7 Best Field Recording Microphones For All Environments

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Field recording will be a quintessential part of most professional productions if you work within the film, TV, or games industry.

Whether you want an accurate capture of the location you’re filming or producing an immersive gaming environment, you will need the proper gear.

And the most critical aspect of that gear is going to be the microphone.

This article will suggest some of the best field recording mics you can use to capture your sound recordings in high fidelity.

What Is The Best Field Recording Microphone? 

The RODE NTG5 is a brilliant option for both casual and professional users! A very low SPL and wide frequency response make it an ideal for capturing clean nature recordings.

For those looking to splash the cash on some premium gear, look no further than the Sennheiser MKH 8020.

With a response of 10 Hz to 60k Hz, this omnidirectional microphone can record sub and high frequencies with fantastic clarity. 

For those on a budget, the RODE NTG1, (the predecessor of the NTG5) is an excellent choice.

This mic may not have the same prowess as its newer counterpart. However, it is very reliable and produces excellent recordings. 

Below we’ve collated a list of 7 microphones that will help you to produce the best on-location sound recordings for your productions.

We will be focusing on frequency response, SPL, and self-noise as these are some of the most important factors to consider when field recording: 

  1. RØDE NTG5
  2. Sennheiser MKH 8020
  3. 3Dio FS Binaural Microphone
  4. Sennheiser Ambeo VR Mic
  5. Audio-Technica AT4022 
  6. Sennheiser MKE 600 
  7. RØDE NTG1 

1. RØDE NTG5

Rode NTG5 Microphone Kit
$499.00

Featuring a revolutionary acoustic design with circular ports instead of the linear slots found on other shotgun mics, the NTG5 captures dialogue and other sound sources with exceptional transparency and a natural, uncolored sound. 

Why We Love It:
  • Ultra-lightweight construction
  • Extremely clear sound
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 Overview

The RØDE NTG5 is a compact, lightweight and exciting new addition to RØDE’s NTG series. The shotgun mic has extremely low self-noise and a finely tuned frequency response.

A new and exciting feature of this microphone is the new acoustic design. Instead of the linear lines we see on most shotgun microphones, the NTG5 has opted for circular acoustics.

This allows for improved performance in several different recording situations. 

Specs:

  • Polar Pattern: Supercardiod
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Maximum SPL: 130 dB
  • Self-noise: 10 dB
  • Phantom powered: Yes 

Verdict

This microphone is the perfect addition for filmmakers and audio engineers. As a super-cardioid mic, this allows you to be very intentional and accurate with the area you want to record.

With extremely low self-noise and full frequency response, the NTG5 has become one of the industry-standard microphones for capturing audio with superb clarity.

A great addition to this product is that it comes with all you need as standard. The kit has a pistol grip, windshield, and a PG2-R cable. Giving you everything you need to record industry-quality audio. 

2. Sennheiser MKH 8020

Sennheiser MKH 8020

Part of Sennheiser’s MKH Series of modular high-resolution microphones, the Sennheiser MKH 8020 omnidirectional microphone is ideal for when superior fidelity is required. 

Why We Love It:
  • Non-reflective Nextel coating
  • Stunning detail, depth, and dimension
  • Ideal for orchestral instruments
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Overview

The Sennheiser MKH 8020 has the widest frequency response on our list, in accompaniment to the high SPL and very low self-noise, this microphone allows for incredibly accurate recordings of the environment.

You will be able to hear all of the richness of the lows and high fidelity in the higher frequency range.

Paired with the omnidirectional polar pattern, this microphone is a brilliant way of capturing the whole environment around you. 

Specs:

  • Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 10 Hz – 60 kHz
  • Maximum SPL: 138 dB
  • Self-noise: 10 dB
  • Phantom powered: Yes 

Verdict

If I could recommend this microphone to everyone, I would, BUT…

…the hefty price tag that comes with this microphone means this is out of the reach of most. Especially when you can produce very similar results with some of the other microphones on our list.

However, if you can afford this microphone, you will not be disappointed with its flawless performance and clarity

3. 3Dio FS XLR Binaural Microphone

3Dio FS XLR Binaural Microphone

The 3Dio FS XLR Binaural Microphone is an upgraded version of the world’s most popular 3D microphone for ASMR, VR virtual reality, field recording, and recording studios.

Why We Love It:
  • Unique design
  • Affordable
  • Quality build
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Overview

This fascinating piece of gear has been one of the most popular binaural microphones for field recordists and game producers.

The 3Dio FS XLR is one of the most affordable binaural mics on the market without skimping on quality. 

Its unique casing is modeled from the human ear, producing recordings that are the truest to our hearing.

This microphone has a very solid low-mid range frequency response and also includes a bass roll-off capsule that rolls off around 10 kHz. 

Specs:

  • Polar Pattern: omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 60 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Maximum SPL: 122 dB
  • Self-noise: N/A
  • Phantom powered: Yes

Verdict

This mic is an ideal piece of gear for nature recording. It allows you to be very intentional and accurately deliver what you want the listener to experience.

The recordings collected from this microphone are very immersive and are great for gaming and VR application as well as nature recordings.

In comparison to the previous mic on our list, it may seem like this product is lacking in comparison to the specification prowess of the Sennheiser MKH 8020.

However, this microphone’s unique design and affordability appeal to those who want to dive deep into field recording. 

4. Sennheiser Ambeo VR Mic 

Sennheiser AMBEO VR Mic 

The Sennheiser AMBEO VR Microphone records seamless, immersive audio that's ideal for VR video productions.

Why We Love It:
  • 4 separate cardioid mics
  • Ideal for 360° spacial audio recordings
  • High-performance capabilities
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Overview

With 4 separate cardioid microphones, this was purposely built with 360° spacial audio recordings in mind. This microphone allows you to record the surrounding environment from a single point.

Outputting to 4 separate channels allows you to record a surrounding ambiance without needing to carry several microphones with you to a location.

This mic records in a raw A-format, therefore once recorded you will need to use convert the recordings via the Ambeo A-B converter plugin, which is a VST that can be used in most DAWs. 

Specs:

  • Polar Pattern: 4x cardioid, in A-format arrangement (1: front-left-up [FLU], 2: front-right-down
  • [FRD], 3: back-left-down [BLD], 4: back-right-up
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20kHz
  • Maximum SPL: 130 dB
  • Self-noise: 18 dB
  • Phantom powered: Yes 

Verdict

This is a brilliant product, however, it has been designed with professionals in mind.

As you will need to use their converter plug-in this may not be the best option for hobbyists or those looking for a quick recording-to-DAW process.

That being said, if you are serious about field recording and are interested in 360° spacial audio recordings, this microphone is undoubtedly the way to go!

It is a very well-engineered product with high-performance capabilities. 

5. Audio-Technica AT4022 

Audio-Technica AT4022

Audio-Technica's AT4022 is a low-profile omnidirectional condenser microphone that's a great choice for miking acoustic guitar, piano, and a host of other acoustic instruments.

Why We Love It:
  • Versatile microphone
  • Lightweight
  • Switchable highpass filter
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Overview

This omnidirectional microphone delivers a flat response allowing the user to record the true sound of the environment.

The microphone includes a switchable 80 Hz hi-pass filter and a -10 dB attenuator pad.

This makes the microphone incredibly versatile for field recording, and it will be comfortable within many different recording situations.

Furthermore, this product is very well constructed and lightweight, removing the worry of handling noise bleeding into the recording. 

Specs:

  • Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Maximum SPL: 146 dB
  • Self-noise: 13 dB
  • Phantom powered: Yes 

Verdict

This microphone is a brilliant middle ground for those willing to spend a bit more on a product, without breaking the bank.

The low self-noise and high SPL of this microphone allow you to record locations with outstanding accuracy without needing to spend thousands of dollars on a microphone.

The bass roll-off filter is also a brilliant addition for when you may want to remove some subfrequencies that may be present in the environment, muddying up your recording. 

6. Sennheiser MKE 600 

Sennheiser MKE600

Get into tight spaces on the set, and if a shot (or an entire production) calls for a camera-mounted mic, you can still capture the same world-class audio with the Sennheiser MKE 600.

Why We Love It:
  • Easy to use
  • Crystal clear sound
  • The ideal companion for windy environments
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Overview

This super-cardioid mic has a low-cut filter switch that allows you to be very precise in your recording and also helps to eliminate wind noise.

This microphone is also battery powered, eliminating the need for phantom power if you do not have the gear to supply this.

Sennheiser also boasts that this microphone is incredibly good at rejecting side noise allowing for very precise recordings.

Specs:

  • Polar Pattern: super-cardioid
  • Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Maximum SPL: 132 SPL
  • Self-noise: 15 dB
  • Phantom powered: Yes/Battery-powered 

Verdict

For a mic with a low-mid price tag, the Sennheiser MKE 600 punches above its weight in regards to its specs.

If you are a filmmaker looking for a compact and straightforward solution to field recording, this is a very good option.

As the microphone can be battery-powered, you won’t need to take a pre-amp with you as you shoot.

Furthermore, the kit comes with an XLR adapter cable so you can plug this mic straight into your camera.

This is a swift and easy way of capturing sound in your shooting location. The low-cut filter switch is also an excellent feature for recording clean dialogue on location.

However, this may not be the best option for those focused on field recording alone. 

7. RØDE NTG1 

RØDE NTG1 

The RODE NTG-1 is a lightweight condenser shotgun microphone, which has been specifically designed for professional applications within the film, video, and television industries.

Why We Love It:
  • Super cardioid
  • Broadcast sound quality
  • Low handling noise
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Overview

The smaller brother to the NTG5, this microphone still holds its own in the field recording space.

This microphone is very lightweight, making it very useful if you want to use this item with a boom pole.

This gives the recorder a lot of room for experimentation if you want to try and record nature sounds that may be out of reach.

Similar to some of the other shotgun microphones on this list, the NTG1 has an 80Hz high-pass filter, full frequency response, and low noise. 

Specs:

  • Polar Pattern: Super-cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Maximum SPL: 139 dB
  • Self-noise: 18 dB
  • Phantom powered: Yes 

Verdict

In terms of bang for your buck, the NTG1 has a lot of bang without the major cost. Even though this is the cheapest microphone on our list, the NTG1 has the second-highest SPL on our list of microphones.

It also has a broader frequency response than some of its more expensive competitors. Its well-built structure and cheap price make it an excellent choice for recording places you may not want to take expensive recording gear.

However, the louder self-noise may become problematic to those who want to capture the quieter details from a nature recording. 

FAQs

What Is Binaural?

Binaural is made by using microphones that are embedded within prosthetic human ears.

This is great for field recording as the recordings are incredibly precise as the sound waves are affected by the shape of the prosthetics.

This is very apparent when listening back to the audio on headphones and is incredibly immersive for the listener. 

What Is Phantom Power?

Phantom power is what is required to power a microphone. This is commonly represented as +48V.

It was designed to allow recording sound without needing huge power supplies, which you want to avoid when field recording. 

What Is SPL?

This is the pressure level of a sound. This is measured in dB. For microphones, the higher the SPL the louder the input signal can be before onset distortion. 

What Is A Polar Pattern?

A polar pattern is a direction and strength at which the microphone can receive a signal. These polar patterns are:

  • Omnidirectional: records in all directions, 360 degrees. 
  • Cardioid: captures the front and sides but rejects the rear.
  • Figure 8: records the front and rear.
  • Shotgun: Has a far more focused direction and mainly captures where it is pointing. 

Want to keep your microphone in tip-top condition? Check out our simple guide to cleaning your microphone!