Comparing the Sennheiser MKH 8060 to the Rode NTG-3 is similar to racing a Porche Boxster against a Volkswagon Golf R. Even if the the VW performs impressively against the Porche, it won’t sway the decision making of the people who buy these cars. These microphones are for two very different kinds of users. Generally, the people who buy the Rode NTG-3 are looking for the best sound you can get for under $1000, and the people who buy the MKH 8060 are willing to pay a premium for premium sound.
Despite what you hear in the following video, keep in mind that the Sennheiser MKH 8060 is the better microphone. It sounds better, it’s more carefully designed, it doesn’t weigh as much, and it’s considerably shorter. It’s also twice as expensive. But hey, that’s life. That said, the Rode NTG-3 is a really good mic. It wears the crown as being the best sounding medium-priced shotgun microphone available today.
As different as these mics may be, they have some similarities. For one, they’re both great sounding shotguns that can be used for capturing audio on video shoots. They also both ship with a tube that protects them when in transit. The tube for the MKH 8060 is made of a durable, yet lightweight plastic, while the tube for the NTG-3 is made of a heavyweight metal, which would likely survive being struck by a Passat.
A major difference between these mics is that the MKH 8060 is modular. This means that you can unscrew and remove its capsule, and attach other things to it. You can add a pad and a high pass filter, you can add a digital output module, you can use a different capsule, etc. Basically, you can do all kinds of things that the average user is never going to do, because, like the MKH 8060 itself, all of these modules are crazy expensive.
I recently did sound on a shoot, and my Audio-Technica 4053B died on me in the middle of a take. This happened because the 4053B is modular, and the capsule lost contact with the powering module mid-take. This had never happened to me before, and going forward, I’ll always reseat and tighten the capsule at the beginning of a shoot to make sure it doesn’t happen again. The experience soured my opinion of modular microphones. However, this shouldn’t stop a prospective MKH 8060 buyer. It’s still a stunningly good sounding mic.
The NTG-3 isn’t modular, however, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have parts that can become dislodged and cause problems. The very top of the NTG-3 can easily be unscrewed. Being able to remove this part serves no particular purpose to the user, and on the NTG-3 that I have, it regularly gets loose on its own. The cap itself is a beautiful looking piece of machined metal, however, I’d rather appreciate its good looks as a solid part of the microphone.
I made this shootout back when I did my Review of the New Sennheiser MKH 8060 Shotgun post. At the time, I ended up with an extra 20 minutes to kill, so I threw this shootout together lickety split. Admittedly, the result is flawed. I made an attempt to position the microphones at an equal distance from the presenter’s mouth, but, as you can see, in the hastiness of the shoot, the MKH 8060 ended up being closer in the main shot.
During the off-axis portion of the video, I got the positioning and the distances pretty equal, however, during the MKH 8060’s portion, it sounds like the noise floor is higher. There was a refrigerator in the room we were shooting in, and I suspect that it quietly kicked in just before I started recording. I’m assuming this because the MKH 8060 is the furthest thing from a noisy mic. It’s dead quiet. It’s a top-notch shotgun in every respect. In fact, what you should listen for in the off-axis portion is how the quality of the presenter’s voice holds up. It doesn’t get tinny, it just sounds a little quieter. Just imagine the 60Hz hum from the fridge isn’t there.
Both microphones were plugged into my Sound Devices 302 mixer. The outputs of the mixer were plugged directly into my Panasonic Lumix GH2 camera. The only thing I did to the audio in post was to adjust the levels in Final Cut Pro so that the overall volume was even between the two mics. Headphones are required if you really want to hear the nuances of the microphones.
In conclusion, what we have here is a very good shotgun microphone, and a truly exceptional one. If you’re on a tight budget, and there’s no way you can come close to the cost of the MKH 8060, the NTG-3 is the best sounding compromise on the market. However, if you’re the type of person that’s willing to spend an extra $500 on a lens to gain a stop of light and some slightly creamier bokeh, you should seriously consider how much you’re willing to forfeit in the sound department.