Why Are Neumann Microphones So Expensive?
Neumann microphones cost a bit more than most competitors’ offerings, but does that mean they’re expensive? Or is the price justified, because of the high quality a Neumann microphone offers?
A Neumann for Everyone
To begin with, not all Neumann microphones cost thousands of euros/dollars! The TLM 103, introduced in 1997, was among the first large diaphragm studio microphones affordable for semi-professionals. In 2009, the somewhat smaller TLM 102 made the Neumann sound available even to dedicated hobbyists.
Even less expensive are Neumann’s KMS stage microphones, which are great for home studio use, too. Neumann’s small diaphragm microphones such as the KM184 are quite affordable as well, especially when you keep in mind that these are reference-class tools that professionals use every day for the most demanding tasks such as recording an orchestra.
Quality, Not Quantity
Because Neumann is a name of world fame, people tend to think of Neumann as a large corporation. But the fact is that the music industry is much, much smaller than, say, the automobile industry, and professional recording is only a small fraction of the music industry. Neumann microphones, even the least expensive models, aren’t mass produced on an assembly line; they’re essentially handmade.
Condenser microphones in general are very labor consuming. Neumann capsules are assembled by hand in a state-of-the-art clean room. Each capsule is tested individually, and so are the electronics. Once it’s assembled – also by hand – each microphone is tested and measured again, and if it doesn’t conform to its specifications, it won’t be sold. A Neumann microphone must have Neumann quality.
Made in Germany
These days, labor costs are a major factor, especially with products that are essentially handmade. Some competitors have outsourced their production to low wage countries, but Neumann microphones are still made in Germany by specially trained staff. It’s simply impossible to get the same quality at a lower cost.
Even so, a TLM 103 costs less than a US made electric guitar, and a TLM 102 or KMS 104 is even less expensive than most Mexican made instruments. That’s quite remarkable, especially when you keep in mind that studio microphones are made to much smaller tolerances and in much smaller quantities than guitars.
What’s in a Name?
When people compare brand name products to cheaper products from lesser-known manufacturers, they will often say, “well, you pay for the name!” That’s true – and it’s a good thing, too!
The Neumann brand is synonymous with quality, because its products have offered highest sound and manufacturing quality for more than 80 years. But it takes rigorous quality control to keep up Neumann’s distinction as the world’s leading manufacturer of studio microphones. Each new microphone that bears the Neumann badge must be worthy of this proud tradition. The Neumann diamond, thus, is more than a logo; it is a quality seal.
You Get What You Pay For
Neumann Microphones aren’t cheap, but they’re not expensive either. Neumann’s entry level microphones such as the TLM 102 and 103 and the KMS series are very attractively priced, and so is the reference class KM180 series. Their feature set may be streamlined, but they offer true Neumann sound quality.
If you consider the amount of engineering that goes into designing and manufacturing a studio grade microphone, isn’t it quite astounding, that you can buy a genuine Neumann at the price of a mid-level guitar?
Yes, you can find microphones that are cheaper. But why would you want to settle for anything less than a Neumann? A quality studio microphone will last many years, quite possibly your entire musical career. If you’re going to spend that much time with one piece of gear, don’t take the cheapest offer; choose the best you can afford!