Shotgun Mics: Tried ’n’ True Tends To Rule, But the Economy Is Driving Diversity

By Dan Daley

The shotgun microphone is the standby of any broadcast audio professional who has to stay out of the meat grinder that sports can be but still needs the audio to be up-close and personal.

It’s no secret that most sports mixers tend to rely on a relatively small assortment of specific models from a growing pool of products. “In remote sports work, the tried-and-true solutions are the ones they tend to keep going back to,” says Joe Prout, a sales rep at Dale Pro Audio in Manhattan.

He cites, particularly, Sennheiser’s ubiquitous MKH-416 short shotgun, MKH-816 long shotgun, as well as the newer MKH-70 and MKH-60, and Audio-Technica’s AT4073.

But the economy manages to find a way to affect just about everything, and it has spurred a drive to find more–cost-effective ways to give users what they want. Prout points out that regional remote-truck operators need to keep costs down while giving major-network clients what they expect in terms of microphone selection. The Beyerdynamic MC 836 short shotgun and MC 837 long shotgun, he says, have been filling that need well for some OB operators.

Glen Trew, owner of Trew Audio in Nashville, agrees that Sennheiser continues to hold the largest market share in broadcast sports, but that share might be flexible, he adds: “It takes a while, but, when people get to know some of the other shotguns, they add them to their repertoire.” The AT4073 gained fans when they were used on many events at the 1998 Atlanta Olympics, and a large number of the mics continued to be used in the market, he says. The next one on the horizon could be the Rode NTG-3, which he says gets high marks for RF-interference rejection.

But it will take a while to rival Sennheiser’s MKH-60 short shotgun, which offers a low-cut switch and output pad that the NTG-3 does not. “The NTG-3 isn’t a replacement for the MKH-60,” Trew says, “but, in a tough economy, it’s an alternative to it.”

Stereo shotguns, like A-T’s BP4029 or Sanken’s CSS-5, are becoming increasingly popular as a way to add depth of image to crowd sounds and effects, but the next leap forward may be surround shotguns. Sanken’s WMS-5, Soundfield’s DFS2, and the Holophone H2-Pro are candidates to provide the next iteration of sports surround sound.

“The surround mics are not really being used day-to-day on any widespread basis now, but they’re being looked at and tested,” says Prout. “And their time will come.”

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