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Review of the Sennheiser MD421-II


A Rather Strange Day in TweakLand

by Tweak

Appearances are deceiving sometimes.  Tweak presses a button on Tweakland's Magic Console and a glass display case of microphones rises out of the floor.  Tweak says, "think of the microphone as a marriage".  Yes.  As something you want to spend the rest of your life with.  "Choose carefully".  Newb thinks back to high school and his failed attempts to ensconce (i.e., attract) the Class Hottie, also known as Ms Purrfect.  "If I only had a decent mic when I sent her that demo..."





Wake up.  You are handed a rather long cardboard box marked Sennheiser.  You open it and the black plastic case slides out.  "Mmm. Plastic?" Already a shade of disappointment.  Oh well.  You spin it around.  Not only a plastic case, but plastic hinges on the plastic case, the kind that might break off rather easily.  Noob starts to grumble. 

Newb carefully opens the case hoping not to break the hinge and be forced to buy it.  There it is, the 421 lying there, completely jet black (not silver, like it looked in the ad) and ugh, its body is all plastic and lightweight at that.  If you were the type of person that relied only on appearances you'd smile at the MD421 and say "maybe we can be penpals".  Marriage?  to that! C'mon now.

Tweak intervenes:  "Just check it out dude, here, lets do a little song".   In the space of 0:00:43 in SMPTE time Tweak has it rigged to his new RNP preamp, has Logic in record ready mode and sticks the MD, oh, OK, lets just call it the Mad Dog, in Newb's face. 

"Go ahead, dude, shout at it!  Tell it how you really feel!"  (Tweak quickly pops in his always ready ear-plugs and nods, while he starts up Logic.  Suddenly newb screams out years of pent up aggressions over not getting a date with missus so and so, we'll call her Ms. Perfect, in high school. 


Lyric Sheet

"Why I didn't Marry Ms Purrfect"

by Noobly S. Noob


How could you do this to ME you BEEEAAATTTCCCHHH.

You said you wouldn't go out wid ME you WIIIIITTTTCCCHHH

I DON'T think my hands will every stop this TWWWIIITTTCCHHH!


you wouldn't go out wid ME

you wouldn't go out wid ME AGAIN

How could you do this to ME

How could you do this to ME AGAIN



Tweak presses stop.  "Now didn't that feel good?"  Looks like we got an Emo tune. Now lets bash the heck out of it. 

Tweak pushes a button an a lone beat up floor tom rises out of the floor on cue.  "OK, I'll hold the Mic and you give the tom a good 'ol whacking.  Noob starts the drum solo to ina-godda-davida, but with such unrestrained passion it quickly denigrates into ape-like thrashing till he is out of breath.  "ALRIGHT ALRIGHT, track 2 is done".  Now slap this on.  Tweak hands noob an out-of-tune single coil electric guitar and plugs it into his V-Amp and out the V-amp into a monster Marshall stack.  MD421 is bone to the cone, let it rip O Noble Noobly One!  The out-of- tune, position one C chord is enough to make our teeth fillings drop out like hail in a hailstorm.




"Alright, now we need some feedback!" shouts noob and he lunges at the bass cone of Tweak's HR 824 with the MD421, expecting the monstrous roar of the Mackie's feedback to suck the air out of the room.  But nothing happens.  "Heh-heh" says Tweak, "you got to get really close for that!" This is a dynamic, not a condenser. 

"Dynamite?  Condensed?  I want dynamite!"  shouts  the sweaty noob, who is now temporarily half deaf from his audio carnage.  "No, no, no", Tweak whispers "shh, now go back and read the Mic page in the guide".  See, with a dynamic mic in the cardioid pattern, like the MD421, you have to get pretty close to the source.  It doesn't pick up the whole room, just what you point it at, and it drops off fast as you move away.  That's why drummers like the MD421, because they can not only take a loud thwack but they reject sounds from the nearby drums.  Better isolation.  Dig? 

This Sennheiser microphone is a low-impedance (200 ohms) balanced output unit terminating in a standard 3-pin XLR-type connector. It features rugged professional construction and a 5-position bass roll-off switch.

Sennheiser MD421II Dynamic Cardioid Microphone

Now lets go back and listen to the vocal we just did.  Hear how nice those screams came out, with that sheen on top?  And check out the 5 position bass roll off.  This lets you tailor the mic to your voice.  You can dial in the amount of bass you want to pass.  Guys doing voiceover and radio work like that feature cause they can control how their voice fits in the mix at the source. 

"Hey I didn't know my voice sounded that good, Tweak!  Its got some kind of cool crispness" 

"Well actually, Mr. Noob, you don't sound that good in real life, sorry to say.  Your voice is rather un-interesting by itself, but don't worry, most of our voices are rather drab.  See, the MD421 has almost a full 10db rise in presence from around 1.1 kHz to 10 kHz.  That is going to enhance the crispness of you voice.  And when you dial out the bass with the rolloff you can get real close to the mic to the point where your lips are kissing the Sennheiser logo in front of the mic.  I'll let you kiss it but you'll have to promise to marry it first.  Whaddya say o Noob?"

"Well it sure would make an ugly mate" newb brightens, 'but I'll bet my buds at the studio won't always be trying to bag it and it will never leave me"  And I could never scream at Ms. Purrfect like that. 


Note the frequency readout of the MD421


OK, Really Now

Lets get serious.  You can with this mic.  My first test run with the mic left me quite pleased.  I tried nylon acoustic guitar and really liked the tone on chords and solo.  Lots of hi frequencies came through cleanly.  No surprise, this dynamic is rated to go as high as 17kHz (compared to 16 kHz on the immortal SM57).  While specs don't mean a whole lot, in this case, the ear verifies it.  For vocals I found the mic a strong performer.  I liked adding a little compression while recording.  It made the mic seem to "grab" notes out of the air like a magnet, even if i was 16" away.  The directionality seemed tight. 

I deliberately ran the TV in the living room, turned on an air filter in the room, recorded 2 feet away from the aquarium-like hum of my G5, and even with the monitors on at a low level to see how much bleed there would be on tracks.  When I recorded with compression, there was some.  But without the compressor on very little environmental noise ended up in the recording. 

It did well with an ensemble of hand drums.  I probably will continue to use condenser mics on the delicate stuff like chimes and bells.  But I was pleased with the way the MD421 handled the dynamic drums that can get loud and soft.

Summing it all

Ok, I had a little fun with this review but i hope it brought forth the goods, albeit in a strange way.  The MD421 is a strong mic able to take a lot of punishment.  Things you would never do with a condenser are fair game here.  For my studio, I will call it "The Mad Dog" for these characteristics.  Only had it a few days and we are still on the honeymoon, but i think this marriage will work better than my previous ones. 

Three years later...

The MD421 is now one of my favorites.  I have found it useful on many things.  When i am using my multitrack recorder in the living room to sketch out ideas, its the only Mic I take with me.  It can do my acoustic guitars, amps, anything i bash resembling a drum, and of course my voice.  I also keep my MD421 connected to my V-synth GT so its sampler is always ready.  I use it because its a durable mic than can handle being dropped, has low handling noise, and I can kill the bass before the sample.  Would I buy one again?  You bet.  Its a classic mic and its going to last me forever.  Think Long-Term with mics and only get the classics--that is a strategy that can't lose.


Rich The Tweak

Revised slightly, Feb 2010


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