Modern-day videographers are rapidly becoming spoiled for choice when it comes to microphones. You no longer have to spend much money at all to get a great result. Aputure is a recent player in the audio arena but is aiming to be competitive. I received their recently-released “Deity” and have put it through a bit of testing. How does it hold up?
Aputure’s full kit, should you opt for it, comes nicely bundled with the case, a basic clamp, foam windshield, dead cat, and, of particular interest, a Rycote pistol grip shock mount. A lot of people might not realize how unusual it is to have an option to get all this with the microphone. Buying the kit is definitely a worthwhile investment and will certainly save money over buying parts and pieces individually. In this area, the Aputure Deity receives a solid thumb up.
Aputure is clearly aiming for a quality microphone. Australia’s RODE microphone manufacturer has enjoyed enormous popularity by making a pretty good product at a very attractive price point. Mics from RODE’s NTG series will draw a likely comparison when considering the Deity. From what I’ve experienced, the RODE microphones are not as well built as the Deity which aims at a slightly higher target. Aputure is positioning this microphone against the venerable Sennheiser MKH416, a microphone everyone and their dog (and dead cat) have used since I’ve been alive. That microphone is as much an ‘industry standard’ as any, and Aputure seem to have gone to great lengths to emulate both its audio acquisition properties as well as its form factor. Take a look at these twinners.
I like smaller shotgun mics. In fact, I find hyper-cardiod shotguns get rather overused in situations (small rooms indoors) where they probably shouldn’t be. It’s just so much what people associate with film dialog that people keep using narrow pick-up pattern, long-barreled, hyper-cardiod mics. A wider pattern makes booming a two-shot conversation much easier, reduces handling noise, often works better indoors and still gives great results outside in many environments if you can get it close enough to the talent. I own a couple mics with removable capsules so the pickup pattern can be changed and those, honestly are my favorite, but the handling noise is higher than with the Aputure and they are much more fragile. The diameter of the Deity will likely be thinner than other mics you own, so getting the mic with the shock mount is helpful. Additionally, the smaller length of the Deity is very handy in comparison to the (both excellent and affordable) Audio Technica AT835b shotgun which I could nearly use to joust.
Returning to build quality, one of the things I find exciting about the Aputure is its water resistance. Supposedly this microphone can be completely submerged in water and will still operate as normal after an appropriate drying period.
I’d encourage you to take a look at the pickup pattern, illustrated in the included manual, before using it. I did things the other way around and was rather surprised at how wide the pattern was in use. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing (and the pattern is very dependent on frequency which a lot of people don’t account for) but it’s something to be aware of. I would say that it still has decent enough side rejection to help isolate what’s in front of it, but it’s rear rejection is nowhere near that of the Sennheiser or some of the other competition.
So what’s my ultimate conclusion? Everything checks out but one glaring issue: from listening to other samples online, I believe my unit is flawed. There is significantly more self noise on this microphone than on any other microphone I’ve tested. I tested against another Aputure Deity and found mine to be significantly worse so I got a third in and found it to be much like the first. 2 out of 3 microphones performing poorly represents an alarmingly high sample variation issue for Aputure. I can not emphasize enough how important it is that you make sure to test your specific sample.
I do like the modularity of microphones like my Sennheiser K6 power module with different options for pickup pattern with different barrels. This also provides 48v phantom power without requiring it from a preamp which can be very helpful for DSLR/Mirrorless shooters trying to go straight into camera. Something like the K6+ME66 combo sees a lot of use by someone like me because its signal is so hot I can turn the nasty in-camera preamps clear down and get a much nicer result. I was pleased to see that the Aputure Deity is gives a nice toasty signal, but again, since you’ll be powering it externally you may not care anyway. One issue with the dedicated power in the K6 however, is that the quality can suffer when using it over powering from the mixer/dedicated pre-amp. You’ll never have this or have to worry about batteries with the Deity because you’ll always be relying on external phantom power. There’s also no high pass/low cut filter on the microphone, something I’m long passed requiring so I don’t at all miss it. The aforementioned Sennheiser K6+ME66 always requires quick post EQ to muffle some its bright tinny-ness so a quick bass rolloff in post is almost second nature.
You can find multiple comparisons and sound quality samples on line of the Deity and many other microphones. Though I might be scorned for saying this, there’s a huge chance your microphone doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Getting the right mic close to subject and being conscious of the environment will usually make a much bigger difference than spending thousands of dollars more. For this reason, I suggest people spend less and get a mic like the Deity and put some of the rest of their money into training like Pro Audio IQ or even just spend some time learning mic technique for free on YouTube. Listen blind to some of the (compressed) YouTube samples and tell someone sitting by you what you like. Now, recall the disclaimer that those samples have ‘no post processing’. Was the difference such that with a little post work you don’t reckon you could get any one of the mics to sound pretty similar to another? Now imagine that you’ve got sound effects and score working alongside that dialog. How much do you think you could spot the difference with all that going on? I hope I’m making my point that nitpicking audio quality on a dialog mic is really a waste of time. There’s simply not enough of a challenge in either frequency response or dynamic range in human vocals to stress a semi-decent mic. To me, it’s the practical aspects like size, durability, and handling noise that make the biggest difference by the end, and the Aputure excels in those areas.
If I were a highly sibilant female I would record my own sample for the sake of testing the mic in a new way, but my voice falls pretty close to at least three other males on YouTube who have already reviewed this mic and my copy seems to be flawed so I’m not going to waste the internet by posting my recordings. See here here and here.
While the Deity might be slightly more than the RODE mics, I have no issue spending a bit more on nicer audio gear, but again, make sure to test your sample. To this day I’m still using the same Sennheiser shotgun I acquired in high school. I think I’ve been through about 25 cameras in that same span of time. The build quality of the Aputure and the water resistance seem well worth the cost and I believe that, with a good sample of the microphone, the sound quality will be more than satisfactory as well. If you don’t care about brand name dropping or trying to impress other audiophiles with a model number then Aputure gives you a good bang for your buck.
What’s interesting about Aputure, and a huge part of why I’m keen to support them, is that they honestly don’t have the brand recognition to justify high prices, but while they keep their price accessible, they do seem to still make quite an effort with quality. If they can resolve their issues with sample variation, update their website, and continue producing eye catching products (like their LightStorm LED LS1 panel), I predict the industry will soon know the name.