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Neumann KM131 vs. Josephson C617
Old 20th February 2009
  #1
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🎧 15 years
Talking Neumann KM131 vs. Josephson C617

Short samples of KM 131 and c617 as 1 m AB main mic. Just the mains, no spots mixed in for the comparison. I have a clear preference, but I won't tell which ... yet.
A student/amateur orchestra playing Beethoven's 5th. I think this is the first time I've recorded this in 15 years or so I've been doing this. It's so popular that nobody plays it anymore... heh

Might try to repeat the comparison in May or so with better source material. 617s were kindly provided for a test by GS member adebar, 131s are my bread-and-butter main mics these days (although I've been using MKH 40 a number of times now).
Attached Thumbnails
Neumann KM131 vs. Josephson C617-img_0305.jpg   Neumann KM131 vs. Josephson C617-img_0309.jpg   Neumann KM131 vs. Josephson C617-img_0311.jpg  
Attached Files

131.mp3 (3.85 MB, 3015 views)

617.mp3 (3.85 MB, 2999 views)

Old 20th February 2009
  #2
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jnorman's Avatar
thanks d-fu - both samples are very nice. i was expecting to be blown away by the 617s, but alas, i was not. the josephsons seem a tad brighter and have some power in the low mids, while the 131s had a wonderfully even, open, and natural sonic character (even though i can tell you are using them a bit further out than they were designed for). the 131s sounded more 3D to me, and also seemed to have a bit more reach into the group. this really makes me think harder about picking up a pair of km131s.
Old 20th February 2009
  #3
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🎧 10 years
Interesting comparison. I'm biased because I use KM131s for everything as well, but I honestly did prefer them in this case. The Josephsons gave a slightly harsh edge to the sound. In some spots it made the music sound more exciting, but in others I found it a bit fatiguing. The Neumanns sounded completely smooth and polished, and I really couldn't find any fault.

Perhaps the difference between the mics can be explained by looking at their frequency response charts? The Neumanns are pretty much ruler flat, while the Gefell MK221 capsule shows some bumps in the high frequency range.
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #4
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Thanks for the samples!

I prefered the spatial imaging of the 617s. It seemed more full and authentic across the stereo field. I didn't feel like I was listening to "two microphones" like I did with the 131s. But they also had a nasalish tone quality.

So... perhaps I'd use the 131s, but place them differently?
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NorseHorse ➑️
I prefered the spatial imaging of the 617s. It seemed more full and authentic across the stereo field. I didn't feel like I was listening to "two microphones" like I did with the 131s. But they also had a nasalish tone quality.

So... perhaps I'd use the 131s, but place them differently?
I also prefer the 617s. it's more like I'm used to ear these students orchestras... The Neumanns add some low mids which make the whole orchestra less natural, but pleasant.

I would say the Neumann make the sound (and often the musicians ask for this sound), the Josephson get more the reality of the sound (yes, I was not there to be sure of that...)

JMM
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #6
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Very interesting comparison!

I don't own either of the competitors here, and I don't know the recording venue. To me both samples seems a bit muffled, but since we're talking free-field omni's it's not a surprise.

As said, I don't know the recording venue or the orchestra so I won't be able to judge what microphone sound most "true to the source". But what I can say without hesitation is that [judged on my HD650 Sennheiser headphones] KM-131 sounds most musical to my ears, which is what counts in the end. There's something "nasty" i the presence area in the c617 samples that I do not like in a recording, no matter how it got there.

:
mads
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #7
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Plush's Avatar
 
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I am voting for Neumann.
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #8
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In the initial passages I clearly prefered Neumanns - sounded more pleasant, mellow and natural, while Josephson exhibited some "harshness" in high frequencies. When it got to the full orchestra sound, Neumanns became slightly "boomy" in lower frequencies as if ... Josephson maybe more balanced ? But still, even there that slightly artificial "sharp brush" was audible somehow ... If I have to choose between these two, I would probably get Neumanns. In ideal case something in between
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #9
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qarmcn's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Thumbs up

I don't own either of these mics but have been interested in them. First let me say that both recordings sound great to me. I don't which I would prefer to put on my iPhone, they both are differently great. As far as differences, I'll try to add my opinion with some qualitative terms:

Higher frequency response:

The Neumann seemed to impart less higher frequencies than the Josephson. Whether one mic is dropping the highs or one boosts I cannot tell, but there is a substantial difference.

Detail / Texture:
The frequency response in the highs seemed to cover more detail. For example, the person coughing in the beginning is much more prominent, and it sticks out more. Also the mistakes of the string instruments during the middle section are more pronounced. Overall the Josephson seems to have an impression of being slightly louder. I could hear more texture in the horns. Even the soft intro seemed slightly louder and clearer.

Mid Range / Lows:
All that being said, the Neumann's seemed to have a slightly more pronounced mid/lowmid response character. The detailed texture is lacking, and makes for an impressive smooth recording. I felt the Josephson lacking a bit of the low-mids the Neumann showed.

Overall

The differences in the highs are what really grab my attention in these two files. Whether one is harsh or one is dull I leave that up to anyone's opinion. I wish I could have heard the Orchestra in person to see how it translated. I liked them both and they seem like a matter of preference.

Thanks for posting these, they were great!

Andrew
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Very interesting...

Thanks for posting this very interesting comparison.

Once again there is a lot more to "the sound" than the tech specs would admit, even given the varying (im)precision of documentation.

Nathan
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #11
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d_fu's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I prefer the Neumanns for reasons similar to those that some others have stated. I find the 617 a bit unpleasant in the mid range, esp. on the strings (somehow similar to an earlier test with the MTG M300). To my ears, they lack bass a bit, while maybe the Neumanns have a slight tendency to a certain thickness here. I'd tend to think the "truth" might be a bit closer towards the 131.

True, I sometimes use the 131s a bit further away than one might normally place a free-field omni, but they always provide good results. Wouldn't trade them in for 130s.
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #12
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I actually preferred the 617s. The Neumanns sounded a little dull, and a tad muddy. A little brightness is needed when recording in the diffuse field. The 617 could use a minor cut in the upper mids, but it is not that bad, and it seems it would me easier to make eq adjustments with the Josephson because the detail is allready there and there is little need to make "enhancements" to the sound.

It is hard to comment on the bass response because the orchestra had very little bass to begin with.
Old 20th February 2009 | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rumleymusic ➑️
The 617 could use a minor cut in the upper mids, but it is not that bad, and it seems it would me easier to make eq adjustments with the Josephson because the detail is allready there and there is little need to make "enhancements" to the sound.
Funny - I generally find it much easier to add air or presence than it is to cut "harsh" or hard sounding upper frequencies. Sometimes it makes me think that presence peaks can in fact be some kind of distortion that stays after the cut has been done, so it's still harsh but not as loud. Just as sibilant issues on close up vocals can be difficult to get rid of in a satisfactory way.
I have no evidence of this, it's just what I experience working with different microphones; so again, based on these findings, the Neumann would be my pick.


d_fu have you tried Neumanns SBK 130 diffraction sphere?
I use sphere's with my DPA 4006TL's all the time; it gives that extra reach. Could be a good acoustic solution if more presence was needed. KM-130 seems to overdo it's diffuse eq peak so I understand why you stay with the 131; but a sphere ball may take you there if you need a little extra presence..!?

Thanks again for posting the samples

Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #14
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Others have stated my impressions well, that is, the 131's sound lovely, but are a little too far from the source for their pattern, so I am wanting a bit more up top. The 617's are better balanced frequency wise and better at this distance, but have a little harshness.

The last recommendation of a 40mm sphere on the KM131 is what I would say as well. I bought some for my 4006's and it's just the ticket for subtle boosting of HF and making the mics a tiny bit less muddy and dark.
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #15
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Overall I prefer the Neumanns. I think they could have been closer, but I think I am being misled by the sound of the Josephsons.
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung ➑️
d_fu have you tried Neumanns SBK 130 diffraction sphere?
Yes, I've got a pair which I sometimes use. Might have indeed been useful here. Haven't actually scientifically compared, I just sometimes slip 'em on when I feel they might do good.

I had to have one of my 131 capsuled modified by Neumann because it allowed the SBK to slip backwards towards the capsule, it didn't hold it in place. Neumann said they'd never seen that before, so they did it for free... (This may have been an anectdote rerun)

BTW, I wouldn't refer to the 617 as a diffuse-field mic. While Josephson don't publish a graph, MTG do so for the 221 capsule.
Attached Thumbnails
Neumann KM131 vs. Josephson C617-mgfreq.jpg  
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #17
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MichaelPatrick's Avatar
 
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What preamps and converters were behind the microphones?
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #18
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d_fu - just out of interest: Have you ever made similar direct comparisons between the KM-131 and Schoeps MK-2 [or MK-2H] or maybe the new Sennheiser MKH8020..?
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #19
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Remoteness's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Hey, d_fu, I enlarged the attachment for you.
It's much easier to read.
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung ➑️
Funny - I generally find it much easier to add air or presence than it is to cut "harsh" or hard sounding upper frequencies. Sometimes it makes me think that presence peaks can in fact be some kind of distortion that stays after the cut has been done, so it's still harsh but not as loud. Just as sibilant issues on close up vocals can be difficult to get rid of in a satisfactory way.
I have no evidence of this, it's just what I experience working with different microphones; so again, based on these findings, the Neumann would be my pick.
I agree with you, but do you really thing there is any harshness from the sound of the 617 ?

What I hear are wrong notes, strings that are not very homogeneous, not so good instruments etc. All these make student orchestras sound "harsh" and for me the 131 mask that. It's like when you hear these orchestras in a reverberant place. When your are far you find it nice, but when you come closer, it's another story.

I thing our feeling should have been different with an orchestra playing in tune on good instruments.

JMM
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #21
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Hello Fu,

Can you please verify that the two downloads are at the same volume?

I say this because the cough in the excerpt is rendered so differently between the two clips. In one the cough is much louder. How can this be?
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #22
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🎧 10 years
Would be interesting if someone could run both through this
http://www.tcelectronic.com/media/Assimilator_big.jpg
and post the graphs with the differences.
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mathieujm ➑️
I agree with you, but do you really thing there is any harshness from the sound of the 617 ?

What I hear are wrong notes, strings that are not very homogeneous, not so good instruments etc. All these make student orchestras sound "harsh" and for me the 131 mask that. It's like when you hear these orchestras in a reverberant place. When your are far you find it nice, but when you come closer, it's another story.

I thing our feeling should have been different with an orchestra playing in tune on good instruments.

JMM
As I wrote I haven't heard the orchestra so I don't know if the KM-131 mask problems the musicians may have, but to me it's a bit theoretic; I mean non of us knows [maybe d_fu can respond to this]. Anyhow since I only have the recording to respond to, well that's what I did I preferred the recording made with KM-131.

I'm aware that the c617 has a very good reputation though and I'm sure it's a wonder-mic
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Remoteness ➑️
Hey, d_fu, I enlarged the attachment for you.
Thanks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelPatrick ➑️
What preamps and converters were behind the microphones?
Micstasy.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mljung ➑️
d_fu - just out of interest: Have you ever made similar direct comparisons between the KM-131 and Schoeps MK-2 [or MK-2H] or maybe the new Sennheiser MKH8020..?
Haven't got any of these. Never had any Schoepses, and the new Sennheisers are still too expensive, considering the majority of my collection was purchased on ebay (The 131s cost me € 800. For both...) A friend used to have a pair of MKH 20, but sold them. Shame, actually...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush ➑️
Can you please verify that the two downloads are at the same volume? I say this because the cough in the excerpt is rendered so differently between the two clips. In one the cough is much louder. How can this be?
Will listen again, but Samplitude reported almost identical levels when rendering the MP3 files, and to my ears, the levels are no different as far as the music is concerned. The difference in sensitivity is huge, though - the 131s had about 13 dB more preamp gain...
Quote:
Originally Posted by mathieujm ➑️
I agree with you, but do you really thing there is any harshness from the sound of the 617? What I hear are wrong notes, strings that are not very homogeneous, not so good instruments etc. All these make student orchestras sound "harsh" and for me the 131 mask that. It's like when you hear these orchestras in a reverberant place. When your are far you find it nice, but when you come closer, it's another story. I thing our feeling should have been different with an orchestra playing in tune on good instruments.
Good point, but I think I know my 131s well enough to not believe they would actually "mask" such things significantly. I can try to find another section with better intonation etc.
And I will repeat the test at some point, but that could take until May or so...

Daniel
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #25
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🎧 10 years
Diaphram size?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush ➑️
Can you please verify that the two downloads are at the same volume?

I say this because the cough in the excerpt is rendered so differently between the two clips. In one the cough is much louder. How can this be?
I heard the same thing with the coughs. The levels of the two clips may still be off, and vary by frequency, including the slightly increased HF response of the Josephson which is decribed. However, I largely guessed this has something to do with the off-axis frequency response of the MK221 capsule, vs. the larger Neumann diaphram. It seems to me that I can hear the audience more clearly in general with the Josephson sample.

I imagine the DPA 4060 would behave similarly. It would be an interesting test.

This becomes an interesting factor when selecting omni's with a noisy or close audience.

Nathan
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianHanke ➑️
Perhaps the difference between the mics can be explained by looking at their frequency response charts? The Neumanns are pretty much ruler flat, while the Gefell MK221 capsule shows some bumps in the high frequency range.
Gefell's MK221 is not a studio capsule it's a measurement capsule. The chart has 1dB per line, so the "bump" you see is 1dB.

The MK221 must be frequency accurate; not one leaves the factory if it is more or less than 2dB from flat all the way to 20kHz. Josephson further selects MK221 capsules that are plus or minus 1dB and matches pairs within .5dB.

The accuracy of Neumann's graph is plus/minus 2dB, so its seems for studio purposes both these mics are essentially flat.

Listening to individual instruments in the clips, especially in the louder passages, the 617 extracts much more detail and doesn't compress micro-dynamics like the 131 does. The Neumanns are sweet and full but also fattening. I like the Josephsons. We can fatten mids, flatten dynamics and slow transients in post production.

P.S. I think when dealing with mics of this caliber the preamp can determine which qualities get through. The 617s aren't harsh at all, they're revealing, and the RME pres sound nice but I wonder what these mics would sound like with different amps? Personally I have never heard a better omni/pre combination than 617s with an SMP-2.
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush ➑️
Hello Fu,

Can you please verify that the two downloads are at the same volume?

I say this because the cough in the excerpt is rendered so differently between the two clips. In one the cough is much louder. How can this be?
They can both be loaded into foobar2000 and run through its ABX comparator which will sync the volumes/ That's how I listened to them.
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #28
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Well I am listening on an analog console with whatever I'm provided in the download. I don't listen through any software.

If the reason for one mic rendering the cough so much louder than the other mic is that the one mic has better omni pattern (the only explanation besides mismatched gain) then that is truly a remarkable difference. I do not think that is the reason the cough is rendered differently, however.
Old 21st February 2009 | Show parent
  #29
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
The cough hits a peak of -35.4 in the C617 sample and -35.5 in the 131 sample. To me it sounds louder just because of the brighter, sharper quality of the mic.
Old 22nd February 2009 | Show parent
  #30
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d_fu's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrianHanke ➑️
The cough hits a peak of -35.4 in the C617 sample and -35.5 in the 131 sample.
Thanks for verifying - saves me some work... heh
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