When it comes to studio condenser microphones, there is no shortage of choices. One popular category of studio microphones is tube microphones, like the Warm Audio WA-47. The WA-47 is inspired by the popular Neumann U-47 microphone, and at about 10% of the price, it’s one of the best sounding mics under $1,000.
The Neumann U-47 has become the stuff of legend, with studios clamoring to buy them. The original U-47 was discontinued in 1965, and they can fetch upwards of $25,000 on the used market. Warm Audio has taken on the challenge of creating a similar microphone at a price point that regular people can afford, and they’ve done a great job at that!
Warm Audio is one of my favorite brands for pro audio, and I often find myself recommending their stuff to my friends who want high quality gear at reasonable price. I’ve owned a handful of their products at different times, and I’ve always been impressed with the sound and build quality. I’m a big fan of their outboard gear, like their compressors, EQs, and even their preamps, so it should come as no surprise that I am a fan of this microphone!
What is a tube microphone?
Tube microphones are different from standard condenser microphones because they pass their signal through a vacuum tube, just like a tube guitar amp! Because of the extra power required to power the tube, these mics come with an external power supply.
You’ll need to plug this power supply box into the wall, and then you’ll use a special 7-pin cable (as opposed to a 3-pin XLR) to connect the mic to the power supply.
Sonically, tube microphones have a unique vibe. The process of running the mic via the tube introduces a unique harmonic character, as well as a natural compression. This makes tube mics especially well suited for lead vocals that you want to have lots of color and character, but you can use them for just about any source.
How does the Warm Audio WA-47 sound?
The WA-47 is a great sounding mic. I’ve used a few different U-47s and clones in different studios, and the WA-47 is my favorite clone that I’ve used. The lows and mids are extremely detailed, meaning vocals and acoustic guitars recorded with this mic have a strong sound, with lots of rich character. There’s nothing about this mic that sounds tinny or small.
When compared with similarly priced, non-tube microphones, this one tends to stand out as the most interesting sounding. It has a warm, round sound that I love. It’s the best sounding tube microphone I’ve used in a while, edging out the Avantone CV-12 as my favorite tube microphone in the sub $1,500 category.
Is the Warm Audio WA-47 a $15,000 vintage tube mic? No. However, in this price range, I’d say it’s one of the best sounding mics in its class.
When should I use the WA-47?
To me, the WA-47 is first and foremost a vocal mic. The tone that it captures is better than what you hear in the room. That doesn’t mean it’s only a vocal mic. It’s also a great choice for acoustic instruments like cellos, acoustic guitars, and pianos. You can’t go wrong with a pair of WA-47s as a pair of drum overheads either.
The Warm Audio WA-47 is a solid choice for any application where you’d normally use a large diaphragm condenser mic.
The WA-47 has 9 polar patterns (cardioid, figure 8, and omni, plus combinations of the three). The cardioid polar pattern is the one you’ll use most of the time. It focuses on picking up sound in one direction, so you’ll get clean recordings of your vocal or instrument without added background noise. The figure 8 and omni patterns pick up more of the room around the mic, making them useful for some applications where you’d want to hear more background noise. However, for regular recording purposes, you’ll typically want to keep it set to cardioid.
Warm Audio WA-47 Build Quality
The WA-47 is a well-constructed piece of equipment. The soldering looks nice and clean on the inside of the mic, and the fit and finish of the power supply is solid. The included cable is built by Gotham Audio, a boutique cable maker. The wooden box that comes with the mic is a nice touch, too! Overall, I’d rate the build quality of the WA-47 as an A+.
If you take care of this mic, as you should with any condenser mic, it should last you many years to come. The mic has a one year manufacturers warranty that covers any manufacturing errors.
Should You Buy the Warm Audio WA-47?
Depending on your needs, the WA-47 might be the mic for you. At around $1k, it’s not really a budget microphone. If you’re someone who records bands or singers professionally, or aspires to do so, I think this is a great option to bring your recordings up to the next level without totally breaking the bank. A stereo pair of these will cost you less than a single U-47, with lots of room in the budget to spare!
If you’re a singer-songwriter that self-records, this is a great option for your guitars and vocals. If you’re someone who mostly records drums, you can probably get away with a cheaper pair of condensers, but this would be an awesome pair of room mics or overheads.
Just like with any audio purchase, the WA-47 is a tool in the toolbox, and a tube mic with great color and warmth is a great tool to have around. Overall, the Warm Audio WA-47 is a fantastic pick for someone who is looking for a great condenser mic.
Tube Microphone Buyers Guide
What to Look for in a Tube Microphone
When shopping for a tube microphone, several factors deserve your attention. Here are key considerations to keep in mind:
Sound Quality: The primary allure of tube microphones lies in their unique sound character. Look for a microphone that offers warmth, richness, and depth in its audio reproduction. The ability to handle high sound pressure levels (SPL) gracefully is also crucial.
Polar Patterns: Consider the polar patterns available in the tube microphone. Common options include cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8. Different polar patterns offer versatility in capturing various sound sources and room acoustics.
Application: Determine the intended use of the tube microphone. Are you primarily recording vocals, instruments, or a combination of both? Some microphones excel in capturing specific sources, so choose one that suits your recording needs.
Tube microphones come in various styles, each with its own sonic characteristics and design features. Large-diaphragm condenser microphones, like the Warm Audio WA-47, are widely used for studio recordings. They offer a warm and vintage sound, making them ideal for vocals, acoustic instruments, and capturing the nuances of intimate performances.
The sound quality of a tube microphone is a critical aspect to consider. Look for a microphone that offers:
Warmth and Depth: Tube microphones are renowned for their ability to introduce harmonic distortion and add warmth to recordings. Seek a microphone that provides a pleasant low-end response, smooth midrange, and airy presence in the high frequencies.
Balanced Frequency Response: A tube microphone should have a well-balanced frequency response, ensuring accurate representation across the entire audible spectrum. This balance allows for versatility in capturing different instruments and vocal performances.
Build Quality and Materials
The build quality and materials used in a tube microphone can impact its durability, reliability, and overall performance. Consider the following:
Construction: Look for microphones constructed with robust materials, such as high-quality metals and sturdy chassis. A well-built microphone can withstand the rigors of studio and live applications, ensuring longevity.
Components: Pay attention to the quality of the internal components, including the vacuum tubes, transformers, and electronic circuitry. High-quality components contribute to a more reliable and consistent performance.
Price Range: Determine your budget for a tube microphone. Prices can vary significantly, ranging from affordable options to high-end models. The Warm Audio WA-47, for example, offers exceptional value for its performance, sitting in the mid-range price bracket.
Long-Term Investment: Consider the long-term value of the microphone. Investing in a quality tube microphone can significantly enhance your recordings over time, making it a worthwhile investment for professional and aspiring musicians and engineers.
If you need help picking a mic that fits your budget, check out our top 6 condenser mics list here!
By considering the sound quality, different styles, build quality, and your budget, you can make an informed decision when purchasing a tube microphone. The Warm Audio WA-47, with its warm and vintage sound, solid construction, and competitive pricing, is an excellent choice to consider for those seeking an exceptional tube microphone for their recording endeavors.