AZDEN SGM - 250
Azden are a manufacturer from Japan who specialise in quality handcrafted microphones and mixers, catering mainly to the video/film community. They have
quite a range of wireless lapel and hand held microphone systems as well as a decent range of shotgun mics. All of their products are reasonably priced, but
competition is stiff, with heavyweights like Sennheiser, Rode and Audio-Technica all vying for a piece of the Semi Pro/Pro video market.
On trial today is the SGM - 250 Shotgun Microphone.
Once I remove the mic from it’s packaging a soft leatherette pouch is revealed. It seems a little light on, but upon further inspection I realise it’s slight
padding provides adequate protection in transit. The mic itself feels solid and robust and weighs 160g. It is powder coated black and nicely finished. The XLR
output connector is gold plated It comes with a standard camera mount and a foam windshield.
It comes with ‘standard’ 2 year warranty, but this is easily upgraded to 10 years by logging on to the Azden website and registering your mic. This
represents great commitment to the quality of the mic and certainly worth following up. It is 250mm x 21mm, so it is slightly shorter than it’s main
competitors, the Rode NTG-2 and the Sennheiser MKE 600. These mics are all similarly priced and spec’d. I actually have an NTG-2 and an MKE 600, so I
thought I’d like to compare them to the SGM -250 to gauge where it sits.
The SGM - 250 is dual powered, running on a single 1.5 volt AA battery, or phantom power. Running a mic on battery power affects its dynamic range and
input level, although each of the mics mentioned perform more than reasonably - the Max Input SPL on both the Rode and the Sennheiser dropped from 132db SPL
w/P48 to 126db w/battery when using battery power, while Azden ranged from 132db SPL w/P48 to 127db w/battery. The rolloff on the SGM -250 sits little higher
than the Rode and Sennheiser at 160 HZ, 3db/octave - the NTG-2 (80HZ 12db/octave) and MKE 600 (100HZ ). My personal preference for shotgun mic
applications is to have a slightly higher rolloff point, as 160HZ ensures that anything ‘lumpy’ down low is gone and it’s rated 3db/octave means it tapers off
more gradually and smoothly. I mounted the mics on a T-bar and had a good mate sit down and play an acoustic guitar piece for me which I recorded. It was an
interesting test. The acoustic sat 1.5 metres from the mics and the results provided no real surprises. The NTG-2 had a well rounded bottom end, though
somewhat extended and provided nice detail. It always works well in the field but sometimes I find myself switching in the rolloff because of that slight low
end attenuation. The MKE 600 also provides nice detail. In my mind I always consider it provides a ‘shiny’ kind of sound because it is slightly attenuated
in the upper end which emphasises vocals. It does sound quite ‘forward’ but there have been times when I have found the Sennheiser to be slightly on the
harsh side because of that attenuation - depending on the type of recording being done. The SGM - 250 has great detail and is quite flat. It has a slight
top end attenuation and the low end is present but not emphasised. For the acoustic it made it quite a direct sound that represented the guitar well from a
listening perspective - that is, it sounded a little more like the guitar actually sounded to my ears in the room. This isn’t always necessary of course
when recording instruments for artists, but given the type of recording often being done by this class of microphone, being flat is something of an advantage.
Given that these mics are going to be more often than not recording voice I recorded myself reading a script that I had been working on and asked my
compatriot to switch each mic between phantom and battery for this exercise. Not surprisingly, each mic responded in a similar manner to the previous test, with
the Rode having a smooth low end attenuation and the Sennheiser having a more pronounced top end. Again, the Azden provided great detail with a flat
characteristic, but still sounded present and quite direct. When switching between phantom and battery power the results were very interesting. When
switching the Rode, it’s level dropped and it lost presence in both the low and high ends. This surprised me, as it has been a solid workhorse. The Sennheiser
reacted similarly, although the drop in level when switching to battery was not as obvious as the Rode. It still produced a direct sound with similar
characteristics when phantom powered. When switching the Azden, there was almost no discernible difference in level or tone. This set it apart from the other mic - a great outcome.
Azden have done a great job making the SGM - 250 sonically consistent across it’s field of use - into a mixer or on a camera. This provides it with another
level of versatility, because under all circumstances using this mic in the field or in the studio it will provide the same sound quality. I was excited by
the end of the practical tests because it made me realise what a good microphone the SGM - 250 is. It sounds great and is a well built, quality product. It’s
great value for money, is consistent and certainly would be a welcome addition to anyone’s kit.