Youtubers, wedding video shooters, broadcast sound men/women and filmmakers: they all want to record sound with the best possible results. But practicalities such as pricing often stand in the way of reaching this lofty goal. Yet, equipment that exceeds the basic technical requirements – essential to even think about reaching it – is what you’ll need. A microphone is the first and one of the most important links in the chain from the sound you capture to the audio the viewer/listener gets out of their speakers. The results depend on the whole chain, but if you start with a tin can sound because of a low-end mic, you’ll never get to the full and rich sound you’re after.
Professional-grade microphones are quite expensive. For example, a Sennheiser MKH-416 costs something like €1,000 while the Deity S-Mic 2 I’m covering here costs about a mere €360. That’s almost three times cheaper. Does that mean it records three times more rubbish sounding audio? Well, the Deity S-Mic 2 seems to be the exception that proves the rule.
For starters, the S-Mic 2 is a shotgun microphone made of brass, which makes it pretty much interference free. The 250mm barrel weighs a solid-feeling 198g, which is just light enough for holding it up for longer periods of time when it’s mounted on a boom pole. The microphone features a gold-coated PCB (printed circuit board). This PCB is specially treated to repel moisture. This coating also allows the microphone to be used in the rain without being damaged.
There’s more attention to detail. For example, the mic’s body has been sprayed with a black speckle paint that makes it less reflective on the set.
It comes in a waterproof hard case with a basic shock mount and a foam and is available for a small premium with a Rycote InVision Softie Lyre Mount and a Deity windjammer as well.
Of course, the looks and the materials used are only the beginning. The inside is more important to the sound you will get out of this microphone.
On paper, the mic has a frequency range of 50-20,000 Hz and an extremely low self-noise of 12dB(A) at 130dB maximum SPL. I ran a test that’s far from scientific but which gives an idea of where this microphone sits when compared to others from different types of microphones. You can download the graphic I made out of the screenshots here.
You’ll see that it performs really well, especially compared to the MEMS reference microphone. Sine sweeps are one thing, but the proof of the pudding is in the listening to real-world recordings.
I started with recording my voice inside my office with the S-Mic 2 suspended 40cm above my head on a sound-insulated Dinkum clamp. This room is not sound-treated in any way. It’s slightly reverberant and there’s noise coming in from outside and from other rooms.
My first experiences were of the kind that you spontaneously start smiling if you’re in this industry. First off: the low self-noise figure is no marketing trick. This microphone by and from itself is very, very quiet. Secondly, the S-Mic 2 proved to capture my voice in a very nicely balanced way, with all of the lows that I know my voice generates from a radio test at the Belgian public broadcasting service well over 20 years ago.
The listening test – I read out loud a piece of prose in the mic overhead at a 40cm distance – further revealed a high consonant articulation and feedback rejection.
I then tested the S-Mic 2 in a more noisy environment. At a 600m distance from a motorway, with me facing away from traffic and speaking in the mic at belly height facing upwards, the background noise was audible but my voice was easily filtered out in post. In this environment, I also performed the off-axis experiment. On-axis, the sound level was between -14dB and -18dB.
At 90 degrees, the S-Mic 2 performed a very decent noise rejection – I measured between -44dB and -75dB with the highest sound still coming through at -44dB between 228Hz and 493Hz. At this position, what was left of the traffic noise and my voice signal sounded rather hollow. At 180 degrees the rejection sounded less outspoken – much to my surprise – but the spectrum analyser showed there was a -70dB signal at 2220Hz with the least rejected frequency 204Hz at a level of -43dB. In short, it is all very comfortably manageable in post.
I’ve now spent about half a week of almost continuous trying out different usage patterns, different locations, etc, with the Deity S-Mic 2, and I am increasingly pleased with the microphone’s performance. It not only has professional specs but also sounds great.
Its closest competitor seems to be the Sennheiser MKH-416, which is almost three times more expensive. From my own comparisons, I know it will produce professional results. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it, even if you don’t have the financial resources of a public broadcasting or multinational media business.