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In a world where so many people spend time watching videos, podcasts, shows, highlights, and tutorials for both work and entertainment, the quality of both video and audio is paramount to making this content great. A plethora of DSLR cameras are available to make high-quality videos, yet their built-in microphones are more than lacking, especially when compared to dedicated hardware. The good news is that this comprehensive guide will help you to find the best shotgun mic for your needs.

Shotgun microphones are among the most popular directional microphones out there, cancelling most of the noise and focusing in one to three directions. They are often condenser or dynamic, sporting a long tube that can be anywhere from 8 inches (20 cm) to 24 inches (61 cm).

They are built with holes within the tube, which are meant to phase cancel sounds coming from the back and sides. This means that the sounds from the back will have very low output and will most likely not be heard (depending on the volume). If this tube is longer, the microphone is more directional.

They are often used to pinpoint and capture sound at a distance, while canceling other sounds that may be present, like traffic or sounds from nature. Yet, this type of microphone is not for everyone.

Searching for the Best Shotgun Mic – A Solution for Many Audio Issues

A question one should ask themselves when looking for the best shotgun mic (or any piece of equipment for that matter) is “What do I actually need this piece of equipment for?”

Shotgun microphones are directional in nature and often bulky. They cancel out most of the noise coming from the back and sides, enabling you to focus on a specific area in front. In what scenario is this mic best used?

A business specializing in interviews, like journalism, will benefit from such a microphone. If you hear great audio on videos shot in public, whether vlogs or actual interviews, most of that is due to a very good shotgun microphone. 

Nature shots or any recording where you need your audio to be from a single source while cancelling the rest can all benefit from a shotgun microphone. 

Anyone with a hobby that requires high-quality audio, such as content creation, or businesses that require high-quality audio in environments where there tends to be a lot of noise would do well with a shotgun microphone.

There are also other alternatives, like lavalier microphones, which you might want to consider in specific situations.

Lavalier Versus Shotgun Microphones – The Important Differences and Similarities

When looking for the best shotgun mic it is still important to understand the other types of microphones available on the market. Lavalier microphones are clipped to your shirt or another piece of clothing with the idea of being clipped closer to your mouth while freeing the hands. They are often omnidirectional, which is great if they are to be used in a controlled environment, like a studio. They can also be directional, depending on the model, which would cancel some of the ambient noise.

When compared to shotgun microphones, lavalier microphones are not as directional and noise-cancelling due to the size constraints. Simply put, shotgun microphones are designed to be directional, and with that in mind, their size is often impractical to be used as a clip-on microphone and are often mounted on a stand or camera. 

You should consider lavalier microphones if you have a controlled environment, like a house or studio, where ambient noise is likely to be low. A shotgun microphone can be used in busy environments such as streets, anything outside, including nature, where you are likely to get a lot of noise from birds, wind or traffic. 

The Best Shotgun Mic for Beginners

As someone new to higher quality audio, you might not want to spend a lot of money when looking for the best shotgun mic if you do not know if it is the right product for you. You might want to start with the following product, Comica CVM-VM20 Shotgun Microphone.

Comica CVM-VM20 Shotgun Microphone

To preface this by saying that this microphone is the best in its class is an understatement. At $130 USD, this microphone remains the best shotgun mic that you can purchase at this price point.

Key features:

  • Frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20KHz
  • Sensitivity range: -43dB ~ -23dB
  • Filter: 75/150 Hz two low cut filter modes
  • Output form: 3.5 mm TRRS
  • Polar pattern – Supercardioid

Pros:

  • Solid metal build
  • Phone (android and iOS) compatible
  • 20 dB gain
  • Price to performance king

Cons:

  • Mediocre signal to noise ratio
  • Average dynamic range
  • Side noise rejection could be better

With two low cut filters and a super-cardioid polar pattern, you can expect it to pick up more sound from the front and less from the back. It does a decent job at noise-canceling while recording relatively close distance audio. Although this microphone might struggle with dynamic range and side noise cancellation, this is still the best shotgun mic that you can buy at this specific price.

The Best Shotgun Mic for Professionals

When money is not an object, things get a lot more interesting, technologically speaking. For those seeking the best shotgun mic quality, often found in studio recordings and movies with a high budget, they might want to take a look at the Sennheiser MKH 416 microphone. This microphone is priced at $999 USD and does everything.

Sennheiser MKH 416 Shotgun Microphone

The Sennheiser MKH 416 is a superb microphone that comes at a hefty price. The price is appropriate, however, as the device is aimed at professionals who will use it in studio-grade conditions or while filming outdoors.

Key features:

  • Frequency response: 40Hz ~ 20KHz
  • Sensitivity range: -32 dBV/Pa at 1 kHz 
  • Filter: Switched infra-sonic filter
  • Output form: XLR 3 pin
  • Polar pattern – Supercardioid/Lobar

Pros:

  • High quality audio
  • Superb noise cancellation
  • Does great both inside and outside
  • It is a standard in the industry
  • The quality justifies the price

Cons:

  • None

Unlike the beginner-aimed Comica CVM-VM20, the Sennheiser MKH 416 is a product meant for professionals who want to record high-quality audio indoors, like podcasts or studio interviews. With its foam filter and available windscreens, it can also be used outside, making it a great all around product.

The Best Shotgun Mic for the Price

This category is rather difficult to measure because there are so many options at different price points. Moving away from the beginner microphones and avoiding some of the more expensive, professional-grade microphones, we can take a look at some of the best mid grade shotgun mic options. A compromise might have to be made, yet it is better than having lower quality audio or an empty bank account. The contenders are the Sennheiser MKE 600 at about $330 USD, the RØDE NTG4+ at $399 USD, and the Audio-Technica AT897 at $250 USD.

Sennheiser MKE 600 Shotgun Microphone

Sennheiser makes great audio products and this microphone comes at a price of $330 USD. The Sennheiser MKE 600 and does great against its competition, namely the RØDE NTG4+ and the Audio-Technica AT897.

What makes the MKE 600 very good, compared to the competition, is the quality of the audio relative to the price. Check out the features below.

Key features:

  • Frequency response: 40Hz ~ 20KHz
  • Sensitivity range: 21 mV/Pa (phantom power) or 19 mV/Pa (battery power) 
  • Filter: 100 Hz high pass filter
  • Output form: XLR 3 pin
  • Polar pattern – Supercardioid/Lobar

Pros:

  • Amazing side rejection/directionality
  • Works great in multiple environments
  • Optional windscreen can make it an outdoor machine
  • Great design – Very user friendly
  • Great tone, transparency and low noise

Cons:

  • None

Some microphones are just good enough on their own. You can do no wrong with the MKE 600, especially for the price. It has the option to be powered by phantom power, or by a single AA battery, which you have to purchase separately.

This microphone does well in almost all conditions but excels at videography. Whether outside or inside, the MKE 600 will not disappoint.

RØDE NTG4+ Shotgun Microphone

RØDE has its own competitor at this price point, albeit a more expensive one. You might not want to pay $399 USD for this microphone. However, given that this microphone comes with its own rechargeable lithium-ion battery, it more than justifies the price with optimal performance.

Key features:

  • Frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20KHz
  • Sensitivity range: -32 dBV/Pa at 1 kHz 
  • Filter: 75 Hz high pass filter
  • Output form: XLR 3 pin
  • Polar pattern – Supercardioid

Pros:

  • Great sound quality – Natural and transparent
  • Does great in noisy environments
  • Has plenty of features
  • Very easy to use
  • Included lithium-ion battery
  • Great price to performance

Cons:

  • None

RØDE, like Sennheiser, knows how to make a competitive product. What Sennheiser does at 330 USD, RØDE does at 399 USD, but with more features and better frequency response. This microphone also includes an additional battery, making it perfect for videographers.

This microphone is very versatile, so do not be fooled into thinking that it is a one-trick pony to be used solely for videography. Studios and podcasters would also benefit from this microphone.

Audio-Technica AT897 Shotgun Microphone

Coming in at $250 USD, the Audio-Technica AT897 is a real competitor, especially if you consider the price compared to the MKE 600 and the NTG4+. It boasts great performance for the price and competes well against even higher priced microphones. Some consider it an entry-level product, yet it is far from it.

Key features:

  • Frequency response: 20Hz ~ 20KHz
  • Sensitivity range: -40 dBV/Pa (phantom power) -41 dBV/Pa (battery power)
  • Filter: 80 Hz high pass filter, 18 dB/Hz Octave
  • Output form: XLR 3 pin
  • Polar pattern – Supercardioid, Lobar

Pros:

  • Best price to performance
  • Very well built
  • Appropriately low noise
  • Rich sound

Cons:

  • Included windscreen is bad
  • Filter switch is hard to access

If you look at the pros and cons of the AT897, you will see a great microphone which you can get used to, and buy a better windscreen for, if you plan on using it in aggressively noisy situations. That being said, it has competitors, which do some things better, but for the price, it absolutely cannot be beaten. 

The Best Shotgun Mic Overall

Some would go for the most expensive microphone as the best overall, but it would not be the best choice for people with a tight budget. The entry-level Comica is a great microphone, but it is definitely an entry-level product. 

The best shotgun mic overall is the RØDE NTG4+ for its superb performance and overall quality for the price. The NTG4+ has a great signal to noise ratio, great dynamic range, and sensitivity. It cancels noise well enough to be used outside and inside, especially if you use the included foam. The lithium-ion battery, which is included, means that you can use the microphone in the field. It has a USB type C charging port, so if you have a power bank, you can charge it on the go. One charge should let you record for about 150 hours.

Super audio quality can be had at just $399 USD, rivaling professional microphones. Many pieces of professional equipment start at around $1000 USD and only go up from there. The RØDE NTG4+ shotgun microphone does a lot for a relatively affordable price if one is in need of high-quality equipment for their audio ventures.

Its competitors do a great job as well, including the Sennheiser MKE 600 and especially the cheaper Audio-Technica AT897. Consider them if the RØDE feels too pricey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a polar pattern?

Polar patterns are extremely important for microphones and they represent how a microphone picks up sound. They are called pickup or directional patterns, which are a graphic representation of how a microphone picks up sound. They can be omnidirectional, hemispherical, cardioid, subcardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid and bidirectional. Each has its own pros and cons and should be used appropriately for a specific recording situation.

What is a shotgun microphone?

A shotgun microphone is usually a condenser, a small diaphragm microphone with a tight polar pattern, used to reject sound from the side and often from the back. They are often used in television, outdoors and other situations where power, compactness (relative to large diaphragm condenser microphones), and noise cancellation are valued.

What is phantom power?

Phantom power is what is required to power a condenser microphone. It is +48V DC power, often generated by an interface or mixer. If one is not present, external phantom power supplies are necessary.

Why is the sound of my microphone so quiet?

This could be due to a multitude of reasons and here are the top ones.

  • Phantom power is not delivered properly – not all +48 volts are there.
  • The microphone is turned in the wrong direction, rejecting the sound
  • The wrong input switch is used on the audio interface
  • Preamp gain is set too low (if you set it too high, it might start clipping)
  • Dynamic microphones require preamps to boost the signal
  • Check the cables
  • Finally, turn the levels up if all of these mini-tests are passed

Why is the microphone making noise when plugged in?

If your devices are all grounded properly, avoiding a ground loop, and you are using clean power, your microphone could be making noise because of the following reasons.

  • It was stored in a very humid environment
  • Some of the cables are either poorly connected or damaged
  • You lack a windscreen in a noisy environment, leading to a lot of ambient noise

How can I find the best shotgun mic or mic in general?

The question depends on what you need it for. If you need it for only a specific task, like recording a guitar amp, then you should consider specific dynamic microphones. Voice recordings require different microphones, but then you need to ask yourself in which conditions will you be recording the voice – studio, outdoors, or another environment.

There are general purpose microphones which do almost everything right, but not as good as the specialized versions.

Summary 

A high-quality audio recording will depend on the microphone you use, the cables, interface, and the condition in which you are recording. 

Shotgun microphones can easily be mounted on various stands along with DSLR cameras so that they can be used in multiple situations ranging from videography to studio recordings. Being unidirectional, they offer great noise cancellation and can be used in noise polluted environments.

From the entry-level Comica CVM-VM20 to the Audio-Technica AT897, Sennheiser MKE 600, the RØDE NTG4+, to the professional Sennheiser MKH 416, this selection should cover a wide range of users, from beginners to experienced audiophiles, as well as professionals.

Consider your needs first, your environment, and your budget, and only then make a choice. Not all microphones are equal, but these ones do a great job at their given price points.

Want to learn more about video equipment? Check out this comprehensive iPhone filmmaking equipment review.