How to Get the Best Out of a U87

Written by robert godard
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How to Get the Best Out of a U87
The U87 has become an industry standard for vocal recordings, as well as other instruments. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The Neumann U87 condenser microphone, released in 1987, has become an industry standard for recording studios. It features two diaphragm components, a front and a rear, as well as a switchable pickup pattern. It is known for its frequency response that gets a warm sound in most scenarios and a constantly changing transient response characteristic, accounting for its versatility in application. It is also designed to be placed close to a sound source without heavy distortion.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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  1. 1

    Use the Neumann U87 in the right environment and setting. You can use it to record a variety of different instruments, notably vocals, but there are certain unsuitable situations. A live setting will prove too harsh for the microphone to handle, and loud instruments in the low frequency range, such as a bass drum, will not get the most out of your microphone.

  2. 2

    Pick the right preamp. It is often said that a microphone is only as powerful as the preamp it is routed through. If you pair the U87 with a cheap preamp, it will not sound as good as it can. If possible, combine with a tube preamplifier, which will accentuate the middle and high frequencies where the U87 is at its cleanest.

  3. 3

    Place the microphone at an appropriate length from your sound source. Though the U87 allows for some leeway in this matter, it is still important to set the microphone in the right position. For vocals, place the U87 6 to 12 inches away from the singer. For louder sound sources, you may require more distance.

  4. 4

    Choose the right pickup pattern. The U87 can be switched between three patterns: omnidiretional, cardiod and figure-8. Omnidirectional will capture 360 degrees around the microphone; cardiod is a directional pattern; a figure-8 pattern is actually two cardiod patterns, one on the front of the microphone and one on the rear.

  5. 5

    Switch the low-cut filter to on if you are recording a source in the middle or high frequency range, such as the voice. This will reduce unwanted background noise. You may also select the -10 dB pad if the sound source is especially loud; 10 dB attenuation will allow the microphone to handle sound sources up to 127 dB. Both of these switches are underneath the head grille on the bottom of the microphone.

  6. 6

    Use microphone accessories to get the best sound. Most U87 packages come with a shock mount. If this is not included, get one. This will absorb any movement around the microphone and result in a cleaner sound. If you are recording vocals, use a pop filter placed in front of the microphone. This will get rid of the harsh clicks and pops of a vocal performance.

Tips and warnings

  • Experiment. Try the U87 with an array of instruments and studio setups to find out which is best.
  • Diaphragm components are fragile; do not subject your microphone to excessive handling.

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