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big dollar mic purchase

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by hollywood_steve, Mar 8, 2001.

  1. hollywood_steve

    hollywood_steve Active Member

    Due to a long expected "reorganization" at Universal, I will become free of any need to set an alarm clock as of June 30. The good news is that after 6 years I qualify for a small "buyout" that should allow me to add to the gear collection. I have held off on purchasing a large diaphragm condensor because I did not want to settle for something less than what I really wanted. Instead I purchased the less costly mics appropriate for what I do - "live in the studio" recording of traditional rock, blues, jazz, etc. (lots of guitars, drums, etc., no synthesized sounds, samples). I bought the usual stuff, mostly because its worked for me before - two 57's, two 421's, two KM184's, an AKG D112 and a Royer R121. I've had surprising luck with vocals without having a big condensor, but I've also missed having one on several occasions. Assuming that I'll suddenly have around $3K to spend, I'm trying to decide between the Brauner VM1u,(the stripped down version of the VM1 that can be upgraded later), a pair of used current Neumanns (U87, U89) or one used older Neumann (U67). I know that there is no one mic that can work as THE vocal mic for all vocalists, but I'd rather purchase one great mic than 1/2 dozen cheap condensors. Not knowing who I am going to be using the mic on, I can't see much value in trying these mics out on my voice, other than to make sure they don't suck. The goal would be to buy one great vocal mic now, and after a year or two buy another that might work when the first one is not appropriate. That's the way it has to work in the low budget world. Any recommendations out of the three I am considering? Any others that should be on that list? And how do you choose a mic that is going to be used on people you haven't even met yet?


  2. My advice from your list is to get a U87 or U67 and send it to Klaus Heyne for cleanup and modification & refurbishment- but I must warn you that "big dollar mic purchase" does not equal 3k!

    Current price for most used (and what other kind are there?) 67s is $3500 to $4000, last I checked. The upgrade (which is, by the way, always totally necessary IMO) is another $1500 or so. 87s are around 1500 with the upgrade less than a 67, but I can't say how much less. That may fit your budget.

    Can't speak for the VM series because I haven't heard it. You can't lose with the 87 & refurb, tho.

  3. hollywood_steve

    hollywood_steve Active Member

    "Big Dollar" is a relative term, and for me, $3K is more money than I would normally have to spend on a mic. I realize than 251's C12's and others can run over $10k, but I identified three alternatives that are available for around $3K. I do like the idea of an "improved U87 for around $3k. Any other ideas? Thanks.

  4. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    From what I've been hearing/using lately, in that arena, you might want to check out the VM-1u, or the Soundelux U-95S (it's a tad more "47-ish" in character). An 87 with an SPA mod or a GMW mod will certainly be a thing of beauty, and from what I understand, both Stephen Paul Audio and German Master Works will be happy to 'tweeze' the microphone should you be less than ecstatic when it arrives.

    If you haven't done so already, you might want to make this inquiry about 3 forums to the North of this one...
  5. atlasproaudio

    atlasproaudio Active Member

  6. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Originally posted by atlasproaudio:
    Soundelux are good, but they are using BLUE capsules in all of their top of the line mics (U99, U95S).

    Nothing against B.L.U.E., and they may indeed be exactly what the brother is looking for, however, the comment that they're using the B.L.U.E. capsules is irrelevant.

    There are 3 main elements that go into the sound of a condenser microphone, the capsule is but one. The design and construction of the amplifier is another major factor, and the 'head grill architecture' is the third. A Neumann M-49 and a U-47 both use the same capsule, that's where their similarities end.

    Personally, I haven't spent enough time with the B.L.U.E. stuff to have formed an opinion. I've known Skipper for years, and know he has an excellent set of ears, and a serious commitment to quality, so chances are exceptionally good that the stuff is most excellent. I just haven't spent a whole lot of time with it.

    The fact that Soundelux is using B.L.U.E. capsules in the 95S and the 99 is all well and good. The fact of the matter is they're less expensive than similar Neumann capsules (and the Neumann capsules aren't necessarily any better in quality), and cost of parts is a major determining factor to the 'street price' of the product. By the same token, the Elux 251 doesn't use a B.L.U.E. capsule, it uses a different OEM capsule.

    While we're on the subject, a Shure SM-57, an SM58, and an SM-7 all use the same element as well...but they all sound different. Sorry if I'm getting on this a bit hard, but the 'Geffel' BS went up my ass about a mile.

    So ^#$%ing what they're using an "M-7 style" capsule, the mics still sound like ass IMNSHO. I dunno, maybe I'm just a little sensitive to 'marketing horseshit' seeing as I'm an unfortunate part of the "marketing and distribution machine". It just ^#$%ing galls me that people will focus on what they perceive to be a 'weak element' of the process to show something that is not necessarily superior to be superior.

    Now...I'm not saying which if either product will be suitable for the brother's application, I'm just saying that the fact that Soundelux employs a capsule manufactured by B.L.U.E. is irrelevant.
  7. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

    If I understand, the reason you want the deluxe mic is you don't see yourself able to shell out for one again in a while, and you want to get it while you can. But if it were me and I could only budget $3000 for a large diaphragm condensor, I might get two or three good lower priced ones with different sounds for fear of getting a single big ticket one thats magic sometimes but not always. When you get up around $1000, there are some very nice workhorse mics, like the Neumann TLM-103, BLUE Blueberry and Dragonfly, Soundelux U-195. Heck, I've even heard good things about the Audio Technica AT-4047, of all mics. I'd suggest auditioning these all, if possible, in addition to your big ticket dream mics so you get a full sense of the options and can choose how best to fill your needs.

    You might want to get two of the above and round out the cabinet with a different pair or small diaphragm condensors for variety and an other dynamic. I'd suggest an RE-20, which often beats out good condensors for rock vocals. Naturally, if your existing kit is covering all your other needs perfectly, you can focus on the big guns.

    Let us know how the shopping goes.

    da Bear
  8. markrpaulson

    markrpaulson Guest

    This is a tangent based on what Fletcher said in his reply- I my own quest for sweeter mics had been considering Microtech Gefell to possibly be a viable alternative to certain other German brands. . . Could you elaborate on why you feel they suck (or anyone else who's had experience with their mics). I don't want to buy one and then have to instantly send it back when it doesn't measure up-
  9. alphajerk

    alphajerk Active Member

    if you are looking at the soundelux line, do the U99 way over the U195... its worth every bit of money more. i have the two sitting here side by side right now and the U195 would have to be only used on somebody like barry white... really dark voice. i hve a pretty deep voice and its got way too much top. the SD U99 sounds way better than the neu U87 IMO. i dont know about the ai version asi havent used one. the U87 sounds way too generic to my ears as does most of Neumanns line that i have used [although they do sound tight]
  10. I'm gonna sound like an Audio Technica rep here, but I'm really liking the AT4047 for rock vocals and the AT4060 for just about anything. The 4047 is like a super-optimized SM57 or something. It just seems to hit screamin' rock'n rollers about right. The 4060 sounds like a whole dang recording channel in one mic. It's one of those plug-it-in and go mics that sounds pre-eq'd, pre-compressed, pre-massaged dadada... It has just enough crunch to really cut without sounding brittle.

    Of course the TLM103 is a good entry for that really present sound. The BLUE Mouse is a good choice for presence, too, but in a different way from the 103.

    I like the above mentioned approach. Pick out three mics that will give you a variety because truly what works like gangbusters on one source will sound like dirt on another.

    How about a Shure SM7 thrown in for good measure?
  11. hollywood_steve

    hollywood_steve Active Member

    Maybe I wasn't clear in my first post. Several of you are suggesting buying several $1000 condensors instead of one $3000 mic. My point was that I can purchase those types of mics almost anytime. I don't get a six month salary lump sum buy-out very often in life and I want to dedicate a few thousand of that towards a mic that I can't normally afford. When I determine what that mic is NOT good for, I can always purchase inexpensive condensors to cover that need. But this is a one time chance to buy one of the "big boy toys." (Within reason, I'm not prepared to blow more than 5% or so of the buyout, so no 251's.) So I am trying to select the ONE mic to buy if I can only allocate enough for ONE of the better condensors. A TLM103 type mic is NOT what I'm looking for now. This is my unexpected chance to buy the Brauner, top line Neumann or vintage mic. Without knowing in advance what vocalists I will be using this mic on, I'm looking for advice on which one mic might be the "best" choice. Thanks.

  12. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    You already mentioned Brauner and Neumann, so I'll toss in Manley for good measure. I'm gonna suggest against C12 as it isn't quite as flexible as others in its price range. Same with the 67 for that matter. Hell, any "vintage" mic that's sought after for its "signature" sound is bound to be hit or miss on a given vocal. I reckon I don't dig chevy-radiator-on-a-mic-stand (Sony) too much neither.

    Manley Gold Ref has been doin me good for a while now. I haven't wished for a different mic since the day it walked thru the door.

    (No, I'm not a rep.)

    Just be careful. As they say, "don't spend it all in one place." May your phone keep ringing. :)
  13. If one must, though, choose a mic that will likely fit any given vocalist who walks through the door, and within the 3k budget- and has a proven track record, I still suggest that U87 with the upgrade.

    The MOST popular choices for vocal mics have mostly been the 47, C12, U67, ELA M251. But within your 3k budget the 87 is going to bring pleasure to your ears and confidence to your clients when they see it--and for many excellent reasons:

    The stock 87 has been the most popular workhorse mic in many, many top studios-- for more years than B.L.U.E., Soundelux, Brauner, etc have been in existence- and continues to be. If you need a mic within this budget that will do a great job on almost any vocalist, this is a choice that has historically proven to be the one most engineers and producers have made for years.

    But one caveat: Please note that despite the aforementioned popularity of this model, the *STOCK* 87 is not MY favorite mic AT ALL-- The rebuilt mic is clearer, better top, better lows, better "presence" (not edge or top, folks, it's just way more in your face) than the stock mic. One hears the rebuilt mic, one is spoiled.

    Another reason to go for that rebuild: I seldom (never?) have seen a used large cap Neumann on the market that did NOT need a complete going over, capsule cleaning etc. I guess folks sell 'em when they've finally gotten the capsule so glopped with spit (and DUST) that they won't even pass the breath test anymore. So they need it anyway.

    I think, sometimes, that the reason why some engineers badmouth those "vintage" mics is because the ones we often encounter in a given studio are so filthy and unserviced that they sound like crap. It's easy to wonder what the big deal is if the first U47 you hear hasn't been adjusted for forty years. If one had a 40 year old car that had never had a tuneup, one would not expect it to even ROLL. Believe me , I've seen a good dozen of these puppies go through this particular transformation, and it is WAY better than "sending it in to Neumann for servicing", and few old mics even get THAT fer' chrissakes...

    BTW, the price on those used Neumanns keeps going up (I don't believe one can say that about the other mics mentioned here), and the SPA and German Masterworks prices go up even faster- so one can always sell later if needed without losing out. Not that folks sell those mics until retirement or very hard times hit (or they think they've killed it). A great mic will last you your entire career- if you cross the threshold that seperates the budget mics from the ones that truly achieve Escape Velocity.

    As you say, this is not a time to skimp. Let us know what you decide to do!

  14. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Originally posted by West Of Essex:
    Another reason to go for that rebuild: I seldom (never?) have seen a used large cap Neumann on the market that did NOT need a complete going over, capsule cleaning etc. I guess folks sell 'em when they've finally gotten the capsule so glopped with spit (and DUST) that they won't even pass the breath test anymore. So they need it anyway.

    WARNING: Shameless commercial plug to follow

    For over a decade our little shop has only sold stuff we use. We've had an incredibly open return policy, and have actually urged customers to gain an outside inspection of used products, especially microphones. A few years ago I had a rather lengthy conversation with Klaus Heyne about sending microphones to him for clients for 'inspection purposes'.

    It seems some dealers were apprehensive about doing so, our conversation was so he was aware that we welcomed the inspection process.

    We have always relied upon Stephen and Tony to supply nothing short of the world's finest microphone maintenance [sorry Stephen, one day I'll hit the lottery and be able to afford some of the modifications...I'm just a po' boy...].

    We have a U-67 'in stock' at the moment. It just came back from Stephen Paul Audio after a complete 'top to bottom' go through. Other than checking it out when it came through the door [with the appropriate jaw dropping reaction], the microphone as remained unused.

    We also have a U-48 in complete with a 'New-Old Stock' U-48 capsule (not a 47 capsule)...as well a recently gone through C-24, etc., etc., etc.

    Sorry to get defensive, but we've always done our level best to stay "straight up" about things as important as microphones. Yes, there are alot of bad ones floating around out there, but not from our joint.
  15. hollywood_steve

    hollywood_steve Active Member

    Thanks for all the ideas. My end date isn't until June 30, so I have a few months to check out a few things before the check comes. I will probably try to check out a Brauner VM1u and a couple of upgraded 87's. When its time to get down to business, I guess that I can either look for a mic that has already been modified or possibly pick up a used 87 and send it out to someone for work? I have no idea what the guys charge to rebuild a mic, so I don't know if I can afford to have it done to my own mic or whether I have to purchase one that has already been rebuilt and has "lost" some value since then. Time to do my homework. And I had forgotten about the option of sending am old mic to Neumann for servicing. Can anyone comment on what they do to an old 87 and how it sounds when you get it back?

  16. Bear's Gone Fission

    Bear's Gone Fission Active Member

    Wasn't sure how commited you were to purchasing a single mic for the whole budget before. Another possibility suggests itself as a possible way to win on having a great high ticket mic and variety for different singers: check out the BLUE Bottle mic. Retail for the body is $4500, and all the heads but one go for $750 a piece. I don't know what sort of discounts are available, but if you like the system, you can start with a head or two and add additional ones to your kit in the future, each time utilizing the same mic body. The downside to this approach, naturally, is that you get to use only one mic at a time for all the heads you might have. You might feel more satisfied with a purchase of a new head down the line than with a standalone mic at the same price.

    Of the other suggestions, it's hard to go wrong with an 87. Not the best for everything, but rarely bad for anything. U-47's can be weird, as a lot of them came to sound like quite different mics as they've aged, so you have to try the one you want to buy.
  17. atlasproaudio

    atlasproaudio Active Member

  18. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    Originally posted by Bear's Gone Fission:

    Another possibility suggests itself as a possible way to win on having a great high ticket mic and variety for different singers: check out the BLUE Bottle mic. Retail for the body is $4500, and all the heads but one go for $750 a piece.[/B]

    This is exactly what I was going to post- I've got a Bottle, with the B6 capsule, and a B7 capsule on the way. List has gone down to $3999, and it's just a beautiful mic (I wouldn't expect big discounts, maybe $3700 or a little better). Great thing is, when you find what your first capsule (usually ships with the B6- 'C12 type', although obviously a different mic) doesn't do perfectly, you spend another $700 on a new capsule, and you don't end up with an inferior mic for 'job B.'
  19. Gregg

    Gregg Guest

    There's been no mention of another mic that I suggest you look at. The M-149. You've also not mentioned what you're using for mic pres and that can make a difference. I don't own a 149 but have used them many times at other studios and they ain't chopped liver.


    TB :D
  20. hollywood_steve

    hollywood_steve Active Member

    There's been no mention of another mic that I suggest you look at. The M-149. You've also not mentioned what you're using for mic pres and that can make a difference >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    As an engineer with limited electronics knowledge (degree is in civil eng., not EE), I've always preferred transformer coupled mics. Big fan of transformers in general, mainly because I understand how they work and don't understand the transformerless alternatives. So, I have wondered whether Neumann's new mics don't have transformers because it saves money or because it sounds better? Unfortunately, the original M49 & M50 are beyond my price range.

    As far as mic preamps go, I currently have one API 512, the Vintec / Neve 1272 two channel preamp, one Altec 1566a (don't laugh, when maintained in top shape, they can sound very good) and the preamps in my little 16x8 Trident. I will be purchasing another API and two Telefunken V76 preamps over the next several months.

    Does all that info bring to mind any other mic ideas?

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