Sennheiser MKE 400 and XS LAV review: my new go-to run-and-gun

Expanding its product offering for mobile creators, Sennheiser has come out with a new line including the XS Lav Mobile and the 400 MKE Compact Shotgun Microphone. Great for VO and camera audio capture, there are some nice options that face stiff competition from Rode. Be sure to check out the video below to see and hear all of the details, and how they stack up against some industry standards from Rode.


Sennheiser’s new mobile audio recording devices range from their omnidirectional lapel microphones with various connections to two different shotgun mics. Lav pickups are great for fast sound; just tie it to a shirt, set your level and start riding.

For camera audio, a few different features such as battery power set the MKE 200 and MKE 400 apart. The 400 is much larger and requires two AAA batteries, which are included while the MKE 200 does not. requires no additional power. This gives the MKE 400 more gain options as well as a headphone output for direct control of the audio.

If you want a super simple plug-and-play option, then the $ 100 MKE 200 is definitely worth a look. It features a similar design to the MKE 400 with a front mount cable, included shock mount, and included cables. But for the full experience, the MKE 400 has a ton to offer for the price of $ 200.

MKE 400 ready for use

I chose to try the MKE 400. Included in the box with the mic are the two AAA batteries needed, a fur windshield, a simple pouch, a TRS to TRS cable and a TRS to TRRS cable for various devices. .

And I have to say I really like the look of the Sennheiser MKE 400. Now I know it can be silly to say that a microphone looks good, but the tough mesh grille with a built-in windshield that covers the microphone looks solid. And while there is no external shock mount, there is one built into this hard case.

Another design feature that I really like about the MKE 400 is the detachable cable. Not only is this great for use with the interchangeable TRRS or TRS cables, but you can use your own as well. So in my situation I can mount the mic like a shotgun mic for my studio videos and use a much longer 3.5mm cable to reach the camera.

Micro MKE 400 and XS Lav: video

Another thing I like is that it looks like the Sennheiser MKE 400 has an auto power feature. Just turning on my camera with the mic plugged in, the green power light turns on, then when I turn off the camera, the power turns off after a while. For me, this is a huge characteristic. There have been many times that I forgot to turn off my VideoMic Pro, and having a microphone do it itself is a huge headache saver which should get the battery life to 100%. hours is up to this lifespan.

In addition, Sennheiser also offers a mobile kit for the MKE 400. For $ 30 more than the entry price of the microphone, this kit also includes a smartphone clamp and a Manfrotto PIXI mini tripod. This makes it a simple all-in-one package for getting great sound with the convenience of an included tripod.

How does that sound?

So far I have been very impressed with the sound of the Sennheiser MKE 400. Recording in my studio and testing the microphone outside have both yielded superb results. In my studio, I compared it directly to the Razer Seiren emote that I use for most of my videos, and I could actually start using the MKE 400 for all of my video recordings. The super-cardioid polar diagram worked well in combating the echo nature of my chamber while my voice was fuller and less harsh than the Seiren emote.

When testing the microphone outdoors against the Rode VideoMic Pro, the Sennheiser MKE 400 seemed to attenuate background noise in my yard better than the VideoMic Pro. Road noise and birds chirping were both less noticeable which gave my voice more presence. The equalizer also seemed to highlight vocal ranges better than the flatter sound of the Rode VideoMic Pro. Be sure to watch the video to hear these comparisons for yourself.

While both mics have shock mounts, the Rode Videomic Pro seemed to eliminate low impact noise more than the MKE 400. But back in the days when I was using the MKE 400 in a run-and-gun shooting situation , I really didn’t notice that the shock mount is a problem under normal use.

XS LAV Mobile ready to use

Sennheiser’s XS LAV is fairly straightforward in nature, but has a few features and options that make it ideal for today’s designers. For mobile devices, the $ 60 USB-C connection might be the ideal solution. But for a more traditional connection, the XS LAV can also sport a TRRS connector that still connects to smart devices for $ 50.

Again, my main comparison was with the Rode SmarLav which also has a TRRS connection. I then used a TRRS to TRS adapter to connect them directly to my Sony a7S iii.

There are a few things that distinguish the XS LAV from the very popular Rode. First of all, it’s a bit bigger overall. This is especially evident when the windshields are removed. It might be banned for some, but I don’t really mind.

Sennheiser XS Lav on the left and Rode SmartLav Plus on the right

Another noticeable difference is that the cable is a bit longer on the XS LAV at 80 inches compared to 48 inches on the Rode. For creators, this can be very beneficial as it allows more freedom when connected to a camera. Of course, you can always provide your own TRRS extension cable if needed, but for an all-in-one option I prefer the longer cable.

As for the sound quality, straight out of the camera, the sound from the Sennheiser XS LAV sounded brighter to my voice while the SmartLav sounded a bit flatter. It can be good or bad depending on your process, but for me, I enjoy the sound of the Sennheiser. It looks more ready to go out of the camera with no additional post edits.

Final thoughts

Over the past few years, Rode has sort of been my choice when it comes to camera audio. And they make great products. But after testing the MKE 400, I’ll switch to Sennheiser for most of my audio. I think I’ll even give it a chance for my studio reviews.

When mounted on my a7S iii, the Sennheiser MKE 400 has a lot of features that make it feel like an upgrade from the older on-camera microphones I have used. Cable placement stays out of the way better than rear mounted cables like the simple Joby Wavo mic that I sometimes use. The detachable cable means I can use mine and get more creative with mic placement in situations like recording in my studio. Auto power on / off is a great convenience that saves me battery life. And ultimately, I love the sound of the MKE 400 and its super cardioid pattern.

There are situations where I want the small form factor of the SmartLav, but overall I like the longer cable and the sound coming out of the Sennheiser XS LAV more than other lavalier mics I’ve used.

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About Annie Baxley

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