You won’t want to take chances if you’re spending this kind of cash on a microphone, so here are some of our top picks.
Telefunken USA ELA M250
Price £7,320 Contact Unity Audio 01440 785843
The Telefunken ELA M250 was introduced in 1958. Originals are rare and über-expensive, but Telefunken USA’s ELA M250 is a very close replica. A pattern selector sits under the capsule housing and a 6072A valve drives a vintage-correct transformer.
Push up the fader and you’ll immediately realise that you’re dealing with a special microphone as the high end lays over everything like tinsel. The detail and transparency are quite remarkable, yet it sounds intimate rather than forced. Describe the sound as a glorious hybrid of U47 fatness and C12 silky highs and we could only concur.
Microtech Gefell CMV563
Price £4,930 Contact Sound Link 01869 600817
Gefell’s long-awaited CMV 563 reissue includes an M7S cardioid capsule and bayonet-style fixing for Neumann, BLUE and Violet capsules. The originals never came with suspension mounts but the reissue does, along with upgraded Tuchel connectors. An EF86 valve replaces the original EC92 and the output transformer is made in-house.
The reissue capsule sounded a tad brighter than our original, but ours probably sounded that way when it was new and the preamps were indistinguishable. The sound is massive, smooth and authoritative, with deep, solid lows and rolled-off treble. For full-fat, velvety classic Neumann tones it’s the real deal.
Price £2,548 Contact Audio-Technica 0113 277 1441
Rectangular capsules are nothing new, but combining four in a cardioid condenser certainly is. Audio-Technica’s designers intended to combine the fast response and extended high frequencies of small capsules with the sensitivity and high output of large capsules. Divided into pairs, the polarity is reversed, ensuring balanced audio throughout.
The AT5040 excelled in each and every test with its effortless and natural tone. The treble was wide-open without sounding forced and the midrange was so true that, where we might usually apply EQ, none was deemed necessary.
Price £1,699 Contact KMR Audio 020 8445 2446
Having worked its way through the catalogue of classic mics, Peluso’s version of the Neumann U67 was inevitable. This nine-pattern replica is based on a mint and unused original in Shure’s lab. The onboard HPF and pad switches are vintage-correct, but a 6AK5 valve replaces the EF86, necessitating a minor transformer modification.
We were hoping for an unfussy, general-purpose mic with a thick, velvety midrange, solid bass and smooth high frequencies. That’s exactly what the P67 delivered, albeit with a touch more gloss in the treble. The P67 is not fussy about placement – it makes recording easy and it just works. Really well!
Neumann U87 Ai
Price £2,227 Contact Sennheiser 01628 402200
The Neumann U87 has been in production since 1967 and was probably the world’s most widely used studio condenser until the early 90s. Introduced as a solid-state successor to the U67, onboard switches provide 10dB attenuation at 100Hz and three pickup patterns.
The midrange is full and plummy and the treble is smooth but slightly attenuated. It’s a mic that can be used on just about anything – always sounding good and sometimes outstanding. Post-1986 U87 AI models have improved sensitivity and SPL handling, but most modern mics have superior specs. Even so, only a U87 really sounds like a U87.
Price £3,000 Contact KMR Audio 020 8445 2446
The mechanical cardioid/omni switch is accessed through an opening in the ‘foamed aluminium’ grille. This rigid structure obviates the need for reflective flat metal housing rings and contains the single-sided capsule.
It captures whatever you’re recording with a disarmingly natural quality. Transients are fast, the midrange is full and up-front, and the lows are solid without boominess. Overall there’s an effortless sense of detail and transparency to its work.
Price £1,649 Contact JHS 0113 2865 381
The transformerless LCT940 allows you to select a valve or FET signal path and even combine the two to taste. This nine-pattern condenser microphone has a feature-packed external power supply/control unit with auto-attenuation plus multiple pad and HPF settings. The flight case contains a suspension mount, foam windshield and interconnect cable.
Noise levels in both modes are extremely low but sensitivity is higher in tube mode. With equalised volume, there is a discernible difference in tone. The valve side sounds fatter and richer, with the FET side a little dryer and more realistic. FET provides more definition in the high end and the tube thickens things up nicely in the low mids and smoothed-out the treble.