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I am getting a new Neumann U87ai and was wondering what the differences were between the original U87 and and the ai.

I've read so much bias and or opinions on both that its hard to get the real facts as to which one is better or worse. I come to the conclusion that either way you shoot, its still a beauty and able to take eq very well.
Many say the original U87 is a bit warmer and the newer of the three versions is a bit brighter. I'm wondering if some of this warmth might be due to age (crud) but I also see there are some changes with the plate and so, there must be some truth to the audible differences.

Why do we always have to change what isn't broken.

Anyway, I'm sure I'm not the only one that will be wondering over the years on so here is an interesting read about this on the Neumann forum.  Archive - U87 vs U87AI



What's the difference between a U87i vs U87ai

  • The newer U87ai is brighter, The older U87 is darker or warmer. The Older U87 could be darker sounding due to years of smoke and air pollution coating the diaphragm.
  • Newer U87ai could be brighter because digital audio is clearer (brighter), thus, the old design sounded darker possibly because it was printed to analog tape.
  • The main difference is in the internal electronics, the amp in the mic


TheJackAttack Wed, 12/08/2010 - 17:24

Bias and opinion. You hit the nail on the head. You can even go so far as to ask if a restored/reskinned U87 original is still going to sound like it did forty years ago. I say it doesn't matter. If you like it then it is good. Take the KM84 vs KM184. Yes there is a difference. It's not hard to hear in a good room with nothing else playing but a soloed acoustic guitar. It's real hard to hear in a mix with all the other tracks added in.

If not, I'll gladly intercept it on it's way to the Moonbaby & Dawg's home for wayward microphones.

Davedog Thu, 12/09/2010 - 09:40

Having used both mics I can tell you there is some difference. Mine is pre 1986 (83 according to the serial number), it has the dual skinned single plate construction, has a battery chamber, and was cleaned and restored to original specs.

I wouldnt trade it for any ai mics....

This isnt saying that the U87ai isnt a Neumann completely. It is and sounds wonderful. The aging of components, especially those from quite a few years back is something that can only take place through time and use and has no bell curve of what to expect as results. Theres nothing in the books that says that an aged ai series in 20 years wont be the perfect mic. As for new and now, I found them to be a touch sterile but accurate as all get out...but them I'm really biased.

However...and I'm not saying that acquiring any U87 is a bad thing in any way.....I would look at Bock mics while deciding this. My friends have a Bock 251 in their studio and it will knock yer socks off....