I recently saw a deal on a Hammer & Anvil microphone aimed at DSLR videographers, the H&A MK-SLR100. Adorama.com had it on sale for a mere $20, no tax, and free shipping. How could I pass this up? The microphone just arrived and I put it to the test. The results are better than I expected.
While I picked up this microphone for $20, I must clarify that this was an introductory price for a new product. H&A listed on the seller page that the $20 price was for a limited time and the price would soon jump to the regular price of about $40. Instead of reading this with the mentality of “how good can a $20 microphone be?” Think of this as a $40 microphone and I, and many others, got lucky on the price and timing of this mic purchase.
Specs for H&A MK-SLR100
Type:Directional Condenser microphone
Frequency Response: 38-20,000 Hz
Sensitivity: -40dB +/- 3dB / 0dB=1V/Pa, 1kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: 75 dB
Output Impedance: <1k Ohm
Power: 1.5V AAA Battery
I was surprised at this cheap little microphone, but it’s not Rode quality. This microphone is easy to use and feels durable, though. It doesn’t feel like a $20 microphone, but rather fitting of the regular $40 price. The size is also ideal, at least for me. Hammer & Anvil also give you your money’s worth in accessories. Many deadcat filters are $20 on their own, or close to it.
The audio quality is what matters most, so let’s examine that first. I am by no means a professional audio engineer and only know enough to get by — so take my judgement of quality with that in mind. Also, I tested this with the Canon 7D Mk II DSLR, which seems to have better pre-amps than previous models. However, what I noticed was that this microphone isolated directional audio extremely well. The video at the top of the page demonstrates how the microphone sounds compared to the on-board microphone. Audio in front and slightly to either side of the microphone are prominent, but sounds elsewhere are mostly eliminated. Audio directly behind is still audible, but it’s minimal. In fact, an earlier test, which I hadn’t included in the video above for various reasons, was shot outdoors. A neighboring house had people cutting a tree down behind us several blocks away. It was audible fairly well by my ears and was concerned it would ruin the test footage. To my surprise, the chainsaw several blocks away was not recorded.
On the disappointing side of things, this microphone is significantly quieter than the on board microphone of the Canon 7D Mk II. I didn’t adjust the levels in the video above between the two microphones. At the quieter volume, hiss or audio noise is almost non-existent. However, once the audio is boosted to an equal volume of the DSLR’s internal microphone, hiss and noise become audible. This can easily be cleaned up in post, though. Having a dB plus or minus switch would be a nice addition, but most higher end microphones include this instead of the cheaper ones like this.
Build quality is impressive for the price, but not premium either. The microphone is made of hard plastic, but doesn’t feel delicate. The shock mount below it is thick and sturdy feeling. The coiled 3.5mm cable also feels surprisingly durable. The coil is the right length for a DSLR and doesn’t feel like it will stretch out too easily. My only concern here is that the microphone tends to lean in one direction over the shock mount, suggesting that it isn’t balanced well. This shouldn’t have a problem on function, but I do wonder about the long-term durability if there is extended stress on one side of the mount. The microphone is so light that the leaning may be negligible. I’d also like to note that the shock mount worked extremely well at eliminating vibration noise from handling. A review of this mic I saw earlier noted that the mic picked up some knocks from handling, blaming it on the shock mount. I did not experience this at all.
The pop-filter included fits like a glove. You can see in the video it isn’t easy to remove one-handed and it is tight enough not to slip off by accident. The video was recorded with the filter on and I feel it works as well as any other pop-filter. The deadcat filter I won’t comment too much about. I haven’t worked with these previously to compare it and haven’t spend much time with it on this microphone either. I will say that it’s also a tight fit over the pop-filter. IT takes some working to put it on and take it off. It’s way too easy to grip the fur of the deadcat trying to pull it off, making your efforts harder. On the plus side, it means it isn’t going anywhere when you don’t want it to.
All in all, I’d recommend this microphone for a budget solution to anyone that needs something small and cheap. It won’t replace your Rode Videomic, though. The quality is pretty good, but you may need to work a bit more with it in post. For many of us, that’s OK. If you’re just learning the industry, you may want to learn your audio noise reduction tools and gain boosting tools when you pick this up. If you’re looking for a mic for a backup kit, second shooter, or something mobile for gorilla-style shooting, then this isn’t a bad choice. I’d still aim for a more expensive Rode or Sennheiser microphone as your primary shotgun mic.