If you plan on shooting video with a dSLR, prepare yourself for tin sound recordings unless you’re using an external mic and preferably audio recorder too, and even then many offerings just don’t cut it. Of course there is the Røde Videomic Pro, which is inexpensive enough. But a major studio microphone builder’s first foray into the dSLR video mic market could rattle its cage. Enter the sE Electronics ProMic Laser back-electret condenser super-cardioid microphone.
If you’re after a lot of „oomph“ then by no means is the ProMic Laser for you. But if you want a directional microphone that has a neutral sound and excellent performance without distortion at any frequency, you can’t do much better in this price range.
The ProMic Laser directly competes with Røde’s Videomic Pro. The microphones cost about the same, but the aluminium ProMic Laser is superior in build and indeed in sound quality. The only aspect I found inferior is the ProMic Laser’s protective carrying bag. It’s really a black panty hose stitched together.
The shockmount, on the other hand is a nice and efficient design, but the actual shock absorbing rubber rings seemed a bit too rigid for the light weight of the mic in my opinion. The solution is to buy a pack of less sturdy rubber rings of the same size. A foam windshield is standard, a dead cat wind sock isn’t.
The microphone itself is extremely well built with a hand-tuned capsule. The ProMic Laser is crafted from aluminium and has the typical shotgun look, although it has a super-cardioid recording pattern. It only weighs 90g including the AAA battery and detachable mini-jack coiled cable that is included with the Laser.
The ProMic Laser sounds neutral and that’s a good thing
A microphone that records sound neutrally gives you much leeway when adding effects in post-production.
The ProMic Laser records neutral sound across its 20Hz-20kHz frequency range — there are no exaggerations in any area of the frequency response curve. I compared the Laser recordings with those I made the same afternoon using a Videomic Pro, a Hähnel MK200 and an sE2200a studio microphone. The MK200 sounded rather thin, seemingly unable to capture the low end well. The Videomic Pro sounded a bit more hyped in the lows (the original Videomic Pro — I don’t know about the recently released one with its new capsule). The sE2200a produced a richer sound altogether (it would be alarming if it didn’t!).
I first tested the microphones in a quiet room and then outside at a 500m distance from a motorway. The super cardioid ProMic Laser was very close to noise-free in the quiet room test. There was little background noise when I used the Laser in the motorway test. Because I thought the results were a little bit too good to be true, I decided to run another test. For this one, I played a CD with sea shore sounds loud enough to have me raise my voice in order for others to understand me.
Speaking at normal level, the Laser at a 60cm distance from my face confirmed the motorway result: it picked up very little of the noise. My voice was clearly set off from the background. It’s not really a scientific test, but I’d say its directional qualities are extremely satisfying.
The ProMic Laser is made of aluminium. It has a 10dB pad and a bass cut for faithfully recording loud music. Its frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz, max SPL of 120dB and 200 hours runtime (not tested) from a single AAA battery are quite impressive, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In this case, you won’t be disappointed.
With its bargain price of about €145.00, the ProMic Laser is in my opinion an impressive microphone for video shooters, offering professional-level audio quality. In fact, the only thing not “Pro” about this microphone is its mini-jack interface, but XLR interfaced mics are unavailable in this market segment as far as I know.