Microphones are an essential part of any home recording set up. Whether you are recording audio for a homemade film, a podcast, or for creating your own music, the first thing you will need is a good mic.
You might think all mics do the same thing: record audio into an electrical signal. While this is partly true, there is a lot of difference between the various microphones.
Some microphones will be significantly more sensitive than others, but this isn’t the only factor that differentiates them. All mics have a polar pattern that dictates which directions they can pick up sound from.
Many models will have a polar pattern for picking up sounds from in front of or behind the mic. Some microphones have a polar pattern that cover all directions. But what if you want a mic that only picks up audio signals coming from directly in front of it?
What you want is a shotgun mic. These microphones have a highly specialized polar pattern, only capable of picking up sounds coming from in front of them.
These mics filter out all sounds coming from the sides or behind the mic. This provides a very focused and targeted recording.
Media people use shotgun mics for a variety of purposes, from podcasts to music production. Today, we will look at some of the best shotgun microphones available on the market.
Best Shotgun Microphone (Quick Summary)
- Stereo and mono recording modes with -10db, 0db, +20db level adjustments
- Low noise, high sensitivity, wide frequency response shotgun mic with 3.5mm stereo mini-jack output
- Custom, detachable foam windscreen
- Integrated shock-absorbing shoe-mount with 1/4-20 thread
- Operates on (2) AA batteries with indicator LED light
One of the most common places you will see a shotgun mic is on the top of a video camera. These microphones are very useful when recording audio for a film. After all, they will capture audio from the direction you point them in and nowhere else.
The Azden SMX-30 comes with a 3.5 stereo mini jack that can plug into the DSLR port on most cameras and a shoe mount.
You can set the mic to record in either stereo or mono. This gives a lot of versatility with the type of recording you want to create.
It has an acute sensitivity that you can adjust using the three-way switch on the back. This switch lets you choose between lowering the sensitivity by 10db, raising it by 20db, or leaving it neutral.
Despite the high sensitivity, the SMX-30 is great at filtering out unwanted background noise for a clean recording. To help reduce background noise, this mic has a foam windsock and comes with an additional furry wind guard.
This lets you use the microphone outside without worrying about distortion caused by the wind or busy traffic.
It only requires two AA batteries to run, and there is an LED indicator to tell you when the battery is dead. So overall, this mic has a great combo of features.
- Comes with a windsock for recording outside.
- High sensitivity controlled by a simple three-way switch.
- Can record in either stereos or mono.
- Won’t work as a studio mic since it needs to be plugged into a camera.
- The revolutionary acoustic design with circular ports offers unmatched transparency and a more natural, uncoloured sound
- Combines a tightly controlled frequency response, smooth off-axis response, and very low self-noise
- The NTG5 is a boom operator’s dream, weighing a mere 76g and measuring just over 20cm, making it ideal for use on long, demanding shoots
- RF-bias circuitry ensures reliable performance in adverse environments, with excellent resistance to high humidity, severe cold, damp, and dust
- Comes with a WS10 deluxe windshield, PG2-R pistol grip, and other accessories
This microphone has an acute sensitivity of -23.5 Db re. This feature makes a great tool for recording quiet or ambient sounds. You can use it to collect samples for incorporating into a song, or for locational recording while producing a film.
With this product, you get a range of useful accessories to help you capture any audio you could want.
They include a pistol grip in the box, which can aim the mic or connect to a boom. If you don’t want to use it on a boom, you can remove the pistol grip can. This way, you can mount it onto a different stand should you wish.
Thanks to the water-resistant design, this is a microphone that can be in almost any conditions, including heavy rain.
You might think the high sensitivity makes this product unsuitable for recording on windy days because of the background noise.
However, you get a basic pop-filter and a wind sock included with the kit. This helps to filter out any sounds you don’t want. While it is expensive, this is a high-quality piece of equipment. It is perfect for anyone who is interested in locational recording, or filmmaking.
- High sensitivity for capturing hushed or ambient sounds.
- Come with a pistol grip and other useful accessories.
- Water-resistant design.
- Designed for video production and broadcast (ENG/EFP) audio acquisition
- Short length (11″) ensures mic stays out of the shot — even when used with compact digital cameras
- Smooth, natural-sounding on-axis audio quality
- Switchable low-frequency roll-off
- Operates on battery or phantom power
A shotgun mic’s length affects how directional it is and how well it captures sounds from further away. The Audio-Technica AT897 is 11in long, which is relatively short. This helps with keeping your microphone out of shot when attaching it to a camcorder.
It still has a very narrow acceptance pattern. So it won’t pick up many sounds coming from behind or from the sides.
The AT897 offers a smooth natural sound, with no distortion, for capturing clean audio. It has a rugged design that makes it suitable for use outdoors when mounted onto a video camera.
To reduce background or ambient noise, there is a low frequency roll off switch on the mic’s bottom. This helps the AT897 cut back on any unwanted noises. With this, you can record in high wind and still pick up the sound you want.
It comes with a battery and a clip for attaching it to a stand to set it up indoors. You also get a padded case for storing your microphone and keeping it safe from harm.
- Short enough that it won’t appear in your shot when mounted on a camcorder.
- Comes with useful accessories including a pop filter, a clip and a padded case.
- Low frequency roll off switch for cutting out background noise.
- There is no on/off switch for when the mic is running on battery power.
- Short shotgun (9 in) with twist pack case and WS 81
- High directivity with 90° recording angle
- Excellent rejection of unwanted sound
- Low cut and pad switches
- Lightweight (145 g)
Our next product is the most expensive item on our list. However, that’s because the sound quality it offers is second to none. The KMR 81 produces highly detailed recordings perfect for picking up quiet or very subtle sounds.
Thanks to its excellent design, this mic can pick up anything that you want it to, while successfully cutting out all the rest.
Since it is only 9in in length, this microphone has a 90° acceptance angle. This is wider than some of the other products we have looked at so far. This makes it a good choice for capturing dialogue between two people without the need of two shotgun mics. The slots down the side and the special capsule in the rear do an amazing job of cutting out background noise, so you only record what you want to hear.
Just like the AT879 we looked at above, the KMR 81 I has a low-cut filter that allows you to remove rumbling background noise caused by wind or passing traffic.
It also has a PAD switch, which reduces the mics signal strength to help with recording very loud noises that would normally overload the microphone.
Both of these features make this product very versatile and suitable for a number of different applications.
- Highly detailed and accurate sound quality.
- Wide 90° acceptance angle that still succeeds at minimizing off-angle frequencies.
- Low cut filter and PAD switch, for further eliminating unwanted ambient noise.
- Very Expensive.
- Compact pressure-gradient microphone with short interference tube for film, radio and television
- Rugged and highly immune to humiditiy due to its RF condenser design, making it ideal for outside applications
- Featuring high directivity, low self noise, high consonant articulation and feedback rejection
- Transformerless and fully floating balanced output
- Matte black all-metal body
Some people seldom use shotgun microphones indoors because of a phenomenon called comb filtering. This occurs when the same sound bounces off walls or other surfaces, returning it to the microphone.
Comb filtering creates destructive interference that makes your signal sound more lifeless and muted.
This microphone made by Sennheiser has a special interference tube designed to respond more to off-axis high frequencies. Thanks to this feature, it doesn’t struggle as much with comb filtering and is usable in indoor spaces.
Another benefit from this design is that you can record people standing close to walls or other static objects without reflected sound waves affecting your recording.
The MKH 416-P48U3 is quite short, which makes it great for attaching to a smaller video camera or camcorder. It has a low-cut filter for reducing background noise caused by wind or other sources.
This mic has a rugged design that is highly resistant to humidity. This makes it the perfect tool for recording both inside and outdoors.
- You can use it in a treated room indoors without excessive comb filtering.
- Great sensitivity and can record sounds up to 5ft away.
- Rugged and durable design built to withstand high humidity in outdoor environments.
- Not battery powered, will only run on phantom power.
- Broadcast sound quality; Low noise circuitry
- Rugged metal construction
- Convenient digital switching
- High Frequency Boost
Our final product is the predecessor to the Rode NTG5 we looked at earlier. This microphone has a significantly lower sensitivity than its predecessor, meaning you will need to use more gain to get the same output.
While that may sound like a disadvantage, it makes the NTG4 more suitable for recording indoors. The lower sensitivity helps with combating comb filtering.
The low noise circuitry used in this mic makes it a superb choice for broadcasting. We would recommend the NTG4 for podcasters, or any other users who want to set it up in their bedroom.
Provided you treat the room with some soundproof pads, you will get excellent sound quality from this mic, although obviously nothing compared to the NTG5.
What this mic has over its successor is a selection of buttons for applying various filters. There is a low-cut filter for cutting out ambient noise, as well as a high-frequency boost, which is great for picking up deep voices.
You also get a PAD button for recording in very noisy environments. These features make the NTG4 very versatile and useful in a range of different applications where the NTG5 may struggle.
- Works well in a broadcasting environment.
- Rugged metal design.
- Offers great versatility thanks to the low cut filter, high frequency boost and PAD buttons.
- Sensitivity may be too low for capturing very quiet or subtle sounds.
Shotgun Mic Buyers Guide
Shotgun microphones are very specialized pieces of equipment, since they are far more directional than other types of mic. This makes them very useful in certain applications and not as great for others.
In this section, we will give you a few things to look out for, so you can buy the right shotgun mic for meeting your recording needs.
What is a good sensitivity in a shotgun mic?
The sensitivity of a microphone measures how good it is at picking up very quiet noises. You will often see it measured in “db re,” which shows the smallest amount of noise that will trigger a response from the microphone. The lower this value, the more sensitive the mic will be.
You may also see sensitivity measured in mv @ 94 db SPL. This refers to how much output the mic produces in millivolts when subjected to 94 decibels of noise at standard air pressure. The higher this value, the greater the sensitivity.
Mics that are highly sensitive are useful in situations where you want to capture as much sound as possible, no matter how small. This could include capturing ambient noise or recording something very quiet.
Mics with lower sensitivity are more useful where you want to focus in on a specific sound and cut out the rest.
As such, they are better suited to recording indoors, where you want to reduce comb filtering caused by sound waves bouncing off walls.
What is a suitable length for a shotgun mic?
All shotgun mics are highly directional, but the longer they are, the smaller their acceptance angle becomes.
Long shotgun mics are great for minimizing background noise. However, they need to be pointed directly at the source of the sound they are trying to record. These mics are also better for recording things that are far away from the microphone.
Shorter shotgun mics will have a wider acceptance angle. They will still succeed at eliminating noise coming from the sides or behind the unit.
They can be very useful when recording a dialogue between two people. After all, you won’t need to turn the mic as much to face each speaker. You can also attach short mics to cameras without appearing in-shot.
What is a good power source for a shotgun mic?
Some microphones will need to be plugged into a 48V phantom power source in order to run. This is great in a studio or broadcasting environment with easy access to a mixing desk capable of supplying power.
However, if you are recording outdoors, then you may want a mic that can run on batteries as well. This means you can use your mic in more settings without always having to be near a 48V power source.
What are good filters for a shotgun mic?
Certain models of shotgun mic, like the Rode NTG4, come with buttons for applying filters to the output signal. The most common one of these is a low-cut filter that for removing deep background noise like wind or traffic.
Another useful filter to have is a high-frequency boost. This filter helps to pick up deep voices or people speaking quietly,
PAD stands for Passive Attenuation Device and is another useful filter commonly found on shotgun mics. This button reduces the microphones output. This means you can record very loud noises or events without the microphone being overloaded and damaged.
What are some good shotgun mic accessories?
If you want to attach your mic to a camera, then you should look for a model that comes with a shoe mount. This is a standard mount that will allow your mic to mount your mic onto most video cameras or camcorders.
Pistol grips are another useful mount that will allow you to use your mic on the end of a boom, so it stays close to the source you are trying to record but out of shot.
When filing outside, it is always useful to have a pop filter or wind sock for cutting out background noise. These tools will let you use your microphone anywhere you want and can also help to protect it from damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Shotgun Mics Used In Music Production?
Shotgun mics are rarely used in studios, since they don’t work well indoors. When sound waves bounce off the walls, it can cause comb filtering as the same sound reaches the microphone at different times.
As such, shotgun mics have limited application in music production, but can work very well for collecting samples outdoors to incorporate in your songs.
What Is A Polar Pattern?
The polar pattern of a mic dictates which directions it is capable of recording sound from. Many condenser and dynamic microphones have omnidirectional or bidirectional polar patterns for picking sounds from all directions.
Shotgun mics are specialized in that they have a unidirectional lobular pattern. This means they will only pick up sounds that originate from directly in front of the mic, with those coming from the sides or from behind, being severely reduced.