Electret shotgun microphones—such as beyerdynamic’s MCE 86 II ($379 street), reviewed here—are small diaphragm condensers, yet ones with key design features, making them the only choice for some recording and sound reinforcement tasks. Live events (such as sports and outdoor weddings), theaters, and houses of worship (HOW) are distinctly different environments where one or two available shotgun microphones will capture slightly to fairly distant sounds like no other microphone type on the market.
How do they work? Well, a standard shotgun microphone most always features a supercardioid or hypercardioid capsule paired with a long, multi-slotted tube beneath it. In use, the desirable on-axis sound reaches the capsule first and offaxis sound largely cancels itself out as it enters the mic’s multiple side slots, thus essentially enhancing the on-axis sound.
I’ve personally discovered several great uses for these “interference tube” microphones in places such as small to midsize houses of worship. Two areas where a shotgun microphone will shine include where pastors want their own microphone out of sight (a shotgun can easily be placed multiple feet away, near the floor and hidden in a flower arrangement, for example) rather than an obtrusive podium mic; and, for example, in theatrical productions, holiday pageants, etc., where multiple children have speaking parts and there aren’t enough inputs or microphones (or both) to capture everyone. In the latter example, simply grab a shotgun microphone and boom pole then actively aim it, or run and gun.
The MCE 86 II is an affordable and superb-sounding hypercardioid shotgun. It sounds fabulous and full-range, boasting a rich 50Hz-18kHz frequency response. It’s lightweight for its size (0.2lbs.), ruggedly built with a work-ready, no-scratch finish.
In reviewing the MCE 86 II, it performed flawlessly for such HOW tasks detailed above. I left the mic at a local church to use for a couple of weeks; after, inquired about where to buy one. For years, the church’s revolving volunteer staff tried to capture small, youthful voices in various plays as well as the shy and public speaking averse; now it finally had an easy-to-use and unobtrusive tool to capture them.
Next, I was hired to provide comprehensive sound services for a summertime outdoor wedding, including the live band reinforcement and playback, and capturing the vows for recording and sound reinforcement purposes. For this gig, the MCE 86 II was the linchpin. During dress rehearsal, I auditioned the shotgun, pointing it precisely where the bride and groom stood with the pastor. The result was an intimate, close-up spoken word track that proved to be both useful during the wedding and later, when we paired the track with a wedding video the videographer shot.
Finally, I just happened to have the MCE 86 II in my microphone bag while running sound for a multi-artist outdoor acoustic/bluegrass event. This being a “gather ‘round the mic” type of setting, there were two different instances during the event where one particular instrumentalist was hard to hear in the overall mix. Just as an experiment, I grabbed the MCE 86 II, put it on a stand and placed it as out of sight as I could, being careful to aim toward the hard to hear player. It worked like a charm, especially during solo passages where the player needed just a small yet natural sounding boost.
The MCE 86 II’s remarkable smoothness rivals small diaphragm condensers I’d normally choose to use in the studio, and I believe that’s saying a lot—especially considering its affordable price. A shotgun microphone is simply a tool worth having in any workhorse microphone collection, and the MCE 86 II is an ideal specimen.
Strother Bullins is a technology editor for NewBay Media’s AV/Pro Audio Group, active musician, recordist, and small venue sound reinforcement wrangler. email@example.com
COMPANY: beyerdynamic north-america.beyerdynamic.com
PRODUCT: MCE 86 II
PROS: Superb shotgun mic performance; remarkably smooth, low noise sound; affordable; ruggedly built
CONS: None noted
APPLICATIONS: Live events/sound reinforcement, field recording, theaters, and houses of worship
PRICE: $379 street
TRANSDUCER TYPE: Condenser (back electret)
OPERATING PRINCIPLE: Pressure gradient
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 50Hz-18kHz
POLAR PATTERN: Hypercardioid
MAXIMUM SPL AT 1KHZ: 128dB