R/E/P > Klaus Heyne's Mic Lab Stickies

Which U87 To Buy (Old or Older)?


From the mailbag:

Hi Klaus,
I'm writing you with a question about the Neumann U87, I'm sorry for this since I know you've probably answered a million questions about them already. but I have not found an answer yet to this particular one.
I like the sound of the old Vintage U87 much more than the newer Ai model. And now I have the possibility of buying one black body U87 from 1969, and one from 1977.

My question is this:
On the one from 1969, the seller writes that the mic has been in "full service at Sennheiser in 2017".
And the one from 1977, the seller writes "Capsule / diaphragm replacement (original for this mic) was made at Sennheisser 2007".
Will those changes/services have made them more like a newer Ai model or will their service still keep them like the old original U87?
Best Regards

Excellent question, Oskar, and glad to answer it, in three acts:

1. Unless you can show close-up photos of both sides of the capsule in the mic that had "full service at Sennheiser in 2017", it's not possible to know whether the service included capsule replacement (i.e. a capsule that was most likely made in 2016 or 2017) or whether the original 1969 capsule is still in place.

2. Since the early 2000s SOME Neumann's K87 capsules suffered from high diaphragm tension- exactly the opposite of what you are trying to achieve in buying the older U87 version: getting full, rich bass response. As I have repeatedly mentioned on my forum and elsewhere, diaphragm tension of K87 and K870 (U87Ai) has not been inconsistent for the last 20 years, more so than in previous decades: you can still find LD capsules made by Neumann today with the traditional full bass response of the pre-2000 versions, but there is also a good chance that capsule made in 2016/17 is bass starved and thus will prevent you from hearing what you were after in buying a vintage U87 in the first place.

3. The history and condition of any capsule in a used mic, including the best in the world (Neumann) is usually unknown and therefore unpredictable in regards to its performance: was the mic abused/left in a car trunk at 130F heat? Was it stored extremely carefully in its box, wrapped in plastic, or left naked on a mic stand for years? Was it always used with sufficient spit protection during vocals? Was it dropped, experiencing capsule whiplash and diaphragm distortion? These are just some of the questions the answers for which you cannot know unless you had the capsule properly inspected. This, then, puts your binary choice (capsule A or B) in the proper light: either could be the better choice.

With all that in mind, here is what I would do:

a. if possible, audition both mics, and if possible, do it at the same time, and in your acoustic environment (sound samples are useless, let's even go there). Under this scenario, you would instantly know which is your new baby.

b. look at close-up photos of both diaphragms of both capsules, and determine build date (https://repforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,36283.msg531926.html#msg531926)
and condition. Severe contamination indicates a mic that was not properly maintained, and at minimum needs expert restoration. Or the photos may show two pristine capsules, in which case I probably would first look at the 1977 mic as a candidate to buy.

c. if neither a. nor b. is available to you, I would look elsewhere, or price either of the two mics low enough to include the purchase of a new or used K87.


As a rule of thumb, I always tell buyers to factor in the cost of a new capsule to their purchase decision. That way you will not be dissapointed when the capsule is faulty, as it often is for older mikes.


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