MKH 50 or MK41? Beef or Chicken?
If you're trying to decide beef or chicken for your wedding, sorry, this is not the place, I have no insight for you. I lied! I lied!!!! In fact, beef and chicken are poor representations of the Sennheiser MKH 50 and the Schoeps MK41. I apologize to everyone. It's always a good sign when the header includes an apology...
Anyways, this is the battle of them all right now, it seems. Arguably, the two best and most popular hypercardioid microphones for use with dialogue on a boom pole, or a pistol grip or heck, I don't care what you do with it, frankly, it's none of my business. I personally love to use hypers for indoor talking heads, or working with improvisation; they are great microphones to use when you're sure you can get them within about 2 feet of the speaker's mouths if not closer. I won't lie, I do get pretty excited when camera gives me 10 inches. No one seems to know which mic to go with, the Sennheiser MKH 50 or the Schoeps MK41. I know plenty of people have gone with the Schoeps because, well ... it's a Schoeps, and Schoeps is Schoeps, because well... they're Schoeps. Still with me? No? Good.
The MK41 may have also won some sales due to it's small size and it's convenient swivel mount. I'll say this now, the MK41 with the CMC6 powering module costs a good chunk more than the Sennheiser MKH 50, another very popular hypercardioid microphone, in case you've never heard of it and skipped my first two terrible paragraphs. So a few of us sound nerds (Michael Moote and Allistair Johnson) got together and A/B'd the two microphones for our own secretive pleasure. The end. No podcast, no video. That is all. Good bye... Until 6 months later, I gave in. You're welcome. Below are a few of those tests. Give them a listen, see what you think, keep reading for my own opinion and experiences or don't, again, I really don't care what you do; you clicked on this page and I have already won :)
WARNING!: This will be the darkest microphone test you'll ever listen to. Sorry for the content, don't think about it all night.
It was our general consensus that despite the two microphones sounding extremely similar and great at that, that the MKH 50 was a bit more bassy, had slightly longer reach and we felt the Schoeps MK41 may have had a slightly wider pickup. Below is a comparison of the two with a TV on in the background to see how the mics dealt with background sound, particularly voices.
Again, it was tough to tell the difference, but if anything, it seemed to us as though perhaps the MK 41 had better isolation of the intended sound source but slightly more coloration of off axis sounds, however, that's really for anyone to decide; it's so close. For kicks and giggles, we also decided to compare these two mics to the Sennheiser MKH 60 to see how they'd mix with it and compare to a supercardioid. With all this political talk going on, I've ran out of opinions on things in general. So you're on your own for this one.
After performing these tests, fellow Mixer Allistair Johnson who was present with us, albeit watching Breaking Bad, decided to purchase a Sennheiser MKH 50. My stubborn keister waited maybe 4 months to add a hypercardioid to my kit but I also went with the MKH 50. Oh, look, one more opinion popped up: I find the Sennheiser MKH 50 to be THE go-to interview mic. It's great for those indoor sit-down interviews, good for b-roll ambience in or outdoors and great for tighter shots for narrative. Compared to the more direct Sennheiser MKH 416 and the Neumann kmr81i, the 50 seems to noticeably reject background sound more when placed as close as 10 inches from the mouth (standard talking head frame). I've used the 50 on 2 person interviews and in a quiet environment, it sounds ok. I would have preferred something a bit wider so I could place it closer to their mouths while staying on axis though. I also used it in a 2 person interview in the middle of a live loud restaurant and understandably, it was not a great mic for that situation (unexpected change of locations) but it did still make the voice sound good in the lively restaurant.
I used the Schoeps CMC441 recently on a documentary shoot and I really felt the 41 had less range than what I'm used to with the 50, but once in there, it does sound sweet. Also, for your reference, when purchasing a powering module for the MK 41, the CMC6 is the newer module and has improved greatly upon the CMC4 which I did experience quite a bit of RFI from it on my documentary shoot. Schoeps claims the CMC6 is stronger against interference with its "low impedance and balanced form".
BONUS BATTLE! Before we played with the MK41, we had a Wild Card round with the 50 against the less popular, more affordable Neumann KM185. You'll notice the differences between the mics more in this test than you did between the 50 and 41.
The 185 didn't sound too bad when about 1 foot from the mouths, but once we moved the mics away, it became very clear that the MKH 50 had noticeably more range making the 185 a potentially difficult mic to use in narrative or documentary; really anything but talking heads. The 50 sounded more bassy and sexier to me as the 185 sounded more natural but a bit tinny. Mr. Moote claimed it made his voice sound "nasaly" but that could just be a poor man's excuse for a nasally voice :)
I used the 185 on a shoot when I was doing some b-roll ambience and it was fine for that; it had a wide pickup pattern, sounded natural and had very little off axis coloration. However, I felt that the MKH 50 would mix better with my Neumann kmr81i than the Neumann km185 would. I have the recordings of an A/B/C comparison of the 50, 416 and Neumann kmr81i, perhaps I'll share them one day but for now, you'll have to take my word for it. If these tests don't satisfy you and you think I'm full of crap, this site has some other great samples of these mics and others as well: www.keystone.net courtesy of Dan Brockett.
Also, to answer the other deep question half of you have; Beef, all the way, go with Beef. Some of my hungry friends and I recorded a video of us eating beef and chicken but our fat fingers couldn't seem to press the stop button and the tape rolled out or something technical. Enjoy.