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Old January 9th, 2017, 06:50 PM   #1
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Newmann U87

The U87 has long been the gold standard for studio recording. Recording with it is like removing pillows that covered your monitor speakers. It's resolution and clarity is phenomenal. That being said, can anyone explain why the U87 isn't used for live band performances? Or for capturing dialogue on a movie set?
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Old January 9th, 2017, 11:22 PM   #2
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Re: Newmann U87

Large Diaphragm Condenser (LDC) microphones are favored for studio use where you can control the position of the microphone, the subject and other sources around the studio.

Some of the major reasons LDC are not favorites for cine/video production include:

1) LDC don't have nearly the kind of directionality typically needed in film/video production, even in the studio, not to mention out in the field. AFAIK, there are no LDC hyper-cardioid or "shotgun" microphones. And those are the kinds of microphones you need for dialog pickup on a set in a studio or on location.

2) LCD off-axis frequency response is very often different than the on-axis performance. This can be used to advantage in controlled sound studio situations. But it plays havoc when trying to pick up moving subjects where the microphone is moving and turning relative to the sound-stage.

3) LDC are MUCH more sensitive to low-frequency (wind) noise. They are quite vulnerable and require extensive protection against wind noise, even indoors.

4) LDC are typically more sensitive to mechanical handling noise than SDC. So that makes them more difficult to use on a boom, etc.

5) LDC are larger than SDC (duh!) and that makes them more difficult to use on a boom while staying out of the shot. Especially if the LCD is not as sensitive as the typical SDC.

6) LDC (+wind protection) are typically heavier than SDC or shotgun (+wind protection) which makes them less suitable for use on a boom, especially a human-operated boom as we see mostly here in the 21st century. In our grandparent's era, when a microphone was as big as a football and weighed 10 lb, they used a big cart-mounted boom like J.L.Fisher, (See photo below)

They can sometimes be found in studio recordings of large ensembles, but because of their quirky characteristics, it takes longer to find exactly the right place for them (if any). It is so much easier to use a very flat and predictable SDC even for those applications.

Not clear what Mr. Kawamoto means by "live band performances"? If he means your typical rock band, then LDC are not nearly rugged enough for the kinds of abuse you see in a typical rock band performance. They are also MUCH more sensitive to precise placement angle, distance, etc. So the subject needs to work harder at staying in exactly the "sweet spot" of the microphone and not move around. That would rather cramp the style of most rockers I have seen. YMMV.

You DO see large-diameter microphones (typically dynamic not condenser) in rock bands for applications like micing low-frequency sources like the bass-guitar amp or the kick-drum. But those applications are stationary and not moving around. And they are VERY CLOSE miked, often taking advantage of the "proximity effect" to enhance the LF sounds. And a very expensive microphone like a Neumann U87 are just too much of a theft-magnet on a typical rock concert stage.
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Last edited by Richard Crowley; January 10th, 2017 at 12:44 PM.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 11:40 AM   #3
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Re: Newmann U87

Excellent info Richard!
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Old January 10th, 2017, 12:21 PM   #4
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Re: Newmann U87

Richard has some excellent answers. That is why professional studios have many different microphones because different mics are designed for different purposes. BTW, LDCs are often used in recording situations of large ensembles. Again it depends on what kind of sound the engineer is after and what particular instrument is being recorded..

And just a bit of a nit-pick, the company name is "Neumann" with a "u" and is pronounced "NOY - mahn" as it is a German name.

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Old January 10th, 2017, 02:39 PM   #5
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Re: Newmann U87

The U87 also has a reputation for being fragile. Ideally, the wires are going to be super-fine, connected to something with more mass than an SDC. I don't know the truth of that, but, that's a big diaphragm in suspension, in an expensive mic - don't drop it!

Likewise, susceptibility to humidity; that's a thin big diaphragm... upon which water vapor can condense. You never want such a thing colder than the environment.

I'm just repeating what I've been told... but these characteristics would also argue against field use, in addition to Richard's excellent summary.

Sidenote to Richard and other followers of Portland trivia: at some point back in the mid/late 80s, I bought a used U87 for my then-employer from John Smith of Nu Shooz. Supposed to have been Valerie Day's vocal mic. I cut a lot of VO with that mic... it sounded great!
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Old January 10th, 2017, 03:31 PM   #6
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Re: Newmann U87

We used them on our Fischer booms when I was at ITV Tyne Tees TV in the UK 1980-1991.

They are great mic's but you get the best out of them when using high end mixing consoles, there are other mic's on the market that come pretty close and are more cost effective for the average user.
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Old January 10th, 2017, 04:44 PM   #7
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Re: Newmann U87

I tried my AKG C414 at one point, which has a hyper setting. Whilst it's one of my favorite mics of all time (which includes SM-57/58) and good on many, many instruments, it wasn't better then my usual SDCs, and to heavy for a H/H boom.
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