The Neumann KM84
is the industry standard small diaphragm condenser with a cardioid pickup. The KM84 has become a real favorite for classical music recording because of its smooth and faithful reproduction, but it's also known as an excellent choice for drum overheads. Also nice on snare, hats, acoustic guitar and piano.
Following on the huge success of their flagship U47 microphone, Neumann began producing small diaphragm condensers (SDC's) in the early 1950s. Several of these have become classics in their own right, and continue to be highly valued today. Most of the mics in this series have a model number with the prefix 'KM', which stands for Kleine Mikrofon, meaning 'small microphone' and indicating the size of the diaphragm and the amplifier body.
The numbers which follow the KM prefix all have their own meaning:Powering
- KM 5x = AC 701 tube, (metal diaphragm)
- KM 6x = AC 701 tube, (plastic diaphragm)
- KM 7x = 12 volt AB power, transformerless
- KM 8x = phantom power (FET)
- KM x3 = Omnidirectional
- KM x4 = Cardioid
- KM x5 = Cardioid with bass roll off
- KM x6 = Switchable multi-pattern (O/C or O/C/8)
Thus the famous KM84 model name means a FET, phantom powered cardioid microphone, and its cousins are the KM83 (FET omni), KM85 (FET 'speech cardioid') and KM86 (FET omni/card/8).
The first SDC from Neumann was released in 1953, and appropriately enough bore the designation KM53, meaning a tube mic with an AC701, having an omni pattern capsule. This particular mic used an aluminum membrane on the capsule instead of PVC or Mylar, a material proven in their highly accurate measurement microphone, the MM2.
The other mics in this series were the KM54 and KM56, both having nickel capsules that impart a special tonal quality. For the broadcast market, Neumann also made versions of this series that were protected against RF interference; these added a '2' at the head of the model number. Thus the KM 253, 254 and 256 are identical mics to the 5x series, with the addition of RF protection, and a different cable connector. The KM5x mics were made from 1953 to 1970, and their broadcast cousins were made from 1960 to 1970. A stereo version known as the SM2 and SM23 was also produced from 1957-1966, using a pair of KK56 capsules.
The KM 6x series was produced from 1964-1971 and was similar to the 5x series, except the capsule membrane was plastic rather than metal. Further development of the 6x series became the 7x series, which began the conversion from tube mics to FET microphones. Manufactured from 1966 to 1976, the 7x microphones were basically the same as the 6x versions, except they were solid state, using 12 volt "T power".
The final development in this evolution was the world-famous KM 8x series, upgrading the 7x series to 48 volt phantom power, with an improved capsule. Produced from 1966 to 1992, this series, in particular the KM84, are some of the best-known, and best-sounding SDC microphones ever made. Perfect for the nuances of acoustic instruments, no top-notch studio is ever without a few of these in the mic locker.