Amongst the various types of microphone that are available, a good shotgun microphone is probably my favourite. It’s certainly the type of microphone I use most often. Their design allows them to pick out very specific directional sounds while ignoring the rest of the world around them – at least, that’s the theory.
You might remember that a while ago, lighting company Aputure decided to get into the microphone business with their new “Deity” microphones. Well, Deity Microphones is now it’s own separate company and I recently received their new Deity S-Mic 2 shotgun microphone. Priced at a fairly modest $359 it’s quite the bargain if it lives up to its claims, so I wanted to put it to the test.
Inside the box
The Deity S-Mic 2 comes in two options. There’s the basic kit, costing $359, which includes the microphone itself, a foam windshield and a stand adapter holder inside a Peli style hard case.
Then there’s the location kit, priced at $429. This includes everything in the basic kit above, but you also get a Rycote shock mount pistol grip and a fluffy deadcat.
Pulling the microphone out of the box, the weight of the thing makes itself rather obvious, coming in at a rather hefty 198g. By comparison, my Sennheiser K6/ME66 combo weighs a paltry 111g – and it’s a longer & slightly thicker microphone. This extra weight is due to the S-Mic 2’s all-brass construction.
An all-brass construction that gives it the level of durability that you wouldn’t have to worry about it rolling around in your gear bag all day.
The included holder is the standard type that screws onto a 5/8″ thread and it includes a 3/8″ screw-in thread adapter. The foam windshield, again, seems quite standard and fits snugly over the microphone.
Inside the location kit, the Rycote pistol grip is rather nice. The handle is narrower and lighter than my old Rode PG2 and feels much easier to hold for long periods. It features a Rycote Duo-Lyre suspension mount which grips the microphone extremely well.
The fluffy deadcat has a little bit bigger than I’d expected it to be and has very long fur – much longer than my Rode WS6 deadcat.
If you’re shooting indoors away from the wind, it doubles up quite nicely as a Bond villainesque pet to sit and stroke in front of the camera while you monologue your plans for world domination.
I typically use a shotgun mic in one of two scenarios. It’s either indoors, in some type of studio or location where I can have the mic boomed overhead, or I’m using it out on location, handheld with the pistol grip.
As mentioned, it’s a bit of a hefty microphone for its size. It’s not unreasonable heavy, though, but I haven’t tried it handheld on the end of a 10ft boom pole yet.
For my recording setup here at home, I have a microphone mount clamped to the end of my desk with a basic shock mount into which the microphone slips.
In the pistol grip, though, it’s not bad, though. I’m used to the Sennheiser K6/ME66 in the Rode PG2 with the Rode WS6 deadcat. That combo weighs 380g. The Deity configuration with the S-Mic 2, Rycote pistol grip, foam windshield (we’ll get back to that) and the dead cat weighs 406g. So, overall it’s not that different.
Plugging it in is like any other 48v phantom powered XLR microphone. You turn off phantom power on your device with the levels zeroed out. Then you plug the XLR cable in, turn on phantom power and raise the levels to the desired… uh, level.
How does it sound?
Well, that’s what the video above is for, really. But here goes.
In the video, I test four microphones. There’s the Deity S-Mic 2, obviously, alongside the Sennheiser K6/ME66, Rode NTG1 and the little Saramonic SR-NV5 that comes as part of the Saramonic MixMic kit.
For each of the microphones I compared in the video, I used the same XLR cable going into an Alesis Multimix 6FX mixer (with EQ zeroed out) which then went to the line input on my motherboard. Everything was recorded in Adobe Audition with the exact same settings and no processing was done to the recordings except to loudness normalise them to -23 LUFS. I listened to all the playback using BeyerDynamic DT100 studio headphones.
I proceeded to record a quote by Edmund Lee.
Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.
After listening to the recordings of all four microphones, I was pretty astounded. For a start, I’d previously considered the Saramonic to be quite similar in quality to the Rode NTG1, but it turns out that it’s most certainly not – at least, it’s not in an indoor setting where there are walls for sound to bounce off. Outdoors, they do sound fairly close.
One of the things I mention in the video, was that these recordings were made in a room that isn’t acoustically ideal. There is no real sound treating, and there’s a PC humming away in the background. This choice of location was partly practical (it’s where I record my videos) and partly to serve as a test in a typical room environment where some microphones struggle.
For the last 10 years or so, the Sennheiser K6/ME66 has been my primary microphone. It’s a fantastic microphone that delivers good quality and accurate sound. When I bought mine they were still selling for around $1500 equivalent here in the UK, but you can pick them up now for around $460 if you shop around – still significantly more expensive than the Deity S-Mic 2.
I use the K6 a lot for recording effects and environment noises, but when it comes to voices I find it to be a little “hollow”. I often have to do quite a bit of EQ and processing to the voice to get it sounding just the way I like. It’s a process I’ve become used to, but it’s one I don’t enjoy. It’s a time sink and something I’d rather not have to deal with if I don’t have to.
Listening back, to the S-Mic 2 recording it almost sounds like the Sennheiser after I run it through the usual EQ and processing. Except, it did it straight out of the microphone with no processing at all. Could this eliminate some of my audio post-processing time? I recorded a little bit more and listened again. It just sounded so much fuller and richer than a straight clean recording out of the Sennheiser.
Instantly the S-Mic 2 has won me over. If it can get the sound straight out of the microphone this close to my final desired result and be able to spend less time spent in post waiting for Audition to process files, then I’m all for that.
Both the K6/ME66 and the S-Mic 2 did a great job of isolating my voice from the sound reflecting off the walls and the PC behind me. While I didn’t apply any processing at all in the video above, a little noise reduction can easily take care of that PC hum without any noticeable detriment to the voice being recorded.
The noise generated by the S-Mic 2 microphone itself was very low. Even ramping my headphone volume up to max, any audible hiss was very minimal and easily taken care of with a subtle noise reduction that didn’t affect the voice one bit (again, I didn’t do any kind of noise reduction in the video above).
One thing that also really surprised me about the sound coming out of the S-Mic 2 was how loud it was. It was easily on par with the Sennheiser K6, which puts out a rather strong signal, and is significantly louder than the Rode NTG1 and Saramonic microphones.
With as good as this microphone sounds going through my setup at home, I can’t see myself taking it out on location all that much. It’s just a bit of a faff to keep unplugging and packing it whenever I want to go out when I’ve got the K6. But I did want to test the windshields all the same.
With the foam windshield on, the sound was basically identical to not having a windshield on at all. As, when I use it here at home, I’m not talking directly into the microphone, I won’t be using it at all, but it could be very useful for booming on location to help get rid of any slight breeze that might be in the room as well as help a little with your subject’s plosives.
The deadcat isn’t like the ones I’ve used in the past. The Rode WS6, for example, is its own self-contained unit with a perfectly sized hole for your microphone to slip into. The way the Deity deadcat works is that you put your microphone inside the foam windshield, and then the deadcat slips on over the top of that.
This really seemed to dull the sound down quite a bit. Far more than I expected it to, and far more than the Rode WS6 does with my Sennheiser K6. This doesn’t mean it’s useless, though, just that you might require a little more post work to bring back some of those attenuated frequencies.
Well, there are two things that jump out at me. The first is the lack of a low cut filter switch. This is on both the Sennheiser K6 as well as the Rode NTG1 and I do typically have these turned on, especially when on location, to help get rid of some of the rumble noise from things like passing vehicles, the refrigerator in the next room and other vibrations.
That being said, in the environment I’ll be using it, that’s not much of an issue. I record in the corner room of a house that is not connected to any other. Most devices that can cause any kind of rumble or vibration are on the opposite side of the house and aren’t picked up. Vehicles rarely come by outside the room, and when they do, a little rumble is usually the least of my audio worries.
This may or may not be a problem for you. It will definitely be a problem for some people, but that’s something for you to decide.
The other problem… Well, I say problem, it’s not really. It’s more of a personal thing. The Sennheiser K6 contains a battery slot for a single AA battery. It uses this when you either don’t want to use phantom power or your recording device simply doesn’t offer it. The sound quality isn’t quite as good as when you are using phantom power, but it’s very handy if you’re using a recorder that chugs through batteries – like my Tascam DR-100.
My Rode NTG1 doesn’t have a battery slot, but the Rode NTG2 does – this is basically the only difference between the NTG1 and NGT2. Not having the battery slot isn’t a deal breaker, but it would be nice to have for those times when you want to conserve recorder battery power out in the middle of nowhere.
- A very good price for what you get
- A good strong output signal
- Very low self-noise
- A nice rich sound right out of the microphone that requires little post work (at least for my own needs)
- That tough durable foam-lined case
- The pistol grip is very comfortable and lightweight
- The deadcat affects the sound far more than I expected it to
- There’s no low-cut filter to help eliminate rumble
- I wish it had an AA battery socket
I feel that there probably needs to be a part 2 for this review at some point. My tests so far have all been indoors. This is mostly due to the fact that the weather in Scotland is pretty awful right now. I do have some outdoor adventures planned in the coming weeks, though, as the rain moves aside to make way for snow. So, I will be sure to take this with me and do some location tests, too.
For now, though, I can tell you what I think of using the Deity S-Mic 2 indoors. And I think you already know that my impression is a positive one – especially if you actually watched the video at the top of this post.
The Sennheiser K6/ME66 was previously the only microphone I used for recording at home. But as soon as I heard the recordings from the S-Mic 2, the Sennheiser was replaced. For my space here, which isn’t too echoey, despite not really being treated for sound at all, it’s pretty close to perfect.
I even used it during a 4-hour live stream recently, with zero audio processing, while I built up my new 3D printer. All of the feedback I received during the stream about the sound (because I did tell them I was testing out a new microphone) was positive. It was clear the whole way through, nobody even mentioned the PC humming away because they couldn’t hear it. And even after turning on the 3D printer, people could still hear me fine over the sound of its obnoxiously loud cooling fans.
The S-Mic 2 is often put in a similar class to fairly high end shotgun microphones like the Sennheiser MKH416 and Rode NTG3 but at a much lower price point. Now that I’ve used and heard the S-Mic 2 for myself, I think that’s a pretty honest comparison.
For this kind of money (around $360), I’ve never heard a better shotgun microphone. You have to pay significantly more, in my experience, to get anything close to the quality of the S-Mic 2.
The Deity S-Mic 2 is available to buy now for $359 or you can go for the location kit which includes the pistol grip and deadcat and is available now for $429. Deity has also recently released their new V-Mic D3 and V-Mic D3 Pro on-camera microphones.