Gear Reviews

Sennheiser MD445 & MD435 review: “a real revelation”

After recently previewing Sennheiser’s new MD 445 & 435, how will they stack up in a real listening test against an array of fellow dynamic mics and a few classic condensers?

Giant strides have been made in dynamic microphone technology in the past few years to the point where we now have a host of new technologies in diaphragm design to capsule mounting systems.

Sennheiser has had a long and illustrious history in dynamic microphone design from the hugely popular multipurpose MD 451 (which still graces drum kits on stages and studios around the world) to the unusually-shaped MD 441 vocal mic - a lesser known, but highly respected mic of its time.

And it’s quite uplifting to be reviewing new, high end dynamic microphones aimed predominantly at the live music sector in these unprecedented times So let’s get stuck in.

First, we have the MD 435 - a wired derivative of Sennheiser’s excellent large diaphragm cardioid MD 9235 radio capsule, which has been favoured by the likes of P!nk, Ed Sheeran, Adele, and Kendrick Lamar amongst others.

Until now, this capsule was only available on a radio body in Sennheiser’s 6000 or 9000 Series products, so it’s good that Sennheiser has responded to calls from engineers and artists alike to give them the capsule they love in a wired handheld.

I find it hard to judge the quality of my own voice at the same time as I’m speaking. Luckily for all concerned, I can’t sing, and have long since given up on the outside chance that practice will ever make perfect. 

So, as I have a bit of a mic collection, including a selection of dynamics and condensers from a number of manufacturers, I thought I might do a spot of speech recording and then compare just how the MD 435 and 445 stack up.

So to complement this test and make it a viable comparison, I introduced a rather loud background noise: Nickelback on repeat play, to a level where talking would get lost if you were a couple of feet away and you’d probably be asking, “Turn that down please, I can’t hear what you’re saying” (or words to that effect).

Setting up the recording, I also put a 1 kHz tone at a fixed level, into a monitor. I stuck the mics one inch in front, one at a time, so I could match the gains as closely as possible.

As expected, all the condensers are significantly hotter than the dynamics, so using the input channel’s metre to gain-match them as closely as possible is the only way to make a justifiable comparison of such a different range of microphones.

It’s a real revelation to hear a dynamic with increased benefits in off-axis and feedback rejection but with detail and quality approaching that of a large diaphragm condenser.

However, despite their differences, it’s worth remembering they are all designed for exactly the same job: picking up a vocal on a stage.

To be objective, we must consider the overall sound quality in a very subjective way. I have, over the last few years, used condensers from the likes of Audio-Technica, Shure, and DPA, because they sound good and are far more forgiving than dynamics when it comes to mic technique.

Of course those microphones have issues when it comes to the amount of off axis or ambient sound they will pick up, but I always felt the trade off was worth it.

It’s not surprising then that while condensers try to be a little more like dynamics, we find dynamics trying to achieve the detail and transparency of condensers.

So, I listened to all of the vocals I’d recorded, using the metres again I tried to level off as best I could the loudest sections containing vocal passages until they were all as equal as I could get them.

Then having recorded 30 seconds of extra with just the ambient ‘Nickelback-ground’, I graded them from quietest to loudest and checked to see where our test subjects fared. Or to put it another way, best off-axis rejection to worst.

The MD 445 had noticeably the quietest background level on the recording due in part to there being no transients sitting up and no real background bass information to speak of. What was even more noticeable was how good and in your face the vocal passages were - almost like they had been recorded in a studio environment on a large diaphragm condenser.

The proximity effect is evident, but it’s really very good at keeping plosives to a minimum. The MD 445 also has a surprisingly deep sweet spot, but it’s controlled - and although it maintains clarity and detail from all angles around the capsule when you’re close to it, it quickly dies if you move off to the side by a few inches.

The MD 435 was next - but with an even larger sweet spot and less proximity effect. Depending on how rich and up front you like your vocal, this could be either a positive or a negative. I really liked these mics and can’t wait to use them on real singers.

First impressions of both microphones are of impressive build quality and very sturdy solid construction, which is something that Sennheiser is noted for. 

The MD 445 has a shorter pop shield than the MD 435, this is presumably to complement the tighter super-cardioid polar pattern, and could also be what gives it that incredible ‘in your face’ sound; and I’m really impressed with the extra pop shields which are included as part of your purchase package.

It’s a real encouragement to look after and regularly clean your pop shield and housing.

The rejection of exterior noise is quite astounding on these mics. I mean, the music in the background is evident on all recordings on these test tracks, but in comparison to the other dynamics and most definitely the condensers - it really was night and day.

The level of background sound is noticeably lower with the MD 435, and possibly even lower with the MD 445. 

It’s a real revelation to hear a dynamic with increased benefits in off-axis and feedback rejection but with detail and quality approaching that of a large diaphragm condenser. 

There was another dynamic which came close to the 435 in terms of sound quality, but without the off-axis rejection.