There’s a brand new Neumann clip-on saxophone mic available on the market, made by Neumann, which is perhaps the most renowned microphone company in the world. Their microphones are widely considered the bench mark for professional-grade high-quality studio recording. Naturally, I was very excited to get my hands on this microphone, and I’m going to test it out for you on alto, tenor and soprano saxophone.
First, I’d like to thank Sweetwater for sponsoring this video. I’ll have more on them in a bit.
Neumann MCM 114 or DPA 4099?
Now for me, it’s hard to evaluate any microphone without something to compare it to, so I recorded the Neumann MCM 114 alongside my DPA 4099 which is the mic I’ve used for live performances for several years now and am very familiar with. At the end I’ll let you know if I’ll be sticking with the DPA or bringing the Neumann with me to gigs from now on. I have already used it on about half a dozen live shows putting it through the paces and I’ll let you know how it performed in those real world settings a bit later.
Alto & Tenor Mic Position
The best way to get a sense of the sound of any mic is in a controlled environment like my studio. I’m recording both of these through my Universal Audio Apollo Twin and here’s a look at the console settings. I put a Hi-Pass filter on both and the input levels are identical. I tried to position them as closely as possible in each configuration.
You’ll notice I have the mics positioned over the bell but pointing toward the keys of the saxophone. Now I’ll play the exact same thing, but with the mics pointing directly into the bell of the saxophone. Listen carefully and let us know which configuration you prefer in the comments.
The difference between these two mic positions is really apparent when playing the low register of the saxophone. I much prefer the sound with the mics pointing toward the keys, it’s more even in volume across the range and it’s less harsh and aggressive sounding. I want to point out that the DPA gets more signal, so I did turn up the Neumann 3.6 Db in post to even out the volume levels for your ears.
Now let’s listen the same thing on a tenor saxophone with the mics pointing toward the keys, and then pointing toward the bell. Again, I prefer the sound when the mics are pointing toward the keys for the same reasons as on alto.
Listening carefully, it is clear to me that the Neumann is picking up significantly more key noise than the DPA. Now in a live situation, this is not such a big deal since, unless you are playing solo saxophone with no other instruments, that key noise will not really be noticeable with the rest of the band playing.
So, I have to say that even though the DPA bell mount is not ideal and can sometimes feel a bit fiddly, it is definitely doing a better job in isolating the microphone from the vibrations of the horn. On the other hand, the Neumann bell mount is super solid and much easier to adjust into place. I really like how the clip rotates and locks into place at 45 degree angles and the gooseneck is really sturdy.
Both mics stay in place very well even if you’re moving around a lot.
The Neumann MCM and DPA 4099 clip on sax mics are comparably priced and excellent options for anyone looking to get a professional level of quality in their on-stage mic setup. I order all of my music gear from Sweetwater, and I put links in the description to both microphones so you can check the current prices, read user reviews, and get all the necessary specs about frequency response patterns, noise ratios, and all that other technical stuff.
Sweetwater really is the ultimate online music store and I love that I can call them up and get an expert on the phone if I need the answer to a specific question about any of their products. Just about everything I used to make these recordings can be found on Sweetwater from the microphones, cables and audio interface, to the saxophones, reeds and mouthpieces. I was playing the BetterSax EAS112 alto and the BetterSax Burnin’ mouthpieces on alto and tenor. The soprano mouthpiece was a Jody Jazz Custom Dark.
If you haven’t yet shopped on Sweetwater for your woodwind and brass gear, you definitely want to check out the way they do things. Fast, free shipping amazing customer service, extended warranties included and they even offer financing for large purchases. Not to mention the sales, giveaways and used gear they offer.
Whenever I’m trying to decide what product to buy I go over to sweetwater.com where I can do some hard core research.
When it comes to the sound, I find that both of these mics give a very natural saxophone sound. The DPA is an industry standard for acoustic instruments. I know lots of violin, guitar, and upright bass players that use them because of the natural sound.
I do hear the DPA as adding a bit of brightness or higher end frequencies to the saxophone sound while the Neumann is more neutral perhaps even more natural sounding. Here, it just comes down to personal preference some people will prefer that added brightness while others will want a more neutral sound. The sound engineer is going to be messing with the EQ anyway so it doesn’t matter all that much in the end.
I will say that I do really like the sound of both of these microphones on all saxophones.
Soprano Mic Position
Let’s hear these on soprano saxophone. I’m going to first show you the example with the mics pointing at the bell. This is the configuration Kenny G uses on his soprano.
Now here’s an alternative where you turn the mic around completely and point it at the keys. Since the goosenecks of these 2 mics are not the same length, I couldn’t get them to be pointing in exactly the same spot and I think that accounts for the greater difference in sound between the examples.
Overall, I find it sounds much better to have the mic pointed at the right hand keys rather than the bell on soprano. The sound is a lot more even, mellow, and natural this way.
However, one small drawback is that the mics are picking up even more key noise this way, especially the Neumann. Again, in everyday use situations, playing live with a band the key noise is not going to be noticeable. Also, you get less signal in this configuration so you’re going to have to increase the gain a bit.
Connectivity/Build Quality/ Case
One major advantage the Neumann has over the DPA is that it comes with a mini jack that will be compatible with any wireless system. The DPA uses a microdot connection, so if you want to use it with a wireless system, you’ll have to shell out an extra $100 bucks for this adapter.
As far as build quality goes, both mics are very solid, but the Neumann, as you might expect, has a very heavy duty feel to it. It’s significantly heavier than the DPA. Both mics come with nice cases. The Neumann comes with a removable wind screen, while the DPA windscreen can’t be removed. Not that you’d really want to anyway.
These are both condenser microphones that need phantom power to work.
Having used both of these on stage, and now having done a detailed recording comparison it’s actually a tough decision for me as to which one I prefer. I’m going to give a very slight edge to the Neumann since the build quality is more solid, it comes with a mini jack connector that will work with wireless systems, and the gooseneck is a bit longer and easier to position.
I wasn’t aware of the amount of key noise it picked up compared to the DPA but that is something I’m willing to live with. I also prefer the sound I get with it. It feels extremely true to what is actually coming out of my saxophones acoustically.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and next you should watch this video where I compare 3 compact wireless saxophone mic systems.