-Mic 2 is sonically so similar to a MKH-416 and yet costs only a third of the price.
“Yeah! It’s crazy, right?”
For anyone looking to own a budget-friendly shotgun microphone for their own productions, especially indie video producers and DSLR filmmakers who often undertake the sound recording tasks on their own for simpler project, this Deity S-Mic 2 should definitely be the best shotgun microphone alternative to the MKH-416 right now.