Sennheiser e865 HandHeld Condenser Microphone

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Sennheiser e865

Intro

The e865 is a great new condenser microphone designed for live performance. Its top-notch sound make it a good choice for the quieter and more subtle singer/performer yet its 150dB SPL capability and rugged construction make it perfectly suitable for any workout on the stage.

Ratings

Ease of Use: 5
Value: 4
Functionality: 4

Condensers On Stage

Traditionally, condenser microphones have been used almost exclusively in studios due to their fragile nature, large size and high cost. Studio condensers also (if they have tubes inside) require delicate handling and an external power supply requiring special cables. Furthermore, studio condensers are designed to be shock-mounted, not held in a singer's hand. But aside from costs, fragility and size, there are no technical reasons why condenser microphones have not been used more in live sound work. Many performers have faced the risks when recording in a live setting to recreate the sound they achieve in the recording studio.

Condenser microphones, which have a full frequency response, are warmer and fuller sounding than other mic types. Condensers are able to capture the nuances and subtle details that dynamic microphones often miss. This extra sensitivity is valuable especially for quiet to medium-loud vocals and softer acoustic instruments. Extra sensitivity also can mean a greater propensity to feedback, though newer live sound processor designs, greater use of in-ear monitoring and a decreased number of stage monitor speakers have allowed more gain before feedback on stage. These emerging trends make for a natural progression to using condensers in live sound.

Up Close And Personal

The e865 is the first condenser microphone in the Sennheiser "evolution" series. The entire evolution series is aimed at live sound work, though many of the evolution drum mics have become popular in the recording studio as well. The e865 uses a pre-polarized electret condenser element that handles very loud sound levels up to 150dB SPL. The pickup pattern is super cardioid, with greater than 25dB rejection of sounds coming from the back of the microphone. Frequency response is rated at 40Hz to 20kHz and free-field sensitivity is a very low 3mV/PA. The microphone weighs 311 grams (11 ounces), is a little more than seven inches long, of all-metal construction and comes with a carrying pouch and mic holding clip. The microphone's impedance is a nominal 200 ohms and, being a condenser, requires phantom powering of 12 to 48 volts.

Compared to a Studio Condenser/Compared to a Dynamic

The obvious question to me is this: How much better will the e865 work versus the familiar standby, dynamic microphones? I also wanted to compare the e865 to a regular studio condenser microphone.

Compared to a Studio Condenser
I first set up the Sennheiser e865 next to a Shure KSM32 condenser. The Shure is a side-address cardioid microphone that uses Class A transformerless preamp circuitry and a 2.5 micrometer thick, gold-layered Mylar diaphragm. It sells for around $1,000 retail. The first thing I noticed (after matching levels) was the remarkable similarity in sound between these two mics. Both mics have excellent and full sound with clean high frequencies coupled with warm low end. Yes, the Shure has much more output level than the e865. The e865 matches the typical output level of stage dynamic mics.


The pickup pattern of the e865 is very tight, meaning that you have to be right on the mic to be heard. The tight pattern offers better feedback rejection, which is important onstage and not much of an issue with studio mics. The Shure, designed for studio recordings where large areas for sound pickup are desired, has a much wider pickup pattern.

The proximity effect, i.e. the build-up of low frequencies as you get closer to a mic, is much less on the Sennheiser than on the Shure. The distance of the element inside the e865 is fixed, and you can't get any closer unless you open up the mic! Proximity is a useful vocal enhancer and no singer would be happy without being able to use it once in a while. The electret element is placed behind an elaborate pop screen, which is necessary to reduce plosives...those "pops" vocalists often make singing certain consonants (like P and B). Both the Shure and the Sennheiser will pop, with the Shure popping a little more often.

Compared to a Dynamic
Comparing the e865 to a dynamic is a little unfair...for the dynamic! I set up an AKG D770, a popular dynamic that retails for around $100. It's pretty easy to hear the big difference in sound. Anyone could hear that the D770 sounds "nasally" compared to the big, full sound of the e865. Also, if I move back off the D770 (keeping online with its screen), the volume drops very quickly. This is totally normal for a dynamic mic. But the e865 is sensitive as long as you stay aimed at it. This fact makes "working the mic" more controllable with no change in sound (other than volume) as you move away. Off-axis response, that is the tonality change when moving off-center seems very good, although it is hard to quantify this trait on a loud stage.

The Sennheiser's ability to handle noise is the same as any other handheld mic. I liked the balance and feel of the mic although it is a little larger than some other live vocal mics, which might be something to get accustomed to. Nonetheless, the e865 sounds like one of my favorite studio mics yet I can use it on stage like a dynamic.

The e865 sells for $399 MSRP. Contact Sennheiser at 1 Enterprise Drive, Old Lyme, CT 06371. Telephone: 860-434-9190 or Fax: 860-434-1759. Web to: www.sennheiserusa.com

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