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. 

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.   

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 appeared 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.