Microphone Basics

How to Avoid Bad Deals


How to Avoid Bad Deals

So, you are about to buy a quality microphone for a serious amount of money. We would love to say “Just buy a Neumann” but that is not the whole story. You better avoid offers that look like a bargain at first glance.

 Things can feel overwhelming when scanning the market for the best choice. There are all those pro voices, the “one-and-only” recommendations, the reviews, and all those “legends” everyone is talking about (us included). Plus Gearspace or Reddit. Too bad: there is no “one and only” microphone. Choosing the right microphone for your voice, your instrument, your application or sound has so many aspects. And it can easily end in a bad deal where you hope for a quality that will go unheard.

 Neumann has a certain reputation since 1928. This comes at a price: we see a huge number of look-alikes, of microphones that claim to reproduce a certain sound, or product names that resemble iconic products from our portfolio. And quite often, they have a very attractive price. Four tips to avoid disappointment:

1. It’s not only the shape

A shape that became iconic by itself. It is often copied, but rarely understood.

In 2020, we showed audio professionals a shape as part of an anonymous market research. The result: 94.2 % immediately recognized the shape – and 85.4 % associated very good to good quality with it. No surprise: it was the shape of the U 67, our iconic tube microphone that redefined standards from the 1960s until today. Its form, its special basket, the tube – all this is connected to a legendary sound. But beware of offers that look classy but just copy a design. The same applies to the U 47. A lot of microphones copy the look outside, but do not understand the idea and tech inside and behind it. Our design is the consequence of hundreds of details and their interaction. Yes, the bevels minimize basket resonances and frequency cancellation. But that is just one of many factors. So please beware: A certain, familiar shape does not indicate the associated quality.

2. Tube microphones do not sound great just because they have a tube

Modern recording technology allows for an extremely clean and precise sound, often supported by digital workflows. Still, many engineers and artists love the signature “old school” tube sound. Before transistors were available, vacuum tubes played a key role in the signal path for impedance conversion. Their typical second and third-order harmonic distortion is often described as a certain warmth, a silky brilliance. Our early models like U 47/U 48, M 49, U 67 as well as the more modern M 149 and M 147 variants are icons of the tube era. They have defined standards in the recording and broadcasting industry for decades.

When you look for a tube microphone, remember to compare your model to the originals – just to avoid a clone deal. There are models that, yes, have a tube but might lack the effort, quality and electronic artistry that comes with the originals. And only a Neumann microphone has a Neumann capsule.

Also important: Tubes change over time, and therefore change their sound. True originals always deliver their signature sound, not just for a certain period of time.

Always a good idea: listen to your favorites and compare their sound. Your friendly sound engineer, shop or studio next door can probably offer you a good setup for comparison. Use it before you invest. The tube alone does not guarantee great sound.

3. Do not trust phrases that start with “Sounds like …”

Beware when microphones are described by phrases like “Sounds like …”, followed by a well-known reference like the U 47, U 67, M 49 or U 87.

There are countless, often interacting and sometimes not even measurable parameters that define what some call the legendary sound of a Neumann. Additionally: there is no such thing as a universal Neumann sound. Each model has its own character. From what we hear, what pro engineers love about the Neumann portfolio is that it always offers one or more choices for the perfect sound - without time-consuming adjustments. This can be neutral, flattering, or “in your face”. No matter which model you choose, a Neumann always stays true to the original sound and sometimes – consciously – adds a bit larger-than-life quality. These options are always rooted in genuine authenticity. The past decades saw thousands of sound engineers cheering at their desk: “That’s it, that’s perfect!”. And we are honored to very often be a part of these moments.

 And from what we have heard up to today, there is no “Sounds like …” in this game, no emulation or simple copy. Originals define these moments – no sound-alikes. That is all the magic we can offer with our products.

4. Price tags: the best possible deal is already built in

Neumann microphones may not be the cheapest option, but they are always the best deal. This results from the exceptional resale value for Neumann products. Unlike other electronic products, Neumann products do not lose their value easily. They exist outside the classic product cycle. The decision for a renowned, truly handcrafted microphone is more of an investment than a simple act of consumption. A well-maintained U 67 or M 49 is worth a fortune today, for example. The same is true for their more modern versions: they are built to last for decades. Made in Germany is a distinction for a reason. So, when you sell your Neumann in 5, 8 or 20 years, you can expect a profit. Even financing the microphone might be a good choice.

All we want to say: make sure  you do not rely on the copy, but the origin of great sound. If you love the sound of tubes and want to rely on original Neumann quality: the TLM 49 , although transistor-based, will surprise you with a warm and larger-than-life-sound. The TLM 103 is even more budget-friendly and a beloved large-diaphragm alternative for both vocal and instrument recordings.

 Enjoy your research – and do not hesitate to contact your dealers or us if you have any questions.