Distributed by: Sennheiser | Expect to pay: $799
As many a live engineer will attest to, the dynamic handheld microphone arena is certainly well decorated, with (dare I say it) a handful of favourites found on stages across the globe. Being such a competitive and saturated market, it can often be hard for a new live mic to cut through the dense mix of available options, but when two new mics from Sennheiser bearing the letters “MD” landed on my desk, I was immediately enthused.
The rich line of Sennheiser microphones needs no introduction especially the coveted MD family, which includes the likes of the MD441 and MD421. The new MD435 and MD445 are both moving coil dynamic mics boasting cardioid and super cardioid patterns respectively, with a frequency response of 40Hz – 20kHz. But as I was pleasantly surprised to find out, there’s a little more difference between the pair than just their polar patterns.
Putting these handheld dynamics through their paces, I instantly put them both up on stands and in front of a foldback monitor. I was immediately impressed with the amount of gain before feedback able to be achieved, which straight away showed the high calibre of their design. The 180-degree off axis rejection of the MD435’s cardioid pattern and the MD445’s 140-degree super cardioid nodes were tight, uniform and seemingly impervious to feedback.
Talking off axis and around each mics capsules revealed how incredibly unidirectional both mics are, with a massive attenuation from the sides and rear of each compared to other live handhelds I’ve used. Although this means a singer will need to be positioned nicely on-axis, it proves very helpful on a loud stage, minimizing bleed from other instruments (aka a cymbal heavy drummer or overly enthused guitar player), as well as the great rejection to feedback mentioned earlier.
Taking each mic off the stands and throwing them around in my hands showed how well isolated the capsules in both these microphones are. Handling noise was kept to a minimum, done so through the cleverly spring-mounted capsule design, very useful for the more animated singer who like to move around stage.
I was obviously very keen to get a vibe of the tonal character of both mics. I’ve found other Sennheiser handhelds to have a brighter timbre, so I was intrigued to find out if the MD435 and MD445 shared any of the same characteristics. Speaking and singing into both the MD435 and MD445 I was pleasantly surprised to find the the amount of body and fullness to my voice, flat with no EQ. Even when introducing a high-pass filter up to around 120Hz, I still found a nice amount of lower midrange weight, with a smooth detailed midrange and crisp top end. I found the MD435 to have bit more body and roundness compared to the MD445, with the MD445 having a nice amount of sparkle and detail in the top end, great for cutting through a dense mix.
I decided to put both mics up against my beloved tube condenser, which has a Telefunken 251 vibe about it, but at a fraction of the price of a vintage or new model. Although not having quite the same characterful spank in the higher midrange as the tube condenser, (something more unique to a tube mic design) I found both the MD435 and the MD445 to share an almost condenser like quality about them, with a fairly even response in the lows ands mids and a pleasingly detailed top end, without being harsh sounding, but rather smooth ands crisp. Their whopping SPL handling of 163dB (max) allows for even the loudest of singers to belt into them, handling this with ease, without distortion from the capsule.
As with other handheld mics that are initially designed for vocal applications, they often find themselves pointed at other sound sources on a stage. I of course had to find out if the MD435 and MD445 would find themselves with similar qualities.
Put up in front of a Vox AC30, I found both mics to speak very nicely to the electric guitar barking at them. With a bit more body compared to other dynamics typically used for miking guitar cabinets and with just the right amount of presence in the upper mids, without being overly bright or bitey. I thought both mics provided a great capture of the electric guitar, probably (but only just) picking the MD435 over the MD445, with a bit more body and lower midrange oomph.
An unexpected but very welcomed application for both mics was on snare drum. I put up the MD435 first and was immediately impressed by its depth and body upon playback. The upper mids spoke with clarity, and a slight duck in the cardboard-y midrange was a pleasant surprise, alleviating the need for excessive EQ after the fact. I then put up the MD445 and was instantly smiling.
Like the MD435, the MD445’s response to the body of the snare drum was great, with that 180Hz – 200Hz area represented beautifully, without the need for EQ boosting. Where the MD445 really came alive though was in the upper midrange and top end, providing eons of crack and sizzle, again, alleviating the need for much, if any EQ. No cardboard like timbres here either, just sitting in the mix beautifully. I might be as bold to say that the MD445 could well be my new favourite mic for snare!
To find not one but two new live handheld mics from Sennheiser boasting such depth, clarity and sparkle is a real treat and a welcomed addition to the already well loved “MD” family of microphones. I think it’s safe to say both the MD435 and MD445 will earn their respective places on stage, being a worthy option for those engineers and venues looking for a great all rounder or an upgrade from other mics typical found in a live mic locker.
Their robust construction, supreme gain before feedback and high SPL handling as well as the additional 5 included pop protectors (much needed in these trying Covid times) make the MD435 and MD445 a great package, being superbly designed and thought out microphones, sure to impress even the most discerning of ears.
Check out the MD435 and MD445 in greater detail over at Sennheiser’s website.