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Dialogue Production and The Neumann u87 Microphone

Audiobooks, Narratives, Radio, TV, ADR and on Film, The Neumann u87 has been a studio staple, a workhorse for as long as I can remember. Thumb through magazines, photos, and seen in “studio” footage in tv and film - you'll recognize the Neumann u87.

As a successor to the Neumann u67 which was designed to operate with its internal tube circuitry and external power supply, in 1967 Neumann began manufacturing the u87. The Neumann u87 featured a similar capsule (k87 vs. k67) and a “modern” solid state preamp circuit that could operate with an internal battery or a revolutionary new concept (at the time) called “Phantom Power”. The u87 was well received initially but never really replaced the u67 in a music setting - they’re different microphones.

Initially not well received by music studios as it looked so similar to the outstanding sounding u67, early adapters accused the microphone as sounding too “plain”. This is what made this #microphone so special and a staple in the voice production industry. It began to represent a baseline. While not an “outstanding” sounding microphone it works at a professional level and continues to prove itself to be more versatile and consistant than most options to this day. The majority of all studio #narratives we hear in TV, animation, film, and professionally produced audiobooks, are #recorded with the Neumann u87.

Remember the scene in Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams in studio voicing animation, or when he voiced "Genie" in Aladdin?? Neumann u87. Remember 2Pac? Again, a Neumann u87. Schedule a session at my #recordingstudio and I might have a #Telefunken u47 or a Neumann m49 within reach, but 90% of the time the vintage u87 hanging in ready position is what we’ll go with at Costa Mesa Recording Studios.

There’s another important thing to know about the Neumann u87's #technical history. The u87 has been through several revisions over the years. I have a pair from the early 70’s with consecutive serial numbers that I’d describe as my neutral pair. Another u87 I have is from the early 80’s, it’s called a u87i - This microphone was modified by #StephenPaul that features a “brighter and faster” character that’s works wonderfully with a few regulars who's voices are naturally dark, but it's not perfect for everyone. My favorite and go-to u87 is from the late 60’s and it’s all original - I’d describe it as a bit darker and if you know what I mean, I can hear a bit more of the transformer which compliments the lows and rounds off the upper mids…I bought that microphone from David Lyons at Sonic Circus out of Vermont after he bought it as part of the liquidation of Bearsville Studios, NY.

Another important note about vintage u87’s…In the last decade and a half, I’ve heard more and more young #audioengineers asking me if the vintage 87’s noise is an issue compared to the new #u87ai. The irony is that as long as your vintage u87 is in excellent condition and not in need of repair, the noise floor is fantastically low and equal if not lower to the modern u87ai. The u87ai was never well received, which is why an excellent consecutive serial pair of vintage u87’s can fetch an easy $15,000 yet a new u87ai can be had for $3,800. The revision from a to ai represents a change in capsule build qualities, and a voltage change to the diaphragm thus tightening it. The tighter capsule sounds different, and it will overload the fet resistor earlier than in previous generations.

Written by Nick Fainbarg without the use of AI in 2023 - Copywrite September 2023

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