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Vintage King Explores U47 Microphones In Latest Shootout

Posted on October 6, 2016 by Alex Oana There have been 13 comment(s)

U47Shootout

How did a German microphone from 1949 become the most sought-after microphone in the world and come to define how vocals are supposed to sound? The U47’s imperfect, “filtered reality” flatters, forgives and makes more of the music than what’s actually there. That’s why singers and engineers fell in love with it over the years and everyone from The Beatles and Aretha Franklin to Elle Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra loved it.  We now subconsciously associate the most beloved music of all time with the sound of the U47 microphone.

Putting a premium on the quality of the recording techniques used, quality of the room and signal chain, we've put together a brand new U47 shootout that puts the focus back on hearing the microphones as they were intended. We gathered together seven of the best U47-style mics and put them to the test, including the Pearlman TM-47Wunder CM7 GTS non-”Suprema”,  Wunder CM7 S “Suprema”Telefunken Elektroakustik U47Flea 47 EF12 with F7 capsuleBock 47 and Slate VMS ML1. With the flagship Telefunken reproduction of the U47 for $8995 right next to the $999 Slate Virtual Microphone System running their U47 emulation, the results of this shootout are sure to be interesting. 

If you have questions or would like a copy of the individual files and the Pro Tools session, please email me.

Notes From Our U47 Shootout

The Singers
Just like your best mix, it’s only as good as the music and the song. I am fortunate to have befriended a very talented band called The Simpkin Project who have been kind enough to be the gorgeous sound source that makes this shootout unlike any other. Three great singers, singing a great song, in harmony.

Careful Control
Same dead vocal booth, same mic preamp, no EQ, same converter, meticulously level matched.   

Sound
There is a touch of reverb on the tracks (in the shootout video only) to give it a real-world feeling and to actually enhance the inherent harmonic differences you will clearly hear between the microphones. It’s just nicer to listen to.  

Three-part Harmony
Three voices activate more characteristics of each microphone to give you more information per second than a single voice or instrument might.  And, it gets closer to demonstrating the cumulative result of recording many tracks with each microphone, which you are quite likely to do when you buy one!

Microphones (all standard, unmodified versions)
1. Pearlman TM47
2. Wunder CM7 GTS non-”Suprema”
3. Wunder CM7 S “Suprema”
4. Telefunken Elektroakustik U47
5. Flea 47 EF12 with F7 capsule
6. Bock 47
7. Slate VMS ML1 (Virtual Mix Rack:  U47 model at 100%, Neve 1073 at 35dB gain)

U47 shootout VMS1 settings

Signal chain
Singer > No pop filter > Microphone > TT patch bay > AMS Neve 1073 reissue (EQ bypassed, gain either 30 or 35dB, depending on mic output level.  1073 rack output level at 0dB (no attenuation)) > Apogee Symphony MK1 (@ 24 bit, 96k) > Pro Tools 12  (32-bit float, 96k) Levels balanced and summed in the DAW

Special Thanks
I engineered the audio, produced this video with Shawn Taylor, and appear in it along with Shawn, Phil, Jules, Sergio, and Nick of the Simpkin Project.  

A big thank you must be said to Nick Zermeño and Luke Homay of Homay Productions for their top quality video production and creativity.  Hire them.

U47Shootout


This post was posted in Homepage, News and Events

COMMENTS
  • Great stuff appreciate this video a lot. Would love to know what you guys that actually sang and recorded opinions of each mic was. Thanks in advance!

    Posted on October 6, 2016 at 12:48 pm

  • Seth says:

    I've been waiting for something like this for a long time, but why use 3 singers in harmony. It convolutes the test, and makes it harder to pick out the differences. I don't understand the thinking, but anyway thanks for the effort.

    Posted on October 6, 2016 at 2:19 pm

  • The Telefunken jumped out as my favorite both times I listened on closed-back headphones. Slate was in the middle of the pack for me, which is good enough to justify the $999. Thanks for a great lineup!!!

    Posted on October 6, 2016 at 5:34 pm

  • Thanks for this in-depth report/comparison.

    Question - Why didn't you include a vintage M47 in the test?

    Also, as a mechanical engineer, I would have positioned the mics in a radial pattern to capture all mics on a single take.

    I wish you had included the CM47 from the Canadian company named Advanced Audio - AA mics. This would have been a "real" mic at under $1,000.

    I ordered a CM49 (modeled after a Neumann M49 Tube) several years ago and did my own comparison with a real M49 (in good condition) at a local studio. The results where that with a touch of EQ (boosts at 210 and 2200Hz) I couldn't tell the difference between them. One big difference was that the Neumann as many times more output than the AA. So, I made sure I use a powerful and clean preamp with it (usually an Avalon M5).

    I saved $4,000 and am very happy with my AA mic. You may want to add this line to your offerings.

    Keep up the great work!

    Ciao!

    Francesco Bonifazi - World-Champion Whistler, singer and songwriter

    Posted on October 9, 2016 at 11:52 am

  • Great Idea! Very Informative, well put together vid.

    Posted on October 10, 2016 at 9:36 am

  • Thank you for the time and energy to put that together. Of course, with singers that talented, it makes listening fun. Even the two mics I didn't like sounded respectable. Hats off to all of the makers who struggle so hard to capture that U47 magic.

    Posted on October 10, 2016 at 1:32 pm

  • Hey Alex!

    This video was great! A lot of engineers and artists can't just walk into Vintage King because of the distance, and this gives us the opportunity to listen to the differences without having to go to the store. If you can make more of these types of videos that would be awesome!

    Thanks again!

    Posted on October 10, 2016 at 6:31 pm

  • Thanks for the shootout! I rather like the Flea and the Bock. For anyone looking, you will also want to check out the Lawson L47.

    Posted on October 10, 2016 at 7:08 pm

  • Mark says:

    I had a feeling you wouldn't post my comments..I thought I'd test whether this was objective...these companies are getting almost there but still need improvement and honest discourse is helpful to this..

    Posted on October 11, 2016 at 6:24 pm

  • The exclusion of an actual vintage U47 renders this shootout almost pointless. Shall we next conduct a test of which sugar substitutes taste most like sugar, but leave out actual sugar? Which vinyl feels most like leather without touching leather? Which margarine tastes most like butter without tasting butter? I mean, I understand Vintage King doesn't actually sell the original microphone, and they want you to buy something from them, so we get this. I get that. But if you haven't worked with the original, you're doing yourself a disservice. Advice to fledgling engineers: Just rent the original for a few days for a few hundred bucks and try it for yourself. Once you've used the original you'll understand what all these imitations are after. (Same goes for Neve 1066/1073/1081 and all those imitations.)

    Posted on October 22, 2016 at 12:34 pm

  • Vyero says:

    Well... it actually is very interesting to hear vocal harmonies through the different microphones. I'm impressed on how simmilar the Telefunken U47 and the Slate VMS are!!! The Wunders are really close too (CM7 closer than the CM7S)... The one I didn't like at all was the Flea47... a bit too aggressive and "modern" sounding for my taste... all the others did ok (not great)

    The value in this shootout is that sometimes you don't notice the subtle things in one single track, but when you play many tracks together that has the same recording chain, then you realize how it affects your session.

    Posted on October 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm

  • I decided to not include vintage U47 microphones in this shootout. Every vintage U47 sounds different from the next due to A) how they've aged over 50-60+ years, and B) the servicing they've all inevitably undergone. There is no single vintage U47 that can possibly represent all vintage U47s.

    The tight-tolerance manufacturing of the high-quality microphones in this shootout is repeatable such that the customer can be assured the microphone they purchase will sound just like the one they chose from the shootout.

    The type of customer investing in a vintage U47, whose market value is currently $17k and higher, may also be different than those looking in the $1k-$9k range represented in this shootout.

    Thank you all for your comments and your excellent ears!

    Posted on October 25, 2016 at 6:47 pm

  • Todd says:

    I thought I might get fooled, so I closed my eyes and listened for which one I thought sounded the best, and wouldn't you know it... it turned out to be the Telefunken U47! I was like, "Wow!", but also "Of course!" haha. The vocals on it all seemed to sit together and be more in-tune with each other somehow, as well as warmer. Anyway, I liked this way of doing a shoot out, I thought it was well done and effective. On a side note, I sometimes record at a studio that has a Lawson L47, and while it sounds good, I can always tell it's not a real U47 and it kinda bugs me. The studio owner always sluffed it off until recently, but I know what I'm hearing, and I think he hears the difference now too. My ears, when blind tested, always seem to like the most expensive options, whether it's instruments, mics, amps, individual tubes, or whatever, and that gets really frustrating lol. Anyway, love what you guys are about!! And I totally understand why there was no vintage mic in this shootout :)

    Posted on November 2, 2016 at 7:23 am

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