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Which Two Quality Condensers?

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by lostindundee, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Hi there

    Thanks for all your advice on the other thread. I now have this purchase (2 Distressors) sorted out for the beginning of next month. So that I have adequate time to research and consideration to what I get next, I thought I'd post this kinda early.

    I'm in the market for two high quality LDC mics, one of which I should be able to get by around the end of August. I'm aiming for two different ones mainly for vocals but not ruling out other sources. So far, my shortlisted mics are a Neumann U87/ai and a Bock 251.

    For mic number one, I am considering a U87 due to its venerable status and potential resale value but more importantly, its versatility and its likelihood to work on many sources. I'm not in a position to demo mics but think this classic will likely never be a disappointment. It would be interesting to hear you folks' opinions on the U87 vs U87ai debate, particularly the longivity of the older U87's components and general lifespan or any notable bad things which may happen to their effectiveness over time?

    I saw a video (the link escapes me at present) where a group of folks conducted a shootout betwen a U87 and a U87ai. Although various differences were noted between the two mics, the people conducting the shootout preferred the U87 to the U87ai. Whilst I acknowledged several differences, I didn't feel that the U87 kicked the U87ai's butt - by any stretch of the imagination. Whilst I acknowledge marginal differences between the two, I think the mics could be called slightly different from one another but not better or worse relative to each other.

    Could it be also that one U87 could be slightly different from another U87 and that one U87ai could, likewise, be slightly different from another U87ai? Also, could it merely be the choice of sources which made the U87 more favourable to the shootout folks - i.e certain type of vocal, acoustic guitar/mic positioning? It leaves one to wonder whether or not in different circumstances, with a different singer/song and different acoustic guitar finger plucked instead of picked with a plectrum, would the U87ai have won? I was just wondering whether, for around the same price as an old U87, I just go for a new U87ai with piece of mind that it's brand new and stop splitting hairs? Anyway, enough of the U87/ai for now. It would be good to gather some thoughts on it though?

    I'm considering the Bock 251 due to having extensively researched and having found no negative things written about it what-so-ever. In fact, most users have been reported to be blown away by it. However, the same can also be said for the Pearlman TM1. Both guys are reported to hand build their mics point-to-point, using good components, and have good reputations, caring about what others think of them and their products. Prices are around the same too. I am aware that the Bock is considered to be based on a Telefunken ELA M 251 and that the Pearlman is a U47 type mic. I did actually consider the Telefunken at one point but think it's rather expensive. I'm just kinda thinking that the Bock 251 may get me into the same ball park as the Telefunken.

    Others I considered where the Telefunken AK47 along with several Peluso mics. Not sure about those though. I have also heard a song by someone using the Bock 195 on acoustic guitar and vocal with good results. This may be a possibilty too (and cheaper).

    Any thoughts on what I've written or other ideas of mics you have experience of would be greatly appreciate.

    Currently, my mics consist of:

    Electrovoice RE20
    Shure SM7b
    Shure KSM27
    Shure SM81 (x2)
    Cascade Fathead II (x2) With Lundahls
    Shure SM57 (x2)
    Shure SM58


  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Pearlman Microphones

    Great choices.

    The ai is the new version of the U87. I asked this same question before purchasing my U87 ai. They are great mics. If you can find an original U87, and in good shape, you'd be very lucky. There is more information about the evolution of the U87 on the Neumann website explaining this.

    Everyone should own at least one U87.

    Check out Pearlman Microphones . Could be another mic brand worth looking at. They are on my G.A.S. list.
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    The Bock is an awesome mic.
    I own an older U87 and have used several both older and the newer ai. It is as you said, different but quality wise the same. Older 87's generally need to be spruced up a bit. Mine went to Klaus Heyne and it is as good as it gets with this mic. I wouldnt trade this particular one for ANY newer model but thats just me. I does a great job on some sources and a fine job on everything else. It is not perfect for everything and there isnt a single mic that is.

    When you get into this upper end of the mic kingdom it becomes more of a certain something that catches your ear when you hear it. Going on about which is better is a dance that has no beat. The quality at this level is fairly even. It will be the characteristics of each particular mic that will supply you with that excitement to want to put it on a stand and turn it on to capture some source sound.

    You dont have a tube mic on your list. Its another thing altogether. And I will say this about that. Cheap tube mics are cheap. In every way. The first impression will be 'wow' and later it will become, 'why'....

    The Bock is also found used as the Soundelux brand. Its the same company and David Bock is a solid mic designer. You mentioned a U195. This mic is one of the best value mics ever made. They simply sound great. Certainly one of the best LDC's for instruments. And generally less expensive than most at this level of sound quality.

    I'm just saying that your G.A.S. control should include one of these.

    All of your choices so far have been sterling. Buy the Bock. It is awesome. Or find the same mic used as a Soundelux.
  4. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Thanks for the reply audiokid

    The Pearlman TM1 is definitely on my radar. I'm definitely going with a U87, this most likely being the ai variety as I don't want to pay the same amount for a potentially ill-kept older U87. How well are these things built to last anyway? Anyone? There appear to be lots of people hainvg their ai models modded by someone. Not sure what that entails though.

    My other purchase is looking more and more a toss up between the Bock 251 and the Pearlman TM1. Hell...I may even end up with both of these over time. They're both tube...one based on a 251 the other a U47. Due to my second mic purchase being a bit further down the line, I want to hear what kind of experiences folks have with the newer Bock 507.

  5. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Hi Dave

    Thanks for that. You posted while I was writing.

    That was great info on the U87. I couldn't remember the chap's name who mods them. Klaus Heyne is the fella. I think he reconditions older ones and does some mod on the newer ones extending their top and low ends - so I've heard anyway.

    After I get the U87ai, I intend getting the Bock 251. I wasn't sure of the legacy of these mics in that Soudelux was formerly the company name. This kinda clears up a degree of confusion. Cheers Dave. :biggrin:

    Also, I just googled and now realise that the Bock 195 used to be known as the Soudelux U195. I'm just wondering what this iFet I keep hearing about is.

    If I decide to go over the two mics I'm thinking of getting. If I ever want to buy more than the other two I intend buying, I would definitely go for the Bock 195 and Pearlman TM1. The whole four of them (U87, 251, TM1 and 195) are all different animals if you consider their components etc. They would surely be an enviable mic collection capable of covering most things.

    Thanks Dave.

  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Yep. With that bunch I doubt you'd ever find a vocal you couldnt capture perfectly. I dont know much about the Pearlman mics. I've heard good things however. (edit note: I know the 251 is a tube condenser.......I meant no cheaper tube mics in your locker.....)
  7. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Thanks Dave

    Yeh. A tube condenser as an addition to my locker is something I've been considering for a while now. I'd rather buy one that pretty much everyone who's used it raves about as opposed to buying two or three potentially mediocre mics which have had mixed reviews. The Bock 251, is one of the very few which fits this category. Therefore, I feel confident it's a good purchase.

    Thanks everyone for chipping in. I really appreciate it.

  8. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Here's a few more thoughts on the Neumann. A U87 is the mic that Neumann replaced the U67 with back in the mid 60's.It supposedly had an extended top end compared to the 67 and was, of course, right on par with the changing electronics world as far as being non-tube. The early ones (up to 1986 I think) had a compartment for a pair of 22.5 volt batteries, so it could be used with a field recorder. I'm not sure but I think the grips and the tech guys with the movies and orchestral stages, who this would appear to be aimed at, found the 87 to be a bit heavy so Neumann came out with the U89 which is very similar in its internal build but is smaller, lighter, has more patterns, and handles a lot more dbs.

    I think one of the reasons you saw so many of these in recording studios was simply the availability of them and the rise in studio numbers at the time it was released. Not to say it isnt a great mic!

    You speculated that they all might sound a bit different per mic. While this is certainly true of the older mics, the consistancy in the ai's is really good. It doesnt take a lot of searching to find a pair made at different times and even different years that are close enough to consider them a stereo pair. Probably not as good a method as actually having a matched pair, but certainly close enough for rock and roll.

    Looking at your current mic locker list and I see one thing that coupled with these new purchases will give what I personally believe to be THE rock acoustic guitar sound.....A pair of SM81's in X/Y in front of the player and a U87 hung over the shoulder above the lower bout of a decent acoustic........

    On a side note since I mentioned the SM81's........Put a windsock on one and try it as a vocal mic. Its gonna surprise the heck out of you. Also...I'd buy another KSM27. They're a cheap way to get a huge drum sound from a pair of overheads. Not as focused as the 81's but warmer.
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    In a commercial application you should factor in the fact that the U87 is one of the most recognizable and widely respected pieces of recording gear. I don't know how to put a price on the ability to start every vocal session with the words "let's hear how you sound on a U87," but it's worth something.
  10. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    I certainly am glad that I finally got a U87ai...25 years after I lost my first 87. Don't do the volume of work that I used to, but
    I cherish all of my mics as paintbrushes. Dave has certainly hit on a good point regarding the SM81 and KSM27, and the 32 is no slouch.
    It's probably too late to throw this into the ring, but I have used and loved the Lawson L47 tube LDC. These days the Bock gets more attention , but the L47 is a really nice mic, too, and a very good bargain.
  11. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Hi There

    @Dave. Thanks for the info on the Neumanns etc. It's hard to get good info on these. Funny you should speak of the sm81s and my ksm27. I've tried exactly what you suggested using these three mics on my Taylor acoustic. It was bloody good. I liked it a lot. I'm now dying to find out how it will sound with a U87ai. Also, I'm gonna have to investigate if there are any foam windshields which fit the sm81 for vocal use. I guess I could use a standard pop filter to try it. I'll report back on that sometime. By the way, I've always fully intended picking up another ksm27 and perhaps a ksm32 too. I may get these after my larger purchases. In respect of my already owned ksm27, I've always regretted not having gone for a ksm44 instead. My needs were different way back then.

    @Bob. You've no idea how much I'm looking forward to saying that. :biggrin:

    @Moonbaby. Thanks for that. I Just checked out the Lawson. The price is good but I'd require more research to decide which 47 type I'd go for. I've got plenty of time to consider everything. Regarding Dave's suggestion and how it ties in with your ksm32 recommendation. I've read that the ksm32 is regarded as one of the quietest mics in world (self-noisewise). It would also be shade different from a ksm27 given that the ksm32 is a medium DC. I saw a youtube clip once where this guy done a jazzy tune using a ksm32 on every. It was pretty neat.

    Thanks for your input guys.

  12. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    Producer Ronan Chris Murphy has posted online videos (ronansrecordingshow.com) on the KSM32, he says it's a "love affair" with that mic. I agree, love the one I bought used (for only $275!!!) on overhead, I actually prefer the 27 on voice. Anyway, check out that website, really cool info there.
    And give Gene Lawson a shot!
  13. lostindundee

    lostindundee Active Member

    Thanks Moonbaby

    I'll look more into the Lawson mics for sure. Also the ksm32. I checked out some of Ronan's videos last night and coudn't resist buying Rick Clark's recording book (recommended there) just for the hell of it. I enjoy reading recording books and have a fair collection of them now. Should be with me tomorrow. Cheers for the link.

  14. Jer-vox

    Jer-vox Active Member

    Moonbaby is right. You definitely need to check out Lawson mics. They are very high quality microphones that come at an affordable price because they are sold factory direct. Gene and Gail lawson lawson are stand up people who make sure the customer is satisfied. They provide you with a 10 day trial period. If you aren't satisfied you can send it back and receive a full refund. I have owned the L47 for 12 years and would never sell it. I also just purchased the Lawson ELA-251 and am also tickled with the beauty of it's sonic qalities. The are both great mics although different. If you're not happy, you can send it back.

  15. EZRider

    EZRider Active Member

    I actually have a friend who prefers the ai to the original. He claims that their were several variations to the U87s he used. I haven't used too many so I am not sure if his claim is valid or not. The U87 I used was one of the finest condensers I ever used. I have not used the ai version myself.
  16. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    There are three versions of the 87. The first was simply the U87i and it is an fet based version of the U67 which was a tube mic. They dont really sound the same so 'replacement' is a relative term in this case. The second was the U87ai and began life around 1986. They replaced the battery compartment and improved the signal to noise specs considerably. They also gave the mic a bit of a rise peaking at about 5k. So it was brighter but still accurate as heck. There was also a difference in the capsules on the original ones. The U87i had a dual element capsule that was isolated with a plastic ring and a four-wire setup instead of the typical three wire setup for dual element mics. The very newest mics have the bias voltages run through a lower impedance circuit and have a greater sensitivity and much lower noise floor.

    Better? Maybe....Different? Yes.I wouldnt trade my original U87 for any TWO U87ai's.....But thats just me. Or maybe its this particular mic which I've been using since 1988.

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