Neumann U47 tube

 
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Spring is in the air and a young mans fancy turns once again to microphones! We have decided after trying out a LOT of mics that ADK are the best mic manufacturers at any given price point and we are going to start knocking on your door to let you know about them

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Neumann U47 tube microphone

Out of the thousands of different mics out there only a small handful have achieved iconic status. There can be no doubt that the lowly sm57 has appeared on more albums than any other mic in existence simply based on its perfect suitability for recording the snare drum but the real holy grail of mics has to be the legendary Neumann U47 tube microphone. Introduced in 1949 a it offered the perfect high quality sound that George Neumann knew that studio engineers were looking for. With a big warm tone but a lift around 8 KHz the Neumann had a brighter, more detailed sound than their favourite RCA ribbon mics and enabled the engineers of the day to place the vocal into big string arrangements without it getting lost. But singers also loved the mic and it was quickly embraced by Frank Sinatra who insisted on his Telefunken branded U47 for all his sessions.

But as well as its unique sound it was also technically very advanced and while multipattern technology has now become a standard feature in studio microphones, it appeared for the first time in the Neumann U47. Made possible with the dual diaphragm M7 capsule, by altering the polarizing voltage the two back-to-back cardioid capsules could be combined to create an omni pattern or used singly for a cardioid pickup. But perhaps the most single important element in producing that sound was the now legendary Telefunken VF-14M pentode vacuum tube, a steel tube originally built for the German army and used in field radios during World War II.

It's this model U47 that has become the stuff of recording legend. On the Beatle's Rubber Soul album, virtually every track — from vocals, drums, guitars and the tambourine — were recorded with a Neumann U47 and George Martin has written that simply it's his favorite microphone. Frank Sinatra refused to record without his “Telly,” as the mic was nicknamed and his record label Mercury Records promoted the U 47 as its Living Presence microphone, putting the mic's image on its record covers. Sound engineer Bill Porter used it exclusively on recordings by Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers and most of Roy Orbison's hits. The list goes on and on and on and on........

However by 1959 the only remaining customer for the VF14 tube was Neumann and so Telefunken stopped production. As a result Neumann were forced to rethink the U47 and eventually they switched to a "Nuvistor" type of valve, the 13CW4, a "Triode", in it's place. Unfortunately, the 13CW4 "Nuvistor" version never found the popularity of it's VF14 based predecessor basically as it just didn't sound as good and eventually Neumann threw there weight behind the new transistor technology discontinuing their valve mics and producing the solid state U47 fet in 1968

So either you already know how great these mics are or you are sick or hearing about how great they are and you want to own one. Buying an original Neumann U47 from a vintage dealer can cost you anywhere from $6,000 – $10,000 or you can gamble on a mic from eBay for around $5,500 – $8,500, and hope that the tube and capsule are in good shape. The other alternative is to buy one of the new U47 clones. After all how hard can it be with all our new fantastic technology to reproduce something 60 years old? Well quite hard as it happens when you are trying to build something around an obsolete vacuum tube not produced for over 50 years. Neumann couldn't do it without the VF14 tube so inevitably there is huge interest and trade in NOS (new old stock) VF14 tubes and individual VF14s have changed hands for nearly $2000!

So it's the best vocal mic ever and you can't afford an original but luckily it is probably the most copied mic with a huge range of to choose from and today there are two types of Neumann U47 clone on the market:

In the handbuilt corner are manufacturers like Bock Audio, Korby and Wunder Audio who will sell you one of their U47 clones based around NOS V14 tubes for around $6,600 (£4699 inc vat at Soundtools) or if you are fiscally challenged then you can choose a Lawson L47MP MKII for $2000. Other manufacturers like Peluso and Pearlman will sell you one for as little as $1500 (£999 inc vat at KMR) All of these are undoubtedly lovely microphones and the price reflects the care and attention lavished on them to get them to be as good as the original granddaddy. (In 1953 a brand new boxed Neumann U47 cost $390)

However the Chinese manufacturers have slowly been upping their game and while some of their early attempts at valve mics left a lot to be desired new mics like ADKs Area 51 TT show that there really is little difference now between a top of the range Chinese mic and any of the other prestige brands. In keeping with the quallity of these mics they cost around the £1000 mark but there are bargains to had out there. Last year we were pretty impressed with sE's CZ5600 which while not claiming to be a U47 at £550 was a very nice sounding multi pattern valve condenser based fairly and squarely on the Neumann U47. So it was inevitable that other small manufacturers would take this mic and have a good look to see what could be done to improve it even further and our recent favourite mic in the studio is the Advanced Audio CM47 a Neumann U47 clone at a stunning price. CHECK IT OUT.

JR

 

 


Recording


 
 
 
 
Microphones and recording 2009. Neumann U47 Microphones