I own a pair of Sennheiser MKH8040’s and though they are stunning sounding mics, they do have an irritating fault and that is that they add a huge bed of noise to the ultrasonic frequency range. This becomes annoying, or even a problem when pitching down my recordings – something I do a lot when designing sounds.
Enter the pair of Schoeps CCM 4’s, which are a direct competitor for size and quality to the 8040’s. I’d rented these for a weekend in Summer 2014 to try and see for myself what the fuss is all about, as Schoeps mics have an almost mythical air to them, supposedly sounding like angels pissing in your ears if you are to believe the halleluja-ing Schoeps owners on internet forums. Whether this is due to simply them needing to justify the astronomical cost of these mics or if there’s really something special about them was what I was curious to find out.
This recording of waves calmly lapsing onto the pebbled shore of Seaford was made while standing in the water, mics mounted on a boom pointed forwards and angled downwards, thus creating a pretty wide and enveloping sound. I have to admit that Soundcloud’s compression algorithm doesn’t handle this sort of material so well, there’s clearly some audible artefacts that are not present in the original uncompressed file. All in all though, this is sounding lovely if you ask me, there’s a silky smoothness to the mid range and the high end detail is nice as well.
This here is the mics planted in the middle of a corn field. It was a warm and mildly breezy summer afternoon. Again Soundcloud’s dreaded compression algorithm doesn’t do the original content justice, with the top end material being mangled somewhat and natural hiss of wind sounding like digital ugliness. Nevertheless, just believe me when I say that the original recording once again shows off some creamy sounding mid-range and top end. Also, the Schoeps’ represent bass in a pretty natural way, in particular in comparison to the Sennheiser 8040’s which can be somewhat overly enthusiastic in their bass response sometimes.
I also dropped the mics on the edge of a cliff (they were insured by the rental company, right?) to record a colony of kittiwake gulls that were nesting there. Their hooting and tooting was quite amusing. Kittiwakes are Britain’s only true seagulls, as they do actually live their lives on the sea most of the year, only to come to the shore for breeding. Or so the kindly elderly man who was bemused by “what I was filming” told me. They’re also the only gull species that are exclusively cliff-nesting, according to Wikipedia.
So, am I buying myself a pair of Schoeps CCM4’s to replace the Sennheiser 8040’s? The short answer is: no, at least not yet. These are great sounding mics though, there’s a certain colouration to them which is very pleasant – in particular the mid range is buttery and kind of ‘pops’ at you. I found as well that pretty much no post processing such as EQ was required with these microphones, where comparatively the MKH8040s tend to be a little too bassy at times, as mentioned earlier.
Nevertheless, the cost of a pair of these is prohibitive, and therefore for now I’m going to stick with what I already have. Schoeps are also rumoured to be not as robust in the field as Sennheiser MKH, with supposedly less resistance to humidity and RF interference. How true that is in practice, I don’t know, but I’m not willing to take the risk at this point in time.
Now of course, the CCM4 isn’t specced like the 8040 to range up to 40khz. But seeing how fricking noisy my 8040’s are in that range, there’s not much lost there anyway. And apart from overall sound quality I was also keen to find out how far in the spectrum the Schoeps actually ranged, and thus whether they might be a decent 8040 replacement for high resolution recordings. Somewhat predictably, it turned out that they record up to about 30khz and sound beautifully clean when pitched down – hooray!
For now I’m probably just going to send my Sennheisers in for servicing and see if the ultrasound noise issue can be fixed somehow. If not, then I might reconsider and splash out on a pair of these CCM4’s, so that I then may join the ranks of foam-mouthed Schoeps fanatics, evangelising the Church of Silky Smooth Mid Range Loveliness.