How Good Can a $429 Shotgun Mic Be?
With a Sennheiser MKH-416 costing $999 and even a Røde NTG3 running $665.55, what can you expect from a shotgun mic that costs a mere $429?
Yet that’s what the Deity S-Mic 2 costs — and it is making headlines. But what is causing the stir? Is it its price/quality ratio or its quality all by itself? I couldn’t imagine it being anything but the first, but after spending time with the S-Mic 2 I’m not so sure anymore.
I have a collection of seven mics of different types. Two of those are shotguns — the MKH-416 and a promising and inexpensive sE ProMic Laser DSLR shotgun that is no longer available.
So I couldn’t resist testing the brass-made Deity’s S-Mic 2. I got a Rycote Softie Duo-Lyre Mount pistol-grip as well. The all-brass S-Mic 2 is RFI-free but it’s a little heavy at 198g. Its internals and the outside have been specially treated to withstand rain.
The Deity mic is a super-cardioid with an off-axis rejection of -18dB. The mic should keep capturing a rich sound even when audio sources move slightly in and out of axis. It has a frequency range of 50–20,000 Hz and a low self-noise of 12dB(A) at a maximum 130dB SPL. To give you an idea, a Sennheiser MKH-416 has a self-noise of 13dB(A) and a frequency range of 40–20,000 Hz.
In terms of specs, the S-Mic 2 looks suspiciously close to the MKH-416, but audio people rarely buy a microphone purely for its technical bravado. It should sound good as well.
I tested the Deity in a soundproof room and on the road. During all of my tests, I made sure the mic was 30 to 60 cm away from my mouth. I started testing with the included plastic mount but quickly replaced that one with the Rycote Softie Duo-Lyre Mount because, unlike the clip, the Rycote didn’t transfer any vibration or handling sounds. Also, a bump against the cable is almost inaudible with the Rycote when the cable guides on the pistol grip are used.
The off-axis performance was very good. When I turned the microphone with its back to the source, the sound became muted — slightly less so than with the MKH-416, though — and a tiny bit more bassy. When I turned the mic, sound levels decreased quite dramatically at 90 to 140 degrees but coloration was minimal, and from 0 to 90 degrees non-existent.
Indoors, it became even clearer how close the MKH-416 and S-Mic 2 are to each other. In fact, I bet you couldn’t set them apart if you were to listen to them blindfolded.
I tested the self-noise level by cranking up the gain on my Apogee Duet iOS/Mac, listening for when hiss would become audible. The S-Mic 2 was as quiet as the Sennheiser.
But does it sound good? To my ears, yes, it does. I find this microphone to have a rich sound, although a tad less body (some would call it chest rumble) in the lows when compared to the Sennheiser, but it really is a very close call. So while the fuss about the S-Mic 2 definitely is about quality in its own right, I do have one piece of advice: if you don’t already own a Rycote mount, then do buy Deity’s location kit offering, which includes Rycote’s Softie Duo-Lyre Mount with pistol grip and an associated Deadcat. It will muffle most handling and cable sounds.