Q: I have a Sennheiser MKH418s stereo mic to complement my kit and upon plugging it up to my 442 I have found the level to be very low.
If I increase the gain past more than the 3 o'clock position a lot of unwanted noise (hiss) appears. I have also noticed from speaking with other sound recordists that they too have experienced the need to turn the levels up a bit more than is desirable on their 442 mixers. I tend to be running all my gains at about 3 o'clock and channel on 12 o'clock even for my Lectrosonics radios which I have coming in at mic level switched to 0 on the receiver output. I am also running a Sennheiser 416 mic that also needs a bit of gain to get good levels. Is there some way of adjusting the gain from within the firmware to get the levels a bit more user friendly?
A: The 442 has 81 dB of gain available from microphone input to line output. The amount of gain needed is dependent on the ambient environment, subject-to-microphone distance, talent's ability to project their voice, and the microphone polar pattern and sensitivity. The fact that you need to press the gain up somewhat is common. That is why we have it available.
Regarding the 418s, while I do not have direct experience with it, I have heard that its self-noise is higher and its sensitivity is somewhat lower than other MHK series microphones. With distant subjects you may start to run into the microphone's noise floor. Do note that your Lectro receivers have a very hot mic-level output. From what you describe, your gains sound quite typical.
Also note that the metering mode has an effect on what you perceive as a suitable level. In VU only, you will see levels quite a bit lower than where actual signal peaks occur. One of the combination modes is most informative.