A Quick Overview
Editor’s Choice - Best Overall - Sennheiser MKE 600
A lot of individuals consider this shotgun microphone one of the best out there because of the value it offers with respect to the price it commands. The high ratings come with good reason and you will know how perfect this mic is for long range sound capture in a bit.
Although Sennheiser is a top microphone manufacturing company, the MKE 600 might actually be their best value microphone. This unidirectional mic uses a dual power source, you can alternate between battery power and phantom power. Impressively, this mic can last up to 150 hours on battery power.
With a frequency response ranging from 40Hz to 20KHz, this mic can pick a wide range of sound waves. Fortunately, the manufacturers added a low-cut filter that helps minimise ambient and handling noise. Add the low cut filter with the windshield and you get impeccable audio from distance even when shooting outdoors.
The MKE 600 has one of the best side and rear noise rejection in a mic despite it being able to accommodate sounds as high as 132dB SPL when it is phantom powered. Also, the sensitivity of this microphone makes it just perfect for distant sounds and near ones.
Best Budget Option - Audio-Technica AT875R
TheAudio-Technica AT875R microphone is an outstanding product from the stables of Audio-technica. This supercardioid condenser microphone can work in every aspect of capturing sound, whether indoors or outdoors. Impressively, the Audio-Technica AT875R holds its own in terms of rear and side noise cancellation.
This microphone is good for long range sound recordings because of the unidirectionality. The size of this shotgun microphone makes it perfect for on camera usage. This mic also only uses phantom power so you can simply plug and play. So if you are someone that simply needs a budget mic on a DSLR, you may want to consider this product.
For a budget mic, this microphone does well in terms of specifications. It boasts a 90Hz to 20KHz sound frequency range. The frequency range ensures the microphone does not pick up ambient noise from the surrounding and when it is being handled. Additionally, this mic can work with sounds as loud as 127dB SPL. The 100 Ohms impedance makes sure the mic processes most of the desired soundwaves into desirable sound.
Conclusively, if you are looking to get sound from a distance on your DSLR, you should check out the Audio-Technica AT875R.
Best for Nature Documentaries - Sound Shark Long Rage Mic Kit
If you deal more with making documentaries about nature, then you probably need every advantage you can get when it comes to capturing sounds over large distances. Fortunately, parabolic mics are suited for long range sound capture and better yet, the sound shark is an outstanding parabolic mic which
The Sound Shark parabolic mic is equipped with an omnidirectional microphone that has a heightened sensitivity. The high sensitivity makes this mic not suitable for loud sounds, but perfect for distant sounds. For example, this mic can capture sounds from at least 30 feet and you can even do better with a lesser distance to the sound.
Even with the parabola, the Sound shark microphone still manages to focus on the primary sound and reject side noises almost as much as shotgun microphone does. The lapel mic attached to this dish has a windshield that helps filter ambient noises especially in nature.
You can mount this mic on your camera as well as attach to any other device, thanks to the hot shoe attached to it. Another feature with this parabolic mic is that you can change the mic if you are not satisfied with the production. The sound shark is the best option for videographers that can’t do without faraway sound capture.
Best premium choice - Sennheiser MKH416-P48U3
Another Sennheiser product makes this list of the best long range microphones albeit as a premium choice. This Sennheiser product is actually one of the best shotgun mics in the market albeit it is a bit costly. I can tell you though that this mic is worth every penny expended on it especially when it comes to long range sound capture.
The MKH416 is popular for its outstanding side and rear noise attenuation. In addition, it is highly directional and has a flat response across the frequency range which spans 40Hz to 20KHz. All these features are good for a shotgun mic but what makes it one of the best for long range sounds is the sensitivity.
Despite the sensitivity, it still has a low proximity effect whereby you can still use the mic in close quarters. The RF bias circuitry adopted in this mic ensures it can work in every condition including environments with high humidity and outdoors. Thanks to the transformerless make of the MKH416, you can be assured of a very low self noise. In addition, you get one of the smallest impedances in a mic with an impedance of just 25 Ohms.
The MKH416 might be a bit priced but it is one of the best microphones for long range sound capture available.
Best Wireless Microphone - Rode Wireless Go 2
Rode microphones are one of the best in the sound industry because they provide quality mics for almost every situation a mic is needed for. The Rode Wireless GO 2 is one such microphone as it is a long range wireless microphone that can provide sound over long distances. In fact this mic can provide sounds over a 600-foot range in the open, which is impressive.
With a sound frequency range of 50Hz to 20KHz, you can be assured the Rode Go 2 will pick almost every sound thrown at it. Furthermore, the omnidirectional microphones that are attached to the sound source have windscreens on them for low frequency attenuation.
Although the Rode GO 2 is better suited to some situations, it is a mic that can serve well in terms of long distance sound capture. This microphone has two mics and transmitters that can record simultaneously to any storage of choice. You can also attach this microphone to a tablet or phone.
The accompanying Rode software is used for any adjustments you want to make on the sound quality although there are a few buttons and indicators on the receiver for live controls.
The range of a microphone increases with less sound wave obstruction while it decreases with more sound wave obstruction.
How to Choose the Best Long Range Microphones for Filmmakers
At a point in time, most filmmakers find themselves in need of recording audio over large distances. While a lot of microphones will advertise being able to meet the necessary requirements, only outstanding microphones can produce the desired audio quality. Hence the need to know what to look for in a mic for capturing sound at a distance.
Although some of the features of a microphone are straightforward and easily understandable, some other features are better understood relative to the environmental parameters while recording the sound. However, here are some top features to look for in a long range microphone for filmmakers.
- Type of Microphone
There are only a handful of types of microphones and fewer still are the ones that can pick or transmit sound over large distances. For the sake of this write-up o will be mentioning the most common microphones for long range sound capture.
For a lot of filmmakers, shotgun mics are the go-to mic for distant sound recording because they have a design that helps fine tune the desired sound, and there is also the high sensitivity. However, shotgun mics cannot cover wide areas like the parabolic mic or wireless lavalier mics with transmitters and receivers.
These three types of mics are the most used mics when it comes to long range sound capture and each mic has its own competitive advantage in terms of directions, sensitivity, and frequency response range. You just need to know which one will be better for the film you want to make.
While one type of mic can substitute for another in a scenario, individuals may not get the audio quality they want if the right long range mic is not adopted.
This feature is one of the most important features to look for in a microphone. Whether it’s for long range operations or not, the sensitivity(1) of a microphone is important. It is also important to note that increased sensitivity is not necessarily a good thing, nor is decreased sensitivity. It all depends on the circumstances during use.
In the case of recording audio over some distance, a higher sensitivity feature in a microphone is better. The higher the sensitivity, the farther the mic can pick sound from. The reason is that a more sensitive microphone will be able to better pick up sounds directed at it. Excluding lavalier microphones, both shotgun mics and parabolic mics have high sensitivity for the purpose of picking distant sounds.
On the other hand, sensitive mics tend to distort when they are close to the sound source. Microphone sensitivity is a topic on its own and it’s a bit more complicated than this but it is one important feature to check out in a long range microphone.
- Frequency Response Range
Frequency response is simply the frequency range of sound waves that the microphone can reproduce effectively. The treble in an audio increases with the increase in sound frequency. Now, each microphone has its frequency range. A large frequency response indicates a mic’s ability to reproduce sound waves from a large sound wave range and vice versa.
With long range microphones, a large frequency range is good because the mic can capture both the highs and the lows of the sound. Large frequency range is especially important for filmmakers that shoot nature documentaries. The downside of a large frequency response range is that it will also capture a lot of unwanted sounds.
Fortunately, most modern shotgun mics now have high pass filters and different sound pads to reduce ambient noise while recording.
- Noise Cancellation
Due to the high sensitivity of mics used over large distances, long range mics tend to pick a lot of unwanted sounds alongside the primary sound source. It is common knowledge that shotgun mics have the best side and rear sound attenuation because of their design. While lavalier mics receive sound from all sides (omnidirectional), shotgun mics process sound just from the front of the mic (unidirectional).
Although some manufacturers use lavalier mics with a parabola to make a parabolic mic, parabolic mics are also designed to attenuate side noise. Furthermore, some mics have excellent signal-to-noise ratio. In conclusion, you should look to get a mic with good side and rear noise attenuation. An excellent SNR is a welcomed addition for a mic.
There is no single answer to this question because you have to consider other things like sound wave obstruction and frequency range. But on a general note, in a plain field, mics with higher sensitivity can perform farthest from the sound source.
While it is more common to use shotgun mics because they can adapt to most filming scenarios, shotgun mics can not replace lavalier mics and mics in terms of functionality. Each mic has its own advantage. With that said, the best mic to use for long range sound capture is the microphone that best suits the filming scenarios.
Long range microphones do come in handy for filmmakers, especially those dealing with documentaries about nature. Long range microphones also have significant uses in other aspects of filmmaking and sometimes sports. It is important to consider the important features for long range mics before making any purchase.
Even though there are different types of mics reviewed in this article, the Sennheiser MKE 600 still trumps the others albeit by a small difference. The reason being that the MKE 600 manages to balance being an outstanding long range microphone with a fair price. In addition, the MKE 600 rivals some of the top microphones in terms of quality. The other mics on this list have their own best use cases.
Do you agree with our list of the top 5 long range microphones? Which of the mics will you prefer to own? Feel free to tell us in the comments.
- Jerad L. (2012 May). Understanding microphone sensitivity. Retrieved from https://www.analog.com/en/analog-dialogue/articles/understanding-microphone-sensitivity.html