MBHO MBNM 440-CLS, April 2004

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The MBNM 440-CLS ($439/pair) from German mic-maker MBHO is a
small-diaphragm cardioidcondenser based on its MBNM 440-CL. The updated
version adds a switchable -10dB pad and a -6dB/octave highpass filter at 250 Hz. These are recessed to
prevent accidental switching. Like the 440-CL, the 440-CLS has a
heavy-duty feel, with a brass, matte-black body, gold-plated XLR pins and a fine-mesh screen protecting the
diaphragm. Specs are similar, with a 40-20k Hz response, 14dBA
self-noise and 126dB SPL handling. At 3.75x0.8 inches, the MBNM 440-CLS
is perfect for discrete instrumental spot-miking. Field and concert
recordists will be happy to know that it accepts phantom power between 22 and 48 volts.

The review units arrived as a matched pair with consecutive serial
numbers and sounded well-matched. The company intends for the mics to
be used on acoustic instruments and choirs, as well as drum overheads
and percussion. As I planned to record a local theater company
rehearsing and performing an operetta, I jumped at the chance to put
these to the test. Due to space limitations, I used a Spartan system,
going direct to disk using an Apogee Mini-Me preamp connected to my Mac
PowerBook via USB.

The highly directional mics had positive aspects, but were less
desirable in some situations. An X/Y coincident pair pointed at the
front of the stage provided a nice representation of the stereo space.
On playback, it was easy to hear where the singers and instrumentalists
were positioned. The mics have a slight HF presence boost, which in
this setting helped maintain intelligibility of the vocal parts. The
mics’ directionality, however, downplayed the room sound, giving
the recordings a somewhat 2-D feel. Nonetheless, the mics’ good
transient response helped make these recordings sparkle. The two MBNM
440-CLSs captured lower frequencies in a reserved, polite manner,
although I wouldn’t characterize them as sounding thin.

In the studio using an FMR Audio RNP8380 preamp, the MBNM 440-CLS
worked well on snare drum, emphasizing stick attack over shell tone. It
was even better on rack toms, where directionality helped isolate the
drums from surrounding cymbals. On dumbek and other hand drums,
fingersnaps on the heads and the tone of the shells were nicely
captured. As stereo drum overheads, the mics tended to emphasize the
sizzle in the cymbals, which overshadowed the drums’ midrange
tone. Consequently, exact placement was crucial to get a good balance
between the two (though I still added some LF EQ at mixdown). Once
placed, the mics offered good directionality and an up-front quality
that, again, minimized the room sound. The MBNM 440-CLS was especially
nice on acoustic guitar, where its transient response and clarity
balanced the strings’ complex harmonics with the upper-midrange
sound of the body. In addition, the mic’s understated low end was
helpful when it came time to place the instrument into a mix.

MBHO, www.mbho.de