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Well, Santa was very kind to me this year and brought me my very favorite microphone, a Neumann u87ai. The u87 has been the industry standard recording studio condenser microphone for decades and I'm thrilled my home studio finally took this jump! However, I still love my trusty 3U Audio Warbler MKID, which is modeled after the vintage (pre-AI) Neumann u87. So I thought I'd shoot them out! I made an electro-funk-jazz slow-jam arrangement of one of my favorite Coltrane tunes, "Central Park West," to use as my guinea pig. Here are full mixes as well as isolated saxophone parts featuring the Neumann and the 3U. For my taste, the Neumann unsurprisingly wins, but not by a whole lot. The Warbler is about the tenth the cost of the Neumann and gets phenomenally close.

I recorded the same take with both microphones, with the capsules as close to each other as possible. There's no audio processing at all on the isolated stems. On the full mixes, I have some reverb, delay, and light saturation/compression (via an excellent plugin by NEOLD, the V76U73). No EQ except for a little low-cut via the NEOLD.

https://soundcloud.com/brian-donohoe%2Fsets%2Fneumann-u87ai-vs-3u-audio
 

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Very beautiful playing, thanks a lot for the chance to listen, I really like it.
I definitely like the Neuman more, more clear, detailed, airy, more real.
 

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Tenor: Eastman 52nd St, Alto: P. Mauriat 67RDK, Soprano: Eastern Music Curvy
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That track is just superb! Love everything about it! Can't believe this is just something you threw together for a trial, it sounds amazing!

On to the important matter here - my initial reaction was how close these two were - on crappy speakers. Then I put on my full sized speakers and I really felt the difference. The Neuman had more of everything. Felt very realistic, almost like hearing it live. Congrats on such a superb microphone!
 

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So I spoke with Santa.....He said this was actually supposed to go to me. So, can you box it up and send it over? Thanks

Damn it.....though a mic that is 1/4th the price of the 87 sounds pretty good, there really is not comparison.......87 for the win
 

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Hah, thanks, everyone!

J, I think the "more of everything" comment is right on the money. Neumann invented the large-diaphragm microphone capsule, and they still make the best in the world (or at least tied with Gefell, another factory which was founded by Georg Neumann, and which the Neumann family owns to this day). The clarity and detail are impossible to beat, and there's a larger-than-life vibe to it that's the reason it's the top studio mic of all time. I'm very happy with my new Neumann, rest assured.

But my shootout solidifies to me that you do NOT need a Neumann to get pro-level results. 3U makes excellent-quality studio tools for a very reasonable price, and there are many other manufacturers doing that right now. (An incomplete list, in addition to 3U Audio: Audio-Technica, Advanced Audio, Lewitt, Vanguard, Warm Audio, Mojave, Roswell Pro Audio.) Just like with saxophones/mouthpieces/reeds, the most important thing is to take the tools you have on hand and learn to get the most of them over time. We're in a golden age of home recording, and given the challenges created by the COVID pandemic, that golden age couldn't have come at a better time.
 
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