Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mic Week - Part 8: Sennheiser 421

Click for all Mic Week posts.
The theme for this round of Mic Week is mics that are a little more expensive than the entry level stuff we covered at first and specifically ones that will do double duty on stage and in the studio. Today we bring you the formidable Sennheiser 421.

First off let's address the clip. Whether you have the old version or the new, the clip just sucks. Try not to look directly at the mic when using it or it's likely to fall on the floor. Even the "new and improved" clip on newer models has a tendency to just let go. For that reason this mic is easily one of the most durable in the industry. Only an SM58 could fall on the floor so many thousands of times and still function flawlessly.

On to the nitty gritty. Looking at it you might be a little confused about which way to point it. Because the grille is set up sort of like what you would see on a side address condenser mic you might think that you would sing or play into the side of it. Don't let that band of metal across the end of it fool you, that's the part you point at the sound.

Apart from the slightly confusing construction there's one other thing to know about before you set off to use one of these. There's a switch on the bottom that's mysteriously labeled "M" and "S" with a few clicks in between. There are a number of jokes floating around about just what those letters stand for. Our German friend Eike helped me come up with a few more if you want to tease people. My personal favorites are männlich and sopran which in English mean "manly" and "soprano". I also like militär and sendung for "millitary" or "broadcast" use. The real meaning is "music" or "speech" though and it's simply a five position bass roll off switch.

As for uses there's really no limit. New version or old you can pretty much put them on anything. They're a perennial favorite for tom mics and sound wonderful on guitar cabs. I've had nights where a female jazz singer sounded lovely through one. There's even a trick for using one aimed at the open lid of a grand piano. In a way this mic is sort of the big brother to the SM57 which isn't a great mic for anything but a pretty good mic for nearly everything. This one is really pretty good on just about anything and if you take care with your placement you can get excellent results on a multitude of sources.


  1. It was good of you to note that it looks like a side address condenser, but the tip should be pointed at the source. It is also important to note that this is a dynamic mic, and does not require phantom power.

    1. Good catch B. Speaking of good catches. I think I'm going to try and make my millions by patenting a safety cable for 421s.

    2. Brilliant! Need a mechanical engineer? Hahaha

  2. We've heard this on kick drum many more times than we'd guess.
    Definitely a fave of mine. Always room for "Hey let's try a 421!"

  3. Many sounds? Is that Rick Birmingham? I'm so glad you're reading this blog.

  4. Holy cow! Readers who comment? Who know each other? The heavens smile on SNR today!

  5. I almost mentioned the 421 for kick too - it's the long lost kick mic! They were a standard before the arrival of the Beta52 and D6 and (insert specialty kick mic here)....


You're the Scotty to our Kirk