Advanced Audio Microphones CM87se by dbgear
After years of scrimping by with fairly cheap gear I decided to layout some money to revamp my studio. I've been engineering and playing in bands since 1994 and have spent time in some really great studios. One of my bands owns a vintage Neumann U87 and I have used several vintage U47's. Initially I was on the search for another vintage U87 with the intention of using it and our other U87 as drum overhead mics. After much thought and deliberation I decided to take a chance and order two Advanced Audio CM87se mics. So for about 1/2 the price of one vintage Neumann, I had two FET condenser mics. Honestly, I felt a little nervous about my decision, but that didn't last long.
Upon receiving the microphones I eagerly dug into the package and was pleasantly surprised how the whole package looked better than I expected. In the package you will find a sturdy metal padded case, a good quality, screw-on, shock mount, the microphone, and a leatherette pouch. The microphone has three switches, a -10db pad, a low cut, and three patterns, cardioid, figure 8, and omni. In terms of overall look they don't match up to Neumann or other $2500+ mics, but these things were only US$600/ea, so you can't expect top dollar cosmetics. All that said, I personally like the way they look, and anyone who has seen them is impressed. It would only be extreme gear snobs that might be judgmental about these non-Neumann microphones. My intention is to impress with sounds anyway rather than showing off my gear and so far I've hit that mark many times over.
After looking over the packaging I immediately had them on my drum kit with a Glyn Johns setup (one directly over the snare at 40" and the other beside the floor tom, also 40" from the snare). I set the mics with the -10db pad and the CAPI VP312 pres to -20db pad with the pre volume pots set to zero, outputs all the way up. Wow! Instantly I had a great drum sound without even bringing in the kick and snare mics. I was completely blown away with the warmth and clarity of these AA mics. Now of course I use mics for kick and snare, but I could easily sculpt an entire kit sound with just these two mics. I highly recommend them for use as OH mics, obviously, and don't miss the Neumann's in this application. From my experience, this is a good test of how a large diaphragm condenser handles high end and low end and the CM87se passed with flying colors.
As for other sources, I haven't found anything that the AA CM87se can't handle… loud guitar amps (clean or dirty), no problem, male and female vocals, very nice, acoustic guitar, fantastic, tenor sax, right on the mark. As always, one sound might work for one song but not for another, but overall, most of the time I set these up, I end up using them.
I realize there are quite a few people around here that will steer you away from some of these copycat mics, but I'm here to say these aren't copycats at all, and stand completely on their own. They have a sweet and natural high end that cheaper LDC mics usually don’t have and a warmth and realism that really helps with the low end. If your budget allows for a vintage Neumann, by all means, go for it, but if you don’t have the budget, no worries, you can get all you need from a little company out of Canada called Advanced Audio. You’ll also find a very friendly group of people at AA and if you need or want to talk to someone, the owner and designer, Dave Thomas, will gladly talk you through your purchase (try that with Neumann). I would even venture to say that people who already own very expensive mics could find some of their offerings very useful (For example, see Kirt Shearer's review of the CM47 & CM28 for Tape Op, links below). Personally I can’t wait to order some of the other models and I’d recommend you guys get on board before the masses catch on to this fairly well kept secret. I would give them more than 5 stars if I could.
Bang for the buck has a new meaning now. If only I could have had these fifteen years ago! This review is the best way I know to say thank you to a great company that offers outstanding quality for the real world musician / studio owner.
For reference, I have used the AA CM87se successfully with a variety of preamps including (mostly 500 series)… Sound Skulptor MP573, CAPI VP26 & VP312, Five Fish X-72 & SC-1, OSA MP1-A and they even sound great with the mid range Bellari RP220. I also want to clarify that these are not necessarily a direct replacement for Neumann microphones, but I used that as reference because it's what I know. One of these days I'll do a real A/B with our vintage Neumann and report back. Also as a point of reference, I tend to like "vintage" sounds.
Both of these models are tube microphones, but it gives you an idea of the general quality coming out of Advanced Audio.
Tape Op - the Creative Music Recording Magazine > Reviews > Gear > CM-47 large-diaphragm tube mic
Tape Op - the Creative Music Recording Magazine > Reviews > Gear > CM-28 small-diaphragm tube mic