Shotgun Microphones

Shotgun Shootout: Sennheiser MKH 8060 vs. Rode NTG-3

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 cap on the Rode NTG-3 screws off, exposing loose parts.

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.

Published by

Sam

Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

9 thoughts on “Shotgun Shootout: Sennheiser MKH 8060 vs. Rode NTG-3”

  1. May I ask how you hook up your 302 mixer to you GH2 and with which cable? I would like to hook up a GH3 to a 302. Thank you.

  2. Great question, Luke. I shot the MKH 8060 + NTG-3 shootout a long time ago, and I don’t remember exactly how I did it then. However, I shot a video this past weekend, where I hooked my 302 up to my GH2. The first thing I did was to turn the 302’s outputs down to mic level. Then I connected a Remote Audio breakaway cable to its XLR outputs. Here’s a link to the exact breakaway cable I have (mine is the CABETACFP33/5P model):

    http://www.remoteaudio.com/cables_adapters/audio/multi-pair/eng/

    A breakaway cable is essentially just two XLR cables and a stereo mini-plug extension cable bundled together into a snake, so it’s not necessary to have to connect the 302 to a GH2. On the GH2 end of my breakaway cable, I needed to adapt the dual XLR connectors all the way down to a single 2.5mm stereo prong. I used to use a Beachtek-like box to do this, however, I tried to set that up over the, but my Beachtek-like box was kind of screwing up. So, instead, I was forced to Frankenstein together a collection of audio adapters, that looked like this:

    Frankencable

  3. Sennheiser is more pleasing to my ear , and more present than Rode. High end is Crips and clear. compared to Rode that got some distorted high end. but if no MKH 8060, Rode did a very great job!

  4. thanks Sam – I’ll demo these mics soon will probably go for the 8060, just for resale if it comes to parting with it if times get tough I know Sennhesier has pretty awesome resale. I noticed you’ve had the Sound Devices 302 for awhile do you usually record straight to camera from the 302 or do you do record to an external recorder? I bought the MixPre-D a few days ago, hoping to record straight to 5DMK3 (TA3 unbalanced out) but also maybe a backup to the Zoom H4n I don’t know what the results straight to the zoom would be like or even the best way to connect these two.

  5. I know ideally I should be using the external sound but just trying to save some time and capture to camera without having to sync.
    One last thing from some of your older videos I can see you’re a musician – singer/songwriter but you don’t seem to be putting too much out there of that, you should! gear reviews are cool and you do a great job but I can see you’re a lot more than this, lifes short get it out there or tell us where we can listen to your work.
    All the best.

  6. Many thanks Glen for that intiial insight of the CS-2.I love the Sanken approach and have enjoyed my CSS-5 for the last 10 years and my two CS-1 mikes.I am dissapointed that not bass roll off switch is included on the CS-2.I discussed this omission on the CS-1 with the two Sanken designersat the Sanken premises without any effect.The Rycote Lyre mounts seem to help manage this LF sensitivity better than the KTEK/Sanken mount as it is a definite problem best dealt with in the mike before it reaches the mixer or recorder.Oh well let’s hope the CS-4 has it all !!!!!!!!!!!!Kind regardsMike

  7. Hi Sam!!
    i got a question about mics and pre amps….

    What do think about to connect an “Cloudlifter” into a “Rode ntg2”? Just to get a better quality audio.

    i would love to buy a juicedlink pre amp but its much expensive…

  8. Hi Hector! Cloudlifter products are designed for dynamic and ribbon microphones. The NTG-2 is neither of these; it’s a condenser microphone. Therefore, I doubt it would have much positive impact on the sound quality of the NTG-2. If you already had a Cloudlifter sitting on your desk, I’d plug it in and give it a try. But, if you don’t, I wouldn’t recommend buying one in hopes of improving the sound of the NTG-2. If you want an improvement over the NTG-2, a better preamp will help a little, but what you really need is a different mic. Upgrading to the NTG-3 would make the most meaningful impact. But, yeah, that mic is expensive. Just concentrate on good storytelling, and make awesome videos with the gear you have :)

  9. Hey, Sam. Thanks for the comparison! An 8060 package is within my budget right now, and I’m wondering if this would make a good all-around workhorse mic for my one-man-band video use case. It seems to fit the bill for all of these situations I might be putting it in:

    – On-camera in the clamp of a C100 for run-and-gun (with a Rycote softie)
    – Stationary boom outdoors with a Rycote small super shield
    – Stationary boom indoors

    I currently have an Audix SCX1-HC for stationary booming indoors, but if the 8060 works better than that I’d consider using it as my primary mic there and saving up for the 8050 capsule down the road.

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