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Sennheiser mkh 30/50 for MS vs Sennheiser mkh 8040 Stereo pair for Ambience and SFX recording


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Hello everyone,

Christmas is almost here and as my present  I’m looking to expand my microphone arsenal and build a stereo location recording kit, mainly for recording ambience and sfx.

I have managed to narrow my selection to two combinations but would really appreciate any advice from the experienced ones among you, who are familiar with those setups and hopefully help me with my decision.

The two options I have are:

1. Sennheiser mkh 30+40/50 as a mid/side setup

2. Sennheiser mkh 8040 stereo pair as a X/Y or ORTF setup

I have spent quite some time reading in forums and around the web about each setup and I understand that each has its advantages and disadvantages, but still, I can’t make up my mind as I don’t have any experience with any of those setups.  

As for my budget (around €2000-€2500 which will hopefully include the Rycote) I will of course look for a used setup, especially for the mkh30+40 option, a pair of mkh 8040 might be a bit cheaper as second hand but I hardly see any for sale online, hence I might go for a new pair which obviously will take me above my budget.

See what I mean?! Life’s so confusing sometime…

If you had that budget and would have to choose between the two options, which way would you go?

Thank you very much in advance for any advice or words of wisdom.







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^ This is the reason I have chosen MS for my on-set stereo recordings, too. However, I prefer the sound of ORTF and the two mics of the ORTF setup provide more flexibilities for other uses. The M/S fig8 mic doesn't really have many other uses other in our work. If you already have enough mics, the M/S setup may be more practical.

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I use an MKH40/30 setup in a Rycote stereo windshield for some of my effects recordings and get consistently good results, even in very wet conditions. Mono compatibility  is the obvious plus (it's just the M mic) but it seems a pretty robust and fairly compact set-up. As far as the Schoeps MK8 is concerned, I'm reliably informed that the capsule is slightly asymmetric at some frequencies, although it's never bothered me on indoor M/S set ups. I don't have the necessary mounts to try ORTF in a Rycote, but might give it a go next year when I have some more time.



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Concerning the alleged asymmetry of the MK 8 capsule, there have been a couple of heated threads on Gearslutz on this topic (which should surprise no one). This is  a representative one. I think a fair bit of mic manufacturer bigotry undergirds a lot of opinions expressed, but it is an interesting read nonetheless.

3 minutes ago, Derek H said:

Cinela makes a beautiful looking mounting and wind protection ORTF setup for the 8000 series. 

And while not as pretty as the Cinela, Rycote have a slightly less expensive option in their WS AE ORTF Kit.

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You could be part way there by buying this second-hand set-up: MKH30, plus Rycote, plus cables: https://www.bblist.co.uk/item.php?item=53547

Then all you need is the Mid mic and these can sometimes be found used on various sites.

And it's probable that Rycote will sell you the bits to convert the old elastic suspension to a Lyre set-up for very little money. It's difficult to see the exact mount, because of the BBList overlay, but I upgraded my similar stereo Rycote for about €30.



P.S. For reasons that no-one has ever satisfactorily explained to me, some Sennheiser mics are quite a bit cheaper in the USA than they are in Europe. The MKH50 retails for just under £1,000 before tax in the UK and about £750 in the USA.

Oh, just noticed there's a Sennheiser MKH8090 wide cardioid on ebay uk as a buy-it-now for £595, which might make a nice mid-mic for that set-up. Ebay Item no. 281874786890



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And these:



There you go: I've found your set-up for you within your budget. In fact, if these prices are genuine, you could buy the MKH30 and Rycote, and the MKH50 and the MKH40 for just under €2,500.

Happy recording.


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I'll be really brief, Itaro. The two 8040s ... two cardioids.

Now I'll be my usual rambling self.

Since you mentioned FX recording (presuming film and/or TV) ... and not radio broadcast. I own a Soundfield and a Schoeps fig 8 for M/S and other uses, and granted its a much easier combo to squeeze into one windshield, but really I have found the usefulness (as a sound editor) of MS recordings (or their stereo aspect) quite limiting. I like recording techniques, I'm a fan of Blumlein (the man and the method) and the whole history of the Ambisonic scene, but for me, for FX recording ... very rarely MS, and when I do, it's for a reason: I'd rather record mono and just know I've captured a really good ideal on-axis frontal image!

The several reasons I'm interested in MS include: music ensembles, interior or round-the-mic; docu coverage for musical subjects; stereo radio coverage of musical or ambient situations requiring no-nasty-surprises folddown; custom multichannel reproduction situations such as gallery audio or AV art. (I'll thank John here for having previously pointed me to Ambisonics developments made by Harpex B).

But MS is usually less useful than many expect for film FX (aside from the mono on-axis bit ... but that's mono, not the 'stereo' component). What I would NEVER recommend, and my real answer to your question, is to choose one quite specific and limited stereo technique over another (quite specific and limited etc etc). If you know that you are going to be required to record MS then by all means the tools of your trade are going to be an MS rig. If you know you're needing to record ORTF, then two cardioids and a crossbar (or a fixed mount if you know you'll be recording ORFT an awful lot over other twin cardioid patterns: personally, I don't like to restrict my stereo angle and the 'on/off axis sweet/sour spots' of my mics to 110 degrees or 170 mm when 120 degrees and 140 mm might be better).

I WOULD recommend to try to put together a small palette of mics for a range of applications. Out of all of my mics, my pair of MKH 8040s and two of my DPA 4060s get used the most, so within that kind of budget I'd heartily recommend both those models (I presume you know the DPAs are small lavalier mics, omni and good sounding: they're incredibly useful for all sorts of FX situations). If you need to record 'stereo' with a clear defined central channel you'll need to either go two channel MS with a figure 8 and your choice of mid mic, or plump with three mics, LCR, and a recorder to accommodate: my experience is that a multichannel LCR recording is far more commonly required in film FX than an MS. Then again, what is often required is simply either a mono recording of an object or a (recording-angle assessed and chosen) LR stereo recording of an event or ambience.

So, back to the beginning, briefly:

1. Two cardioids = very useful general all round tools for mono or LR stereo

2. A K&M stereo bar - costing nearly nothing and allowing virtually all cardioid LR positions, not just ORTF

3. Ingenuity for fitting said bar into big fat rycote (or just use furry balls)

4. A figure of 8 capsule once the desire for MS reaches the demand, and when its cost is justified above all additional patterns in the arsenal such as hypercardioid, shotgun or omni ...

Depending on what you end up recording lots of, the figure 8 might indeed be more useful than any of these and a very useful third microphone to buy - I'm not knocking it, just the idea that (film fx recording in mind) M-S could be considered to be a SUBSTITUTE for two cardioids rather than a technique chosen for a particular situation or result.

I expect the excellent null characteristics of the veritable figure of eight might now prove useful to repel the barrage of verbal abuse from our many fans of Mid Side here, so please just wait as I turn myself ninety degrees ...

Best,  Jez x

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I recently rang one of our local audio post houses to ask them about what they like  for stereo tracks when mixing for picture.

 It's a very rough quote but it was something along the lines of "I hate M/S with a passion"

It came down to phase issues, and in this day and age there is no need for mono compatibility.

Within that post facility they have an ambisonic mic which was his preferred format, but he also suggested a simple xy would be preferable over ms. 

,,I still have to take him up on his offer of going n and listening to the soundfield mic they have.


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Perhaps I also need to be clear about what mics I use to record sound effects: I have a Soundfield (ST450) and a Core Sound Tetramic, as well as a DPA 5100, pairs of 4061s and 4060s, various Sennheisers, including a pair of MKH30s, assorted Schoeps, including MK8 and MK6 capsules,  four Neumann KM184Ds and a Sony ECM-MS5, so I have a wide choice in how I record effects. However, what I mostly don't do is state how I've recorded the material that I release as commercial effects recordings. I know that my work is used in radio, TV, film and theatre productions all over the world and so far nobody has complained about phase issues on anything that I've produced. What I don't do, is provide un-decoded raw M/S tracks or B-Format tracks (although that's about to change, thanks to a resurgence in interest in Ambisonics.)

So I think my question is how do you tell the difference in stereo sound effects recordings between the various methods used to record them?



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On 2015-12-04 17:35:51, dfisk said:

Having done lots of field recordings, I've always preferred M/S setups. They just sound more natural to me. 


M/S recordings are IMHO underrated. I remember a seminar with Bruce Swedien twenty years ago, where he called M/S - "Maybe Stereo".

If you're trying to record a sound source or instrument that's not physically too wide, using a stereo technique with one microphone pointing on-axis towards the sound source and another one picking up the diffuse field, with practically no phase issues, can't be a bad thing. :-)

And you can manipulate the stereo width or "air" of the sound effect by just adding a bit of Side-information to the matrix. IMHO very handy for sound effects editing.

With X/Y stereo, the microphones are picking up maybe a wider stereo field, but none of them are pointed at the source, they're 45 degrees off-axis and not always capturing the sound source to the best of their ability.

While I like recording instrument sections in ORTF stereo, the mono compatibility can get compromised and it's not possible to manipulate the stereo width as much as with M/S or X/Y.

I've successfully used MKH30 and 40 for M/S-recordings in the past, but now I've actually ordered a Pearl MS8CL that I will use for recordings of instruments and speakers. In the field I need a small and simple solution that will give me exactly the same setup each time, so I decided to go for the Pearl microphone. I've actually never listened to it, but I've used Pearl microphones in the past and they've always sounded great, so I have high hopes.

Anyway, not trying to high jack your thread. :-)

Go for the M/S setup!




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I was on holiday: doesn't everyone take their kit with them on their holidays? Also that was iteration number 3 of the ST250. The first was 007 which was a bit unstable, the last was 047, which went on forever. There was another one in between, but it was basically a noise generator. Early days, early days...

Nice catch, thanks.


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On 06/12/2015, 02:17:41, soundpod said:

Within that post facility they have an ambisonic mic which was his preferred format

And which, of course, is based on Blumlein's original experiments with, yes, you've guessed it... Mid-Side.

Blumlein used an omni and a figure-of-eight mic and a sum and difference matrix to produce stereo output. Ambisonics does the same thing, the signals being an omni reference (W), and derived front/back signals (X), left/right (Y) and up/down (Z).

And of course, in order to use an Ambisonic microphone, you need special hardware and/or software and a DAW that's capable of handling those plug-ins.

I'm not really a nerd, or a Mid-Side apologist or fanatic, but a well-set-up system works for me in many circumstances and care taken with decoding (differences in microphone output level being one of the things that people tend to forget about when using microphones from different or even the same manufacturers, although this can be addressed in post-production) should produce excellent results.



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