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OktavaMod RODE NT1a vs. '70's U 87 - Gearspace.com
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OktavaMod RODE NT1a vs. '70's U 87
View Poll Results: Which file is the '70's Neumann U 87 "purple badge"
File A
270 Votes - 52.12%
File B
248 Votes - 47.88%
Voters: 518. You may not vote on this poll

Old 1st February 2010
  #1
Lives for gear
 
Michael_Joly's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
OktavaMod RODE NT1a vs. '70's U 87

OK, as promised yesterday here are some short files - 44.1 / 24 bit. Spoken work and acoustic.

I figured y'all could loop the short sections and A / B to your hearts content. Just think of the acoustic guitar as a "sound source" and not a piece of music. This is about all I need to make critical judgments about mics and mods, so you'll also get a sense of what I'm listening for - proximity effect amplitude / Q / F, midrange resolution, HF peakiness / integration with the midrange, sibilance levels and transient response. I can do this sort of thing very quickly and can extrapolate what I'm hearing to other instruments and full mix situations. I know this may not be how you're used to listening to mics but give it a shot.

One file is my 1970's "purple badge" U 87 (used by KRAMER on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and a good number of other hits) and the other file is an OktavaMod modified RODE NT1a.

Which is which?

Here is file A and here is file B.

I'm just really busy and can't spare a full three hour session to do more extensive tests at this point - but I've contracted with a leading LA engineer and fellow Gearslut to do more extensive tests in his studio.
Attached Thumbnails
OktavaMod RODE NT1a vs. '70's U 87-oktavamodnt1a_u87.jpg  
Old 1st February 2010
  #2
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MadGuitrst's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The levels are too different to make a-bing useful.....and I don't have the inclination to level match.

Too much of the loudest is best going on here to be useful, IMO.
So, I'd say #2 is the Neumann.

Maybe you can level match a bit better and re-post Michael.
Old 1st February 2010 | Show parent
  #3
Gear Guru
 
drBill's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Since I couldn't line them up in my DAW tonight, I'm going to guess they are the same performance - 2 mics up simultaneously Michael?

Both mics sound nice.

A quick listen on the computer didn't give me a huge level difference, but the timbre is definitely different between the 2. What I'm generally looking for in a U87 is that lower mid smoky-ness that (my guess) the transformer imparts. So I'd have to say that's mic A. B is much more "delicate" in those upstroke rolled chords, so I'd be guessing that's the Rode.

Nice Michael! thumbsup

PS - how bout Kobe last night? LOL
Old 1st February 2010 | Show parent
  #4
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Michael_Joly's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
A few notes about the session and levels -

Both mics up, positioned horizontally head-to-head, 16" out from neck/body joint, spoken word at 12" out. Single take.

Conservative levels, about -30dB. Prior to exporting as .wav files I summed both tracks to mono, inverted the phase on one channel and adjusted that channel to give best cancellation on the pink noise source I recorded before the voice and guitar. Then restored phase to normal, edited and exported as mono .wav files.

My thinking behind this level matching - I believe this technique gives a better long term average level match between two mics than just a simple "peak normalize" process. By summing the two tracks to mono out-of-phase it is possible to choose the level match between them that gives the best overall cancelation. These are the levels you hear - not "peak normalized" levels.
Old 1st February 2010 | Show parent
  #5
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Thumbs up

i like B

probably its the Rode

you should test against my low budget favorites...
Rode NT2A
Audix CX-112
SCX-25
at4033
at mbk1

and my high end favorites:
Faust
nu47.com SWE#1
nevaton
Old 1st February 2010 | Show parent
  #6
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The Listener's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
They are too different loudness wise... I imported them in Nuendo and matched the loudness, I also noticed that some peaks seem to be clipped in the A example... What's with the excessive noise, I don't remember Rode mics to be so noisy... vintage U87 maybe, but those contemporary mics?

So, my observations after I adjusted level of the files to have similar peak values and are subjectively equally "loud" - B "hears" more details and is richer in overtones, A is duller (although I like dark mics), but seems to have too much proximity effect on guitar and is a bit boomy and muddy. B also has more noise, so I conclude it is the 70's U87.

I don't particularly like the sound of any of the two in this test. Considering the clipped A file maybe you could repeat the test? And loudness matching should be done in a way that it makes sense for the listening test, not nulling pink noise - just my opinion of course. Anyone should just adjust the level appropriately and see how the comparative picture dramatically changes...

edit: the filse are also not 24bit like it was stated, but 16bit. (I am not saying that 16bit is not good enough for such a test or anything, just observing...)
Old 1st February 2010 | Show parent
  #7
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Michael_Joly's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
By popular request I went back to the source recording and normalized the channels individually to -3dB FS. The new files now replace the earlier ones.
Old 1st February 2010 | Show parent
  #8
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
thank you !
Old 1st February 2010 | Show parent
  #9
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chrisjones's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Listened to the files yesterday and I prefered B...
Old 1st February 2010 | Show parent
  #10
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The Listener's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Now that is something completely different.

Now "B" can be even more immediately recognized as "better" sounding, much more natural highs, better (or more) "aura" surrounding the sound (in slightly less ambigous and esoteric words - "more clarity & depth"), while still having nice midrange, whatever it is... I suppose it is U87, if not - congratulations on the well done mod.
Old 2nd February 2010 | Show parent
  #11
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dysenterygary's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
My guess is A is the Neumann. The extra presence in B makes me think its the more modern of the two. That and the lack of bass in A is what I would imagine a mic from the 70's would sound like.
Old 2nd February 2010 | Show parent
  #12
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Michael_Joly's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thanks for listening and voting. I still want to run up the number of votes before revealing the mics. But...

...bear in mind - In the case of the NT1a, you're hearing a single layer headbasket surrounding an MJE-K47 capsule that drives a flat response surface-mount, transformerless circuit. The U 87 has the classic multilayer headbasket, K67 capsule driving a discrete component transformer-coupled circuit with negative feedback and low-pass filtering. My goal with this mod was not to make a "U 87 tribute mic", but just use some of my preferred modification techniques and hear how they sound against a true classic, stock reference mic that I happen to own.
Old 2nd February 2010 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
To answer the question, file B is the Nueman U87. I also prefer it to the modded Rode NT1A which sounds very usable non the less.
Old 2nd February 2010 | Show parent
  #14
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
B is the sound I would prefer.
Old 2nd February 2010 | Show parent
  #15
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Sheikyearbouti's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I had a Rode NT2000 which was ok for it's cost but still nothing special. Even though I have to say that in the few times I used it I never had the need to de-ess. Also Rode mics in general have a very low self-noise and this is obviously not the case with Sample B.

Despite I still like B more but I somehow feel that the overall quality of the recording with such mics could have been better. What was the rest of the signal chain?

Cheers.
Old 2nd February 2010
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
Stisse's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly ➑️
Which is which?
Can't tell you. But I prefer A overall. B has a zingy upper midrange.
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #17
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Michael_Joly's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
While we're waiting for the mic identities to be revealed, how 'bout folks talk more about what they hear, or don't hear in each of the mics. Here's some feedback I'm looking for...

...Proximity effect - does it seem natural or useable? By this I mean the F, Q and amplitude of the boost.

...Sibilance - well controlled, moderate or excessive?

...Midrange detail - good resolution or cloudy?

...Transient response - natural, attenuated or excessive?
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly ➑️
While we're waiting for the mic identities to be revealed, how 'bout folks talk more about what they hear, or don't hear in each of the mics. Here's some feedback I'm looking for...

...Proximity effect - does it seem natural or useable? By this I mean the F, Q and amplitued of the boost.

...Sibilance - well controlled, moderate or excessive?

...Midrange detail - good resolution or cloudy?

...Transient response - natural, attenuated or excessive?
A sounds better: Has prox. effect, is attenuated less than B, mids resolve.

But, I have already been told I am deaf.

I like these kind of shoot-outs. They seem to keep people honest.
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
cool thread.. looking forward to the outcome!!
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #20
Gear Maniac
 
ArnauTS's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Nice Michael i think b it's neumann will see later if it's correct or it's a good surprise heh
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #21
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dysenterygary's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly ➑️
While we're waiting for the mic identities to be revealed, how 'bout folks talk more about what they hear, or don't hear in each of the mics. Here's some feedback I'm looking for...

...Proximity effect - does it seem natural or useable? By this I mean the F, Q and amplitude of the boost.

...Sibilance - well controlled, moderate or excessive?

...Midrange detail - good resolution or cloudy?

...Transient response - natural, attenuated or excessive?
I love the response! "Now class what do you really hear??"

I think the proximity effect sounds better on your voice in A, but I also think A is a little too sibilant. B had the best sibilance control I think. A had better midrange detail to me, and B sound a little more scooped in the middle. Now that I rethink everything I like A better! But I still think thats the Neumann. I went back and really cranked up the sound files and I think A is the more usable of the two now. I hope its the Rode!
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #22
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superburtm's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I prefer A...B sounds like the rode to me...keep in mind I am listening on a laptop heh
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #23
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
A and B are very close no doubt, I like both, the A sound could be useful in one situation whereas B would be useful in another, it all depends...
good sound is relative, you could 'destroy' a vocal track [the purity, i mean] with pitch, EQ and even distortion, to achieve what works for the track...
jPM>
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #24
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
Great thread by the way, but why the RØDE for this mod and not another mic, like an U87 wanabe?

JPM>
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Guru
 
Karloff70's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
B has got a high-ish mid peakiness that makes it a bit brash. Sounds soild, but not too appealing because of it. A bit "bang" sounding. Makes plectrum annoying. A is silkier with a nicer authoritybulge in the low mid. More relaxed sound. More "yes, thanks" sounding. If A isn't the 87 you better send me some ketchup so I can eat my hat.

If I'm right I reckon tune your mic (B?) to loose/dip a bit of 1 khz area and add a bit of 400Hz to set it back a bit more pillowy instead. Once the 1 Khz is down a bit, maybe add a sprinkle of 8Khz, 87 style......or if I'm wrong just send me the ketchup. heh
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #26
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
very nice shoot out ...
I prefer A ... no B ...euh A, B, ..............
i hate this German guy, what is his name ... A, B, ....

Alzheimer
! that's him !!!



A feel more homogeneous too me, tiny more detailed.
B more consistent, less precise ...
Can't vote ...
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael_Joly ➑️
...bear in mind - In the case of the NT1a, you're hearing a single layer headbasket surrounding an MJE-K47 capsule that drives a flat response surface-mount, transformerless circuit. The U 87 has the classic multilayer headbasket, K67 capsule driving a discrete component transformer-coupled circuit with negative feedback and low-pass filtering.
you give us the answer there, no ?
B neumann, A Rode (better handling of the highs)

Gilles
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
Michael_Joly's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jocomend ➑️
Great thread by the way, but why the RØDE for this mod and not another mic, like an U87 wanabe?...
Thank you, and thanks for all the recent comments. Its very valuable to get impressions of mics that include some details about what you're hearing.

This shoot out is a result of my long-standing interest in the NT1a - a very quiet mic, but its very closed headbasket has always seemed like a good candidate for my more open, single layer grille treatment.

So I finally went out and bought one of these very popular mics (the new NT1a package with integrated pop filter / shock mount, which is a very nice set up btw) to investigate. Once I finally heard it I knew a switch to a less reflective headbasket and a K47-type capsule would make the top end less searingly bright.

The 70s 'purple badge' U 87 is a recent aquistion from my pal Kramer. Its the only mic in my locker that has seen use on real hit records (all the Galaxie 500 LP's, the first two LOW LP's and the vocals on "Girl, you'll be a woman soon" for Pulp Fiction plus other stuff from Kramer's Shimmy-Disc days.) So now that I've a got a classic "reference" mic in-house I wanted to put the mod'd NT1a up against it for a run through - not as a tribute or clone attempt, but just simply to put a modern, surface mount, transformerless mic with mods up against this classic reference mic.

I'd love to get a few more comments from listeners today and will reveal the identities of the mics late tonight.
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
I don't really understand this test. I'd be MUCH more interested in a comparison between the Rode NT1A stock and then modded. Why on earth are we comparing two completely different microphones here that have completely different design?

In my opinion there is no "better" microphone. Each microphone can be found to have a source where it works best.. yes, even the cheap piece of **** stereo array microphone that came with your laptop for making skype calls.

So in short: Why would I want to buy your mod? I want to hear what it can do to the original. Not how it compares to the U87.

Cheers!
bManic
Old 3rd February 2010 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Michael_Joly's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bmanic ➑️
I don't really understand this test. I'd be MUCH more interested in a comparison between the Rode NT1A stock and then modded. Why on earth are we comparing two completely different microphones here that have completely different design?

In my opinion there is no "better" microphone. Each microphone can be found to have a source where it works best.. yes, even the cheap piece of **** stereo array microphone that came with your laptop for making skype calls.

So in short: Why would I want to buy your mod? I want to hear what it can do to the original. Not how it compares to the U87.

Cheers!
bManic
Well I can certainly respect your desire to hear that comparison. But an automobile dealership metaphor comes to mind...Its sort of like a boutique auto dealer offering both modified-VW and stock Porche cars for comparison. Imagine that a prospect comes in and says "I really want to compare your modified VW against a stock VW". Well, the dealer doesn't have a stock VW on his lot because he runs a boutique "performance" shop and can't offer that comparison. This situation is similar in my case.

Another point, and this is more direct - I don't just offer "upgrades". I deliver "classic-level mic performance". So it's more important to my prospects that I demonstrate my work against best-in-class microphones such as the U 47, U 87, M49, M149, Gefell UM70 / UM57 etc. as I've done on my shop. In a way this is similar to the sports world where any contender for a championship title will be judged against the existing world record holder.
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