Oktava versus Neumann ? Unequal Fight of Studio Condenser Microphones!
Extract from RecordMaster.info
Oktava versus Neumann – unequal fight of studio condenser microphones
When we choose a microphone for a studio two aspects: quality of the microphone and its price are the most important for us. Of course, professional studio should have some microphones with various characteristics for various applications. But still, to choose a microphone one should consider test records specifically made for comparison of two models. It’s good to know opinion of acquainted sound directors and look through characteristics provided by manufacturers. But the best way is to hear microphones in comparison. For that purpose record of two vocal condenser microphones Oktava MK-105 and Neumann U 87 has been made.
Is it worth performing such tests? Should we compare microphones of such different price categories? Everyone knows that Neumann is unrivalled leader and Oktava is consumer, rather than professional grade. Today price for Neumann U 87 makes about 100,000 rubles, whereas Oktava MK-105 costs 7,800 rubles. Nobody doubted that the results of Oktava would be worse, than those of Neumann, but how much? That’s what we are going to find out.
At first, let’s consider factory characteristics provided by manufacturers:
Neumann U 87
Microphone frequency range: 20—20,000 Hz
Polar patterns: (cardioid, supercardioid, figure-8, omnidirectional…)
Sensitivity: 20/28/22 dB/Pa
Rated impedance: 200 Ohm
МMinimum rated load impedance: 1,000 Ohm
Maximum SPL: 127 dB
Input/output type: XLR 3F
Polar pattern: cardioid
Frequency range: 20—20,000 Hz
Sensitivity at 1 kHz: >10 mV/Pa
Supply voltage: 48 V
Output impedance: ≥200 Ohm
Noise level: <18 dB
Maximum SPL at 1,000 Hz: >120 dB
As you can see, characteristics are very similar and do not provide a full picture.
Everybody knows that no figures and diagrams can display real sounding of the microphone. One should listen to the microphones in comparison to get a real picture.
To avoid different aspects that can prevent from getting a correct record, the following conditions should be met:
- Record should be performed in one premise
- Record should be made on the same equipment (pre-amplifier, sound interface, etc.)
- Record should be made at the same time
- The same singer should sing in both microphones
We have fulfilled all these conditions.
Both microphones were put on stands close to each other. They were fixed in shock mounts (spiders). The following item of the circuit is microphone pre-amplifier Focusrite and sound interface Creamware SCOPE Professional. Two audio tracks – for the first and second microphones have been created in Cubase SX3. Female vocal was recorded in both microphones at the same time.
If quality of your equipment is sufficient, you will hear the difference.
But let’s try to establish what the difference is in detail and how great it is.
We should note that both microphones sound very thoroughly, brightly and clearly! It stands to credit of Oktava, as far as it is very difficult to find a microphone with the same thorough and bright reproduction, moreover at this money. Microphones of famous brands that cost 2, 3 times more, do not yield such clarity and brightness.
Another advantage which should be noted it is absence of noise for both microphones.
There is a difference, but even inexperienced listener would distinguish it.
It is obvious that sound of Neumann is more saturated in the low middle of frequency spectrum, and Oktava has more high frequencies in its sound.
A stranger might even think that Oktava is better, as it is brighter. In fact it’s not really so. A lift at high frequencies (which, by the way, was noted in passport for the microphone) makes the sound of microphone interesting and unique, but it cannot be referred to its strong points that provide an advantage of this microphone versus Neumann U 87. It is rather a specific feature of this model which enables statement that microphone has unforgettable sounding. In the rest part of spectrum microphone sounds plainly and confidently. Neumann is OK with high frequencies, though de-esser is mandatory for both microphones!
Regarding intensity in the low middle of Neumann microphone, that’s what this model is appreciated for. Such range serves as the grounds for vocal.
Due to this Neumann can be easily added to mix. It needs little correction with equalizer, and it sounds thoroughly and fully.
This test proves that Neumann U 87 microphone has served such popularity and his quality is beyond controversy...
Oktava MK-105 is also quite decent microphone, which can be used in professional sound recording, and its distinctions from Neumann U 87 that we have mentioned in the article are not critical and could be easily settled with the help of equalizer.
No doubt, it’s better to have a good sound first not to make use of equalizer (or use it slightly), but the main thing is that Oktava does not make noise and sounds as warm, detailed and clear as Neumann.
So, now it’s for you to decide! If you want the best microphone and you have enough money, take Neumann! If you do not have such amount, Oktava MK-105 is a perfect solution.
There is no microphone of such quality in this price category!