In this article, we propose you a “Match game” between a real Neumann U87ai that we have analyzed in detail, and the DIY U87 like our model of the U87 sold on our site. We analyze what distinguishes the two models, if the price difference is justified, and above all: what is the difference in audio quality!
We are big fans of the Neumann brand, this test is not meant to belittle this great brand reference in the audio world, just to compare the performance you can get by making the microphone yourself.
Let’s go !
Founded in 1928, Neumann is a company specializing in the production of professional recording microphones. Released in 1967, the original Neumann U87 was replaced by the Neumann U87 Ai in 1986.
This U87 is one of the company’s bestsellers, not only because of its sleek design. In fact, we have a product that is really usable and can be adapted to any situation. But the main difference between the two models is in the electronic circuits of the microphones
In the studio or on stage, the Neumann microphone offers an exceptional sound experience and quality.
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The first U87i DIY model from Mic&Mod in 2014
The Neumann U87 is a condenser microphone with a large-diaphragm capsule. In addition, it also has three polar patterns, which can be switched via a switch under the grille. The three polar patterns are :
👉 Omnidirectional : it captures all the sounds around it.
👉 Cardioid: The recommended pattern for studio recording. It only picks up sound from the front. The back does (almost) not pick up any sound.
👉 Bidirectional or figure of 8 : Bidirectional or 8: the capsule is sensitive to sound sources in front of and behind the diaphragm.
In addition, the emphasis is on the audio quality. It offers a unique recording experience. This type of microphone reproduces perfectly what we hear.
It is also known for its warmth and good balance in all types of music and speech.
A switch on the back of the microphone can reduce the sensitivity by 10 dB to avoid clipping at very loud sound sources.
Once activated, the microphone can handle extreme sound pressure levels. These can reach up to 127 dB SPL without distortion. Another switch provides low-frequency reduction.
This is especially important if the sound source is very close to the microphone.
This compensates for the so-called proximity effect. With cardioid directional characteristics, the frequency response remains flat up to a distance of 30 to 40 cm. In the bidirectional characteristic, it is 15 to 20 cm. The microphone is very easily recognizable due to its shape and slimness.
Here are the general specifications that apply to both the original and DIY models.
The original Neumann U87ai is currently listed for 2249 euros ($2,687) on the Thomann website without original shock mount from Neumann, the EA87, price 333 euros ($396), a relatively high price compared to a DIY model that averages between 400 and 600 Euros ($480 and $715). Is the price of the original Neumann really justified, or do you pay more for the brand name than for the material?
We are going to analyze this !
We wanted to take the two microphones apart to analyze them in detail, to see what they consist of and to do a little graphical analysis of the sound they deliver.
In the past, Neumann always used top-notch components: Wima, Panasonic, Siemens, etc. If you look into their newer microphones, you will notice that some concessions have been made over time.
With your own construction, you can put the components you want, that’s what we did on our model by putting in the originals from the 60s, but also more recent components that can improve the sound quality and reliability.
Here is a frequency analysis performed on an original Neumann U87 ai and on an equivalent model sold on Mic & Mod. The test was carried out in exactly the same situation, with a closed studio and perfect acoustics, with the same material and the same engineer to realize it. Which one is the red curve and which one is the black curve ?
Frequency curve of Neumann U87 original and DIY clone from Mic&Mod
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Well, the red curve corresponds to the Neumann Original in our test, which has a slightly higher level between 400 and 500 Hz but a lower peak between 5 and 10 kHz, which is mainly due to the capsule, but also the head basket and the internal components.
The U87 is a product suitable for all needs and situations. Whether you are an amateur or a professional, you will be seduced by it. You don’t know about microphones? It is an ideal reference for audio professionals as well as beginners.
Now if you have the budget, buy the original model, but keep in mind that you will not make any money on it, nor will you make an investment as is the case with a luxury brand. For standard and professional use, a DIY model will do the job for the most part and will be just as good.
In addition, its features, performance, and three polar patterns make it a versatile and easy-to-build microphone. It is one of the best on the market. And it is considered a reference for other products of the same type. It remains the essential tool to take your audio production to the next level.
It is THE microphone for perfect sound transmission (vocals, musical instruments, on-site recording, podcast, voice-over, broadcast…).
The Neumann U87 is the microphone to own! Or upgrade to its big brother the Neumann U67, more expensive but with a tube for an even different sound!