So you have picked up a brand new, top of the range DSLR camera, and you are ready to take over the world with your Grammy-worthy video production skills. That is, until, you play back your recordings and realize how poor your audio quality sounds!
Good camera quality is only half of the equation. Without perfect audio, you will never achieve the quality of video that you are capable of creating.
What is the best solution? A good shotgun microphone!
We have tested a large number of shotgun mics, and narrowed the best performers down into a list of five.
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Here they are, at a glance:
The Absolute Best Shotgun Microphone Available!
While it’s true that the Rode Video Mic Pro is probably the most popular shotgun microphone on the market, we wouldn’t agree that it’s necessarily the best. In our opinion, the Sennheiser MKE400 and the Rode Video Mic Pro are very close in comparison with each other; it’s pretty difficult to crown either of them the winner. They are both fantastic choices.
Sennheiser is well known for producing some of the best sound equipment in the world, and with the MKE400 they have certainly shown that they are worthy of such a great reputation. If your DSLR camera is in need of a serious boost in sound quality, the MKE400 will give you just that. We were blown away with how clear and crisp the sound was, compared to the sound quality that the built-in DSLR microphone can offer.
If you are in the market for a professional shotgun microphone that is built of the sturdiest, and most rugged materials, then the MKE400 will not disappoint you. Also, with a battery life of over 300 hours, it’s the perfect choice for working professionals who need something that won’t cut off half way through a shoot.
One of the most impressive features of the Sennheiser MKE400, besides its rugged build quality, is the range that it can cover, and how easy it is to toggle between long and short distances. With two separate modes for recording long and short distances, the MKE400 can quickly be changed back and forth to suit the proximity of the subject that you are recording. This will allow you to record fast-paced environments without any inconsistencies in audio quality.
What surprised us the most when we were putting this microphone through testing was how light it was, in relation to its build quality. The metal exterior looks tough and hard, which it definitely is, but the whole thing weighs just 2.1 ounces. Mind blown!
Our Final Verdict…
Crowning the best shotgun mic for DSLR cameras was one of the toughest decisions we have had to make in a long time. The Sennheiser MKE400 and the Rode Video Mic Pro are so close in regards to sound quality, you will be blown away, and pleased with either of them.
The only reason we have awarded our number one spot to the Sennheiser is because of the build quality, and the battery life. The fact that this microphone is strong enough to perform in any condition, but only weighs 2.1 ounces is mind boggling. Combined with the insane battery life of over 300 hours, and you can see why we love this shotgun mic so much.
If you have got the money to fork out on the best of the best, then we would highly recommend you check this one out.
The Second Best Shotgun Mic For Film Available
One of the most popular shotgun microphones for filmmakers is the Audio-Technica AT897. Although Audio-Technica is not as well-known as other manufacturers like Rode and Sennheiser, it has developed somewhat of a cult-like fan base among filmmakers, thanks to its incredible sound quality for a fraction of the price of one of the other aforementioned brands.
What makes the AT897 unique is the fact that it’s built specifically for filmmaking and broadcasting. Whether it can compete with the industry titans is up for discussion, but we found the sound quality to be impressively clear, smooth and with no background or ambient noise.
What impressed us the most with this shotgun microphone is its short length. For such a quality-sounding microphone, the AT897 measures in at just 11 inches long, making it perfect for all set conditions, no matter how small and cramped they are. It’s thin and short build will not get in the way of any shots.
Audio-Technica will also include a free carry case with your purchase, which we thought was pretty neat!
Our Final Verdict…
When our team was preparing for these shotgun mic reviews, we were a little bit skeptical about this one. We weren’t sure whether it was even worth reviewing as a real contender. However, when we finally got around to giving this thing a go, we were blown away with how well it performed.
It’s lightweight, it’s small in size and the sound quality is comparable to more expensive, well-known brands. If you are a budget filmmaker and need something that will give you a professional recording experience but without breaking the bank, this one is for you.
The Best Rode Shotgun Mic For DSLR
It wouldn’t be a fair comparison if we didn’t review at least one RODE shotgun microphone, would it? We decided to take a look at the best that they have to offer, which is the Video Mic Pro.
If you are at least semi-interested in audio recording, you will have undoubtedly already heard of RODE microphones. In terms of popularity, they surely win hands down. However, the Video Mic Pro is pretty expensive, so the question is… Is it worth it?
If you are in the position where only the best sound quality will cut it, the RODE Mic Pro is probably the best choice for you. Aside from the Sennheiser MKE400, you will struggle to find a shotgun microphone for DSLR cameras that sound as good as the RODE Mic Pro. Seriously. If you think there is something better out there, please let us know!
One thing which surprised us was how lightweight it was, and how easy it was to use straight out of the box. This is certainly not a beginner microphone by any means, but it’s definitely easy enough for a beginner to use. We aren’t the savviest people in the world, and we managed to give it a good run.
The battery life is not as impressive as the MKE400, with a total lifespan of around 80 hours from a single battery, but it’s far from poor. 80 hours is more than enough, considering how powerful this thing is.
The condenser capsule will drown out any noises that are coming in all directions that aren’t what you are focusing on. For example, if you are recording sound from the front, the microphone will block out any noise coming from the sides, and the back, allowing you to record just what you intended to, with crystal clear quality.
Our Final Verdict…
We were extremely excited to create this RODE shotgun microphone review, simply because we had heard so much about it. Bearing in mind, we tested this product with some pretty high expectations, it still blew us away.
There isn’t really much more to say about this one. If you are a filmmaker, a videographer, a recording artist or simply a hobbyist who wants extremely clear audio without having to study a manual as thick as the bible to use it, this is the microphone for you.
The Fourth Best Stereo Shotgun Microphone
Although they are not for everyone, a stereo shotgun microphone is absolutely essential for professional broadcasters or sound recorders. They are not cheap, but that’s the point – they are not built for casual usage. Stereo shotgun mics are built for highly trained professionals who know how to get the most out of them.
With that being said, we managed to take a look at the BP4029 from Audio-Technica, and there aren’t many words in the English language that can describe how clear the audio from this thing sounds. Flawless would be the most accurate.
Modelled off the original stereo shotgun microphone that was used in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the BP4029 gives the user unlimited flexibility when it comes to developing the perfect sound.
Our Final Verdict…
Again, these things aren’t cheap, but if you are looking for a shotgun microphone that was built for professional broadcasting and production, this is the one we would recommend. There are several stereo shotgun microphones on the market, but not many provide the flexibility and the levels of customization as the BP4029.
The Best Cheap Shotgun Mic Available
If you are looking for a cheap shotgun mic for DSLR cameras, then look no further than the Video Mic GO from RODE. This is the budget level RODE microphone, and it’s perfect for those that need a good shotgun mic that doesn’t cost a fortune.
Of course, you will be sacrificing a few of the extra features that make the RODE Video Mic Pro the best shotgun mic in the world, but for this price point, there aren’t any that will perform as well.
The Video mic GO is extremely lightweight and compact, but it’s made from high-quality materials that feel sturdy in your hands. For such a low price, we were not expecting anything as durable as this. The shock mount is another feature that surprised us. It’s incredibly stable and will prevent any slight bumps or knocks to your final audio file.
Another cool feature is the battery. The Video Mic GO does not use external batteries like the other shotgun microphones on this list. Instead, it utilizes a built-in battery that you simply charge up before using it. Granted, it doesn’t last as long as the top-end models, but for the casual user (which this camera is targeting), it’s more than enough.
Our Final Verdict…
The RODE Video Mic GO is a brilliant little shotgun mic that is lightweight, easy to carry around and has superb sound quality for its price point. If you are looking for value for money, then this is the mic that we would recommend.
It’s never going to compete with the likes of the MKE400 or the Video Mic Pro, but it’s substantially better than the microphones that are built into most DSLR cameras, so if you need something cheap and cheerful, here it is.
So Many Choices! Where Do I Start?
Whichever shotgun microphone you decide to purchase, you will always get better sound quality than the default, built-in microphones of DSLR cameras. However, if you are looking for something a little bit more powerful, something with more features or something that is built for specific industries, it’s a good idea to learn a little bit more about them. The short guide below will help you make the right choice.
There are a few of the main features that you should be looking out for when shopping for a shotgun microphone, but first, let’s take a look at what a shotgun microphone actually is.
What Exactly Is a “Shotgun” Microphone?
No, it’s not a microphone with a shotgun attached to the end of it… Let’s just get that out of the way.
A shotgun microphone is basically a microphone that has been developed to focus primarily on voices. Different forms of filmmaking and videography will require different types of microphones, as each one is built with a specific goal in mind. For shotgun mics, that goal is to pick up a voice as clearly as possible, while minimizing the noise in the background.
Shotgun mics are generally long and cylindrical in shape, and they are built this way so that they can focus on sounds coming in from the front, while blocking out noise from the sides, and the background.
With all of that being said, let’s take a look at the main features of a shotgun microphone
Pretty self-explanatory. The range of a microphone indicates how well the microphone will perform at various distances. If you are recording for radio, or voice-over work, then you will more than likely be talking directly into the microphone at a close distance, so range is not an issue. For filmmaking and other forms of video production, choosing a microphone with good range will allow you to pick up voices clearly in a larger environment, from further away.
Regardless of what you will be using your shotgun microphone for, a good battery life is essential. Not only does a good battery life save you money from not having to constantly purchase new batteries, it also reduces the chances of your microphone cutting off half-way through a shoot.
Most high-end microphones will take external batteries, with a few of the more budget-friendly ones sporting a built-in rechargeable battery.
Shock Mount System
Shotgun microphones are incredibly sensitive to sound, as you would expect. Depending on the environment, and the external conditions you are filming in, the vibration of your camera and the tripod is sometimes inevitable. A shock mount system is there to keep the microphone in place while acting as a shock absorber to reduce the noise created by vibrations.
If you want the clearest audio possible, the shock mount system is an irreplaceable part of the equation, so don’t skimp out on this.
To Wrap Things Up:
Shotgun microphones are technical, intricate pieces of kit, and purchasing one can get a little bit overwhelming when you start to look at all of the specific features of each manufacturer. If you can keep in mind the few points we have just made, along with your budget, you will be well-equipped to choose the shotgun microphone that is perfect for your needs.
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