5 Best Microphones for Recording Nature in 2020
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Do you want to record high-quality nature sounds but cannot decide what microphone to use?
Choosing the best microphone for nature recording isn’t easy, given that most microphones are developed for the studio, music recording, and film applications.
And, even while there is quite an overwhelming number of microphone brands in the market, not all are best suited for recording environmental sounds.
Blindly going for primo mics is the worst.
There is a high chance that what you get won’t be the best for your individual situation.
Ultimately, for most nature recordings, some background on the microphone is necessary before committing actual money.
Below we have covered 5 of what we have tested to be the best microphones for nature recording.
Depending on your specific application, these microphones are sure to produce immersive nature soundscapes.
You’ll also capture different species’ vocalizations - chirping and fluttering of different birds, rain songs of the migrating yellow warblers, screaming of red-tailed hawks, and wildlife mating calls - with extraordinary realism.
By the way, here is a detailed and comprehensive guide on everything microphones
Our Winner After Careful Research
Best Microphones for Recording Nature - Comparison Table
Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
Sennheiser MKE600 Camcorder Shotgun Microphone
Sony ECM-680S M/S Stereo Shotgun Microphone
Rode NT4 X/Y Stereo Condenser Microphone
5 Best Microphones for Recording Nature
1. Zoom H4N PRO Digital Multitrack Recorder
You are an ornithologist.
You’re just getting started on a new avian research project to record and learn new birdsong and calls.
Your field recording kit must include recording equipment and a microphone setup.
The Zoom H4N PRO offers these two essential recording gears in a single handy device.
By combining a recorder and a microphone into a small unit that’ll fit in your hand, the H4N is ideal if you are looking to travel light.
There is a threaded hole on the backside that eliminates the need for a tripod or stand adapter.
Should you need to set up a camera rig, you can acquire a hot shoe adapter (separately) to mount your H4N Pro directly to the DSLR.
This is a multipurpose digital recorder that is outfitted with onboard XY mic capsules obviating the need to use the low-quality built-in camera mic or carrying an external microphone set.
Its adjustable 90°/120° stereo microphone provides clear audio capture in both tight stereo image and wider stereo array.
For a sub-$200 recorder, the Zoom H4N Pro packs a remarkable range of features that meet the varied demands of nature recordists.
It is widely praised for producing high-quality audio capture of ambient and environmental sounds as well as recording earsplitting thunder at over 140 dB.
Did you know also that Zoom’s H-Series units are the audio recorders of choice for most National Audubon Society members?
- Combines a recorder and microphone into a travel-friendly device
- Rubberized, ergonomic build for handheld use
- AA Batteries (Alkaline/NiMH) go up to 10 hours
- AC Adapter Powering option for unlimited recording time
- Built-in speaker for quick playback
- Recording directly to an SD or SDHC card
- Steinberg's Cubase LE music production & WaveLab LE audio editing software licenses
- Larger capacity cards slow boot uptime
2. Sennheiser MKE600 Camcorder Shotgun Microphone
Get better sound quality with less hassle by using the Sennheiser MKE600.
Thanks to its super-cardioid/lobar polar pattern audio pick up, you get marked focus on-axis and effective rejection of side and rear sounds.
This makes it an excellent choice for recordists who want to record wilder beasts from distance, and still be able to highlight a specific species’ vocalization.
The Sennheiser MKE600 is a popular mic set among professional field audio engineers, video producers, and documentary filmmakers.
As a shotgun microphone praised for its remarkable focused directional and immaculate sound quality reproduction.
A low noise-circuity and natural roll-off at 40 Hz makes it a widely recorder for dialog recording and interviews.
Documentary filmmakers especially love its clear intelligibility for an enhanced speech clarity when recording voice-overs.
Being a lightweight unit, this microphone will not weigh down your rig when you are out on a week-long stakeout to capture the expressive "coo" vocalizations of the evasive pig-tailed macaque.
Its metal housing makes it reliably tough to endure rugged conditions.
- Marked direction with a substantial rejection of sides/rear sound
- Supercardioid/lobar polar pattern captures distant sources
- Selectable low-cut filter at 100 Hz attenuates low-frequency noise
- Naturally moderates bass buildup; roll-off at 40 Hz
- Options for battery- or phantom-power
- 1.005 lb lightweight unit
- Tough, durable metal housing provides immunity to wear
- Includes shoe shock mount for a camera or tripod placement
- Not the best for recording ambient sound
3. Sony ECM-680S Shotgun Microphone
The Sony ECM-680S is an MS (Mid-side) stereo shotgun that is switchable to a unidirectional (cardioid) mic for excellent directional sound pickup.
It is equipped with an internal MS decoder that allows easy switching between stereo or mono depending on needs/situation.
Because of this distinguishing audio capturing switchable operation, the EMC-680S is considered to be a versatile mic that can be used in dialog capture and recording of ambiance for films as well as other professional audio applications.
Even while it is most suitable for broadcast studio applications, the Sony ECM-680S also has a broad range of field applications.
It is especially ideal for recording environmental sounds to monitor biodiversity and ecosystem functions.
Another handy feature of the ECM-680S is that it includes an xlr-5pin and an optional k-1504 output cable for flexible connectivity.
This makes it ready for use in any recording environment, mostly with 5-pin XLR input equipped camcorders or camcorders with twin 3-pin XLR inputs.
Its length at 9” is ideal for camera mounting.
It’s a perfect solution for recording dialog indoors without getting in the way of the shot.
While this is not a Schoeps microphone, it’s far from being cheap!
It’s an excellent stereo microphone that’s highly recommended for sound engineers, musicians, and nature recordings who frequently toggle between stereo placement and focused sound capture.
- Switchable stereo and monaural audio capturing
- 50 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response
- Wide & Flat Frequency Response
- Two-position low-cut filter built-in
- Superb audio rejection, monaural
- Susceptible to very high humidity
4. Rode NT4 X/Y Stereo Condenser Microphone
The Rhodes NT4 is a solid microphone trusted to produce pristine audio quality.
It has proven to have more pick-up distance than most other microphones and is therefore widely used in field recording to capture nature sounds.
You will notice that you get the best sound capture in an acoustic environment when you set the Rhodes NT4 much farther than you would setup many other mics.
You might have to play around with distance to pick up the natural pitch of a single bird you’ve been stalking for days on end.
The NT4 is Rhode’s X/Y stereo mic.
It features a pair of ½-inch cardioid condenser capsules aligned in a perfect 90° near-coincident configuration.
These cardioid capsules are harmonized in sensitivity and frequency response to achieve accurate signal recording within a stereo field.
The dual cardioid x/y stereo elements are configured to instantly create a realistic “left/right” stereo array.
With this single microphone, you don’t need a complex setup of paired individual mics or other equipment to create an X/Y stereo field.
- Dual power options; Battery or Phantom Power
- Low self-noise, 16 dBA
- Twin Capsules acoustically matched for optimum results
- Stereo XLR and 3.5mm mini-jack cables included
- WS4 pop filter/windshield supplied
- Comes in an RC4 rugged microphone case
- Dual cardioid capsules do not pivot for flexibility
5. Sennheiser ME66/K6P Shotgun Microphone System
The Sennheiser ME66/K6P is a shotgun that looks like a baton.
It is a common shotgun microphone system among bird recordings.
They find this model particularly attractive for its ability to significantly rejecting background noise while maintaining desired sounds pulled from the direction it is directed.
This is a directional super-cardioid shotgun condenser microphone that will pull maximum sound from the front of the mic capsule.
Its lobar polar signal capture pattern effectively boosts attenuation at the sides and rear-end of the microphone head so you remain with a tight pick up area.
Besides recording nature, these are also desirable properties for video production and interviews.
The form factor is another desirable feature of the Sennheiser ME66/K6P.
A light, compact enclosure makes it perfect for camera and boom pole mounting.
It doesn’t get in the way of your shot.
It comes in a protective matte black finish that looks quite professional.
Its anodized enclosure will resist abrasion and maintain its appearance, even under severe conditions.
- Focused, crisp sound; no hiss, buzz, or static
- Wide 40 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response
- Integration with standard microphone preamps
- On/Off switch with battery test position
- Easily attaches to K6 /K6P powering modules
- Protective scratch-resistant finish
- 3-pin XLR jack for easy connections
- Battery or phantom power options
Dig further into any of the above microphones for recording nature and you will be surprised that they can actually be used in a range of studio and field applications.
Most nature recordings would tell you that the best microphone for recording nature is one that can capture a perfect recording with extraordinary realism.