First Listen: Neumann U67 Reissue

When it comes to top quality microphones, every engineer in the business knows and loves Neumann mics, especially the U67. That's why it was particularly exciting when the brand announced at Winter NAMM 2018 that they would be releasing a historically accurate U67 reissue, the first of its kind since the original was discontinued.

What sets the U67 apart from any other microphone in the Neumann family is it’s ability to capture an insane amount of low end. The proximity effect of the U67 is more prominent than any other model Neumann offers and is a favorite to many engineers for capturing an intimate vocal performance.

The original also has a crystal clear high frequency response and can handle EQ extremely well without becoming muddy or harsh. Not only is the U67 an amazing vocal microphone, it also works wonders on clean electric guitars, acoustic instruments, drum overheads, room microphones, electric bass cabinets and more.

When we got word Vintage King was going to be the first retailer to receive the U67 reissue, we knew we had to make a shootout video comparing it against the real deal. I’ve been using a vintage U67 on a daily basis over the last year or so at the 45 Factory, which has made me fall in love with the microphone all over again. Not once have I used it on something and thought, “This microphone isn’t going to work.” Needless to say, I was very excited to be one of the first to shootout the new U67 reissue.

Watch below to see our shootout of the Neumann U67 Reissue and an all original vintage Neumann U67. Continue reading below to learn more about Bryan's thoughts on both mics and the shootout process.

For the shootout, I brought in some friends to demonstrate how the two mics hold up to each other on a few different sources. I’m going to go over my experience with both microphones on violin, male and female vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar and drums. In all of the examples, I am running both U67s into a Shadow Hills GAMA preamp on the Nickel transformer with no EQ or compression.

Since the reissue is supposed to be an exact historical recreation of the vintage model, I didn’t try to match the tones, instead I dialed in the sound I was looking for on the vintage U67, then matched the gain on the preamp, as well as the channel’s playback level on our Tree Audio Roots console.

Violin
For this example, I brought in one of the best musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, Sonia Lee. Sonia has played with some of the top musicians on the planet including Billy Joel, Josh Groban, Sir Paul McCartney, Katy Perry and many more.

After graduating from Julliard, she was the principle violinist for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and still plays with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from time to time. She also arranged an original score of John Lennon’s “Imagine," which was used by Evan Bates and Madison Chock in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In this specific example, I think it’s hard to tell the difference between the two microphones. Since the mic wasn’t right up on the violin, there wasn’t a boost in proximity effect. For this example, I also used a little bit of reverb from a Lexicon 300, as violins don’t sound too pleasing bone dry.

Both microphones captured all the nuance in dynamics and the brilliance of the higher frequencies. Normally on a violin, I would like to scoop out a little bit between 2kHz and 5kHz (depending on the performance) to get rid of some of the harshness that builds up on the higher frequencies, but even without any subtractive EQ, I think both mics remained full and smooth across the entire frequency spectrum.

In my personal opinion, I think both models tied in this example.

Male Vocal
For a male vocal example, I brought in my good friend Joe Jaber. Joe and I have been working on his newest EP over the last month or so. He does a great blend of singer/songwriter material, southern rock and Detroit rock and roll. He has a captivating and soulful voice with a low end that is unlike anyone else I’ve worked with. He also has this great breakup in his voice when he kicks it on, almost like a tube amp slightly overdriving in the best ways.

For his record, I’ve been using our vintage U67 for all the lead vocal takes, so I was already familiar with how the mic responds to his voice. When tracking his vocals for the record, I used a Lang PEQ-2 followed by an Undertone Audio UnFairchild for a little more shaping and dynamic control, but for these examples, I didn’t want to distract from the natural sound of the microphone.

I had him sing two passes of one of his original tunes “Tear it Down,” a song that features the low end presence in his vocal, as well as some of that gravel I mentioned earlier. I had the pop filter pressed right up against the microphone and had him sing as close as possible to pick up all that magical low end.

After the first vocal pass on the vintage U67, everyone in the room was blown away by how well the mic sounded without any processing whatsoever. If I didn’t have access to the outboard gear while recording his main vocals for the EP, I would be completely satisfied with using the raw mic sound in the track.

So now we moved onto the reissue. I dialed in the preamp the exact same; same level playing back on the desk, same pop filter, same height, etc. I had him do the exact same vocal performance. One of Joe’s best vocal qualities is how consistent he is and his tone and delivery is spot on from take to take.

Since Joe has such a prominent low end in his vocal, the first thing I noticed between the two mics was the reissue is slightly lacking some of the low end magic that the vintage model has. Just like most classic vintage gear, the U67 has a “glow” and warmth that makes you feel something when you hear it. Although the reissue creates the overall tone of the U67, that’s the one thing I think is missing.

Now I’m sure this could be made up with an EQ or proper compression, but we’re just comparing the raw sound of the mics in this demonstration. The warmth in the vintage microphone could be coming from multiple places such as the age of the mic itself and how much use it’s had over the years, the construction of the capsule, the wear in the vintage tube, certain components within the power supply or the cable connecting the mic to the power supply.

Other than the slight lack in low end, I also noticed that the vintage U67 is getting an extra one and a half or two dB of gain into Pro Tools than the reissue. The potentiometers on the Tree console are set in 2dB increments, if I boosted the reissue channel up one click, I was much closer to the level of the vintage U67, but the tone was still ever so slightly different.

Before moving on I want to point out that by no means am I saying the reissue doesn’t sound good, in fact I think it sounds absolutely amazing and truly does capture the overall vintage sound. If you didn’t have the option or luxury of putting it back to back against the real deal, I’m sure most people would never hear these differences.

We’re also talking about a slight difference in color of the low end and a dB or so of gain, which are things that can be made up with all the tools we have available today. I guess it comes down to those minor things being worth the $5,000 difference in price between both mics.

With that being said, I think the vintage U67 won the shootout on Joe’s vocal.

Female Vocal
I brought in my good friend Olivia Millerschin, a singer/songwriter from Detroit, to sing on this U67 shootout. Olivia has one of the best voices I’ve had the pleasure of working with, as she has great breath control, great pitch and really knows how to perform on a microphone. Her voice is the exact opposite of Joe, so I thought it would be a great example to show the diversity of both microphones. Her voice is typically in the upper mid register, but in this example she goes from a low full voice to a higher falsetto within the chorus of her original song, “When.”

I first dialed in the tone on the vintage U67 and had her do a pass. The microphone sounded great on her voice, but it was really hyping the very low end of her range, which is something I usually end up rolling off in the final mix. I typically like using our U47 for her vocals, which is one of the purest microphones on the planet and doesn’t have as much proximity effect.

When I moved over to the reissue, it was much closer to the vocal tone I would be looking for in the final mix. The difference in low end from the reissue was working to my advantage in this case. This is also a great example of how well the high end response between both microphones is exactly the same. Other than the low end magic of the U67 I mentioned earlier, one of the best qualities of the U67 is its pure high frequency response. Both microphones did a great job at capturing that aspect of Olivia’s vocal, but I think in this example, I’d pick the reissue over the vintage model when recording her voice.

Acoustic Guitar
Acoustic guitar is one of the trickiest things to make sit right in the mix. You always want it to be as full and brilliant as possible, but also need to make sure the low frequencies and low mids aren’t getting in the way of the other instruments.

When I was setting up the vintage U67, I positioned it about a foot away from the guitar, about six inches above the body pointing down between the sound hole and 12th fret at a 45-degree angle. This is typically a good position to get a full-bodied sound as well as definition in the higher frequencies.

Without any EQ, the vintage model was picking up huge amounts of low end, which in a track with drums, bass, piano and drums might be too much and could end up making the mix muddy. But on the other hand, would be an excellent placement if the acoustic is the primary instrument and needed to fill up the track.

So without reaching for an EQ, I went back into the live room and angled the mic about 45 degrees off axis, now pointing more towards the neck than the sound hole to reduce the low end build up. Everyone in the room thought this was a great acoustic tone, and I fully agreed. The U67 is always a favorite of mine when recording a full-bodied acoustic guitar.

When I moved to the reissue, I did the exact same setup. Right off the bat, I noticed the reissue didn’t have as much build up in the low end. It still had a full low end response, but wasn’t hyping anything. It captured a more natural sound of the guitar in the room.

Both mics captured a pure representation of the overtones and harmonics in the instrument, which is one of the biggest things I’m looking for when recording an acoustic performance.

It’s hard to say which mic would win in this situation because they both had strengths that would shine depending on the type of track you’re recording. But I think I would gravitate towards the vintage U67 if the acoustic was a solo instrument, or primary tonal instrument. I think the reissue would be a better fit if the acoustic was a part of a full band.

Electric Guitar
If you’re recording a pure clean electric guitar, it's hard to find a better microphone than the U67. It’s one of the best mics for capturing the exact tone of what the amp sounds like in the room. This single microphone has a way of capturing all the nuances of the speaker, but also the ambience in the room.

In the video, I was playing a Telecaster through a Fender Deluxe. The verb and minor bits of delay were coming from my pedalboard, but no other color or compression. I wanted to play something simple and clean to demonstrate how pure the mic is.

After doing the take with the vintage U67, we all thought that was one of the best clean electric tones we’ve ever heard. Our video guy/guitar guru Dustin McLaughlin said, “That sounds EXACTLY like the amp in the room, I’ve never heard a mic sound so good on an electric amp.” Dustin is pretty particular about tone, so it meant a lot coming from him.

I set up the reissue and did the exact same performance. I think the reissue had a great sound overall, but just like I mentioned before, it had that difference in the lower frequency and slight difference in gain. So this is similar to the acoustic where the vintage model would be better if the electric guitar was a solo instrument or primary tonal instrument, but the reissue might be a better fit if the electric was to be blended with a full band.

Drums
If I’m not using ribbons like the Coles 4038, Mesanovic 2S or Royer R-121 on the overheads, I’ll usually reach for the U67. I like using the ribbons in a Blumlein pattern for a wide and smooth stereo image of the kit. If I want something to be more focused and “brighter” overall, I’ll use the U67 as a mono overhead and throw a KM84 on the hi-hat and ride to get the detailed hits, then pan them left and right to get a stereo image.

In this example, I set up both mics above the kick and snare at ear level with the capsules right next to each other. I played a simple groove that hit everything on the kit and had some space between the kicks and snares.

I think in this example, hands down the vintage U67 won the shootout. The biggest difference between both mics is in the kick and snare. On the vintage U67, the kick and snare are much more present and full-bodied, you can also hear more low end in the room tone.

The reissue still sounded great, but was “flat” in comparison to the vintage model. The drum example is the only time I used both mics on the single performance, I wanted to make sure the dynamic, feel and timing were the same for both mics.

The capsules were about one inch from each other, which might be the key factor for the difference in tone. I personally think the “glow” that the vintage mic has is what makes the depth of the kick, snare and room tone much fuller.

The Verdict
I think the U67 reissue is a winner, and a great opportunity for modern engineers to get the sound of the classic U67 without breaking the bank on a vintage model. The reissue is priced at $6,995, which seems like a lot, but that’s what this level of quality costs and is a big difference from the $13,000 average cost of a vintage U67. Also, having a Neumann U67 on your mic list looks great to higher-end clients.

If you have any questions regarding the U67 reissue or a vintage U67, be sure to contact your Audio Consultant via email or by phone at 888.605.5431.  

← Previous Post Next Post →

Leave a Reply