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Author Topic: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)  (Read 8208 times)

maarvold

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U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« on: August 09, 2007, 12:37:16 am »

Klaus,

Although you might view this as a "Non-specific question" (as in "What I discourage" from the posting guidelines), would you, who knows much more about the strong and weak points of various rare and desirable microphones than many of us, be willing to share your opinion, for example, on what sonic characteristics must be present in a good U47?  What characteristics might indicate a U47 that is less desirable, or beginning to fail in some way?  

It would be very helpful to me (and hopefully others) and would also streamline the process of understanding what to look for and expect with many of the great old mics--M49, U47, U67, C12, 251, etc.  

Of course, all input from people with firsthand experience would be appreciated.  

Maybe this could be a "Mic Of The Month" series of topics as well.  
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Michael Aarvold
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Klaus Heyne

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Re: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2007, 11:46:29 am »

Describing sensory perceptions with words is like walking on ice- very little to hold on to. But I will humour you:

To me, the ideal U47 (I've heard a few, so I feel secure, at least within myself, that I'm probably in the ball park with my observations) can do something no other mic does quite as well:

It reproduces the human voice, especially anything between alto and bass, with all its authority left intact.

The treatment and resolution in the vocal range is such, that the mic is not in the way of the emotional delivery. I never think "mic" when I hear such a U47. I may not even think at all, but just be in the voice, the delivery, the lyrics...

Those who are familiar with my philosophy of what a mic can be or do when it's at its best know that, here too, a certain amount of fibbing is at work: the U47 "engorges" the singer's ability, helps him or her out a bit, and does away with unflattering tubbiness in the bass or wispiness in the highs. The range where the mic shines- the lower mids, is rendered with an almost three-dimensional effect, and with an extra amount of what I call "reediness" - the U47 emphasises the vocal cord's undulations (think Nat King Cole.)

The U47 shines also, because it has no boost in frequency ranges we normally might associate with "sheen" or "transparency". Yet, the mic is not opaque by any means, just awfully relaxed, in a way that its delivery is not straining to get right to our souls.

There is no other mic in the "Big Five" as I call them, that achieves its greatness quite the same way, nevertheless, these other mics in the Club where the fat cigars are smoked, do their magic in different, equally enticing ways.

We can then speculate on how this magic in the U47 is created.

Deconstructing these mics to their base components enough times in the past leads me to the belief that only the exact major components present in the U47- capsule, head basket, tube, circuitry, voltages, transformer- will render that specific magic, and substituting just one of them will upset the apple cart and the mic then leaves the stage.

Discussions about M7 vs. K47 strike me as academic, or a matter of taste: both  capsules' operating principle and backplates are almost identical, and whatever the PVC or Mylar skins add or subtract is not of enough substance in my experience to negate the mic's magic.

You finally asked, what characteristics might indicate a U47 that is less desirable, or beginning to fail in some way?

The simplest answer would be: if none of the above is easily observed, the mic is not at the top of ist game.

Add to that an imbalance in the frequency range (sometimes you will find "honky"/mid-rangey specimens whose capsules or, in rare cases, VF14's are kaputt) or noise (a well-working U47 has about the same noise floor as a well-working U67), and the magic of a U47 can be obscured real fast...

Needless to say, whatever the well-deserved attraction of some of the clones or Nuvistor-equipped "U47" may be, they cannot and should not be compared to the sound of an original, all-stock, well-working U47.



This post has been copied and made into a "sticky" which can be read, together with future "Mic Of The Month" contributions, at the top of this forum
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Klaus Heyne
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maarvold

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Re: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2007, 06:50:40 pm »

FANTASTIC reply, Klaus. Understanding what makes something truly great can be difficult to put into words, but it is important to attempt to understand it--at least if one is serious about the subject.  To me, it's kind of like when I went to The Metropolitan Museum Of Art in NYC: the painting that most impressed me was Van Gogh's "Irises" (the one with the white background, not the green one that was at The Getty Museum for a while there).  

http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/gogh/irises/gogh.irises -pink-gree.jpg

Although the jpg is the palest of representations of what this painting is about, I was sure I felt something very strongly and specially for that painting, a simple still life of flowers in a vase.  I went through other areas of the museum for a while, then returned to look at "Irises" again and the thing that struck me was that it just dwarfed the paintings that surrounded it in it's compellingness and abundance of life force.  

I have a feeling that if I had used a great 47 with the right singer for even 30 seconds, I would not have started this forum topic.  But now I will continue my quest with a new appreciation of what I am seeking.  Thank you.  
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Michael Aarvold
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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2007, 09:35:18 pm »

It would be interesting, as "Mic of the Month", if we could add some of the most prolific examples of this mic in use. I know that Klaus has suggested in the past that an archive of mics used on noteworthy recordings would be a nice thing...

When I think of a U47, Sinatra comes to mind. I don't know if there is comprehensive information available, but according to "Sessions with Sinatra - Frank Sinatra and the Art of Recording" - it seems he used a U47 for the majority of his Capitol Records recordings (one exception being "Sinatra's Swingin' Session!!!" - which was apparently a Telefunken ELA M251.) All other studio photos I've seen from that era show him at a U47.

Obviously the Beatles used U47s often, but they also used U67s and a number of small-diaphragm Neumanns for vocals. I'll look at "Recording the Beatles" and see if there are any specific mentions.

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danickstr

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2007, 02:11:38 am »

After a rather crappy day, to read Klaus's description of the majesty of the U47 was actually the highlight so far.  And there is only 50 minutes left.  

Viva the happy place of the ultimate mic.
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Nick Dellos - MCPE  

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kats

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2007, 12:10:47 pm »

Quote:

The range where the mic shines- the lower mids, is rendered with an almost three-dimensional effect, and with an extra amount of what I call "reediness" - the U47 emphasises the vocal cord's undulations (think Nat King Cole.)


I think that is exactly it. I can never get that tone out of my head and understand your description perfectly.

You know I've been staring at this screen now for 20 minutes just thinking about tone and something comes to mind. You know how you hear your voice when you speak/sing and how it never sounds as good or at least familiar when you hear yourself on a playback - you're like; "Is that what I sound like!!??"

For me, the U47 sounds like the voice I hear in my head- more so than any other mic.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2007, 01:20:55 pm »

Klaus used a term before, that I have borrowed every time I describe a U47: "midrange authority." "Robust" is another word I use.

I will choose a U47 typically for a male singer who has any texture in his voice, if it's not "airy."  If I use my C12 or Manley Gold on those singers, I can't add compression without bringing out that throat texture in an unflattering way.  

I'll name drop here, simply because you know these voices: I used a U47 on Johnny Cash, because it captures perfectly that granite resonance in his voice.  On Rod Stewart, who has texture, but lets a lot of air pass through his throat, I used the C12 to capture that air.  His texture was more crackle, where John was gravel.

U47 is my go-to mic for saxophone.  If you use a mic that is too bright, it can be grating.  It's a perfect balance between texture and note for that instrument.

It's also my go-to mic for upright bass.  This is where its robustness really shines.

It's really a wonderful mic in so many applications.  I've used it as a mono drum mic with great success (and some EQ).  I've used it in front of a bass drum.  It's terrific on piano.  Really splendid on a guitar amp.

It's funny, because in my mind, the look of the U47 is the perfect description of how it sounds.  Large and thick, yet well detailed.  

And if you ever hear a KH modded U47, that's like going from Jennifer Anniston to Angelina Jolie.  One is terrific, but the other is exquisite.  The KH U47 I used was mind boggling beautiful.
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ricknroll

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2007, 05:40:35 pm »

J.J. Blair wrote on Fri, 10 August 2007 10:20


I'll name drop here, simply because you know these voices: I used a U47 on Johnny Cash, because it captures perfectly that granite resonance in his voice.


J.J.,

To be fair, wasn't that a Blue-ified U47 you used?  I.e., EF86 tube instead of VF14?

Rick Hedges
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J.J. Blair

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2007, 06:42:18 pm »

Rick, to be fair, yes.  However, when A/B'ing the BLUE 47 against my VF14 version, the texture and highs were the same pretty much from 600hz on up.  The obvious difference was in the low end, to which I attribute the VF14 and the BV8...

The BLUE (treatment of the U47) was an unfortunate way to get a bunch of dead and poorly functioning mics back up and working before Oliver started making BV8- copies, and other people were making body parts.  

But the BLUE 47s sounded better than some of the unhealthy U47s I've heard, and still did sound like a U47.  I never had a single engineer use it and say to me, "That doesn't sound like a U47," like I did when I heard a Peluso 2247.  Everybody loves it.  Had they shot it out against my VF14, they likely would have picked the VF14, but nobody ever complained about it.  

The BLUE U47s resembled a Neumann much more so than their M49 copy.  With the 47, the character was the same, but the balance was different, and not as robust as the Neumann.  With their "49", the character was totally different.  That endeavor was not as successful, IMHO.

I think the main complaint that some people have with the BLUE U47s is that they shouldn't have cost $5,000.  And I know Oliver and a few others just see what they did as sacrilege.  

Also to be fair, the C12 we used on Rod was a Norbert Pape C12 clone.  But when A/B'ing that against a couple original C12s, you would be pretty damn hardpressed to find anybody to say, "That's the AKG- that's the Pape," with certainty.  Pape made a really great clone.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

ricknroll

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2007, 07:59:19 pm »

J.J.,

I thought it was at least worth mentioning the difference in mics since Klaus wrote in this thread of his "belief that only the exact major components present in the U47- capsule, head basket, tube, circuitry, voltages, transformer- will render that specific magic, and substituting just one of them will upset the apple cart."  From what I've read, the Blue U47s had both the transformer and the tube replaced, which would presumably severely upset the apple cart according to the view expressed by Klaus.  This probably just goes to show that a great mic can be compromised in some ways and yet still sound great when compared to the majority of what else is available.

I assume (but please correct me if I'm wrong) that Blue's replacement of the transformer in their U47s was a byproduct of their EF86 installation, and not done simply because all the U47 transformers were shot.  But if they kept the AC701K tubes intact in their M49s, why did they replace the transformer?  Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like the tube would be more likely to need replacing than the transformer.  Hopefully this isn't too off topic...

Rick Hedges
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J.J. Blair

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2007, 01:17:43 am »

Rick, great point about the entire chemistry.  

Now, if I recall correctly, because I have spoken with Skipper about this, many of the U47s they collected where in bad shape.  They had a myriad of issues, from tubes, to transformers to capsules, dented bodies, and even broken connectors.  They were looking for a uniform way to fix these in uniform fashion, so that all of their rebuilt U47s shared the same parts.  This involved sandblasting and replating the bodies and grills, using a multi-pin XLR in place of the Tuchel, (no Tuchel replacement was being manufactured at the time), rediaphragming the capsules, replacing the VF14s with EF86s, and finally the transformer swap.  

I think the point was that everything in the mic had to be brand new, or reconditioned to be like new.  You could recondition the body and the capsule, but the tube, transformers, caps and resistors, of course had to all me brand new.

As far as the M49 goes, I don't know how you could get an EF86 inside one of those.  They did put new tubes in them, though.  AC701s weren't as pricey at the time, and were way more plentiful than VF14s.  I honestly don't know why they did what they did with those, design wise.  The one I had for a spell didn't have the sex appeal of a non-modified M49.  I didn't even like the finish on them.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham

Martin Kantola

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2007, 02:49:45 am »

Thank you Klaus,

that was beautiful, pure poetry Wink And so true. Fantastic to see that the sonic character of a device can be put into words so accurately. Because how on earth could we discuss this in numbers and measurements?

Especially liked the "three-dimensional" expression Smile

Very inspiring reading, thanks again!

kats wrote on Fri, 10 August 2007 17:10

For me, the U47 sounds like the voice I hear in my head- more so than any other mic.


YES, that's it!

Martin
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maxdimario

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2007, 11:31:51 am »

Quote:

Rick, great point about the entire chemistry.

Now, if I recall correctly, because I have spoken with Skipper about this, many of the U47s they collected where in such bad shape. They had a myriad of issues, from tubes, to transformers to capsules, dented bodies, and even broken connectors. They were looking for a uniform way to fix these in uniform fashion, so that all of their rebuilyy U47s shared the same parts. This involved sandblasting and replating the bodies and grills, using a multi-pin XLR in place of the Tuchel, (no Tuchel replacement was being manufactured at the time), rediaphragming the capsules, replacing the VF14s with EF86s, and finally the transformer swap.


as much as I would like to believe this, it is more probable that they kept the original parts for future restoration work.

there is a guy in europe which has been making exact copies of u47 bodies and parts for years..
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compasspnt

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2007, 12:22:51 pm »

"Microphone of The Millenia" (both of them that are applicable) would be more like it.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: U47 - Mic Of The Month (was: Klaus, Would You Be So Kind...)
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2007, 02:04:04 pm »

Max, the parts may have gone to Dan Alexander, somebody else, or they're still sitting in a box.  (Maybe Klaus got some?)

They may have eventually hooked up with that guy, because some of the later Blue 47s have Tuchels.  But the story is that when they started the project, I think in 1996 or 1997, they couldn't source the Tuchel connectors.
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They say the heart of Rock & Roll is still beating, which is amazing if you consider all the blow it's done over the years.

"The Internet enables pompous blowhards to interact with other pompous blowhards in a big circle jerk of pomposity." - Bill Maher

"The negative aspects of this business, not only will continue to prevail, but will continue to accelerate in madness. Conditions aren't going to get better, because the economics of rock and roll are getting closer and closer to the economics of Big Business America." - Bill Graham
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