A Classic Dynamic Microphone. Sennheiser MD421 (Circa 1960)

Sennheiser MD421-2

Introduced in 1960, the Sennheiser MD421 is a robust, large diaphragm, cardioid, dynamic microphone originally designed as a general purpose tool for the German broadcasting industry. It has an excellent frequency response from 30 Hz to 17 kHz with a brightness boost at around 4-5 kHz making it perfect for speech and vocals. 55 years later the 421 is still in the Sennheiser catalogue and continues to be one of the best-selling microphones ever made!

  • Great for speech and vocals both in the studio and on stage.
  • Excellent for brass, delivering smooth full tone, and rich timbre.
  • Effortlessly handles even the loudest electric guitar.
  • Especially good on drums and percussion, producing both punch and fine detail!
  • For many engineers the 421 is the bass drum mic of choice with its ability to accurately reproduce low bass and cope with high SPLs.

Throughout the 1960’s the MD421 was adopted by recording studios and performers all over the world. Here is a review from Hi-Fi Sound (Dec 1967)

Sennheiser MD421 Review from Hi-Fi Sound Dec 1967

Sennheiser MD421-2 Side view.

The 1960’s was of course  a time of experimentation and innovation, and one unusual feature of the MD421 is that the body is made of plastic which is rare for a high quality professional microphone. Other examples I can think of (also from the 1960’s) are the AKG D202 and the D222.

In 1971 George Harrison and Ravi Shankar held their famous Concert for Bangladesh at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The stage was positively bristling with MD421s, including all of the stars’ lead vocal mics  (Eric Clapton, Ringo Star, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell and Billy Preston)  Check out the video: –     https://vimeo.com/66413717

Sennheiser MD421 Script Logo

My Sennheiser MD421-2 pictured above with its rare script logo is a fine example from the early 1960’s. It still sounds as good as it ever did. In fact some say that these early MD421-2 models (which have no bass roll-off switches) sound better than the new ones!                                                                                                                       (N.B. This might just be a myth spread about by owners of old 421-2s!)

Tech Spec for the current MD_421_II_GB

Here are some sound clips of my MD421-2 in action.

CLICK HERE for Tenor Sax

CLICK HERE for Drum Kit Overhead

CLICK HERE for Bird Song.

11 responses to “A Classic Dynamic Microphone. Sennheiser MD421 (Circa 1960)

  1. The early ’60s 421s, also with their script logo, did have the bass roll-off on the DIN (connector) version, the broadcast version with Tuchel connectors did not.

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  2. Many thanks for this information. That is correct and I have modified my last paragraph accordingly. You have also made me think that perhaps I ought to write a post on vintage connectors.
    It is interesting that in the UK we often refer to the small German 3 pin microphone connectors as DIN plugs and the larger ones as Tuchel. Both were types of Tuchel connector and both had DIN numbers! Klein Tuchel DIN 41524 (small) and Grosse Tuchel DIN 41624 (large). Rather like Amphenol in the States Tuchel made connectors in many different pin configurations. (Tuchel these days is a branch of Amphenol !)
    All the Best
    Martin

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  3. Thank you for the review!
    I am about to possibly buy two for $600 (one late seventies; the other 80’s/90’s)

    I will be lugging these around Detroit with fetheads and my Zoom H6 for street musicians and street interviews (and home recording and interviews with politicos)

    What have you done with your microphone?

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    • That sounds like a good price! Good Luck with your recordings!
      I have been working on a number of Rock’n’Roll theatre shows here in the UK and have mostly used the 421 on guitar cabs, also on drums (excellent on kick) and also on trombone and tenor sax. Unfortunately at the moment all the theatres are closed. 😢

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  4. June 1964 , festival Hall Melbourne , Beatles used this model , great memories .

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  5. Just took apart my 421 to clean it – and find out why the bass was poor – and repaint it (..black, except for the stripe down the sides and across the top..) but found that the body is aluminium (..not ‘plastic’).

    Mine has the ‘M’ ‘S’ tone adjustment on the bottom, and the small Tuchel plug ..and the body is *definitely* all metal through and through.

    (Sounds better now that it’s black!)

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  6. Darn it – just put it all together! (..and sounding great in black!) ..now I’ll have to unscrew it all again so that you can see its insides! But as it’s you, Martin..
    (May take a couple of days till I take and send the photos, though..)

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  7. Photos – and description of mic’s innards – sent to you Martin ..what d’you think..?

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  8. I’d always been a bit dissatisfied with my 421, as I’d read that it delivers (but mine didn’t, even when painted black!) reasonable bass. Whatever I plugged it into, it seemed rather ‘lightweight’ compared with the wonderful AKG D202, for instance.
    ..Until I plugged the 421 into a recent Soundcraft Signature 12MTX mixer, which has what’re described as “Ghost pre-amps” and “Sapphyre Asymmetric ‘British’ EQ”. Suddenly, the bass I’d been missing ..arrived! (That mixer seems to find ‘hidden bass’ too subtle for all other mixers or pre-amps which I’ve tried – including an older Soundcraft Spirit Folio which is usually my staple, ‘go-to’, mixer.)
    So my 421 has found a new breath of (bass) life, and I’ve realised that it really is the mic-plus-mixer combo which delivers the sounds I’m looking for, not just the mic itself. (That new Soundcraft also makes my old Grampian DP4 sound like a proper mic, instead of just an old tin can, and an old D25 has recovered its bass, too ..it reveals a bit of inherent, but hitherto inaudible, moderate bass like no other mixer or pre-amp I’ve used.)
    With mics which already deliver ‘proper’, full-bodied bass, the 12MTX, though, ‘muddies’ their output, and makes them – for me – unusable, no matter what I do with the EQ. Odd, isn’t it? (A TwinTrak Pro like yours, used before the mixer, also brings out the best in those older dynamics, whereas condensers and ribbons seem to work better – for me – going straight into the older Soundcraft. Each to their own, I s’pose.)
    So my old 421 mic now sounds better than I thought it ever would ..and I’m surprised that so much of how a mic sounds really does depend on what you plug it into!
    (It’s like people chasing an expensive old Leica to get ‘the best possible photos’, though perhaps all they need do is to try a different film.)

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