Recording - May 2018 - 44

REVISITED

Neumann
U 87 Ai
50 years (and a commemorative Rhodium
Edition) later, it still defines 'workhorse'
By Paul Vnuk Jr.

In 1967 Neumann released the U 87, one of the mostused studio microphones of all time and arguably the
one that all other solid-state large-diaphragm condenser
mics have been judged against for the last 50 years. To celebrate
this milestone, Neumann has released a 500-unit limited
special edition with a Rhodium finish. Rhodium is not
only hard and corrosion-resistant, but the finish is pure
beauty-like chrome, but far richer and deeper.
The Rhodium Edition U87 comes in a set with a
matching Rhodium-coated EA 87 shockmount, a
certificate of authenticity signed by Neumann's president
Wolfgang Fraissinet, and a pair of black gloves made
specifically for handling the mic without smudging.
The Rhodium Edition gave us an excuse to revisit this
amazing mic, and Neumann was kind enough to provide
us with a new U 87 Ai so we could revisit the magic.

A brief history of the U 87

The U 87 as mentioned was originally released in 1967, the
"8" in its name and its purple badge indicating its solid-state
design. While it's been in constant production since
then, there have been some design changes to the
mic over that time, two of which are of note.
The first U 87s (1967-1986) had an internal compartment for a pair of optional 22.5V batteries. At the
time, phantom power was in its infancy in the studio
world; the batteries powered the circuit and capsule
when no phantom power was available.
These mics used a modified form of the Neumann
K67-style capsule called the K87. This was a 4-wire
center-terminated dual-backplate/dual-diaphragm design with plastic spacers and electronic isolation
relating to the mic's onboard figure-8 polar pattern
and phantom power limitations of the time.
44

RECORDING May 2018

In 1986, when the mic became the U 87 A, the battery
compartment was replaced with a DC-DC converter that
allowed the mic to revert to the K67 capsule, the same as
the one in the U 67 and still used today. The other significant
change was that the 46V polarization voltage used for the
K87 capsule was able to revert back to the full 60V voltage
the K67 and K87 was originally designed for. This resulted in
a 10 dB greater sensitivity, and 6 dB better signal-to-noise
ratio in the new mics. (My thanks to recordinghacks.com for
this information!) The current U 87 Ai designation simply
means that the mic uses a modern XLR connector rather than,
say, an older Tuchnel connector.
There are literally hundreds of online debates about which
is better, a pre-1986 original or the new U 87 Ai. I have
heard and used a few older specimens in a wide range of
physical conditions, and I have heard differences, but by and
large the difference is not as great as a lot of internet hyperbole would lead one to believe.

Specs and figures

The U 87 Ai is a large-diaphragm FET condenser mic with
a choice of cardioid, omni, and figure-8 patterns, with a
switchable 10 dB pad and highpass filter. It measures 7.87"x
2.20" in diameter and is available in a black or nickel finish
(or Rhodium, of course!). You can get it alone in a wooden
presentation box, or in a Set with EA 87 shockmount, cable,
and windscreen. It uses a 34mm dual-diaphragm capsule and
has a 20 Hz-20 kHz frequency response, 200 Ω impedance,
maximum SPL level of 127 dB, and self-noise of 12 dBA.
It is known for its flat and even midrange response, a linear low rolloff
around 70 Hz, and a slightly rounded
upper midrange that is boosted 2.5 dB
from 5.5 kHz up to around 15 kHz and
then rolls off. That's in cardioid mode;
omni mode gets brighter and more
open, and figure-8 becomes gently more
mid-focused.

In use

Usually this is where I mention which
sources I've tried with a mic, but this time
there's no point. Cutting to the
chase, there is no source where
a U 87 Ai simply won't work.
As my Editor commented when I
told him this: "The term 'workhorse'
had to come from somewhere."
What I found as I got reacquainted with the U 87 Ai is that
it is a full solid-sounding mic,
but in a nicely rounded and
gentle way. It is one of the most
neutral large-diaphragm mics


http://www.recordinghacks.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - May 2018

Contents
Recording - May 2018 - Intro
Recording - May 2018 - Cover1
Recording - May 2018 - Cover2
Recording - May 2018 - 1
Recording - May 2018 - 2
Recording - May 2018 - 3
Recording - May 2018 - 4
Recording - May 2018 - 5
Recording - May 2018 - Contents
Recording - May 2018 - 7
Recording - May 2018 - 8
Recording - May 2018 - 9
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Recording - May 2018 - 11
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Recording - May 2018 - Cover3
Recording - May 2018 - Cover4
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