Sennheiser MD21 (1953-onwards ) Fantastic drum overhead. Great on guitar cabs.

Beatles at the Star Club Hamburg 1961.
‘Eh up! lads this sounds better than a Reslo! ‘

Looks boring…. Sounds Great! First appeared in 1953 and is still in production! It was designed to be ‘indestructible in everyday use.’  Bought 2 of these on ebay for £10.00! Also very useful mic with breathy flute players….. being ommni directional  it has no proximity effect and, (originally designed for reporting) is almost impervious to wind noise.

MD21 user Manual from 1970

Here is a great clip of a very youthful Steve Winwood & Spencer Davis Group with MD21 vocal mics.

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16 responses to “Sennheiser MD21 (1953-onwards ) Fantastic drum overhead. Great on guitar cabs.

  1. Wow! I had no idea that people were using an MD 21 for music recordings, let alone that they were still in production. I have an old grey one that came with a matching color ESL table top mic stand. It has no windscreen logo and the serial number tag has MD1 stamped on it. I have no idea what variation this represents or what year it is. Any ideas?

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    • I wrote to Sennheiser a few years ago trying to find out dates of serial numbers. Unfortunately they have no precise records and could only say that the dark grey were the early ones.(1953 onwards) The light coloured ones like mine came in around 1960. The MD1 stamp on yours is not something I have come across. These mics did, however, appear under other badges, such as Grundig and Telefunfen, and so it is possible that another distributor had an MD1 model number. Anyhow, they are very useful mics for a range of tasks. I use mine a great deal.

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      • Paul Speck

        Thanks For The Quick Response! I Did Make An Error In That The Metal Tag Has “MC1” Stamped On It, Along With The Serial Number 00145. I Know That “MD” Translates Into “Microphone Dynamic”, So I Wonder What “MC” Translates Into? (Does It Even Have A Dynamic Capsule?)
        Would You Happen To Know What Year The Transition From A Windscreen Protruding Beyond The Bezel Shroud, To A Recessed Windscreen, Took Place?
        Mine Also Has The Small Tuchel Round Pin Connector, As Opposed To The Large Tuchel Flat Blade Connector, But I Don’t Believe That That Option Was Year Specific.
        Again, Thank You For Your Time!
        P.S.

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      • As far as I know the MD21 was only ever manufactured as an omni dynamic. Robustness was one of the main design principles of this model and so I think it unlikely that any other type of capsule would have been used.
        I am assuming that yours looks like the one pictured here :- http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/wenneboste_md21md_2.html
        This one is an early Labor W version (1953-57) It has no grill badge and is recessed.
        You are right that the connectors are not year specific.
        The tag on yours is a puzzle! Perhaps it was a prototype. I am intrigued……. if I find out anything more I’ll let you know.
        M

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    • I just picked up an MC1 serial 00051 from a music shop for under $100. No one seemed to know what it was, but knew it was some variation on the MD21. This one is pretty worn paint wise, but sounds quite good actually. Has a mini DIN for a connector, that seems to look a little newer than the rest of the mic, and I’m wondering if someone swapped that out replacing the klein tuchel which one of my vintage MD421’s has. Glad to see someone else with the same questions. Did you ever get to the bottom of the “off” model number?

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      • Hi Anthony, This model number still remains a mystery. Perhaps try emailing Sennheiser and see if anyone in the archive department can cast a light on it.
        I’ll let you know if I ever find out anything further. Sounds like the connector might have bee changed. Certainly all the older models I have ever seen have either small or large Tuchel connectors. The newer models have XLRs.
        All the Best
        Martin

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  2. BoneySugarFingersJackson

    Hi,
    I own two of these, which I purchased from a older Audio Engineer a few years ago. I haven’t had the time of day to use them yet, apart from an experimental recording where I used them as O/H’s/Room mics two years ago. I am looking to use the both for toms and/or overheads for a recording in a few weeks.

    Would they be ok to use for these purposes? I appreciate any help/advice anyone can give me.

    Thank you,
    J.A

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    • Hi J,
      The MD21s are omnidirectional and work very well as overheads. They have excellent high end detail (flat up to 18Khz ) but don’t have the unpleasant edginess sometimes associated with condenser mics. Even one on its own positioned about a metre above the cymbals and focused towards the snare will pick up the whole kit. However, you might find for recording toms that they may pick up too much of everything else. It depends how much separation you want. I guess the best thing is to experiment.
      It also depends on what sort of drum sound you are after on this occasion. I have mostly used the MD21s for recording jazz and classic 50s rock’n’roll as in this example :- https://soundcloud.com/martin-mitchell/2-vintage-recording-1961 (which contains 3 different clips)
      I would also recommend using a good quality microphone pre-amp with them if you have one handy (though you shouldn’t have any trouble getting plenty of level out of them.)
      Let me know how you get on.
      All the Best
      Martin

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      • BoneySugarFingersJackson

        Hi Martin,
        Thanks for the speedy reply. Since posting my last comment I made the executive decision to just have a go at using them as drum O/H’s instead of toms. I noticed that in this post the heading states they are great on guitar cabs. I will be recording some High Gain (Peavey 5150-ish Sound) guitar amplification for the same project, do you think that they will be ok to use for this purpose?
        Will let you know how it all turns out.
        Thanks,
        J

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      • Hi J,
        Should be very good on the Peavey. They will easily handle the high SPL. Also being omnidirectional MD21s don’t suffer from proximity effect, and so they will produce plenty of big fat mid-range without unwanted boomy bass. In this respect I have always preferred MD21s compared to Shure SM57s . However, it is all a matter of taste!
        All the Best
        Martin

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      • BoneySugarFingersJackson

        Hi Martin,
        It has been a while, but I am now nearing completion of the project I am working on. The MD21’s sound great used on a guitar amplifier and great when used as drum O/H’s. I decided a while back that I will not be using the MD21 drum O/H recordings I have for the project, but I will definately be using them in future drum recordings! Thank you very much for all your help and ideas, they have been much appreciated.

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  3. Hi Martin, I have a session coming up in a few days and I’m thinking about trying a three mic Glynn Johns triangle set up for the drums, using two MD21s and one Nady TCM 1050. Do you have any experience with that set up or a similar one and if so can you advise me? In my set up I plan to put the Nady in front of the kit and the MD21s for top and side. Are the MD21s suitable for that purpose? And a related question: have you ever used them to record snare top and bottom? Or did they pick up too much of the rest? I hope your response reaches me in time for the session. Thanks for your help!

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    • I have often used MD21s for overheads both as a pair and as a single mic, with an AKG D112 on the bass drum. The MD21s work really well. They produce a nice bright, smooth cymbal sound and big punchy snare and toms. Used in a Glynn Johns arrangement I imagine that they would produce a good result.
      However, I wouldn’t use them top and bottom on a snare. Being omnis they would pick up everything around them! Facing in opposite directions there may also be serious phase cancellation problems.
      Anyhow, good luck with your recording.

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  4. A few days ago I tested two MD21 as drum overheads and found them to be useful as well, especially for the toms. The cymbals were a bit “polite”, but could easily be pushed with more highs afterwards in the mix without becoming annoying or aggressive. I will test them soon in a kind of “Decca tree” setup above the drums with another omnidirectional dynamic mic, the EV PL5 pointing to the snare.

    I also use one of them for guitar miking and like that sound, too, placing them about 3 feet away from my Marshall cab or combo.

    Liked by 1 person

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