Neumann U 87 Ai Review

Last Updated

If you’ve ever been in a professional studio of any kind, then chances are you’ve seen a Neumann U87 Ai. There isn’t really a more popular studio mic out there. But why is it so popular? Today we will break it down, discuss the pros and cons, and see what makes the Neumann U87 such an iconic microphone.

  • Variable large diaphragm microphone
  • Pressure-gradient transducer with double membrane capsule
  • Omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-8 characteristics
  • Switchable low frequency roll-off
  • Switchable 10 dB pre-attenuation

All About the Neumann U 87 Ai

Neumann is a well-known German manufacturer of high-quality microphones that has been in operation since 1928. The company was founded by Georg Neumann, a talented engineer who was passionate about creating superior microphones.

Neumann’s early microphones were widely acclaimed for their high level of performance, and the company quickly gained a reputation for producing some of the best microphones in the world. In the 1930s, Neumann introduced the M7 capsule, which became the basis for many of the company’s most iconic microphone designs.

One of Neumann’s most famous microphones is the U 87, which was introduced in 1967. The U 87 is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone that is prized for its versatility and ability to capture a wide range of sources with exceptional clarity and detail.

The Neumann U87 is a classic large-diaphragm condenser microphone that has been used on countless recordings over the years. It is known for its smooth, warm sound and excellent transient response, making it a versatile choice for a wide range of applications. The U87 Ai version is an updated version of the original U87, with improved electronics and a switchable polar pattern (omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-8). It also includes a high-pass filter and a -10 dB pad to help accommodate a variety of recording situations.

Who is the Neumann U 87 Ai for?

The U 87 Ai is an amazing choice for professional recording engineers, producers, or studio owners who want to add a versatile and high quality microphone to their collection. Whether you primarily record singer songwriters, bands, or rappers, the U 87 Ai is a great choice for your main vocal mic. It’s also great for someone looking to record acoustic instruments like guitars, piano, or stringed instruments like cello and violin.

It offers a well rounded character without overly coloring the sound, which makes it applicable for a wide variety of uses. This is why many people consider it to be a workhorse of a microphone, and what makes it a staple in so many home and commercial studios.

How does the Neumann U87 Ai sound?

In terms of sound quality, the U87 Ai delivers on its reputation as a high quality microphone. Its smooth, warm sound works well on a variety of sources, including vocals, acoustic instruments, and drum overheads. The switchable polar patterns are also a useful feature, allowing you to choose the best pattern for the recording situation. The high-pass filter and pad are also handy additions, giving you more control over the sound of the microphone. Overall, the Neumann U87 Ai is a high-quality microphone that is well-suited for a wide range of recording applications.

Another pro of this mic is that it takes processing very well. Recordings captured with the Neumann U87 Ai can be heavily compressed and EQ’d without losing their silky tone, which is a huge plus. It captures a very even tone across the frequency spectrum, allowing you to really push your EQ in the mixing phase without the sound falling apart.

Overall, the U87 Ai is a standout in the studio world because of its amazing and adaptable tone, so you can’t go wrong with this mic for high quality sound.

Neumann U 87 Ai Build Quality

One of the standout features of the U 87 Ai is its build quality. It is a well-made microphone that feels solid and durable, and it comes with a shock-mount to help reduce handling noise. The included carrying case is also a nice touch, making it easy to transport the microphone to different recording locations.

Overall, the fit and finish of this microphone is of a high quality, which is what you’d expect from a microphone with such a high price tag. With proper care, the Neumann U 87 ai should work for you for years to come.

Other considerations

There are some things to consider about this mic. These are not necessarily downsides, but factors that are worth thinking about when making a purchase in this price range. First, it has a fairly low max SPL level of 117db. Because of this, its capsule is very sensitive. This makes it fantastic for recording natural things like strings, acoustic guitars, room sounds and vocals. It can sound good when pushed like on guitar amps, or as drum over heads, but that kind of thing will result in a more compressed sound that isn’t always ideal for standard applications.

This also makes it not the most ideal for loud vocalists like metal singers or belters. There are mics that are better suited to metal vocals because of the increased SPL level and sensitivity of the Neumann U87 Ai. This is not a question of quality, but of using the right tool for the job.

When we describe the Neumann U87 as a workhorse microphone, that’s because it sound amazing on a wide variety of singers and acoustic instruments. That doesn’t mean it’s the perfect mic for every genre or instrument, just like any microphone.

However, for the typical non-screaming vocalists, this mic really shines. There is something about the proximity effect of the U87 that is very pleasing and cuts nicely, especially paired with a great tube preamp like a UA610. It’s not rare to find a U 87 basically permanently set up in many vocal booths, due to its great sound and ease of use.

The main elephant in the room is the price. Many shoppers will hesitate to spend several thousand dollars on any piece of equipment, and that’s totally fair. So, let’s answer the question we’ve all been thinking about…

Is the Neumann U 87 ai worth it?

If you are a professional engineer, studio or, someone who wants to attract a large variety of clientele, then this will be an important microphone for you to own. It’s a mainstay in recording studios for good reason, and it’s revered as a high quality and long lasting mic by artist and producers the world around. The U87 Ai is a high quality microphone that will retain its value over time, so if it’s in your budget, you won’t regret purchasing it. This is a beautiful sounding, high quality microphone that every studio should have in its arsenal! If you’re looking for a great sounding, high end microphone for your recording rig, look no further than the Neumann U87 Ai.

  • Variable large diaphragm microphone
  • Pressure-gradient transducer with double membrane capsule
  • Omnidirectional, cardioid, and figure-8 characteristics
  • Switchable low frequency roll-off
  • Switchable 10 dB pre-attenuation

Condenser Mic Buyers Guide

There are many factors to consider when purchasing a condenser microphone. Let’s go over some of the distinctive features of condenser mics!

Diaphragm Material:

Condenser microphones use different diaphragm materials, and each material can impart distinct sound characteristics to the microphone. Here’s a list of some common condenser mic diaphragm materials and their associated sound characteristics:

  1. Gold-Sputtered Mylar:
    • Character: Smooth and balanced frequency response.
    • Sound: Generally accurate and detailed with a warm character. Suitable for various applications.
  2. Titanium:
    • Character: High durability and rigidity.
    • Sound: Clear and precise with a fast transient response. Often used for capturing percussive sounds.
  3. Aluminum:
    • Character: Lightweight and responsive.
    • Sound: Crisp highs and enhanced transient response. Well-suited for capturing delicate nuances and acoustic instruments.
  4. Nylon:
    • Character: Soft and delicate.
    • Sound: Gentle and airy, suitable for vocals and acoustic instruments where a subtle and warm character is desired.
  5. Ribbon (Aluminum or Nanofilm):
    • Character: Fragile and sensitive to air movement.
    • Sound: Smooth, vintage character with a rolled-off high end. Perfect for capturing vintage or warm tones.
  6. Ceramic:
    • Character: Rigid and robust.
    • Sound: Pronounced midrange and slightly brighter highs. Often used for vocal recording due to its clarity and presence.
  7. Brass:
    • Character: Sturdy and heavy.
    • Sound: Rich and warm, especially in the midrange. Well-suited for capturing brass instruments and deep vocals.

Polar Patterns:

One important characteristic of condenser microphones is their ability to have different polar patterns. A polar pattern describes the sensitivity and directionality of a microphone in picking up sound from different angles. Here are some commonly encountered polar patterns in condenser microphones:

  1. Omnidirectional: In an omnidirectional polar pattern, the microphone picks up sound equally from all directions. It is not sensitive to the angle or position of the sound source, capturing sound from all around the microphone capsule. This pattern is useful in situations where you want to capture ambient sound or when recording multiple sound sources in a room.
  2. Cardioid: The cardioid polar pattern is heart-shaped and is most sensitive to sound coming from the front of the microphone. It rejects sound from the rear and sides to varying degrees, creating a focused pickup pattern. This pattern is commonly used in studio recording, live performances, and broadcasting, as it allows the microphone to capture sound from the desired source while minimizing background noise.
  3. Supercardioid and Hypercardioid: These polar patterns are variations of the cardioid pattern with narrower pickup angles and more sensitivity to sound from the front. They offer increased directionality and greater rejection of sound from the sides and rear, making them suitable for applications where more precise focus is required. These patterns are commonly used in stage performances, conferences, and situations where the microphone needs to isolate the main sound source from surrounding noise.
  4. Figure-8 (Bidirectional): In a figure-8 polar pattern, the microphone is equally sensitive to sound coming from the front and rear while rejecting sound from the sides. The pickup pattern resembles the number “8” or a figure of two cones facing each other. This pattern is often used for capturing sound from two opposite sources, such as two vocalists or a musical instrument and its reflection from a room boundary.

For a majority of studio applications, cardioid is the polar pattern you’ll want to use. It’s nice to have mics with selectable polar patterns on occasion, but for vocals, you will almost always use cardioid.

Durability and portability:

By their very nature, condenser microphones are more delicate and need to be handled with care. They are also designed to be used in the recording studio, so durability is not a huge factor when selecting a mic for the studio. Realistically, you’re going to keep the mic in the case or mounted on a stand 99% of the time.

However, it’s still important to select a mic that has solid build quality, since you want to feel confident about using your mic long term.

Budget Considerations:

While we all have our spending limits, we typically suggest buying microphones from reputable brands that have a proven track record of making high quality products. The bottom of the barrel mics you can find online are often times noisy or have unattractive sound profiles, and their resale value is basically $0. It’s usually worth it to save for a proper mic instead of working your way up the rungs of the cheap gear ladder. Chances are, you’ll end up buying the nicer mic anyway once you realize the limitations of the super-budget off brand gear.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

About the Author: Kyle Hoffer

Photo of author
Kyle Hoffer is an audio engineer and professor from Orlando, Florida! With over a decade of recording experience under his belt, Kyle has made a name for himself in the indie/post hardcore scene as an engineer, producer, and mixer.

Read our latest entries: