The MK 4, Sennheiser's first large-diaphragm, side-address microphone, may be aimed at "professional users in project studios," but it is also at home on stage. The MK 4 looks stylish—I know this shouldn’t really count when talking about audio hardware, but it does reassure you that the designers have taken the time to make the thing look desirable. It’s also reassuringly well made, with a heavy feel. There are no dip switches for a pad or roll-off; the designers say they invested all their money in getting the best sound out of the microphone in order to keep the price down—a good microphone made on a budget, rather than a cheap mic ($479.95).
The MK 4 features a one-inch diaphragm and an elastically mounted capsule. Specs include a maximum SPL of 140 dB and a self-noise level of 10 dB (A). It comes with a travel pouch and a neat little plastic mic clip to attach it to a stand. I also got to play with a Sennheiser suspension cradle, which is beautifully made and as stylish as the MK 4.
A microphone like this is likely to be used in a range of ways, so I tested it in a number of different scenarios. First, I hooked it up to a Marantz PMD 661 portable recorder for a “studio in a hotel room” test. I recorded myself reading text. The results were very good: warm and clear, but with a little sibilance on my voice. The next test was in my vocal booth, used for recording voiceovers, actors and sound effects. The MK 4 had punch, with a nice lively character. There was a “warmth” to the recording; this, clearly, is no budget bit of kit.
To get a second opinion, I roped in a friend and played him back three recordings, the MK 4 versus two other microphones. He preferred the punch of the MK 4 to either of the others, including the (considerably) more expensive one.
Of course, there is much more to a great microphone than just a controlled voice test. However, it does prove that the MK 4 is a great bit of hardware. It’s at least as good as anything else out there for the price.