I have recently been doing sound tech for a Classic British Rock/USA Southern Rock cover band and I decided I needed to obtain some equipment as we never have enough working kit and I fancy getting back into the live audio scene. First up was a microphone. My previous experience has been with Shure mics and my first thought was to pick up an SM58 but we have some feedback issues where we are and the Sennheiser E845 compares with the SM58 and should provide better feedback rejection. I ended up winning an auction for a "used" E845S for about £30 from a seller who had already sold one for about £45 When it arrived I got a strange gut feeling that it might be fake and a bit of googling aroused my suspicion further.
It turns out that Sennheiser's UK presence is not far away from the aylesbury QTH so I paid them a visit and at first glance their tech thought it was a legitimate microphone. Only on closer inspection and comparison with one of theirs did they confirm it was a fake and they gave me some more pointers on spoting them (coming home and looking a bit more on eBay shows that these fakes are widespread, so much so that even Cash Converters are selling a possibly fake mic). Obviously Sennheiser can't do anything about it being a fake but they did point me at their supplier for endorsed bands who was able to provide me with a very good deal on a brand new E845.
To make things easier for everyone else to spot these fakes I've thrown together a detailed side-by-side comparison (the genuine mic generally on the right in the photos). Obviously the E845 and the E845S are not exactly the same mic so there will be subtle differences. The key areas of difference are:
The Grille is probably the most obvious difference between the real and the fake but only if you know what the grille should look like or have a legitimate mic to compare to.
The fake grille is shorter than the real one (), has a smaller diameter across the top () and is just the wrong shape - the sides below the black band are much straighter on the real grille.
Printing & Colour
The second most obvious sign is the quality of the printing on the microphone.
The printing on the fake microphone is Fuzzy (it's not the camera!) compared to the real mic. There should be noticeable gaps between the slanted "S" in Sennheiser and the box around it. On the fake, the box just about merges in with the "S". The font used for "E845S" is wrong as the one on the fake mic seems to be more curvy and rounded with the loops on the "5" and the "S" not stopping flat with the edge of the letter. There should be a gap between the "5" and the "S" on a real E845S.
The fake microphone is a different colour to the real one with the real mic being darker than the fake.
Size, Weight & Body
The fake microphone is a couple of milimeters shorter than the real E845 (185mm vs 187mm). However the fake is 1mm longer on the body (base to the lip where the grill screws down to, 130mm vs. 129mm) and 4mm longer to the top of the capsule without the grill (170mm vs. 166mm). There is also a significant weight difference with the fake being over 25g lighter than the real one which should be 330g (I haven't verified this as my rather inaccurate scales report that the real mic weighs 353g).
The screw holding the XLR connector in is almost flush with the body on the real mic where as it is recessed on the fake mic.
The capsule has some very noticeable differences with the fake being significantly taller than the real one.
The real mic has ridges on half of the top section where the fake is smooth. There is an inconsistent gap between the body of the fake mic and the capsule and the locating key does not fit the gap whereas the real mc is flush all of the way around and has an appropriate locating key. There is also a blob of glue holding the wires from the coil to the pins. There are numerous other differences but I'm not going to go and list them all.
There are three main differences with the XLR Connector on the mic.
The first difference is the locating notch is much deeper and made with a smaller diameter circle. The angle of the CE logo is different and the fake mic does not have the "do not bin" logo inside the connector. The plastic inside the connector is also of much lower quality and not finished to such a high standard as the real one.
The plastic sheath doesn't meet the locating lugs for the XLR locking ridge. The locating lugs are also thicker and much rounder in the fake. The base of the fake mic is slightly larger diameter and the indentented rim is wider than the real mic.
In all honesty the fake mic is not that bad for a cheap mic (possibly a bit better than the Behringer XM1800S) but it is definitely no where near the quality of a real Sennheiser. The fake is much basier and boomier and just sounds more gritty compared to the clean, bright sound of the real E845. The pickup patern of the fake mic seems to be more of a cardiod than the super cardiod pattern it is meant to be and it is more suceptible to feedback.
A real E845 produces a balanced output while the fake I received is an unbalanced output - pins 2 and 3 in the XLR socket are shorted together. The real mic has a measured resistance of about 375 ohms between pins 2 and 3.
Even the accessories are fake.
The fake mic clip weighs significantly less than the real one and there are a few cosmetic differences. The engraving of the Sennheiser logo is not as deep on the fake and the edges of the box around the S are noticeably rounded. The depth of the screw slots on the thread adapter are much deeper on the fake clip than the real one.
The fake mic bag is smaller than the real one and has much squarer corners. The font in "evolution" is incorrect and again the printing is of lower quality. Finally, the real bag is much more padded than the fake one and has a larger zip and zip tag.
Hopefully this will help you spot those fake mics that are floating about eBay and else where so that you can avoid them like the plague.
If you end up buying a fake, please please please do something about it. Sennheiser UK are based in High Wycombe and while they are not able to do anything directly about the fake they were more than happy to verify that my mic was a fake for free and pass on details of the seller to their investigation unit. I would also recommend seeking a refund from the seller and reporting the seller to Trading Standards (Via Consumer Direct, or their replacement after the 30th of March 2012) if they are a business or selling several mics.
This general advice applies to mics from other manufacturers as well - I have had issues with a fake Shure SM57 in the past and Shure took the fake and replaced it with a real one in order to secure a conviction against the seller who was well known to them.
If you have any question, comments or spot any inaccuracies with this review please E-Mail me at reviews (AT) m0nsa.com.