There’s not much you can say about the Neumann U87 microphone that hasn’t already been said. Often referred to as the holy grail of mics, it is found in every major studio in the world. And you have heard it on countless recordings; in fact, it is estimated that more number one chart hit vocals have been recorded with a U87 than any other microphone in history.
So why would you want to find the Best U87 Alternative?
There are a couple of reasons, of course, and I will come back to that. This mic is recognized as being the pinnacle of mics for recording vocals. But it has a variety of applications and is great for acoustic instruments, overheads, and as a room mic.
Neumann- Some Things Are Meant To Be
If you look at the history of this company, you will see that something somewhere preserved them to give us the U87. Founded in 1923 in Berlin, their factory was firebombed in 1943.
After moving eastwards, they were taken over by the Soviet Communist regime at the end of the war. They were claimed as a ‘state-owned’ business whether they liked it or not.
If it hadn’t been for reunification and the fall of the Berlin Wall, we might never have seen them again. But we had to wait until that history-changing event. Then they could look through a hole in the wall and say hello. We are still here.
Was It Worth The Wait?
Ask Sinatra or Presley. Bing Crosby or the Beatles. I think it probably was.
But It Didn’t Suddenly Arrive
The U87 didn’t just arrive. In 1947, Neumann released a great condenser mic, which would become a legend, the appropriately named U47.
The performance was mind-boggling. The detail and tonal quality are almost incomparable. One of the greatest mics ever made, with good vintage examples now being sold for around $20,000.
Fast Forward to 1967
It was a year to remember for many reasons.
- Vietnam was gaining intensity.
- The murder of unarmed Kent State anti-Vietnam protesting University students by the US National Guard a few months before was having national repercussions.
- Dr. Christian Barnard performed the first heart transplant.
- The First Monterey Rock Festival took place.
- The Arabs attacked Israel to start the Yom Kippur War.
- And… Neumann released the successor to the U47, the U67.
And twenty years later, when a lot less was happening, along came the U87
Why Is It So Good?
Notice I said ‘is’ and not ‘was.’ It is very good, but it is expensive and sounds like it. It is versatile as well. We all know it for vocals, as I’ve said, but it performs well with so much more.
Is There Anything Wrong with It?
‘Wrong’ is is not the right word to use. If you are saying ‘wrong,’ then no, there isn’t. But there might be a couple of things that might cause you a problem, namely…
Usually, the more sensitive the mic, the better, allowing it to pick up every nuance of the performance, especially with vocals. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes it can be a bit counterproductive.
If the room or the booth you are using it in is not quite acoustically perfect, you will pick up reflections. Every little detail is going to be snapped up. Things that would not be a problem with other ‘lessor’ mics can suddenly become a problem.
If your recording space is in this category, then you might well be better off with the best, less-sensitive U87 alternative.
Sensitivity pales into insignificance when we start talking about the price point. The price tag will probably fall outside of what most people could afford to spend.
Some think it’s too expensive. Some say the same about a Bentley. Neither of them are. You get what you pay for in both cases. However, those that say it is too expensive do have something in common with the critics of the car. If you have never driven a Bentley, you simply won’t understand. And if you’ve never recorded with a U87, the same will apply.
And this, of course, is incredibly relevant, in that most people who are recording will just not be able to afford to buy a ‘real’ U87. Therefore it’s best to start looking around for an alternative, so here are some great suggestions starting with the…
Top 4 Best U87 Alternative For The Money in 2021 Reviews
1 Neumann TLM 103 Condenser Microphone – Best Quality U87 Alternative
Let’s start with another microphone from Neumann. The TLM 103 has enough quality of performance to be considered as a great alternative to the U87. And at about half the price, it has plenty going for it.
Some Obvious Differences
This is not a mic that can compete with the U87 in terms of versatility; I ought to make that clear. It has just a single Cardioid polar pattern instead of the multiple patterns of its cousin.
Plus, there are no filter switches and no pads to give you that optimal performance for any instrument in any scenario. So it will not be able to be used in some recording situations. There are no hidden wonders; it is a ‘what you see is what you get’ mic.
Good For Vocals
Despite what appears to be some features lacking, it is still a good mic for vocals. I am using the word ‘good,’ not ‘great,’ you will notice. You can’t refer to a mic as ‘great’ when in the presence of the U87, which is ‘great.’
The frequency response is rather flat but has a small boost at 4kHz. That can make the production of the sound a little bright at times. That can be a good thing, but sometimes it is not what is required. For example, if you are working with a singer who has a naturally harsh tone, it could end up a little bright in the mix.
However, the sound balance is achieved with some nice low mids that deliver a warm natural tone, a feature that is often present in Neumann mics. It is no different here, and that is one of the reasons this is a decent alternative.
It has a strong build and a nice aesthetic design and is quite compact in its styling. Not the cheapest option I will look at, but if you want a mic that produces good vocals and don’t need a lot of versatility, it is a good option.
- Nice warm-sounding low mids.
- Compact and strong design and build.
- Not particularly versatile.
2 Warm Audio WA-87 Vintage-Style Condenser Microphone – Best Affordable U87 Alternative
Next in my Best U87 Alternative review, I have a mic that might be new to some but is certainly worth a look and has some great built-in versatility.
Is It a Clone?
Not really, but it isn’t hard to see what they have tried to do in the design of this mic. Apart from its looks, it has some interesting design features.
Like the U87, it is a large diaphragm mic that has three polar patterns. Cardioid, Figure of 8, and Omnidirectional are all easily accessible. That gives it a certain versatility. And there is a switch that will give you bass roll-off.
It does quite well with a nice mid-range and a strong presence boost. And when compared with other mics at a similar price range, it does very well. But we are not discussing that market.
It lacks a bit of warmth when compared with more expensive mics. That comparison comes into stark focus when you compare it to the U87.
Some Good Points
But it is probably unfair to make a comparison when comparing the price points of both. But it does have some big assets. The high SPL means it handles sources that are loud easily, even with the 10dB pad turned off.
Also, it is based more on the original U87 rather than today’s updated version, which some will like. The original was not as bright at the top end as the modern version can be.
If you can live with the sound not having the warmth associated with a real U87, then at this price point, it is certainly worth considering as an alternative.
- A good-looking build and is a versatile mic with a nice mid-range.
- Hands-on controls make it easy to operate.
- Very affordable.
- It does lack some warmth in the sound.
3 Peluso P-87 Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic – Best Looking U87 Alternative
Just like the Neumann TLM103 I looked at; the P87 is less than half the price of the Neumann. However, this mic is actually more similar to the U87 in many ways.
Peluso has made this mic closely resemble the U87 without making it look like a knock-off copy. It has a similar tough exterior, so it even feels like it when you pick it up. But does it sound like a U87?
The Frequency response is the fairly standard 20Hz to 20000Hz. Up to 1.5kHz, it is rather flat but begins to lift after that point. It has a balanced sound, though, so you don’t get any harshness at the top end.
It has three polar patterns, Cardioid, Figure of 8, and Omnidirectional. These are controlled by a three-position switch on the front.
There is a low-frequency roll-off switch on the back of the mic. This is a useful addition as it counteracts the proximity effect that can happen with vocals recorded too close to the mic.
There is also a -10dB pad to add some lower gain. This is also useful when working with drums, guitar cabinets, or brass instruments. Add to this the high SPL, and you have a very versatile mic that can cope with most things.
A Decent Effort
I don’t think for a moment Peluso thought they could equal the U87 in quality and performance. But they have done a good job in creating a very good mic indeed. And with many of the same attributes, if not the overall sound.
The price point isn’t cheap, but of course, it is nowhere near the U87, making it a good alternative option.
- Very good SPL and low self-noise.
- Well made with some quality sound production features.
- Doesn’t cut through the mix as well as some microphones.
4 AKG Pro Audio C414 XLII Vocal Condenser Microphone – Most Versatile U87 Alternative
Let’s close this look at the best alternatives to the Neumann U87 with another masterpiece. AKG made some great mics over the years, and the C414 was one of them. And it’s another mic that you will find in all the high-end studios around the world.
Made An Impact
As soon as the C414 was released in 1971, it made an impact. Now it has carved out for itself a special place in microphones.
It is known, like the U87, for the quality of its vocal recording. But it also works just as well with other instruments, especially ‘live’ guitars, especially acoustics, and is also great as an overhead mic.
Some ‘Good’ Features
Five separate polar patterns make up the significant design of the mic. Cardioid, SuperCardioid, Hyper-cardioid, Omnidirectional, and Figure of 8. The features go further with low-frequency roll-off, with access to 40Hz, 80Hz, or 160Hz roll-off at the flick of a switch.
Even further, in case you are working with a loud source. You can choose to use either a 0db, 6db, 12db, or an 18db pad.
If one of the reasons you want the U87 is versatility, then say hello to the C414. A great, versatile mic at a price point that says it’s worth every penny. A bit like a Bentley, really.
- Good build that produces a warm vocal sound.
- Packed with AKG nohow and features.
Looking for more superb microphone options?
Then check out my comprehensive reviews of the Best Vocal Mics, the Best Condenser Microphones, the Best Microphones Recording for Electric Guitar, the Best Microphones for Recording Rap Vocals, the Best Live Vocal Mic, the Best XLR Microphones, the Best Dynamic Microphones as well as the Best USB Microphones you can buy in 2021.
So, what is the Best U87 Alternative?
Some Great Mics, I’ve only looked at a few, but all of them have some impressive features. Although trying to truly compare anything to the mighty U87 is rather futile. But if the price of one is too much, as it will be for many, then you need an alternative, and that’s what I’ve tried to give you in a range of different price points.
In terms of my personal favorite, the Peluso is very impressive, but if I had to choose, I would go with the…
An outstanding mic in every respect and highly recommended if a U87 is outside your budget.