Shotgun microphones are flexible tools for capturing natural, focused sound for film and television, environmental recordings, sporting and live events, vlogs, or voice-overs. Their narrow pickup pattern rejects noise from the sides and, to a certain extent, the back, keeping the focus on your subject. The best shotgun mics are light enough to mount on a camera or carry on a boom-pole all day long and, in many cases, built with enough durability to survive the rough-and-tumble life of location recording.
Plenty of times you’re on the street or livestreaming and don’t have the luxury of individually miking people, or you’re filming a scene where you can’t have a visible lavalier mic. That’s why you’ll find top-notch shotgun mics throughout the professional world—often accompanied by professional-level prices. But shotguns have been around for a while and these ubiquitous tools of the trade are often inexpensive enough that even beginners and budget-minded users can add quality equipment to their kit bags.
With every reputable—and less than reputable—microphone manufacturer producing them, it’s sometimes hard to figure out which shotgun mics deliver on their promise of great sound. So to help you out, we’ve rounded up a list of tips, advice, and the best shotgun mics.
How we chose the best shotgun mics
We based our selection of the best shotgun mics on our own personal experience in the film, TV, and professional audio worlds, as well as conversations with other professional audio engineers and filmmakers, experts at equipment rental houses, and musicians. We consulted specialty review sites, industry trade magazines, and blogs, and read through the online impressions of typical users to see if performance typically matched a mic’s promise. In evaluating our selections, we prioritized sound quality and then looked at construction (including moisture resistance), price, size, and how the microphone’s powered.
Things to consider before buying a shotgun mic
Microphones have polar, or response, patterns, which describe how they “hear” sound sources depending on where they’re placed. A shotgun microphone is a type of mic that has a very narrow, front-facing response known as a “supercardioid” pattern. This means the mic mostly picks up sound from whatever you point it at, while doing an excellent job of rejecting sound from the sides and, to a lesser extent, the back. Shotgun mics are ideal for recording dialogue on a movie set, the action on the court at a basketball game, or animals out in nature. It’s important to note that no shotguns will reject all off-axis sound. But they do an excellent job of keeping the focus on your subject.
Frequency response is measured in Hertz (Hz) and describes how well the microphone captures sound at different frequencies. Shotgun microphones tend to have very wide, flat responses—that is, they pick up a range of frequencies more or less equally well—to better represent what the human ear can hear. They’re often tuned a bit to help emphasize dialogue and other mid-range frequencies.
Condenser vs. dynamic microphones
There are two main types of microphones: condenser mics and dynamic mics. In very basic terms, microphones use diaphragms that vibrate when hit by sound waves. These vibrations generate electronic impulses that can be recorded or converted directly back into sound. Condenser mics have very thin diaphragms that are sensitive to subtle, quiet, nuanced sound. But they’re more delicate and susceptible to heavy handling and moisture. Dynamic mics, with their thicker diaphragms, aren’t as good with nuance but do very well when blasted with loud noises. They’re also robust and can survive a lot of abuse. (Singers usually use dynamic mics on stage and if you’ve ever been to a punk show, you’ve seen the damage they can withstand.)
Because shotguns are meant to capture even whispered dialogue, they’re almost always condenser mics. Some mics—like those in Sennheiser’s MKH series—use RF condensers in their capsules, versus AF condensers, which do a better job at resisting humidity. But it’s important to understand the options and even test a mic so you make sure you get the right one for the job at hand.
Shotgun mics come in various lengths, from a compact 3 inches or 4 inches to more than 1-foot long. Consider how you’ll be using the mic when deciding on whether or not you want a compact one. If you’re mounting it on a camera, a smaller profile makes the mic lighter and much more maneuverable. Longer shotguns tend to have tighter polar patterns; they’re great when recording concerts or sporting events and you want to minimize the overwhelming crowd noise. But put one on a camera and you’re liable to poke someone’s eye out!
Like all condenser mics, shotguns require some sort of power source. They usually rely on 48v phantom power, which is delivered from a recording device, mixer, or camera. But some also have an option of using an AA battery, which can be a life-saver if you find yourself in a situation where phantom power isn’t available. (For instance, some wireless rigs don’t deliver power themselves, so pick up and power up those rechargeable batteries.)
The best shotgun mics: Reviews & Recommendations
Best overall: Sennheiser MKH 416
Why it made the cut: This shotgun microphone’s ability to capture very natural sound, coupled with a rugged build, has long made it a go-to for professionals across many fields.
- Weight: 6.17 ounces
- Length: 9.84 inches
- Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20 kHz
- Wide frequency response for clear, natural sound
- Tight polar pattern isolates sound sources
- Moisture resistant
Sennheiser’s name pops up time and again when discussing the best microphones and the venerable German manufacturer doesn’t slack off with their flagship MKH 416 shotgun mic. This professional-grade piece of kit has a wide 40-20,000 Hz frequency response, with a hyper-cardioid polar pattern at the low to mid frequencies that does an excellent job of rejecting off-axis sounds while zeroing in on the dialogue and other mid-frequency sources. The shotgun works great indoors or out, across a variety of environments, thanks to an RF condenser design that’s highly resistant to moisture. Thanks to the MKH 416’s compact and light construction, it’s easy to mount the mic on a boom pole without sacrificing maneuverability or tiring out your operator.
Make no mistake, you can get excellent shotgun mics for less money. But as good as they are, none provide the combined level of sonic quality, robust construction, and all-around utility of the MKH 416.
Best compact: Rode NTG3B
Why it made the cut: Small in size and big on quality, Rode’s NTG3B is an excellent choice for both camera- and boom-mounted applications.
- Weight: 5.75 ounces
- Length: 10.4 inches
- Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20 kHz
- Wide frequency response for natural sound
- Moisture resistant
- Easy to mount on a camera or boom
- Slightly thinner sounding
Rode makes excellent mics. And thanks to its relatively moderate price tag, the NTG3B represents a common first step into the world of high-quality microphones. But thanks to its wide, natural 40-20,000 Hz frequency response and excellent build quality, it’s also the last stop for many pro and semi-pro indie filmmakers, documentarians, broadcast journalists, podcasters, and in-house audio-video teams. It has excellent off-axis rejection and its RF condenser technology protects it from moderate amounts of moisture. It isn’t quite as sensitive or directional as our top pick, Sennheiser’s MKH 416, but it usually costs about $300 less—and includes a handy metal case—which, for all but the most demanding users, is often worth the trade-off. It’s still not what we’d consider “budget-priced,” but you definitely get what you pay for in terms of sonic integrity and build.
Best for DSLR: Rode VideoMic Pro+
Why it made the cut: Rode’s VideoMic Pro includes a built-in shockmount and uses a 3.5mm TRS cable, making it an ideal, all-in-one solution for DSLR and mirrorless camera shooters.
- Weight: 4.3 ounces
- Length: 6.69 inches
- Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Built-in shockmount resists handling noise
- Extremely compact design
- Multiple power options
- 3.5mm TRS connectors
- No XLR connectivity
- Off-axis rejection could be better
Rode designed this compact and handy shotgun mic with mobile journalists, vloggers, and run-and-gun shooters in mind. It connects to cameras or audio recorders via a 3.5mm TRS cable and features an integrated shockmount that protects it from handling noise. The VideoMic Pro+ also has a built-in cold-shoe mount—so no extra arms or connectors are needed to mount it on your camera.
The mic can be tuned to handle different recording environments, with buttons that provide low-cut filters at either 75 Hz or 150 Hz. You can also boost the frequency at 7 kHz if things start sounding a bit muddy. The mic has adjustable gain, as well, to help compensate for very loud or soft sounds.
The VideoMic Pro+ won’t accept phantom power, but it does allow you to use AA batteries, Rode’s rechargeable battery, or an external battery that can connect via USB.
With a shorter barrel, this shotgun mic sometimes has trouble rejecting off-axis sounds, especially in environments with large and noisy crowds. But if you want to keep your kit low-profile and nimble, this trade-off might be worth it.
Premium pick: Schoeps CMIT 5
Why it made the cut: This is one of the most natural-sounding shotgun mics you can buy, with switchable filters to help shape the sound for any environment—but this kind of quality doesn’t come cheap!
- Weight: 3.35 ounces
- Length: 9.88 inches
- Frequency response: 40 Hz – 20 kHz
- Natural sound
- Three switchable filters
- Shielded against electronic interference
- Compact design
- Very expensive.
- Sensitive to environmental issues
Shoeps makes some of the best sounding microphones in the business and the CMIT 5 is no exception. It has a frequency response of 40 to 20,000 Hz that’s tuned to provide flat, transparent, natural audio. But it also has three filters in case some additional acoustic sculpting is required: increase vocal clarity with a 5 dB boost at 10 Hz; roll off some bass at 300 Hz to offset proximity effect; or do a steep cut below 80 Hz to help wrangle handling-noise from a mic boom. It’s designed to perform best when paired with a high-gain mic preamp and is ideal for high-end applications like capturing dialogue, foley work, sound effects, or recording nuanced instruments.
However, Schoeps mics are some of the most sensitive to environmental issues like humidity. You don’t want to bring the CMIT 5 into the jungle or shoot down in Florida outside of an environmentally controlled building. This is a microphone for the studio, concert hall, or closed set.
Bear in mind that the best of the best comes with a high price tag and the Schoeps CMIT 5 might be more microphone than many people outside of the professional field need.
Best budget: Audio-Technica AT897
Why it made the cut: It’s hard to beat the AT897’s performance at this price point, making it our choice for anyone operating under a tighter budget.
- Weight: 5.11 ounces
- Length: 10.98 inches
- Frequency response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- 80 Hz low-cut switch
- Battery and phantom powered
- Susceptible to moisture
- Slightly brittle sounding
With microphones, you often get what you pay for. But Audio-Technica’s AT897 manages to deliver high-quality results while still costing less than $250. Its wide 20-20,000 Hz frequency response, with a switchable roll-off at 80 Hz, allows the mic to capture very natural sound. That said, the response across all those frequencies could be flatter and you can expect some brittleness in the higher end that you won’t find on more professional-grade mics. Off-axis sound rejection is good, but not great.
The AT897 is built like a tank and, while I wouldn’t suggest tossing it onto concrete or driving over it with a truck, it’ll generally survive the mishaps you’re likely to encounter when recording on location or out in nature. However, it’s susceptible to moisture and high humidity, so keep an eye on the weather if you’re using it outdoors.
A nice bonus: This mic can run off an AA battery, which is particularly handy when the budget doesn’t allow for recorders or cameras that supply phantom power—for instance, in a classroom.
Despite some shortcomings, this is an excellent shotgun microphone for beginners who want to develop their technique, schools, or anyone operating under a tight budget.
Q: How do I choose a shotgun mic?
When choosing a shotgun mic, look for one that suits the projects you’re likely to work on. Are you an indie filmmaker? A vlogger? Do you record music? Are you working indoors or outside? How controlled an environment will you be recording in? Also consider your budget—spend enough to get a mic that will serve you well as your projects develop, but not one that completely empties your wallet or provides features you know you’ll never need.
Q: How good are shotgun mics?
Shotgun mics are great if used correctly and for the right application—just like any mic! If you need to pick up specific sound sources, like an actor delivering dialogue or a guitarist playing on a street corner, shotgun mics are ideal because of the way they minimize surrounding (off-axis) noise.
Q: How much does a shotgun mic cost?
Shotgun mics cost anywhere from about $200 to $2,500. But you often get what you pay for and lower-priced mics sometimes sacrifice sonic clarity and off-axis rejection, or might not be built well enough to protect them from bangs and bumps. On the other hand, the highest-priced mics are designed for professionals in demanding situations, and many people won’t need to take advantage of all those mics offer. Many excellent shotgun mics can be found in the $300-$800 price range.
Q: Is a shotgun mic good for YouTube?
A shotgun mic is great for YouTube. Anything that captures audio clearly and helps you deliver your creative vision is a tool you want in your kit.
Q: Can you use a shotgun mic to record music?
Yes, you can use a shotgun mic to record music. A good quality shotgun has a flat frequency response and directionality that makes it very effective at capturing warm and subtle tones.
Final thoughts on the best shotgun mics
If you’re shopping for a shotgun microphone, you’ve got a lot of options—that’s the good news. Manufacturers like Sennheiser and Rode make mics at different price points that all deliver excellent audio. The trick is figuring out which mic suits your needs best without accidentally overspending. It’s not easy—and that’s the bad news. Navigating all these microphones takes time and careful research. It also helps to use the mics before you buy one so you can tell from first-hand experience if it’s right for you. That said, our own experience working with these mics professionally takes us back, time and again, to the classic Sennheiser MKH 416. It’s hard to beat the sound quality, which is simply excellent. But if you can’t quite afford one, Rode’s NTG3B, our pick for the best compact shotgun mic, is an excellent second choice. It sounds almost as good and has the same resistance to humidity. I’ve used both in professional settings and I’ve never had any complaints.