November 5, 2020

Cardioid Condenser Microphone Test

Recently, I had the chance of comparing different cardioid small diaphragm condenser microphones. Among the test candidates were the Neumann KM 184 and the Haun MBC 440, which are both highly recommended and praised by a wider community. Further, I included a Rode M5 MP into the test to compare the high-quality microphones to a much cheaper one. To enable a real comparison of the microphones, I performed simultaneous recordings of an organ and vocals. The recording setup is described in the following, before the actual recordings are presented and evaluated. The corresponding audio files are also included below.


The Neumann KM 184 are among the “classical” small diaphragm microphones of Neumann. They are known for their high quality which has also been described in many microphone tests. The Haun MBC 440 are manufactured by a small company in the southern part of Germany. Haun is said to deliver high-quality products even if the brand and microphones are not that well-known, e.g., in comparison to Neumann. The Rode M5 MP is a low-budget small diaphragm condenser microphone pair which has lots of good comments and ratings in the internet. Tests for this microphone can also easily be found online. All three microphones are depicted together in Fig. 1.

Setup and Recording

The recordings took place in a church in Munich. First, the organ was recorded. For this, the microphones were placed such that an AB arrangement with 2 m distance was achieved while the microphones were placed in 4 m height and with a distance of about 10 m to the organ itself, as shown in Fig. 3. To achieve an almost comparable sound, the microphones were placed on a small bar, such that the distance, and therefore the AB arrangement, was similar between each microphone pair. Second, also vocals were recorded in AB technique, while the distances were of course adapted. All recordings were performed using a Steinberg UR824 audio interface in combination with Cubase 10.5.

Small diaphragm condenser microphones included in the test
Fig. 1: Microphones
Microphone Arrangement
Fig. 2: Arrangement
Recording Setup in the Church Saint Vinzenz, Munich
Fig. 3: Recording Setup


A comparison of recordings is inevitable subjective due to the design and haptics of the microphones. To make the test a bit more objective, the HOFA BlindTest plugin was employed. The plugin enables a real blind test as it cuts out the names and shuffles the tracks such that the listener does not know which recording belongs to which track, respectively, microphone. Comments can be included and a rating can be defined before the track names are disclosed.

The first of the following recordings of the organ, is the beginning of the Toccata in C Major (BWV 564) of Johann Sebastian Bach. The music covers a wide range of frequencies and therefore reveals some differences in the frequency spectra of the different microphones. From the plots in Figs. 4-6 it can be seen that the Neumann and the Haun microphones transfer the lower frequencies below 200 Hz more than the Rode do. The second recording is an Improvisation over “Meine Hoffnung und meine Freude” which mostly contains the lower part of the frequency spectrum and backs this finding. Further, there are also some frequencies which one of the microphones dismiss more than the others, e.g., the 5.5 kHz where the Haun is always lower than the Neumann and Rode or the 500 Hz which are in comparison enhanced by the Rode microphones. Especially the differences in the frequency range of 400 to 900 Hz are important as these influence the sound to be more clear or vague.

Frequency spectrum of Bach Toccata in C Major BWV 564 (white: KM 184, orange: MBC 440, yellow: M5 MP)
Fig. 4: Frequency Spectrum Toccata
Frequency spectrum of the Improvisation (white: KM 184, orange: MBC 440, yellow: M5 MP)
Fig. 5: Frequency Spectrum Improvisation
Frequency spectrum of the Vocals (white: KM 184, orange: MBC 440, yellow: M5 MP)
Fig. 6: Frequency Spectrum Vocals


In fact, the blind test (which is of course still subjective) revealed that the Neumann are clearer and more precise in comparison to the Haun. This was found primarily in the organ Toccata and the vocal recordings. The recordings with the Neumann are open and clear, while the microphones have a remarkably brilliant sound. They convince in vocal recordings as well as in the “full spectrum” sound of an organ. In direct comparison to the Neumann KM 184, the Rode M5 MP deliver less base. As it was found in the blind test, it leads to a sound which is still clear but a bit “thinner”. However, this is negligible for vocal recordings and could only be observed from the organ sound, which is in fact not the natural domain of cardioid microphones. The Haun MBC 440 lack the fullness of the Neumann KM 184 and are even less convincing than the Rode M5 MP.

Audio Files

The recordings and corresponding plots of the frequency spectra are provided below.

  • playdownload Organ Toccata, Neumann KM 184
  • playdownload Organ Toccata, Haun MBC 440
  • playdownload Organ Toccata, Rode M5 MP
  • playdownload Organ (Improvisation, Neumann KM 184
  • playdownload Organ Improvisation, Haun MBC 440
  • playdownload Organ Improvisation, Rode M5 MP
  • playdownload Vocals, Neumann KM 184
  • playdownload Vocals, Haun MBC 440
  • playdownload Vocals, Rode M5 MP by Fabian Faul