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Author Topic: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?  (Read 10290 times)

klaus

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"Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer", the saying goes (one swallow does not a summer make), but what I just experienced is quite astonishing, given the sorry state of Neumann K870/K87 capsules of late:

Tonight I installed a brand-new K870 (build date late 2012), and my jaw dropped:

Both sides of the capsule are lush, reedy, frequency-balanced, with a full-figured bass, and are extraordinarily musical. Only the very best K67 from the mid 1960s (the famous 'fibre board' model) could hold a candle to this one. This capsule was so exquisite and similar on both sides (very rare, for any LD dual-membrane capsule, from any period) that I still don't know which of the two sides to make the front side for cardioid operation.

I am hoping and praying that this is a trend, and will report what the next new K870 capsule portends.

Disclaimer: the electronics of the U87Ai which I installed the capsule in are heavily modified; so while this capsule could mitigate some of the stock U87Ai's electronic compromises (which I find especially unsatisfying since circuit diagram 05), it cannot overcome them all.
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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soapfoot

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: A Turn-Around?
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2013, 11:56:53 am »

Klaus, this is great news. I really appreciate your sharing of your experiences with things like this-- you see far more of these capsules than most of the rest of us do, so it's good that you keep us abreast of developments. Please let us know if you see evidence of this as a trend (as opposed to an anomaly).
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Jim Williams

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: A Turn-Around?
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2013, 12:48:49 pm »

Those '05 SOIC daughter pcb preamps do really sound poor. Best case is to remove that and re-populate the identical pcb with original design components, not too hard to do.
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: A Turn-Around?
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2013, 12:59:32 pm »

Agreed. And simple enough to do (see previous discussions about how too).
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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soapfoot

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: A Turn-Around?
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2013, 08:51:47 am »

I installed a brand new K67/K87 capsule in one of our three U67s yesterday. The old one had a wrinkled rear diaphragm and severe gold loss on both sides (though the front side, interestingly, still sounded fine!)

Once we've used all three for awhile, I'll return to give my impressions of the sound of the new K67 capsule to see if my impressions are positive relative to the other, older K67s in our other two mics.

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soapfoot

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: A Turn-Around?
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2013, 11:42:39 am »

The early 2013 Neumann K67 we installed in our third U67 a couple of weeks ago sounds (so far) very much like our other two U67s (with original capsules).

It's possible that my ear is not as discerning as Klaus's, and it's possible we need even more time to evaluate before an undiscovered subtle difference manifests itself, but... thus far, impressions of this new Neumann capsule are very favorable-- it does not seem inferior in any way to our other U67s.
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NelisB

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: A Turn-Around?
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2013, 07:12:17 pm »

"Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer", the saying goes (one swallow does not a summer make), but what I just experienced is quite astonishing, given the sorry state of Neumann K870/K87 capsules of late:

Tonight I installed a brand-new K870 (build date late 2012), and my jaw dropped:

Both sides of the capsule are lush, reedy, frequency-balanced, with a full-figured bass, and are extraordinarily musical. Only the very best K67 from the mid 1960s (the famous 'fibre board' model) could hold a candle to this one. This capsule was so exquisite and similar on both sides (very rare, for any LD dual-membrane capsule, from any period) that I still don't know which of the two sides to make the front side for cardioid operation.

I am hoping and praying that this is a trend, and will report what the next new K870 capsule portends.

Disclaimer: the electronics of the U87Ai which I installed the capsule in are heavily modified; so while this capsule could mitigate some of the stock U87Ai's electronic compromises (which I find especially unsatisfying since circuit diagram 05), it cannot overcome them all.

Hi Klaus,

Is this a K870/K67 capsule? With 3 or 4 wires? My friend just ordered one, he could choose from a 3- and a 4-wire type. I guess that has to do with the isolated backplates?

Thanks, Niels
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: A Turn-Around?
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2013, 08:33:25 pm »

Not sure what you mean with: "is THIS a K870/K67 capsule?" Was there supposed to be a picture of what you were referring to?

If not, it's clear from my post you cited that I was referring to a K870/67 (three wires), not a K87 (four wires).

Please clarify your question.

In general, there is no build difference between the two types of Neumann double backplate capsules. They always sounded similar in any given era. The lead-out or backplate insulation configuration does not affect the sound, though it could be argued that the lower polarization voltage applied to a K87 will ameliorate the harshness of the capsules of that era I was complaining about.
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Klaus Heyne
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NelisB

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2013, 05:18:47 pm »

Hi Klaus,

I am referring to the capsule that you are writing about in your opening post.
Thanks for your explanation.

About a year ago Ben Sneesby wrote me that one of the reasons for the "inferior' sound of the U87ai, (next to the electronics) is that the diaphragm tension is too high. Do you think it's possible that a lowered tension of the diaphragm causes the renewed sound of your new K870?

Have you used more K870's in the meantime?

Thanks, Niels
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2013, 07:54:18 pm »

In my opinion it is the diaphragm tension that causes most of the hardness in the mids and the lack of low end. There are secondary issues with the quality of late model U87Ai sub boards (starting with circuit #04) but as soon as you pop in a good capsule, even in a brand-new mic, half of the problem is gone.

I have not installed enough recently made capsules to have a firm opinion whether the tension issue has been solved, but if the trend of the ratio of frequency-balanced capsules to hard-sounding capsules continues, we are on the right track. I will report back when I have enough of a statistical sample to generalize with confidence.
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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NelisB

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2013, 04:34:36 am »

Hi Klaus,

Thanks for your reply.

I have two U87ai's that I hardly ever use because of non-musical sound. Rens Heijnis already changed the electronics what made them better, but still they dont make me smile. I guess your 80% must be the right figure. 

An option I am thinking about is -instead of buying new expensive capsules- is to get my capsules reskined by Thiersch. Can you recommend reskinning? Maybe Thiersch can also get the capsules matched.

Thanks, Niels
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soapfoot

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2013, 08:38:09 am »

I'm sure Klaus's is opinion is the one you (rightfully) seek, BUT--

I've never heard a re-skinned Neumann capsule that actually approached the sound of a good Neumann. I've heard one of Mr. Thiersch's excellent M7-style rebuilds, and it sounded to my ear very much like Thiersch's excellent new capsules, but (especially being the Mylar version) it did not sound exactly like a good vintage Berlin M7. I've never heard his take on the U87 though.

We once were auditioning some FET 47s, and one had the capsule re-skinned by another very reputable person (not Thiersch-- I won't mention the name). It was so far inferior to the mics with original capsules (despite being in equal or better overall condition) that it was returned despite being significantly lower in price.

By the way, the early 2013 era K67/K870 we installed in our third U67 has been in heavy use, and nobody has once commented that it sounds significantly different (certainly not inferior) to our other U67s (which have original 1960 era capsules). All three have good Telefunken EF86 and are used completely interchangeably-- nobody has picked any of the three as "favorite." This is a testament to the sound of the new capsule, in my mind. Mission accomplished, as far as I'm concerned.
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2013, 02:45:27 pm »

I am in agreement with the above. And I can offer first-hand experience with Thiersch-reskinned K870/67: They do not represent the Neumann sound, or even an alternative sonic interpretation that would be equally or more pleasing than an original Neumann Kx7.

I would also be suspicious when someone offers re-diaphragmed capsules that were restored to supposedly "Neumann specifications" by third-party providers (Neumann does not offer re-diaphragming services).
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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NelisB

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2013, 03:29:52 pm »

Brad and Klaus,

Thanks a lot for your info!

Best, Niels
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hasbeen

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2013, 06:09:19 pm »



I've never heard a re-skinned Neumann capsule that actually approached the sound of a good Neumann. I've heard one of Mr. Thiersch's excellent M7-style rebuilds, and it sounded to my ear very much like Thiersch's excellent new capsules, but (especially being the Mylar version) it did not sound exactly like a good vintage Berlin M7.

Then what hope is there for a U47 owner who needs an M7 replacement?
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Who Is John Galt?

klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #15 on: November 20, 2013, 07:45:13 pm »

One of the bottlenecks to currently produce a PVC M7 that sounds like a real one (Neumann or Gefell): is the toxic chemical formula that was used until the early 2000s (at least in East-Germany, West-Germany had abolished the material already a decade earlier).

The new stuff has a different, environmentally sound, molecular structure, and somehow that has "colored" the sound differently than the old formula. How else to explain that both MG's and Thiersch's PVC M7 have that same mid-band harshness, no air but a hard ceiling around 7-8 Khz, and inarticulate lows?

I believe both companies do what they can with the PVC they have available. And it's good enough, unless you ever heard a real M7, even only ONCE. Then you can never go back and be satisfied with the current PVC product. And, a consequence of so many people having never heard a real M7 is that they think the current stuff is good and authentic. What a problem to overcome!
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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soapfoot

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #16 on: November 21, 2013, 07:27:31 am »

Then what hope is there for a U47 owner who needs an M7 replacement?

I'll let Klaus weigh in on this, but the Thiersch PVC replacement ("blue line") is an excellent capsule. I used one in a microphone I built for myself and I absolutely love it, and it's captured much of the spirit (to my ear) of the original M7. Probably not identical, but an excellent-sounding capsule in its own right.
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Jim Williams

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2013, 01:45:29 pm »

China may be an answer to reproducing PVC capsule diaphrams. They don't follow EPA or CE enviromental restrictions there. If Gefell set up a shop there, who knows what could be made? Seems about every other audio company has set up a shop there and if instructed and provided the correct formulas they could be successful.

Mogami is a perfect examle. Their soft, special rubber cable coatings are illegal to manufacture here but not in the far east where enviromental restrictions are not yet in place.
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method1

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2014, 06:04:06 am »

"Eine Schwalbe macht noch keinen Sommer", the saying goes (one swallow does not a summer make), but what I just experienced is quite astonishing, given the sorry state of Neumann K870/K87 capsules of late:

Tonight I installed a brand-new K870 (build date late 2012), and my jaw dropped:

Both sides of the capsule are lush, reedy, frequency-balanced, with a full-figured bass, and are extraordinarily musical. Only the very best K67 from the mid 1960s (the famous 'fibre board' model) could hold a candle to this one. This capsule was so exquisite and similar on both sides (very rare, for any LD dual-membrane capsule, from any period) that I still don't know which of the two sides to make the front side for cardioid operation.

I am hoping and praying that this is a trend, and will report what the next new K870 capsule portends.

Disclaimer: the electronics of the U87Ai which I installed the capsule in are heavily modified; so while this capsule could mitigate some of the stock U87Ai's electronic compromises (which I find especially unsatisfying since circuit diagram 05), it cannot overcome them all.

I know this thread is old, but I'm wondering if that was a one-off experience or have you experienced a general improvement in k870 capsule quality?
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SergioA

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2014, 11:47:05 pm »

+1. I feel this deserves some follow up.
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Sergio Armes

klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #20 on: December 21, 2014, 03:51:34 am »

China may be an answer to reproducing PVC capsule diaphrams. They don't follow EPA or CE environmental restrictions there.
So their lives and health are worthy of less of our consideration, just because they live far away?
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #21 on: December 21, 2014, 03:54:09 am »

I know this thread is old, but I'm wondering if that was a one-off experience or have you experienced a general improvement in k870 capsule quality?
Give me a few more examples to test. I have used too few of these capsules in the last year to confidently make a broad statement of percentages yet, but the trend is positive.
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Klaus Heyne
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mikezietsman

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2017, 09:01:54 am »

Just a bump for interest.

Klaus - has the post 2012 Era capsule ushered in a step up in consistency of the quality of the k870/k67?

Thanks,
Mike
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2017, 02:19:30 pm »

Thanks for the reminder to update my initial impressions.

As you may know, a constant trickle of factory-new U87Ai come through here- they serve as starting point for my modifications. They also allow me to take the pulse of this model through the years: there are many tiny changes that are continuously introduced in this mic, from the way the attenuation switches are labeled, to the quality of the capsules.

I wish I could report that all is well now, and that an overwhelming percentage of K87/870 capsules is now frequency-balanced and full-bodied in the lower register. They probably all pass Neumann's 2dB test, but there are still too many of these capsules which take the time-consuming effort to "enrich" their low end far enough, so that the overall sonic impression is no longer harsh, midrange pointy, and congested, i.e. lacking musicality, however you want to define this.

The reason why this is so frustrating for me: there are current-production K87/870 capsules which sound extraordinary in their musical enticement, right out of the box. These capsules are on par with the best that Neumann produced in the early decades of the model and even during the period of its predecessor, U67.

So it's obviously not a systemic issue pointing to a need for a change in design*, but more likely a quality-control or selection issue. I wish I knew how Sennheiser selects and rejects during production, but I don't. But the variable seems to be connected to diaphragm tension, otherwise I would not be able to often dial-in better performance on some of these harsh-sounding capsules by relaxing the diaphragms.

Bottom line: Neumann is still capable of making the absolutely best LD capsules in the world, but it's still too much hit and miss for my taste how individual capsules come out. I wish the company would return to the manufacturing methods employed before ca. 2000-whatever they were- when an overwhelming percentage of them was "in the ballpark".

*Stephen Paul once wrote a critique of the new lapping method Neumann started using in the early 1990s (?) which replaced the less-exact gapping between diaphragm and backplate through plastic spacers. I do not believe that that change has anything to do with the quality issues discussed in this thread: Neumann has successfully used backplate lapping for decades without any audible detriment, yet this alone has not reigned in the performance tolerances for those capsules leaving the factory.
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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Recording Engineer

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2017, 06:03:43 pm »

So there is a possibility that this may actually truly be a bean-counting, time is money, kind of issue; be it a sanctioned company policy or simply implemented by a manager?
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #25 on: April 10, 2017, 07:41:59 pm »

Yes, that is a possibility, but the general public, me, included, would never find out, so I see no purpose in speculating why there is still such range in response from capsule to capsule.

Neumann's Uwe Sattler may chime in here, and remind everyone that his former company still has the tightest tolerance of any capsule manufacturer. That is indeed true. But as I recently posted on another forum, "within spec" is still a 4dB tolerance range from capsule to capsule (2dB).

I would love more bass in K870, so that most capsules end up on the (+) rather than (-) end of allowable tolerance. Hell, I would even buy Neumann's rejects that fall outside the tolerance on the plus side. Makes my job that much easier.
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Klaus Heyne
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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #26 on: April 11, 2017, 01:47:58 pm »

I only mention it because it seems everyone always wants to quickly blame everything that's "wrong" on the big-bad-wolf-bean-counter; but here's a real case where it seems to truly be a possibility this time.
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #27 on: April 11, 2017, 02:46:21 pm »

The larger picture to keep in mind:
Neumann is the only mic company supplying spare capsules for mics that were first sold in 1951!

So, even if the mercenary aspect may be blamed for the perceived deterioration of some of these capsules, I am grateful that this is not AKG or Schoeps which won't even work on mics that were discontinued only a few years ago. Or try Sony or Microtech Gefell which won't supply parts for ANY of its condenser mics-old or new- in the U.S. They don't even bother with U.S, customer support or brand representation (see related thread).


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Klaus Heyne
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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #28 on: April 12, 2017, 05:34:33 am »

Unless it has changed in the last few years, I believe you can still purchase Sony capsules for C800, 800G, and C38B. I bought a pair of C38B capsules directly from them about 3-years ago. But yes US customer service is absolutely non-existent!
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FoxFoxFox

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #29 on: July 13, 2017, 05:28:07 pm »

Hey Klaus, wondering about buying a 2000's U87. What year were the capsules not sounding right? Thanks.
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klaus

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Re: New Neumann U87 Capsules: Finally A Turn-Around in Quality?
« Reply #30 on: July 15, 2017, 11:18:30 am »

For the answer please read my opening post #1, and update, #23.
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks
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