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Author Topic: Microphone Myth Busters: Overview  (Read 19077 times)

klaus

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Microphone Myth Busters: Overview
« on: March 07, 2011, 05:19:31 PM »

As soon as the transfer of relevant threads (including my sticky forum) has taken place* I will be posting about specific "Myth Busters" in a new series of threads with the above title.

I invite all of you to submit here myths about microphones that you would like to expose in detail to daylight. The kind of lore that keeps perpetuating on internet forums without anyone putting an authoritative stop to it, once and for all:
tube mics sound warm; copy capsules sound like originals; 'neutral' vs. 'colored' mics, etc.

As many of these myths are self-serving to those who spread them, this forum whose ground rules and moderator discourage commercial infiltration is an excellent venue to shine a light on them. So share generously and boldly!


* This was written... how many weeks ago?
   The company which runs this forum still has not made the Mic Lab work at full power, let alone transfer important threads in postable form from the old 
   forum. KH May 1, 2011 (+ 7-12-2011.)
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Klaus Heyne
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rjc

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2011, 08:14:22 AM »

That's excellent, Klaus - I'm looking forward to it.

I know it's been covered before, but I hope that one of the myths that will be addressed is the supposed radical difference between the original U87/U87i and the U87 Ai. As owner of both variants I'm well aware that the differences are moderate, in contrast with the way they are frequently characterised.
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Ray Cologon
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radiovinhet

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2011, 03:03:35 PM »

I've made a comparission between 2 U87Ai stock vs u87i stock.. with same setup. The old version have a little less top end, possible to different gain setup in pre-amps, it needs more 10dB to sound  equal to u87Ai. This is not a myth, this is true;.
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rjc

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2011, 03:18:23 PM »

The gain difference goes without saying, and is the most obvious difference in spec between the models. Based on my own experience (I own several of each), the FR differences (when the mics are serviced and the capsules are clean) are quite subtle and not consistent with the mythology, which suggests a much more profound difference.

My own experience with these mics is pretty consistent with the discussion about them at http://recordinghacks.com/2011/03/19/neumann-u87ai-vs-u87i/. I'm happy to have both in my locker, and the oft repeated notion that one should be vaunted while the other is all but unusable is pure myth IMO.
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Ray Cologon
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klaus

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2011, 04:31:07 PM »

The "Recording Hacks"comparison test you cited needs a bit closer scrutiny before you can take its results at face value.
The devil is as usual in the details, obscured by lots of other info. audio clips and background facts thrown around.

For example, a closer read reveals that Mike Pappas contributed his "recently factory serviced" U87i (old version) as test sample. One needs to know that Mike is or was a paid product endorser for Neumann. Nothing wrong with that. But by logical extension of the close relationship, I would not be surprised to find out that the "recent servicing" of his mic by Neumann's factory service center, as mentioned, may also have included a capsule replacement. 
If that was indeed done, then the starkest difference between U87 and U87A would have been obliterated in this test: As I had mentioned in several threads, Neumann's K87/870 capsule has undergone a quite audible change since about the year 2001. (Details too lengthy to repeat here).

If Pappas' mic had a newly installed, current production capsule (the dateline of the the test is early 2011), the starkest difference between old and new U87 would be gone, and the mics truly could sound as identical as claimed, once adjusted for output level differences.

While we are discussing details: Note also that the new U87Ai has a 6.5 dB lower headroom than the old amp was capable off- despite or because of the increased amount of voltage pushed into the FET's gate.
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Klaus Heyne
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Bubba--Kron

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2011, 04:40:31 PM »

How about the myth that tube mics have slower transient response?!?!  That and neve also, both have plenty of transient response.

Cheers
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Cheers, Bryan Richards

klaus

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2011, 05:59:49 PM »

How about the myth that faster transient response is always more desirable in a mic than slower?
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Klaus Heyne
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halocline

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2011, 10:15:32 AM »

How about the myth that faster transient response is always more desirable in a mic than slower?

This is a very interesting point. Classical guitar, for example, is an instrument that many engineers I believe assume should be recorded with microphones that capture fast transients, with the idea that it's more "realistic." (Whatever that means...) I think that guitar sounds best in a recital hall, with a good 30 feet or so of air between the listener and the guitar. This allows the sound to 'bloom' and tends to reduce the finger and string noise. I'm fairly confident most string players would say something similar about violin, cello, etc...

I far prefer the large diaphragm mics I've used for recording classical guitar over the small diaphragm mics I've tried, which include KM84s and schoeps, even though those mics are usually thought superior to the 414s I ended up using. I have this idea that possibly the large diaphragm is a bit slower, which mimics some of the effect of being back further from the instrument; even when both sets of mics are located the same distance from the source, the smaller (quicker?) mics sound "closer" to me, and that's not a flattering effect.

Speaking for myself, I can definitely say that my goal is flattering sound, not realistic! I'm also starting to realize just how psychological this whole issue is. Some recordings of classical music are simply more stressful to listen to, especially over time.
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Jim Williams

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2011, 11:14:39 AM »

How about the myth that faster transient response is always more desirable in a mic than slower?

Not a myth, just subjective preferences.
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klaus

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2011, 06:53:00 PM »

Speaking for myself, I can definitely say that my goal is flattering sound, not realistic!

Excellent topic for another mic mythbuster:
realistic vs. flattering
(hint: I think it's a false juxtaposition)
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
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soapfoot

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2011, 07:25:10 PM »

There are a lot of things that would be good to see discussed and proved or disproved experimentally and/or experientially; empirically and/or subjectively. 

For example (bear in mind that I am not expressing an opinion on any of the below notions in any way):

1) The impact of coupling cap dielectric and construction style on timbre of passed signal (the notion that "all coupling caps sound the same")

2) The impact of resistor material and construction (carbon film, carbon composition, metal film, metal oxide, thick film, etc) on noise and timbre (the notion that "carbon comp resistors are noisy" or "all metal film resistors sound harsh")

3) The impact of capsule polarization resistor value (the notion that "higher is always better")

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Trahern

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2011, 02:37:42 AM »

For example, a closer read reveals that Mike Pappas contributed his "recently factory serviced" U87i (old version) as test sample. One needs to know that Mike is or was a paid product endorser for Neumann. Nothing wrong with that. But by logical extension of the close relationship, I would not be surprised to find out that the "recent servicing" of his mic by Neumann's factory service center, as mentioned, may also have included a capsule replacement. 
If that was indeed done, then the starkest difference between U87 and U87A would have been obliterated in this test: As I had mentioned in several threads, Neumann's K87/870 capsule has undergone a quite audible change since about the year 2001. (Details too lengthy to repeat here).


Klaus,
In reference to this above quote, are you trying to infer that, not only has the current K67 capsule for the U87AI changed in recent years (as stated in a previous thread) but the replacement for the K87 capsule for the U87 has changed recently as well?
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klaus

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2011, 03:10:10 AM »

Yes. Both capsules undergo an identical manufacturing process and are designed along the same acoustic/mechanical construction, including diaphragm tensioning.

Only at the final stage of assembly does one capsule receive a non-conductive spacer between the two capsule halves, along with isolation tubing over the assembly screws (K87), while the other one (K67/870) gets a conductive spacer and naked brass screws.
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Klaus Heyne
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Trahern

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2011, 12:53:41 AM »

So, in essence, the only way to *really* measure the sonic differences between the U87 and U87AI would be to replace both capsules with new ones then compare. Trying to compare a 30 year old capsule in the U87, even if it's been cleaned, and a newer one with a newer capsule in the U87AI is quite unscientific.
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klaus

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Re: Microphone Myth Busters
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2011, 01:48:58 PM »

It does not necessarily have to be a new capsule for a comparison test of two mic amps, but it should be the same, identical one, transplanted between the two mic amps (using a similar, but not the same, introduces too much of an added variable.)
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
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