A Review By: Alphonso Soosay
The “Sound On Sound” award announced during the Winter NAMM show 2012 in Anaheim, California went to products, that have made our lives in the “Recording Studio all the more enjoyable”. It is an improvement evidence for the reputation of the U-87 Ai as the world famous, professional standard studio condenser microphone. Until today the popular U-87 sets the mark in the microphone industry by which all others are measured.
The U-87 presents a wide range of features and versatility that make it to one of the most desirable microphones available. Recording Studio users are recognising the microphone immediately by its distinctive design. It is well known for its warm and well balanced characteristics, your perfect choice as vocal microphone for all types of vocal and speech recordings. It can be used as spot microphone for single instrument or usage as main microphone for orchestra recordings. It is also known as the general purpose microphone in studios for broadcasting, film and television.
The U-87 is equipped with a large dual-diaphragm capsule with three directional patterns: Omnidirectional, Cardioid and Figure-8. These are selectable with a switch below the head-grille. A 10 dB attenuation switch is located on the rear. It enables the microphone to handle sound pressure levels up to 127 dB without distortion.
Furthermore, the low frequency response can be reduced to compensate for proximity effect. As for applications The U-87 Ai condenser microphone is a large diaphragm microphone with three polar patterns and a unique frequency and transient response characteristic.
Acoustic features of the U-87 Ai are addressed from the front, marked with the Neumann logo. The frequency response of the cardioid and figure 8 directional characteristics is very flat for frontal sound incidence, even in the upper frequency range. The microphone can be used very close to a sound source without the sound becoming unnaturally harsh. By means of a high-pass filter interferences through subsonic and low frequencies are reduced remarkably. Its Polar patterns dual diaphragm capsule is elastically mounted and protected by a large head-grille. A switch below the head-grille selects the three directional patterns: Omnidirectional, Cardioid and Figure-8. A window above this switch shows the symbol of the selected characteristic.
Upgraded Electrical features are that the letter “A” in the name indicates a more recent generation, as compared to the popular U-87 i microphones that were built from 1967 to 1986. Modifications have been applied to the electronic components of the microphone only; the dual diaphragm capsule remained unchanged.
The current model circuitry increases the operational headroom of the U-87 Ai by supplying the bias voltages for the capsule through a reduced resistance. The result is a higher sensitivity of 10 dB for identical sound pressure levels, and an improved S/N ratio of 3 dB.
As for Filter and Attenuation, a switch located at the rear attenuates the sensitivity by 10 dB When this switch is activated, the microphone accepts sound pressure levels up to 127 dB (equivalent to a sound pressure of 45 Pa) without distortion.
An additional switch at the rear allows changing the microphone’s cut-off frequency. This reduces low frequency interference directly at the input of the microphone amplifier. This setting also compensates for the unavoidable Bass boost that occurs with all pressure gradient transducers when they are used at close distance (proximity effect). The cardioid characteristic maintains a smooth frequency response at a distance of 30 to 40 cm, the figure-8 characteristic even at a distance of 15 to 20 cm.
Alphonso Soosay is an Audio Recording Engineer, Live Sound Engineer, Studio Producer, Home Theater Guru, and has been Guest Audio Writer for i-Audio Magazine Singapore and X-Press Magazine in Perth. Over the past 32 years he has recorded and mixed for several top artists in Singapore, Malaysia and Australia with Audio Visual Workshop, WEA Records and No Sweat Recording Studios, also works as an acoustic freelance consultant for corporate clients. Currently works for Edith Cowan University Perth.