The Neumann U87 is a pretty big deal in audio production circles. Ask any film sound or music producer what their favourite microphone is, and most will tell you it's the U87.
Having said that, not many people own one. And that's because they cost as much as some people's car, at £1750/$3100!
That's a pretty big investment for anyone to make. But supposing you saved up your hard earned pennies to eventually get your hands on one, surely your podcast would sound amazing? Well, not necessarily. Let's take a look.
Who Would Use The Neumann U87?
To answer this, we need to be clear on what the Neumann U87 is actually for.
The Neumann will lend a richness, a warmth and a clarity to vocals, in the right conditions. This microphone is extremely high-end and designed to pick up every single nuance of the voice being projected into it. If you're a singer, or voice actor, then this can really strengthen and enhance your performance. But if you're recording a conversation (in our case, a podcast) it can actually become something of a curse.
More often than not, breaths and ‘mouth noises' are pretty undesirable in speech audio. And with the Neumann U87 picking up absolutely everything, this could lead to potential issues for someone using it to podcast.
This microphone is extremely high-end and is designed to pick up every single nuance of the voice being projected into it.
Where Would You Use The Neumann U87?
In the same way that the Neumann U87 is sensitive to vocal tones, it's also sensitive to environment. That means if you want to get the best from this microphone you'll need a sound treated recording space.
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Even if you've created a ‘vocal booth' at home with foam panels, it might not be enough. Noises elsewhere in the building, or next door, can be picked up really easily, as well as noises from the street outside. These microphones are really designed for use in purpose-built recording studios where absolute silence is possible. Using them anywhere else can return mixed results.
What Kind Of Recording Setup Suits The Neumann U87?
You'll connect this microphone up to a mixer, a preamp or a recorder using an XLR cable as normal. In my recording I used the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB preamp.
The Neumann U87 will usually come with it's own shock mount, which attaches to most boom arms or microphone stands.
If fitted correctly it's totally secure, but it can be a scary moment when you first let go of your 2-grand mic and see it just hanging there. These microphones are extremely complex, and that can make them fragile. Even leaving one in your car on a cold night can break it, so they need to be treated with a lot of care.
If you're using a USB preamp/mixer and involving a computer or laptop be wary that this can cause more unwanted sounds in your recordings. Fans and other noises will be picked up for all of the reasons we've covered already. Usually these sounds aren't much of an issue if they are found in a podcast, but the Neumann U87 is so sensitive that they could become a distraction from your content.
What Are The Vital Statistics?
Polar or pickup patterns are settings that determine where a microphone picks up sound, and where it rejects it from. With the Neumann U87 you have a choice of three.
- Omnidirectional – Sets the microphone to record everything around it.
- Cardioid – Mainly picks up sound at the front of the microphone and rejects sounds at the back. Ideal setting for one person talking.
- Bi-directional – Mainly picks up sound from front and back of microphone, whilst rejecting sounds at the sides. Microphones with Figure 8 patterns are popular with co-host podcasters who share a microphone.
What Does It Cost?
Approximately £1750 in the UK, and $3100 in the US.
Yep, they're certainly not a budget option!
What Does It Come With?
You'll usually find the Neumann U87 sold in a robust case, housed with foam to hold the mic in place. As mentioned they'll come with their own shock mount too. You can buy the Neumann U87 individually or as part of a stereo pair set.
Neumann U87 Sound Sample
I've recorded this sample in a semi sound-dampened area. It's no pro recording studio by any means, so it should give you an idea of what you could achieve in a home studio. I've also left some roomtone at the end of the recording!
This is an unbelievably good microphone, worthy of its price tag and reputation. But you should have a very very good reason, and excellent recording conditions, before treating yourself to one.
If you're producing a polished audio drama and plan on doing a lot of voice acting or voice overs then there may be a case for putting it on your birthday list. But if you're creating a speech podcast where you won't be recording in a professionally treated studio, then the Neumann U87 isn't the microphone for you.
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