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AEA KU5A vs. Sennheiser MD441
Old 12th November 2019
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
Mineral Sound's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
AEA KU5A vs. Sennheiser MD441

I work almost exclusively with live sessions, and I've been using the Sennheiser MD441U on nearly all my vocals for the past year. It's rare to find a mic that combines great sound quality and extended frequency response with good isolation, so when I heard the AEA KU5A was designed for a similar purpose I was excited to shoot them out. I've made a video below comparing the two mics on male vocals:



And guitar amp:



I'll also be releasing a video demo of the mics on female vocals in the coming week (I'll update this post when it comes out). Below is a link to the audio files in 48k WAV:

Male Vocal

Guitar Amp

I've written out my thoughts in a short blog post, but I'm very interested to hear the opinions of you all here, as there are better ears than mine on these forums. I'm not expecting either mic to be a favorite across the board, but I'm curious as to your thoughts on the overall tone, and how they matched up with the different performers and instruments.
Old 12th November 2019
  #2
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Matti's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
I like the AEA bit more, both are good though

Matti
Old 12th November 2019
  #3
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matucha's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
MD441 has fuller mids around 1k, while AEA is smiley-face in comparison. Both sound good to me.

I prefered AEA on the most vocals except for the last one and maybe the penultimate one too. My choice would be influenced by the arrangement and how the other instruments sound. If there was a lot of 1k energy in the song/band, I'd probably go with AEA (and try to moderate the mids in the other instruments as well). Though not always, because 441 could probably give the vocal some fighting chance in this area if the vocalist didn't have harmonics rich voice.

On guitars, I'd pick sennheiser most of the time. Probably.


Yep, different enough mics to keep them both I guess.
Old 12th November 2019
  #4
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Dr. Jule's Avatar
Great overall sound and image. Good job!
Old 13th November 2019 | Show parent
  #5
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Mineral Sound's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by matucha ➡️
MD441 has fuller mids around 1k, while AEA is smiley-face in comparison. Both sound good to me.

I prefered AEA on the most vocals except for the last one and maybe the penultimate one too. My choice would be influenced by the arrangement and how the other instruments sound. If there was a lot of 1k energy in the song/band, I'd probably go with AEA (and try to moderate the mids in the other instruments as well). Though not always, because 441 could probably give the vocal some fighting chance in this area if the vocalist didn't have harmonics rich voice.

On guitars, I'd pick sennheiser most of the time. Probably.


Yep, different enough mics to keep them both I guess.
Yeah, the Sennheiser really makes those guitars sound fat! I like the vintage vibe it gives vocals (probably the slower transient response I'm hearing there), but the KU5A sounds more relaxed and natural on voice. Being able to use it without a pop screen means I'm more likely to use the KU5A for live concert recordings too, where it doubles as a very extravagant stage vocal mic.
Old 14th November 2019
  #6
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Hard to beat a 441 into a TG2 for rock guitars IMO
Bonus if you add a 121 to the mix.
Old 1st December 2019
  #7
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standup's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Just got a KU5A today, and can't wait to check it out. Vocals in the short term, doing some overdubs. Tenor sax this week. Upright bass and guitars in the near future.

I'm justifying this as replacement for SM7B when tracking a band live all in the room. Selling off a few mics that will cover the cost, just about.
Old 26th January 2020
  #8
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jerkrecords's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
i'd love to hear a solo'ed vocal track from a full band session with the singer placed 8 to 10' away from a raging drum kit.

i do these type of sessions often and usually use a 441.

anybody doing this with the KU5A?

-pete
Old 18th September 2020 | Show parent
  #9
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Mineral Sound's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jerkrecords ➡️
i'd love to hear a solo'ed vocal track from a full band session with the singer placed 8 to 10' away from a raging drum kit.

i do these type of sessions often and usually use a 441.

anybody doing this with the KU5A?

-pete
The drums aren't necessarily raging and the vocal isn't solo'd, but I used the KU5A on this live recording last year:





As I remember there was definitely some drum bleed but not to the point where it detracted from the mix. As you can see I was using a 441 here on the backing vox, and if I had to take a guess, the KU5A picked up a little more bleed than the 441 but not a significant amount more. The biggest lesson I learned here was to use the pop screen!
Old 22nd September 2020
  #10
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🎧 10 years
Wow. Great videos, Daniel, thanks for sharing. I like the Ku5a better than the 441 for most of, but the 441 sounds killer on guitar. I'm struggling deciding between the Ku5a, 441 and a SM7b. Based on what I've heard the Ku5a might be my favorite out of the 3, but it is pretty expensive... I can buy a new SM7B, a used 441 and still have a few bucks left over.

Daniel, man, you captured that really well! I see what looks like M160's on overheads too... Love your mic choices. I noticed the need for a pop filter too, but I've seen a windscreen used on one and it rolled off a bunch top end... too much

BTW Scary Pockets uses the AEA Ku5a on a bunch of their songs... here's two
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-jEjoliaA0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y63m5JqCziE

Last edited by Nielsbeard; 22nd September 2020 at 07:01 PM..
Old 23rd September 2020
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
What’s the off axis / spill sound like in the KU5A compared to the 441 or even a 57?
Old 23rd September 2020 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Guru
 
bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nielsbeard ➡️
Wow. Great videos, Daniel, thanks for sharing. I like the Ku5a better than the 441 for most of, but the 441 sounds killer on guitar. I'm struggling deciding between the Ku5a, 441 and a SM7b. Based on what I've heard the Ku5a might be my favorite out of the 3, but it is pretty expensive... I can buy a new SM7B, a used 441 and still have a few bucks left over.

Daniel, man, you captured that really well! I see what looks like M160's on overheads too... Love your mic choices. I noticed the need for a pop filter too, but I've seen a windscreen used on one and it rolled off a bunch top end... too much

BTW Scary Pockets uses the AEA Ku5a on a bunch of their songs... here's two
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-jEjoliaA0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y63m5JqCziE
What are you gonna use it on?

The ku5a is a f’ing rock star mic... it sounds fantastic on everything

I never really got on with the 441... I’ve had several over the years. Will always have an sm7 and sm7b... but, haven’t used them since picking up the aea
Old 23rd September 2020 | Show parent
  #13
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Nielsbeard's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgood ➡️
What are you gonna use it on?

The ku5a is a f’ing rock star mic... it sounds fantastic on everything

I never really got on with the 441... I’ve had several over the years. Will always have an sm7 and sm7b... but, haven’t used them since picking up the aea
Mostly vocals (especially when I have everyone in the same room). Right now, I'm using the Shure KSM 9HS for that purpose. It sounds really great, and is versatile with the hyper and subcardiod patterns, but based on the Ku5a samples that i've heard, I think I would prefer the AEA over the Shure.

I don't like the clip on the 441 and there is something about the SM7b that I'm not crazy about, I just can't put my finger on it. No doubt, it is a proven legend, but I like what I like...

I'm happy to hear that you don't miss your SM7's. I'm very close to pulling the trigger... One more good nudge and I'm going for it. haha.
Old 23rd September 2020 | Show parent
  #14
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bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nielsbeard ➡️
Mostly vocals (especially when I have everyone in the same room). Right now, I'm using the Shure KSM 9HS for that purpose. It sounds really great, and is versatile with the hyper and subcardiod patterns, but based on the Ku5a samples that i've heard, I think I would prefer the AEA over the Shure.

I don't like the clip on the 441 and there is something about the SM7b that I'm not crazy about, I just can't put my finger on it. No doubt, it is a proven legend, but I like what I like...

I'm happy to hear that you don't miss your SM7's. I'm very close to pulling the trigger... One more good nudge and I'm going for it. haha.
When engineering myself, sm7 was my goto for years for everybody tracking together in the same place vox mic... (and I’m the singer)... but, it always has a little niggle with being a little to honky with the upper mids where my particular vox can pop out some honkiness now and again... the aea is a bit more controlled in the same region. Also, the aea’s rejection seems even better than the sm7... in fact, its rejection is about as amazing as I’ve ever experienced with a microphone... I can track in the control room with the monitors on (at a low-ish level) and use this mic with no baffling or headphones

That is also, by the by, it’s Achilles heal. A singer with bad technique who can’t stay on the capsule is not gonna get on with this mic. Gotta stay in the g spot hehe... although I watch the Scary Pockets videos with interest as some of the talent gets away with a lot more off axis than I do with this mic... I suspect the engineer is giving the mic a lot more preamp juice with those sessions/talent than I do, generally.... and I believe that what you see/hear is what you get with the engineering in those vids more or less (he’s compressing with distressor on the way in... baking in the majority of the vocal sound at capture... which is cool)

Last edited by bgood; 23rd September 2020 at 10:34 PM.. Reason: Add
Old 23rd September 2020
  #15
Gear Guru
 
chessparov2.0's Avatar
 
Not "bad", but mediocre Mic Technique here ... So Wes advised the AEA N22, for whenever I get an AEA ribbon.

If you every watch Jimmy Cliff, in "The Harder They Come" sing the Title song-In the Jamaican Studio scene...
That's how I like to perform "UP" songs-like onstage!
You need a wide Cardiod/Omni/Figure 8 with long "reach" for that though, in a very good (or better) sounding studio.
Control rooms are usually too small for that. Talkin' about without Cans.
Chris
Old 24th September 2020 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Addict
 
Nielsbeard's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgood ➡️
When engineering myself, sm7 was my goto for years for everybody tracking together in the same place vox mic... (and I’m the singer)... but, it always has a little niggle with being a little to honky with the upper mids where my particular vox can pop out some honkiness now and again... the aea is a bit more controlled in the same region. Also, the aea’s rejection seems even better than the sm7... in fact, its rejection is about as amazing as I’ve ever experienced with a microphone... I can track in the control room with the monitors on (at a low-ish level) and use this mic with no baffling or headphones

That is also, by the by, it’s Achilles heal. A singer with bad technique who can’t stay on the capsule is not gonna get on with this mic. Gotta stay in the g spot hehe... although I watch the Scary Pockets videos with interest as some of the talent gets away with a lot more off axis than I do with this mic... I suspect the engineer is giving the mic a lot more preamp juice with those sessions/talent than I do, generally.... and I believe that what you see/hear is what you get with the engineering in those vids more or less (he’s compressing with distressor on the way in... baking in the majority of the vocal sound at capture... which is cool)
Wow, really sounds like an amazing mic. So, I'm guessing it has the same or better rejection than the 441. Curious how the rejection compares to the KSM9HS too. Aaargh, I'm just gonna have to buy one to see.

I would love to see if thats what Scary Pockets did. You are probably right about the distressed baking. I don't know who does those mixes and what they use processing wise, but all the mixes I've heard sound great.
Old 14th October 2020
  #17
Gear Addict
 
Nielsbeard's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
So, the Ku5a is great, I'm really enjoying it so far. Compared it to the KSM9HS (hyper-cardiod selected). The Ku5a had a different level of detail in the lows, low-mids that was really nice. The KSM had less plosives, better off-axis rejection and more open sounding clarity.

Both seem like very good for general purpose recording duties and seem ideal for rooms that aren't great or when you are recording multiple instruments in the same room and need to reduce bleed. For live vocals, grab the KSM. Otherwise, either will be great depending on if you want to go far a darker or brighter sound.

I was able to get a really solid drum sound with the KSM near the top of the bass drum aimed across my knee at the snare and I had the Ku5a about 18" above the KSM pointed pretty much the same direction, a bit more downward, towards the snare and they sounded great together. The acoustics aren't great at home setup, but getting a really good drum sound with two mics with tight patterns and the Ocean Way plugin, I realized that using great omni condensers has been doing more hard than good.

Will be testing against SM57 and SM7B next

TLDR:
- SHURE KSM9HS (brighter) and AEA KU5a (darker) are two great mics for vocals, drums...
- Bedroom recordist- get good mics with good rejection and buy the UAD ocean way plug; Otherwise, book a good room.
- Plosives are far less problematic with the KSM on vocals vs the KU5a.
Old 14th October 2020 | Show parent
  #18
Gear Guru
 
bgood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nielsbeard ➡️
So, the Ku5a is great, I'm really enjoying it so far. Compared it to the KSM9HS (hyper-cardiod selected). The Ku5a had a different level of detail in the lows, low-mids that was really nice. The KSM had less plosives, better off-axis rejection and more open sounding clarity.

Both seem like very good for general purpose recording duties and seem ideal for rooms that aren't great or when you are recording multiple instruments in the same room and need to reduce bleed. For live vocals, grab the KSM. Otherwise, either will be great depending on if you want to go far a darker or brighter sound.

I was able to get a really solid drum sound with the KSM near the top of the bass drum aimed across my knee at the snare and I had the Ku5a about 18" above the KSM pointed pretty much the same direction, a bit more downward, towards the snare and they sounded great together. The acoustics aren't great at home setup, but getting a really good drum sound with two mics with tight patterns and the Ocean Way plugin, I realized that using great omni condensers has been doing more hard than good.

Will be testing against SM57 and SM7B next

TLDR:
- SHURE KSM9HS (brighter) and AEA KU5a (darker) are two great mics for vocals, drums...
- Bedroom recordist- get good mics with good rejection and buy the UAD ocean way plug; Otherwise, book a good room.
- Plosives are far less problematic with the KSM on vocals vs the KU5a.
Glad you dig it!
Old 14th October 2020
  #19
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DistortingJack's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Even though it's the "mic of the moment", everything I've heard using the KU5A has a weird upper midrange and low treble resonant thing that I really dislike. In comparison, the MD441 is always buttery-smooth.

I've never used the AEA mic, so I'm just going from the stuff I've heard others use it on, but it mostly feels like a downgrade to me.

Then again the MD441 is literally the best dynamic mic that one can buy right now, so it's a difficult comparison at the best of times.
Old 14th October 2020 | Show parent
  #20
Gear Addict
 
Nielsbeard's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by DistortingJack ➡️
Even though it's the "mic of the moment", everything I've heard using the KU5A has a weird upper midrange and low treble resonant thing that I really dislike. In comparison, the MD441 is always buttery-smooth.

I've never used the AEA mic, so I'm just going from the stuff I've heard others use it on, but it mostly feels like a downgrade to me.

Then again the MD441 is literally the best dynamic mic that one can buy right now, so it's a difficult comparison at the best of times.
I get what you mean. Although, that presence peak is often desirable and helps the source cut in a dense mix. The KSM9HS, which is a great handheld vocal mic has even more of that resonant thing. The Neumann KMS105 has even more!

You can always tame it easily with a EQ cut. If you have a dynamic EQ filter centered at 6800 cycles to do about 4db of reduction, it's buttery smooth on the loud parts while still maintaining the breathiness on soft parts.

Like you said the 441 might be one of the best dynamics that you can buy... as far as THE best, all factors considered... I'm not so SHURE (57) about that. lol.
Old 14th October 2020 | Show parent
  #21
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DistortingJack's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nielsbeard ➡️
I get what you mean. Although, that presence peak is often desirable and helps the source cut in a dense mix. The KSM9HS, which is a great handheld vocal mic has even more of that resonant thing. The Neumann KMS105 has even more!
The KMS 105 has a very smooth upper midrange, with a slightly metallic treble, most likely due to small, narrow resonances caused by the grille. I'm therefore not sure what you mean by "presence peak" here. The KSM9's peakiness is way more obvious, but it's in the lower treble rather than the presence area. It's very obvious if you record it. However, I think that in live situations that slight harshness is less of a problem and often it helps add sparkle in muddy PAs instead.

The imbalance in the AEA mic is different. The resonances feel like they start way lower, and they don't sound metallic, but more like the sound is going through a speaker cabinet. I'm not sure I could EQ that out without a lot of work, and definitely not with a standard analogue console EQ.

All in all, I think it sounds pleasant, but it's most definitely a more "out there" flavour option.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nielsbeard ➡️
Like you said the 441 might be one of the best dynamics that you can buy... as far as THE best, all factors considered... I'm not so SHURE (57) about that. lol.
If you have a couple of 441s you feel are underperforming, I will be very happy to swap a couple of 57s for them, like, right now
Old 16th October 2020 | Show parent
  #22
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Al Rogers's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by DistortingJack ➡️
Even though it's the "mic of the moment", everything I've heard using the KU5A has a weird upper midrange and low treble resonant thing that I really dislike. In comparison, the MD441 is always buttery-smooth.

I've never used the AEA mic...
I have used the KU5A quite a bit and have owned it for more than a year. I use it with the RPQ preamp and it is an impressive microphone. It's flattering to vocals and guitars which is what I record. Probably great on other sources too. IMHO it's a brilliant microphone design. I recommend it highly!
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