Following on somewhat from the theme of the previous post.
Launched in 1971 as Sennheiser’s flagship dynamic the MD441 has remained in production ever since. Famous users include David Bowie, Stevie Nicks and Elton John. It is a superb example of German design and engineering, and even today has few competitors. However, a microphone of this quality does not come cheap. A new MD441-U will set you back around £700.00 !
When AKG produced the remarkable D224 (c1967) they went to great lengths with their twin capsule design to eliminate proximity effect, and create a wide, flat frequency response from 30Hz-20 kHz, regardless of distance from source. With the MD441 Sennheiser took a rather different approach. Whist the frequency response is similar to the AKG (30Hz-20kHz), Sennheiser allow the user of the MD441 to have creative control over proximity effect and also high end brilliance.
This is achieved using a five position bass roll-off switch and a 2 position brilliance switch. This provides a choice of 10 different frequency curves to suit the needs of a wide range of applications!
The Sennheiser MD441 User Manual below explains very thoroughly the operation and characteristics this extraordinary dynamic microphone.
Sennheiser MD441 Manual.
So What Does It Sound Like? CLICK HERE for a drum clip illustrating the wide frequency response, dynamic range and highly detailed transient response.
CLICK HERE for Tenor sax and clarinet.
Whether you choose heavy metal guitar at full volume, or a solo violin, a baroque recorder, or a baritone sax, the MD441 delivers! There is little to distinguish between what goes in and what comes out! It sounds remarkably natural on a wide range of acoustic instruments and the human voice. The Sennheiser MD441-U has all the subtlety normally associated with a high quality condenser combined with the smoothness and punch of a great dynamic. If I was only allowed one microphone in my ‘desert island’ studio this would probably be it!
It was the mid 1960’s and I was a teenager at school in Manchester. Only 30 miles from Liverpool. Before the age of discos. It was a fantastic time for live music. The Mersey boom was at its height and the pubs and clubs were rocking to the latest beat groups. (It is worth noting that none of the music clubs such as The Cavern in Liverpool, or The Twisted Wheel in Manchester, were licensed to sell alcohol. Nevertheless on a Saturday night their subterranean vaults were crammed with teenagers who had often queued for hours to see their favourite bands!)
In the 5th form some of my school mates formed a group. I used to lig along to their rehearsals in the school music room. They had a couple of Vox AC30 guitar amps and an old Selmer which was used for PA. I can remember the singer turning up one day with a very shiny new microphone. All black enamel and chrome, like the headlamp on a classic British motorcycle. Removed from it’s bright blue box the mic was duly plugged into the Selmer amp. The lads then launched into their version of Buddy Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’. The assembled hangers-on (including myself) thought it sounded amazing!
I was therefore overjoyed a few weeks ago when a friend kindly gave me this bright blue box. I recognised it straight away!
Just below the chrome bezel there is a ribbed rubber ring designed to prevent the mic rolling off flat surfaces. Brilliant feature!
If you buy a DP4 make sure it comes with the 2 pin mic connector as these are as rare as hen’s teeth!
Here in the UK although the Grampian DP4 enjoyed a good deal of popularity as a PA microphone, and also with amateur tape recording enthusiasts, it was never really thought of as a top quality professional instrument. Sennheiser had launched it’s superb MD21 in 1953 and followed it in 1960 with the MD421. Around the same time AKG gave us the D19 and the D24. The poor old Grampian was not quite in the same league. However, for a while the DP4 was used by the BBC for outside broadcasts and by their Wildlife Department in conjunction with the Grampian Parabolic Reflector. (As seen on the front cover of this issue of Tape Recording Magazine from 1969 )
A few weeks ago on TV I saw an old film clip featuring an impossibly young David Attenborough in the middle of the jungle somewhere clutching a Grampian Parabolic reflector with a DP4 mounted on it.
In the end Grampian Microphones were no match for the German. Austrian and American competition. As the 1960’s rolled on bands got louder, PAs got bigger, stage monitors were introduced and the omni-directional dynamic microphone fell out of use. Cardioids simply had more gain before feed back! By the mid-1970s the Grampian DP4 had disappeared from the stage and eventually the company went out of business.
So what does it sound like?
CLICK HERE for a short vocal trip down memory lane!
Grampian Brochures and Technical Information (These came in the box with my DP4.)
On the day I chose to record the voice-over for this video the wind was lashing the trees and bushes in my garden and the branches were swaying backwards and forwards. So I thought it would be a great idea to demonstrate the effectiveness of this vintage Rycote windshield by recording the voice-over sitting on a bench at the bottom of the garden!
Sennheiser MKH 815T Manual
Recently I noticed a thread on a well known web forum which specialises in disseminating misinformation on a range of gear. In this erudite discourse it was suggested that these ‘inexpensive’ old AKG dynamics were not made to last and that they couldn’t be taken apart or repaired by the user. This is of course complete bollocks!
Simply peel off the name strip from around the grill ( taking care to save it to put back on afterwards.) The top half of the grill can then be easily unscrewed. If necessary the element can be gently pulled out from it’s rubber mounting. At the other end a single screw holds the XLR in place.
The AKG D170E pictured below has been taken apart to clean and replace the disintegrated old foam inside the grill.
It is also worth noting that when they were new these ‘inexpensive’ old microphones cost more than a week’s wages for the average musician!
AKG dynamics from the 1970’s were well designed, solidly engineered and intended to last. This one is nearly 40 years old and still sounds as good as the day it left the factory!
AKG Catalogue 1978
AKGD170 Bass Drum Application
Apart from being mainly designed for heavy rock vocals I was interested to note that the AKGD170 is also recommended for Bass Drum ‘ (where other microphones sound too ‘bassy’ and muddy)’……………… So with that in mind I recently took it out on some live rock’n’roll gigs and was very pleased with the tight, punchy sound it produces. If more low end is required it also responds very well to additional EQ.
CLICK HERE for AKGD170 Bass Drum Clip