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Five mikes that shook the world to its soul.


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The big five condensers. The mikes that are probably responsible for more lead vocals on more hit records throughout the history of recorded audio than all others (with the possible exception of the RCA 44) combined. They inspire unadulterated lust in enginners both young and old. They have pricetags that are guaranteed to get you into trouble with your spouse. They're old and fragile and magical. What are they? IMO...

 

Neumann U47

Neumann M49

Neumann U67

AKG C12

Telefunken ELA M251

 

I'd like to take each of these mikes, and discuss them one at a time... for a week, a month... however long it runs, and then we'll move on to the next one. :) What is the history of the mic? What are some of the classic recordings it was used on? What are its strengths and weaknesses? What characteristics made it special? Have you ever owned / used one? What are your thoughts / impressions / favorite applications for the mic?

 

Which one would you guys like to start with? :)

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I can get into trouble with my spouse with far less...

I'll rename the thread "5 items I'll never afford to own"

 

the U87 sure was on everything for a long streak of hits too. Seemed it had a run in the 80s through early 90s. The ubiquitous name drop mic it seemed, and request from clients. Throw in the 414 and you probably have 90% of all voices captured...

 

sometimes I hear that statement like "I have a better studio than the beatles did to make ____" Oh really, Neumanns, lots of Iron and tape?

 

but if I was to push toward divorce it'd be with a U67 :D

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Originally posted by EngineGuitarist

have many people here used any of these mics let alone a few or all?

 

 

As a musician recording in a studio, I've recorded through a U47, U 67, and ELA M251.

 

In my studio, I have a Lawson L251, a replica of well, you know. So not quite the same thing.

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In my studio, I have a Lawson L251, a replica of well, you know. So not quite the same thing.

 

But the look alike / sound alike (or similar... or not) mikes that have been based on the earlier mikes would also be something I think we could discuss. Who has come closest to capturing the sound of a VF14 equipped U47? Does the TLM49 or M149 sound anything like the original M49? That sort of thing... :)

 

Mike, as always, your help and support are appreciated. :wave:

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But the Rode man says they weren't necessary that good, them old mics... :D

 

I don't think we're talking about new capsules being so much better than they were in, say, an old U47. Some of those old mics sounded fantastic, but not all of them did. Now we have the consistency and the quality, but at a low cost.


Anybody can make a good mic by spending a lot of money on the best parts. There's no magic in that, but if you can pull out an incredibly good mic at a low cost, that's something.

 

How abiut you, have you all been lucky enough to get your hands on the fantastic U47's?

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I've got one of the first 2400 AKG 414's, and as I understand it, it shares the same capsule as the C-12. While it sounds great, to be truthful, I'm kinda bored with it (no, I'm not going to sell it. I'm sure it's just a phase I'm going through).

It's been a while since I've run it through a really good preamp, so that may have something to do with it.

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Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe

And I'm hoping we can get a few more people who have to participate. It might get a bit boring if it's just my experiences, perspective and opinions.
;)

 

thats sort of what i was getting at, but there seem to be some peeps here that have used them so cool cool cool. didn't mean any disrespect, its just that there's an awful lot of the "best all round mic for $40" threads which would lead me to believe there's not alot of U47 users here.:D

 

but it sounds fun. I can talk about C12's, C24 (stereo version), U47's, and 251's. no M49 experience for me yet. Sadly not with a U67 either but thats another story.

 

well to get started a bit I can say that I've used a few different U47's. The first was really old and not that great sounding (yup it happens). The next was one that was refurbished by BLUE and sounded amazing. It was used primarily for vocals but we did set it up as "The" drum mic on an impromptu jam session and it sounded friggin great. sparkly top end, nice defined lows, it just sounded real and beautiful. The only other U47's I've used are from Telefunken USA (reissue, duh). They are very nice but are definitely brighter, which can be good or bad. If I use one of those on a vocal there is usually no need to boost the top, hell i've cut it before. As overheads tho, my favorite so far. Although some Sanken CU41's i used recently on OH's sounded pretty damn nice if i do say so myself.

 

who's next?

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Originally posted by EngineGuitarist


well to get started a bit I can say that I've used a few different U47's. The first was really old and not that great sounding (yup it happens). The next was one that was refurbished by BLUE and sounded amazing. It was used primarily for vocals but we did set it up as "The" drum mic on an impromptu jam session and it sounded friggin great.

 

Well, since you're starting off with a U47, I'll follow right along behind ya... :D

 

A very long time ago, when I first started playing in bands, I was doing a recording session at Track Records in North Hollywood, playing keyboards for someone. This was Emmylou Harris' old studio, apparently. Big huge studio with a room the size of a high school gymnasium, Neve console you could land a plane on, 2" tape, the whole bit. Nice place.

 

The recording engineer there, Bryan Carlstrom, found out that I was really interested in recording. I kept following him around, asking him questions. He didn't mind. In fact, he encouraged it, seemed to enjoy talking about it.

 

During a break, late at night, he pulled out a wooden box. "Check this out, " he said. He opened it up and I saw this huge gleaming mic that looked like it could have been made yesterday, but had an aesthetic of yesteryear. "A Neumann U47. Perfect condition. This was made around WWII." He handed it to me. It was really cool looking. And heavy. "It's about $5500." I wondered how anybody could afford that. It cost three-four times as much as my car. "We're going to use it for the vocals next week."

 

Next week couldn't roll around fast enough. I walked in, and he already had the mic set up in one of the small rooms off to the side of the room that looked like a huge gymnasium, to the right of the Neve.

 

I put on headphones and went out and sang into it. I wasn't the singer, but I just wanted to see what it would be like. I rubbed my fingers together. Oddly, it didn't seem ultra-sensitive like I thought it would. It didn't pick this up as much as I thought it would, although it certainly was more sensitive than any mics I had. I remember thinking this was odd.

 

The vocalist showed up. I wondered how this would sound. I was impressed, but still dismayed that it didn't seem as sensitive as I thought it would. But when I heard the sound through the monitors, I was floored. It was so unbelievably fat and creamy sounding. How could a vocal sound so fat and gooey?

 

I can't remember what mic preamp the guy was using. I know that he used Summits for guitar amps, but maybe this was going through the Neve console, I don't know. But whatever it was, it was unbelievably large and full.

 

That was my first experience with a U47.

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Okay, we may as well start with the U47. I'll try to do an outline / writeup on each mic and then we can take it from there. Feel free to add your comments and / or make any corrections on things I don't get "right". ;)

 

Microphone Name:

 

Neumann U47

 

Year Introduced:

 

1947 - 1949, U48: 1956

 

Year Discontinued:

 

? - Probably in the early 1960's, but I'm not certain. Could have corresponded with the introduction of the U67 in 1960.

 

Price when New:

 

Per Bruce Swedien, $390 in 1953.

 

Current price range:

 

Vintage price ranges vary significantly based on many factors, including condition, famous prior owners or users of the individual mic, etc. Typical price range - $6,000 - $10,000.

 

Descendants and variations:

 

U48 (cardioid and fig 8 patterns, the U47 has cardioid / omni), U47 FET, Neumann / Geffel UM57

 

Capsule used:

 

M7, later models used the K47

 

Tube used:

 

VF-14. Long out of production and silly expensive if you can find one; Neumann later released a retrofit kit based around a "Nuvistor" tube. Some modern variants use the EF-14 and EF-86 for their tube.

 

Modern clones and similar styled microphones:

 

Soundelux E47C, Lawson L47, Wagner U47w, Wunder Audio CM7, Korby Convertible, Telefunken USA U47 M, Peluso 22 47 LE

 

Milestone recordings:

 

Way too many to list. Here's a few big ones for you. Sinatra and many of the lead vocals from the 1950's were recorded with the U47. Just about every vocal on every Beatles record was done with either a U47 or U48.

 

Sonic characteristics and commentary:

 

Big sounding. Silky. Smooth top end. Incredibly deep sounding at close range, due to its abundant proximity boost.

 

Many Neumann U47's are branded / badged as "Telefunken" microphones. Telefunken distributed Neumann microphones for several years until Neumann took over their own distribution in the late 1950's - about 1958-59 or so. Outside of the different name badges, there is no difference between an original 50's era Neumann or Telefunken U47. A new company, Telefunken USA, is currently making a modern variant of the U47, but this should not be confused with the original Telefunken company, who merely distributed Neumann (and later AKG) microphones and were not a manufacturer of these microphones themselves.

 

Longbody U47's were made up until about 1956, when smaller capacitors and other internal components allowed Neumann to switch over to the "short body" design, which is about 2 - 3" shorter in length. The finish of the body also changed from chrome to a matte finish at around this time.

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for fans of microphone-to-car-comparisons:

 

in my book, 47's are like a classic old cadillac. they could theoretically run forever, but you've gotta keep fixing and replacing major parts which are hard to find and more expensive than a nice television and beer-dispensing helmet (sorry, i just got those two things and they're all i can think about).

 

probably the world's most mythically "GREAT" microphone, maybe second to only an ELA M251. they sold for just under $400 new, by the way.

 

descended from old neumann "bottle" mics. U47s were also German war ships for the Navy. pretty funny.

 

M7 capsules were of the brass variety, diaphragms were PVC in extremely old mics, and polyester after that. fantastic capsule, it is. microtech-gefell still makes them.

 

VF14 tubes were for WWII radios. they were in great, great surplus in germany. let's just say that 20 years after the war, there wasn't really a need to produce tube-battle-radios anymore and the VF14 was no longer manufactured. arguably the most ridiculously priced part of the U47.

 

it's not just the capsule and tube that made the sound of those microphones so special. let's not forget the BV8 transformer.

 

they've got an absolutely gargantuan proximity effect which can make for browned boxers for a first timer. a well kept 47 will sound fantastic on anything that already sounds fantastic. vocals, room, drums, amps, strings, piano, whatever.

 

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

 

U47fets happened, too. they sound cool, but you can get a mic like a soundelux u195 brand new for less than half the cost of a beat up 47fet and it'll do exactly the same thing, maybe even better.

 

probably the most cloned/copied mic in the entire world. we've got a soundelux e47 and i use it on many male vocalists, almost every kick drum, drum rooms, acoustic guitars, and on upright bass. i've used a lot of the other knockoffs too. some are impressive. others aren't.

 

my personal favorite U47s are really close to my studio if i feel so inclined to use them. one is at sabella on long island, the other 4 are at pie.

 

here's a picture of steve albini's U48:

280-0.jpg

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