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What REALLY gives a U47 (and others) that MAGIC? - Gearspace.com
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What REALLY gives a U47 (and others) that MAGIC?
Old 14th September 2012
  #1
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spectrasound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
What REALLY gives a U47 (and others) that MAGIC?

I have a theory, and would love to hear comments and opinions. The U47, Ela mic.s and their clones all have round grilles surrounding the capsule. This offers an almost infinite series of high frequency comb filtering, one would think, as a result of reflections along the inside of this round grille....hitting back at the capsule randomly in and out of phase, and every degree in between. Could this be something that gives "charm" to these mic.s ? I am tempted to make a test vocal recording with and without the grille on one of these babies.

Think about it. Which mic.s have the round grilles? Ela 251, AKG C12, U47....

...not to mention some cheap LDCs with Chineese capsules and round grilles, which do not sound too bad.

Comments?
Old 14th September 2012
  #2
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
1) Capsule - The "engine" of the mic. Slightly off topic but I had a reskin capsule, thought it sounded ok...... until I put a stock neumann. Get genuine capsules whenever you can.

2) Transformer

3) Tube
Old 14th September 2012
  #3
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synthoid's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
There are some Chinese mics, including so-called 'clones' of the U-47, which feature round grilles but sound like sh*t on a stick. Not sure what's the secret sauce of a U-47 but I think it's fair to say that it isn't simply a round grille.
-synthiod
Old 14th September 2012
  #4
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spectrasound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
No...not JUST the grille.

I wasn't saying it's entirely the grille, but it probably has something to do with the sound. I'm going to try the with/without test as soon as things slow down.
Old 14th September 2012
  #5
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🎧 15 years
"There are some Chinese mics, including so-called 'clones' of the U-47, which feature round grilles but sound like sh*t on a stick."

Totally agree !
Old 14th September 2012
  #6
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Santiago's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The grill and resonance inside it are part of the sound of a microphone. A really good mic like a Neumann will have a carefully designed grill and case. The round shape will be part of that but will surely be accompanied by a very careful design of all factors as to the type of grille, internal damping, etc...

I have found a report from the BBC's R&D Department in the 50s. They praise the microphone and say it's the best of its type.

However, they also complain about the impact that the large amplifier body has on the frequency response. They speak from a broadcasting point of view of wanting mics to be as neutral as possible, but from a creative recording point of view, it may be that very effect of the body on the frequency response that gives the mics its "magic".


http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/reports/1954-23.pdf
Old 14th September 2012
  #7
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spectrasound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thanks!

Santiago...what a great find!

Thanks...I will print & save this.
Old 14th September 2012
  #8
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Santiago's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
You're welcome!

I think that the influence of grilles and other internal parts of mcirophones is often overlooked when considering microphones. These BBC reports often mention those factors explicitly, which is cool.

They are all online here:

BBC RD - Publications - BBC R&D Reports

The Xaudia blog compiled some of the ribbon mic "reviews":

Xaudia: BBC R&D reports on ribbon mics

There also many interesting reviews of condenser and dynamic microphones.

One should however keep in mind that they come from a perspective of wanting microphones to be neutral, rather than an "artistic" perspective. They tend to be very harsh in their judgements!
Old 14th September 2012
  #9
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cinealta's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by spectrasound ➑️
The U47, Ela mic.s and their clones all have round grilles surrounding the capsule...Could this be something that gives "charm" to these mic.s ?
No. The U67 does not have the rounded grill and is a superior *strictly vocal* mic than the others (for several reasons in addition to sound, eg de-essing, less proximity effect etc). The others are fantastic mics and very versatile, but don't beat the U67, with it square grill, for *strictly vocals*.
Old 14th September 2012
  #10
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jayson_p's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
I have my own theory about that that focuses more on what the mics were made from - I base it on pure conjecture.

Given the time frame of when these mics were made I would have to think that at least part of what made these mics so special had to do with the raw materials the various components were made from. A lot of the components in these mics were no doubt made from recycled military materiel from WWII. Especially considering the post war shortages and the amount of decimated military equipment littering the countryside. Steel from tank armor and artillery pieces, brass from shell housings, aluminum from aircraft and nickel from small arms components would have been produced in large quantities and in very highly refined purities that surely would be considered overkill in products produced today. If I'm not mistaken there's even mention of Neumann employees stripping the carcass of a downed four-engine bomber for materials for the first generation of post-war M-7 capsules on the Microtech Gefell website.

I'm sure factors such as the shape of the grill-capsule are not irrelevant; but as has been said, it doesn't seem to do too much for Chinese knock-offs. On the other hand I doubt the purity of the mass-production grade metals used in the construction of the knock-offs is anywhere near the grade of metals that would have been insisted on in the German armaments industry during the wehrmacht era. It might also explain why these mics are so freakin' hard to duplicate.

Like I said this is PURE SPECULATION- I now have my fire-proof suit on and await the wash of flames!
Old 14th September 2012
  #11
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Tashez's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
My question is then why can't they reproduce those
Mics today? Why are they so special ?
Old 14th September 2012 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tashez ➑️
My question is then why can't they reproduce those
Mics today? Why are they so special ?

I agree with Jayson P. We could, if clone manufacturers would just go to the middle east and pick up some defunct tanks and planes and whatnot for materials.

I too have on my flame resistant suit.
Old 14th September 2012
  #13
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spectrasound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thank you...

....for the respectful insights, as well as a great sense of humor. I, also, was standing in back of an asbestos panel.

The reason I started thinking of this was because I once heard a "U47" without the original capsule, with a Nuvistor instead of a tube. Some people would think this is not really a U47, but for the casing. But it didn't sound bad.
Old 14th September 2012
  #14
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evilrocker's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
I believe price has a lot to do with the sound. I also believe the older the better.
Old 15th September 2012
  #15
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psycho_monkey's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tashez ➑️
My question is then why can't they reproduce those
Mics today? Why are they so special ?
You can. Wagner, Flea, and others make "new" U47s. Arguably, they should sound the same as U47s around now...in about 50 years time when they've aged to the same degree.

They're hugely expensive of course, and in some cases in short supply because of a limited amount of parts/hand building etc. But it can be done.

Likewise there are plenty of great new mics - but they're not the same.
Old 15th September 2012
  #16
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🎧 10 years
id say its the singer....
Old 15th September 2012
  #17
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jmikeperkins's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The magic in a vintage Neumann mic is the sum of everything in the mic. It's always more complicated than you would think. If it was easy we would have perfect clones of these mics but we don't because it's not easy. Certainly some of the magic in the tube U47 is due to the legendary, rare and expensive Telefunken VF14k tube which was specifically designed for that mic and was not used on anything else. Unfortunately, the machinery and materials used to make that tube were destroyed and it's considered pretty much impossible to recreate them (but people keep trying). Certainly the transformers were important and they contained specific materials and were custom made. But it goes way beyond that. Every single electronic component in that mic influences its sound. Just when you think you have the answer, it gets more complicated. Obviously, the old classic U87 mics sound great but they have no tube but they do have a transformer. Then you think, well maybe you can get around the tube part but it must be the transformer that makes them great. But then, if you are a lucky, you might come across a vintage U77 and if you do, you might agree that it sounds even better than the U87. But wait, the vintage U77 does not have a tube OR a transformer! What is going on here? The answer is its complicated.
Old 15th September 2012
  #18
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spectrasound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
It is...

"I'd say its the singer...."

Absolutely... I once did a great vocal track with a '57!
Old 15th September 2012
  #19
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spectrasound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Great comments...

Thanks!
Old 15th September 2012
  #20
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🎧 5 years
It's really kind of astonishing when you think about it.
When the U47 went into production Berlin was still a devastated city from literally being bombed back to the stone age only two years earlier; the microphone was built - initially anyway - in a city that still didn't have basic utilities like consistent electricity or running water, it was split up like a pizza between the Brits, US and Red Army with marshal law and constant shortages making anything resembling normal life impossible.
How the hell did they do it? How did they manage to produce a microphone that, 65 years, later still sets such a huge standard by which so many other microphones are judged?
Old 15th September 2012 | Show parent
  #21
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vincentvangogo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by jayson_p ➑️
...How did they manage to produce a microphone that, 65 years, later still sets such a huge standard by which so many other microphones are judged?
I've wondered about this and many other designs that remain unsurpassed despite time and subsequent technological advances. My conclusion is that the designers relied both on knowledge and their gut instinct/what felt right.
Old 15th September 2012
  #22
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Ephi82's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Is it possible that a certain mic (like the U-47) becomes so popular because it BOTH

1) sounds great and has its own "sound"

and

2) it gets used on a large number of hugely popular recordings that it becomes "ICONIC"

its like a feedback loop which takes that piece of gear to an exulted status?

Another example:

A SM-57 on a Fender amp has a sound, and it's a good sound, and then it shows up on a lot of great, popular, classic, well played, worshiped guitar tracks. The "sound" becomes iconic, and those that follow will try to capture the same thing....

I am not quite sure what I am trying to say!

Something like the art of the music combining with the excellence of the technology......
Old 15th September 2012
  #23
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Rob Coates's Avatar
 
19 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
A mic that uses science in the design of the headbasket to "tune" it just right is the lowly MXL V89. This is a huge and heavy mic but it sounds so clear, natural and focused because of the way they purposely designed the grill and basket.
Old 15th September 2012 | Show parent
  #24
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TehGuitarist ➑️
id say its the singer....
I agree.
The biggest common denominator is bad ass mics have bass ass singers in front of them,... most of the time.

I have noticed better end results putting a 57 or 58 on a crappy singer.
The good mics capture all the bad in its glory.


Not to mention, the fame relation is what causes the legend,... that you so chase.


Shape of the grill theory,... not so much.


Good luck!



D
Old 16th September 2012
  #25
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
u47's are more hit and miss for me than a u87 (not that i actually really like 87s)... when they sound good they sound FANTASTIC! when they sound bad... a 57 or 58 sounds better... personally (yup im gonna say it) i reckon a fet47 (actually quite like the mic!) is a more versatile mic. I would ONLY
i repeat
ONLY, have a 47 if i had a large mic locker... i would NEVER buy one as my sole vocal mic.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #26
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Ephi82's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TehGuitarist ➑️
u47's are more hit and miss for me than a u87 (not that i actually really like 87s)... when they sound good they sound FANTASTIC! when they sound bad... a 57 or 58 sounds better... personally (yup im gonna say it) i reckon a fet47 (actually quite like the mic!) is a more versatile mic. I would ONLY
i repeat
ONLY, have a 47 if i had a large mic locker... i would NEVER buy one as my sole vocal mic.
what is you most often "go to"/first up mic for male vocals?
Old 16th September 2012
  #27
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spectrasound's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
1st choice male vocal mic....

...that's easy. One of my 414EB's (with original CK-12 capsule)

Love this mic...especially in omni. Sweet.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by TehGuitarist ➑️
I would ONLY
i repeat
ONLY, have a 47 if i had a large mic locker... i would NEVER buy one as my sole vocal mic.
You realize though, that you are in the minority. It would probably be in the top 3 choices of most pros.
Old 16th September 2012
  #29
Gear Maniac
 
radiovoiceone's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The tube is a VF14. Neumann used a selected VF14 with an "M" added to designate a selected low noise tube for use in it's microphones.
The VF14K is a tube developed by Telefunken USA.
They will only sell you one in one of their microphones or as a replacement for one of their mics.
Also, the VF14 was a radio tube, used by the Germans in radio manufacture.
There are still quite a few around, many being hoarded by people who want to keep their mics alive, even though the tube is extremely robust and will last a long time if it's not abused by high voltages.
AFAIK, the U47/48 were the only microphones ever made to use the VF14.
Old 16th September 2012 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kats ➑️
You realize though, that you are in the minority. It would probably be in the top 3 choices of most pros.
Probably.. but like i said, when it works, yeah nothing beats it... but i HATE it on female vocals.

This is all personal preference of course.

Not trying to step on toes, just an alternative perspective...
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