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Sennheiser MKH 800, October 2002

Nearly a decade ago, Sennheiser introduced the MKH 80—a condenser mic combining the successful RF technology of earlier models in the MKH line with a

Nearly a decade ago, Sennheiser introduced the MKH 80—a
condenser mic combining the successful RF technology of earlier models
in the MKH line with a medium-diameter-diaphragm, multipattern capsule
in a side-address package. The MKH 80 soon caught on with an
appreciative audience of classical recordists and audiophile

Earlier this year, Sennheiser followed up with the MKH 800, a model
with a similar feature set but improved noise performance, greater SPL
handling (now at 142 dB) and more than double the
bandwidth—beyond 50 kHz. It looks like just the ticket for
96kHz/24-bit media such as DVD-Audio.

Housed in a light-colored, anodized 7-inch-long, 1-inch diameter
cylindrical housing, the MKH 800 holds few operational surprises, with
four rotary switches for setting: the five
polar patterns
/wide cardioid); attenuation (0/-6/-12 dB); HF emphasis boost (0/+3/+6 dB at 10 kHz); and
highpass filter (0/-3/-6 dB at 50 Hz). A bright LED indicates the
presence of 48 VDC
phantom power
and marks the front side of the
capsule. The MKH 800 retails at $2,995 and now includes a flight case,
foam windscreen and MZS80 shockmount. The latter is brilliantly
designed and not only effectively isolates external vibrations, but
incorporates a double-swivel mount allowing accurate mic placement in
any position or angle. Besides tight spots like crowded drum kits, it’s
perfectly suited for MS miking or other near-coincident

Despite the MKH 800’s extended bandwidth, this is one mic that does
not come off as excessively bright sounding. Don’t get me wrong: In all
patterns, the HF performance is certainly not dull, and the mic does an
exemplary job of imparting a smooth airiness to upper frequencies,
especially on harmonic-rich sources such as hammer dulcimer, grand
piano and orchestral bells. Interestingly, the three cardioid-variant
patterns are nearly ruler-flat to 20 kHz, while the omni pattern shows
more HF color in the 10kHz-and-higher bands than the
cardioids—the opposite of what I expected.

With its 142dB SPL handling, the MKH 800 was a natural on drums
(it’s a killer—if somewhat pricey—snare mic), hi-hat and
overheads, as well as horn ensembles (sax and trumpet).

Another surprise came from the mic’s ability to capture an
incredible amount of detail, even at distances of ten feet and more.
This can, however, be a double-edged sword—while the mic will
capture every performance nuance, it also faithfully documents flaws
such as chart turns, fret noise and air handling rumble with
frightening realism. Don’t blame the mic—it’s just capturing what
lesser mics may have left out. However, if you have the ears and great
players are willing to spend a little time placing music stand towels
and tightening that squeaky piano bench, you will find the MKH 800 an
awesome performer.