Meet our colleagues in the clean room, the heart of our production. Some good vibes there, yes. But what you cannot see:
We use state-of-the-art machinery to keep dust and particles out off the air in these rooms. Hence, we stay far below typical threshold values. But let us stop there. We must be wary with exact details. Some manufacturers would love to understand our production process. Let’s just say: We could virtually name every remaining speck of dust in our clean room. One of the details that makes our production really unique is that we are operating in an environment comparable to semiconductor manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies.
Why? To ensure absolute air purity while working on the most sensitive part of your next microphone: the capsule. It is one of many small details that is sacred to us. It is also one of the reasons why our microphones are so reliable and always, always deliver the exact same result – no matter when they were built, no matter how old they are. They match. We are not willing to make compromises here. This is our way to fulfill our promise to you.
Here, you are looking at a microphone nucleus. This is the diaphragm blank in the earliest stage of our microphone production. And it already defines the eventual sound.
20 picometers, the size of a hydrogen atom: That is the movement of the diaphragm when it catches a soft whisper. Our electronics translate these 20 picometers into a pristine signal. No matter if you whisper in a song or record an opera tenor: Our diaphragms will catch the smallest subtleties. And the level of detail this needs starts with picometers, for example. We might be a bit … German in this case, but there is a reason for this.
We cannot allow for tolerances here. You cannot see the difference, but you would hear it. That is why every single diaphragm goes through a painfully detailed series of measurement procedures. We lose a few along the way. But those which pass the test are symmetry-proven and ready to deliver the finest signal for decades.
Excuse us for not showing more of this production process at Neumann. Even after more than 90 years, we tend to keep some secrets about our production (which is uncopied to the present day). One secret of the Neumann sound? We choose quality over profit when it comes to production and assembly. Our quality control is harsh, to say the least. This is one reason for our pricing: We do not go for “best for market”. We choose “Best for a reliable result – for decades”. We are not willing to lower standards. Because 20 picometers, you know.
At the end, this is one of the details that separates a true original from a nice try. It’s our way to serve your expectations.
Yes, no matter the price range of your Neumann microphone: we assembled it by hand. For a reason.
We have no such thing as an automated mass production. To be honest: we tried some levels of automation. But we found more than 100 situations, even in our lesser complex models, where we better rely on the human eye, fine motor skills and experience than on automation. Aside from that: Once you design for an automated assembly, it changes the spirit of a product.
So, no matter which Neumann you choose: we had our hands on it. We tested it. And tested it again. That is why we consider every single microphone and every monitor not just part of a production batch. It is a personal promise to you.
And we will keep it this way.
Everybody knows those detailed frequency charts that illustrate how your microphone responds over the audible spectrum.
Interestingly, not every manufacturer publishes them (same for monitors). Anyway: Georg Neumann was convinced that further development in electroacoustics would have to go hand in hand with improved techniques of acoustic measurement. But back in the 1930s there were none. So he invented the level recorder to end the guesswork and work with facts.
The logarithmic scale to cover a wide range, equal to the human ears’ sensitivity, was one of many contributions to the next stages, the next breakthroughs. It was quickly adopted as a standard in the field of electroacoustics – and has remained one until today. In 1956, the team also developed the "pistonphone”. It allowed to calibrate microphones to an accuracy of a tenth of a decibel in the range of 20 to 800 Hz – another ingenious invention that catapulted base accuracy into formerly unknown regions. In short: we developed key indicators that make reference sound measurable. We added some additional dimensions and key indicators over the decades, of course. And we keep learning. Until today, the dimensions of how we understand sound and electroacoustic grow. That is why we stay one step ahead.
On that journey, the Neumann R&D archive is an ever-inspiring well of (previous) experience for our present colleagues. And we hope you can hear that!
This might be typically German too: Neumann engineers from all decades contributed to our archive. Until today …
… it is an invaluable source of experience. We can trace all research and development back to Neumann’s early years. We read about the same hassle, joy, and effort that is so typical for the field of electroacoustics, even today. We see, understand, and learn from all the decisions our predecessors made. By the way: this is also the reason why Neumann – and only Neumann – can recreate legends like the U 67 and the U 47 fet as true originals. There is so much more than just parts and raw measurements. We might reveal some of these in future posts.
One is: great sound is not just a result of combining high quality components. It takes knowledge and experience to create an original design that is more than just the sum of its parts and has the potential to become a new classic. The Neumann archive is a great resource for our engineers in recreating the magic of a Neumann original.
Today, we bow to those who have put their passion into this archive before us.
It is about time to reveal a secret. Look closely! These are our insignia:
In the 1930s to 1940s, almost the entire electroacoustics industry was in Berlin. The members of this elite tech club recognized fellows by two simple details. First, the Neumann slide rule (with both Napier and decibel scales), and second, the Neumann pocketbook: A highly appreciated source in which Neumann colleagues condensed all the scientific data and charts they needed for their everyday work.
(Yes, we still have some copies of the pocketbook. And yes, they look incredibly used.)
48 V phantom power – well-known in every studio, on all stages and in every audio interface. We introduced it to end chaos.
Back in the 1960s, when tubes were replaced by transistor technology, it became feasible to power microphones from the mixing desk. However, there was no universal standard. Things were a mess. Some studios even installed individual in-house solutions. However, incompatibilities became a threat: One bad decision could ruin a good microphone. So, in 1967 we introduced a 48 V phantom power concept. Because there is no potential difference between the two signal conductors, the power is virtually “invisible”, hence the “phantom” name. It gradually replaced all other powering schemes as it offered several advantages. One of them being: it does not affect dynamic microphones.
Why we decided to go for 48 V, you ask? This is a whole different story. It starts in Norway, and we will tell it in another post. Promised! Enjoy your failure-safe phantom power until then.
Today, immersive 3D sound is everywhere. When we introduced the dummy head KU 80 in 1973, mostly radio broadcasters loved the new opportunities for their programs. It actually took the audio world decades to develop an interest in our trailblazing dummy head, today listed as KU 100. The rise of new formats and mobile listening changed the scape. Orders for the KU 100 have increased tenfold. The working routine stayed simple. All you need for stunningly realistic 3D sound for headphones: place the KU 100 where your ears would hear the magic. That is it. Since 1973.
This might sound surprising at first: A Neumann can save you money.
Let us step back from a simple look at the price tags. First, consider the time it takes you to get a valid working sound from your mic. Second, consider the resale value you are looking at. Unlike other electronic products in the audio segment, most Neumann products do not lose their value so quickly. More often that not, you are earning money while working with the best possible equipment. “Buying a Neumann” is more of an investment than a simple purchase: They retain their value, even after decades. And a well-maintained specimen with a certificate of authenticity may even be worth a fortune later on. We’re looking at you, U 47s and M 49s.
Shortly after we introduced the world’s first multipattern microphone, we added a remote controlled version in 1951: The M 49.
Its sound made it a worldwide standard. Today, rare pieces are traded for ranges up to 25.000 €/$ and are loved for their sound. Back then, it was also their features: From cardioid to omni? Continuously adjustable from the power supply. (We will not ramble about the level of symmetry this needs.) For sound engineers back then, this feature was a revolution. Both the multipattern option and the remote control streamlined their workflow enormously.
Today, multipattern options are a standard we select with a quick switch. Going through our archive, we can follow the steps our colleagues took and see how they researched to achieve these features. It is insightful to look back, because we see all the details our pioneering predecessors took care of. Although these technical options are wide spread and taken for granted nowadays, we can still see that the holistic understanding and level of detail it needs to do it right – is not.
Our service engineers are magicians. That is what our users say. They do more than just service, test or repair your equipment.
There is no expiration date for trust. So, when you send in your precious microphone from 1949: they will find a solution. They revive the oldest models and repair the heaviest damage. Our colleagues see microphones from music lovers, amateurs and the biggest names in the industry. And until today, there is no difference in their stance: they do their best in every single case. They see old gems. They see tragic accidents. They see rare legends. And sometimes, they hear anxiety and despair when clients call and ask for the status of their beloved companion. And they somehow get it fixed almost every time.
Thank you, guys, for being this amazing team.
Legends like Frank Sinatra loved their “Telly”. A microphone which never existed, technically.
“Telly”. That is what they called this microphone. Its real name: Neumann U 47. Everyone loved it, as it captured so much more of their vocal excellence. Back in the 1950s, sound reproduction was still …evolving. The “Telly” had a sound unlike anything ever heard before – and was in fact a Neumann microphone. The Telefunken badge on the microphone was due to the fact that they were Neumann’s US distributor until the late 1950s. The then German Telefunken company never developed or produced any studio microphones on their own.
Fun fact: Frank Sinatra’s favorite microphone is still in heavy frequent use at Capitol Studios in Hollywood.
And an additional nerdy note: technically, it was a Neumann U 48, not a U 47, as often assumed. The engineers at Capitol preferred the variant with an optional figure 8 pattern instead of an omnidirectional one.