In the aughts, Sennheiser expanded its line of live performance microphones with the evolution 900 series, which included three models geared toward vocal performance: the e 935 dynamic cardioid, e 945 dynamic supercardioid, and the flagship e 965 large-diaphragm condenser (priced at $1,050 list, $699 street) reviewed here.
The e 965 is a high-end condenser microphone that employs a dual-diaphragm design, allowing for switchable polar patterns. It is also a “true,” not an electret, condenser design. [True condensers have a bias voltage running through the capsule to polarize it, while electrets use a pre-polarized material. — Ed.] Published frequency response is an impressive 40 Hz to 20 kHz and sensitivity is a blazing 7mV/Pa (or 2.3 mV/Pa with pre-attenuation). Max. SPL is 142 dB un-attenuated or 152 dB with pre-attenuation.
The microphone is sleek in appearance, with a black body and dark-blue grille. The grille can be unscrewed to access three switches: a sensitivity switch (10 dB pad); a low-cut switch (the roll-off starts around 180 Hz, and the -6 dB point appears to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 Hz, thus the slope is very gentle); and a directivity switch (pattern can be cardioid or supercardioid). The e 965’s construction seems to be very robust, and Sennheiser apparently has a high degree of confidence in the microphone’s durability since it comes with a 10-year warranty. Like all other wired models in Sennheiser’s evolution series, the e 965 is built in Germany.
My first experience with the microphone was at a concert for which I was mixing front of house. Drew Cline provided the opening set with a few songs from his new solo album, and the headlining act was Audio Talks, a presentation where musicians Will McGinniss and Mark Stewart (formerly of the band Audio Adrenaline), joined by musicians from their church, tell their story and perform some of their hits. We decided to try the e 965 on both Drew’s and Mark’s vocals. The console was a Roland M400, and monitoring was all in-ears.
I set the low-cut filter to flat, pattern to cardioid, attenuation to 0 dB, and we were off. The e 965 was an instant hit. Drew’s voice is extremely powerful, and the microphone handled the transients very effectively, delivering lots of detail without becoming brittle or thin. The microphone performed equally well on Mark Stewart’s voice. I was able to get both voices out in front of the band without having to cut any of the low-to-mid spectrum.
While I did not have an opportunity to test the e 965 in a concert setting where live monitors were in use, I did set up a wedge in the shop to see how the microphone performed in that regard. I tested it alongside two other microphones: another handheld condenser, the Shure SM86, and a Shure SM58 dynamic. I zeroed out the three channel strips and set the gains the same. My first observation was that the e 965’s output was far hotter than the either of the other two mics. Engaging the 10 dB pad brought the output down to a comparable level. Talking in each of the microphones was a very telling exercise; the e 965 was by far the most natural sounding of the three. Next, I established three monitor EQ curves, one based on each microphone. I was able to achieve a fairly stable loud monitor mix with the e 965 — more so than I had expected.
Lastly, I experimented with the polar pattern switch. I will say that the side rejection is quite pronounced in both modes, so this may not be the microphone for a vocal trio. The frequency response changes slightly between the two modes. In the cardioid mode, there is a slight presence boost at 10k (approximately 3 dB).
The e 965 is a very well behaved, transparent, and musical microphone. Its neutral frequency response makes it suitable for a wide range of vocal applications. The only potential pitfall I see is that if your vocal chops are not up to par, you may find it to be unforgiving. Anyone in the market for a high-end vocal condenser microphone should surely give this one a listen.
Contact: Sennheiser USA | 860-434-9190 | sennheiser.com