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Neumann M149 - honest assessment for acoustic/remote
The Listener
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#1
13th January 2012
Old 13th January 2012
  #1
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Talking Neumann M149 - honest assessment for acoustic/remote

Ok,

I have never seen more controversy and (bi)polar assessment for any other microphone. I must admit it confused me a bit, too, because I have a strong affinity for the "no bullshit" sound of Gefell UM70 and because the list price of that mic is (IMO) exaggerated.

I only had a chance to speak, mock sing into it and played some percussion yesterday on M149 - but for percussion I use other things anyway... and also UM70 is great in combination with some dynamic mics and a stereo pair of Line Audio CM3 works great, too, so do KSM141 with a different taste and I expect the DPAs (or Schoeps) to be THE SHIT for what I want to do and capture.

What is your honest assessment of that mic. In technical terms and for the application in classical, jazz, world music. It is certainly fine for pop vocals and audio books, but so is UM70 with a different twist. M149 can impart a bit more "expensive", "big act" mojo to lead vocals though.

My reservations / observations:

- price - exaggerated - but I can get it for around 2200 EUR, which is among the best second price for a Jubilee edition I saw anywhere on the net - it is a practically new mic, bought in 2010, still in guarantee.

Still - you can get almost 3 used UM70 for that price, which are in the same ballpark and subjectively better for some applications.

- some engineering details are less than stellar for such a high end mic - the cable to PSU - connectors are cheap and difficult to connect, leaving a bad first impression on that level of equipment, the Jubilee edition at least has a nicer PSU - at least cosmetically. The mic itself is fine, even though the design for this Jubilee edition is a bit on a kitchy side - I like raw, serious, industrial design a la Schoeps, DPA, Gefell, vintage Neumann, but looks are not that important.

- positioning - it is a workhorse mic, but because of the size it is not as practical as SDCs or DPA LDCs or Gefell UM70 which is great for that...

- voicing - the "sheen" can be nice - bottom end is great, the mids are there and it takes EQ well, with a few strokes you can get anything - the different patterns allow many different sounds, you can be creative, but the raw first impression was, that UM70 was more "focused" or let's say - homogenous, especially in the cans when speaking into it - you really hear your voice like you are naturally, but I learned to appreciate the "tube" coloration that sounds lovely on the speakers - still - listening back at yourself while speaking felt less natural in the cans, compared to UM70. But for pop vocals, the "better than real" which remains recorded can be very welcome.

- Loud voice - it does seem to want ot "shrink" or compress and become tinier when yelled at, compared to UM70 that seems to hold better - but is that maybe the tube thing? Tube distortion vs. transformer smoothing things out in UM70? Can this be modded? Why didn't they if more people noticed it?
Or is that only positioning thing.

- do any of you use it for classical, audiophile jazz, world, etc.? How does it compare in omni to M150? Someone commented that M149 doesn't have "true omni" - why? Because it becomes more figure of 8 at 16kHz? I guess that makes it different from M150, too? But still - would you use it as AB pair if 150 is not available?

- how loud can the brown noise of the tube be? The mic is from 2010, so I doubt the tube would be worn out already, but somewhere at the same (low) level of the self noise of UM70 with a 692 (yesterday I was testing it with the noisier 691), there is this tube "ocean" heard - even with this bit of noise it is quieter than vintage UM70, but not "black silent" - should it be, or is that a normal tube thing or is that a sign to change the tube?

Any other words of wisdom, observations about this mic? Should I pass even for 2200EUR, for a practically new jubilee edition or is it worth the money? I can only test it for a day or two and it's not enough to get a complete picture - because the UM70 is so good, I was not blown away in comparison, but it felt like a nice and useful mic for any applications. The schizophrenic state of comments on the web influences one's perceptions even if I try to ignore it and rely on what I hear myself. YOu always think - hmmm - maybe they had more experience, etc. I trust the opinions of guys around this part of the forum a bit more with your "tonmeister" expertise.

And also - technically - do you know if the modifications by certain Andreas Grosser from Berlin can really make it closer to M49, just with a custom cable and PSU? What do those tweaks consist of and why hasn't Neumann implemented them through the years, if it would make it an even better mic? Can the cable make such difference - I mean, wouldn't Neumann change that in that price range, when a 100$ cable wouldn't make much of a price difference?

Any serious engineering flaws in this mic? Do they try to trick with some cheap solutions even on that level or is everything as it should be for such a high end mic? Why is it so HOT, it is a bit weird that it has such a high output, completely different from most others. Just checking...
#2
13th January 2012
Old 13th January 2012
  #2
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Plush's Avatar
I have been using this mic and we also have the Gefell mics here too.

Your post asks some good questions and also raises some questions and issues about the specific used mic you are interested in getting.

You're all over the map with your assumptions and observations, so perhaps I can give you some perspective.

This is the #1 top of the line microphone from Neumann. It is an incredible sound with ability to portray width, girth, very deep bass and with a sparkle-y top end. It is a greatly admired microphone in the recording world but not here on GS.

The mic is expensive new and the price you have been offered is a very good price if the microphone is in good condition.

The beauty part about this mic is the extensively variable pattern control and the sparkle-y sound.

For example set the mic in the cardioid pattern and both front and back capsules are active. the mic is portraying a good cardioid pattern. Now move the pattern selector one click towards hypercardioid. Now the mic has shut off the rear diaphragm and is a tighter cardioid with greater sound rejection from the rear. EACH intermediate position on this mic gives a different sound.

So an afternoon experimenting with the mic is not nearly long enough to discover its flexibility.

There is nothing cheap build on the mic. That's a GS myth. It uses a tuchel connector---get over it.

You cannot turn the M149 in to an M150 sound because the M149 is a dual diaphragm design, because it's capsule is not set in an acoustic sphere, and because the M150 is a small capsule design.

But the M149 is not made to imitate an olden tube mic--it is its own sound. There should be no noise from the mic, so if there is noise, then something is wrong with the one you are looking at.

Gefell is a completely different sound family. Use Neumann and Gefell but don't wonder why one does not sound like the other one. Ask yourself why should it sound like a mic different from itself??

Neumann M149 is fairly unforgiving in its pick-up. The player / singer / instrumentalist has to play well because nothing is hidden or fuzzed over by the way the M149 picks up sound.

Early versions of this microphone had tubes failing and then Neumann changed to a different tube. Since the one you are looking at is fairly recent, it has the new, better quality tube. If it is making noise, then it is defective.

Ask the seller why they are selling it. If you do not feel you are getting a good answer to the question, then maybe pass on the mic.

Here in the USA the new price is around $3800.

Best from Chicago,

Plush-FLFush
Quote
1
#3
13th January 2012
Old 13th January 2012
  #3
Gear addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
...
For example set the mic in the cardioid pattern and both front and back capsules are active. the mic is portraying a good cardioid pattern...
???????

In most dual diaphragm mics cardioid is front diaphragm only. Both front and back in phase is omni. Both front and back phase inverted is bidirectional. In between is in between.

Fran
#4
13th January 2012
Old 13th January 2012
  #4
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Plush's Avatar
Hello Fran,

Certainly you are right in general. When set in cardioid position, I should have said that the rear capsule is "on," instead of me saying it is "active." Then, curiously, moving the pattern selector one more notch--towards hypercard., turns the rear capsule off.

So what one hears in the cardioid position is a little more sound from the front reaching around to the rear capsule and also more air captured in cardioid position. To imitate a single diaphragm cardioid sound, one has to move one click towards hypercard.

I had to learn this on the mic and there are a bunch of other "hidden to learn" features / operational tricks to learn about this microphone.
#5
13th January 2012
Old 13th January 2012
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
You cannot turn the M149 in to an M150 sound because the M149 is a dual diaphragm design, because it's capsule is not set in an acoustic sphere, and because the M149 is a small capsule design.
M150 is the small caps design, typo?

We purchased an early M149 because it was one of the most stunning mics ever heard around these parts. Paired with a top class pre, this is, and was for us, sonic heaven. We had to sell as we did not use it that much, don't use many spots in our business, to fund other SDC mics.

We have two M150's as well and they are a different animal, but also superb.
#6
13th January 2012
Old 13th January 2012
  #6
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Plush's Avatar
Thankyasomuch, David. I have corrected my mis-typing above.

Viva Neumann!
The Listener
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#7
13th January 2012
Old 13th January 2012
  #7
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Dear Plush, you speak wisely. I bought the mic today, even before I read this reply. The seller is a very good young r'n'b singer and he sold it, since he prefers Sony C800g for his voice and the mic was lying there unused. It is fine, the noise I am speaking of is very low, heard only when the gain is veeery open and that might be the normal tube noise. I am interested for what applications did you use it and if you care to mention more of the "hidden" things to learn that you hinted at... Best
#8
14th January 2012
Old 14th January 2012
  #8
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Larry Elliott's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Early versions of this microphone had tubes failing and then Neumann changed to a different tube. Since the one you are looking at is fairly recent, it has the new, better quality tube. If it is making noise, then it is defective.
I purchased two of these in 2001 when I was working at the School of Music, and both were very sensitive to picking up "electrical noise". Perhaps there were the early models. Other than that they were spectacular microphones.
#9
14th January 2012
Old 14th January 2012
  #9
Gear addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Hello Fran,

Certainly you are right in general. When set in cardioid position, I should have said that the rear capsule is "on," instead of me saying it is "active." Then, curiously, moving the pattern selector one more notch--towards hypercard., turns the rear capsule off.

So what one hears in the cardioid position is a little more sound from the front reaching around to the rear capsule and also more air captured in cardioid position. To imitate a single diaphragm cardioid sound, one has to move one click towards hypercard.

I had to learn this on the mic and there are a bunch of other "hidden to learn" features / operational tricks to learn about this microphone.
Could you clarify one more degree, please? Are you describing your understanding of the electrical operation of the mic or your impression based on your listening?

Thanks,
Fran
#10
14th January 2012
Old 14th January 2012
  #10
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didier.brest's Avatar
The first users of the M49 have experienced that the true cardioid position (which, I guess, is the one where the rear sensitivity is minimum) is a bit beyond the cardioid mark towards omni on the continuous directivity setting located on the PSU. They used to write a mark on the PSU for this setting. Then there is a bit of the rear capsule signal in the mic signal. Neumann took into account this experience in the M149 design, which is the reason why the rear capsule is active at the cardioid setting and is not a step further towards figure-of-eight (intermediate setting between cardioid and hypercardioid). This story was told by Martin Schneider on the Neumann forum.
The M149 sound is warm. I like it. It is rather quiet as a tube microphone. I did not experience any noise issue.
#11
14th January 2012
Old 14th January 2012
  #11
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Plush's Avatar
Hello Fran,

I make my comments above from using and listening to the mic. So I learned it by making a lot of experiments with the mic and by varying the pick-up patterns while hearing the same instruments.

So curiosity led me to learn about it.
#12
14th January 2012
Old 14th January 2012
  #12
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Don S's Avatar
 

M149 is one my favorites. The only reason I don't own a pair is that the power supply in a concert/remote setup can be pain. On vocal and piano, the mic shines, and the many patterns are a huge plus when any acoustic instrument.
The Listener
Thread Starter
#13
28th February 2012
Old 28th February 2012
  #13
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I am enjoying using this mic for a few weeks now and I really don't understand why some people (mostly form other parts of the forum) talk so much shit about it. True, I would never pay 4000 EUR for it, because I can't afford it and I also don't think ANY mic should cost that much. But this is an excellent mic (if you can get it for around 2200 EUR like I did)

I can't attach some great female vocal recordings I was able to do recently, but I can attach one song we just did for one documentary and I used it in a combination with UM70 for my favorite non-stereo two mic technique for close recording of guitars and guitar-like instruments - M149 was closer to the neck aiming at the the center of the oud, some 70cm away (in one click away from omni setting), UM70 was in figure 8 aiming at the body of the instrument a bit further away. Sort of this mic position, just a tad further away from the instrument in my case: Andrew McEvoy - Classical Guitar - Part 1 - YouTube

Both mics into DAV BG1U. I really like the sound and I never got quite the same sound with just Gefell UM70 and M70 combination, although it was also good.
I feel like entering the ECM territory (Anouar Brahem kind of sounds, but not playing unfortunately for this musician ) But if the right source is there - I can do it.

The piano is unfortunately artificial and heavily "acousticized" with mixing trickery. It was quite less convincing raw.
Attached Files
File Type: mp3 piano & oud.mp3 (9.37 MB, 258 views)
#14
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
  #14
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rumleymusic's Avatar
Quote:
Could you clarify one more degree, please? Are you describing your understanding of the electrical operation of the mic or your impression based on your listening?
To be correct about the electrical operation of any dual diaphragm mic, in cardioid position the back capsule is off. In Omni the back capsule is on in positive polarity. In figure 8, the back capsule is on in opposite polarity to the front. Every other position is a variation of polarity and levels.
#15
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
  #15
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Plush's Avatar
The above is a good summary. The TLM 149 is a little unusual in regard to the pattern selector, however.

When set to cardioid mode, the back capsule is still on. When you move one more click towards hyper-cardioid on the pattern selector, the back capsule turns off. Weird huh?

So THAT intermediate position is the one to use if you want a traditional cardioid response.
#16
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
  #16
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Matti's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Hello Fran,
moving the pattern selector one more notch--towards hypercard., turns the rear capsule off.
Tell me more, doesn´t seem likely, have you measured the voltages coming to the capsule?

Matti
#17
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
  #17
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rumleymusic's Avatar
Quote:
Tell me more, doesn´t seem likely, have you measured the voltages coming to the capsule?
It just means the front capsule is not a perfect cardioid and needs a little of the back to flesh it out. Every microphone has its quirks. It could also be a result of the body shape or design. I'm sure they know what they are doing.
#18
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
  #18
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Plush's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matti View Post
Tell me more, doesn´t seem likely, have you measured the voltages coming to the capsule?

Matti
No I have not measured the voltages at the capsule but I have listened. That's the way that particular mic behaves. It's not on the manual either. Do the experiment and you can hear it. Others here on GS have taught me about this peculiarity.
#19
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
  #19
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didier.brest's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
The above is a good summary. The M 149 is a little unusual in regard to the pattern selector, however.

When set to cardioid mode, the back capsule is still on. When you move one more click towards hyper-cardioid on the pattern selector, the back capsule turns off. Weird huh?
I gave the reason of this in my previous post: to get the directivity closest to a true cardioid, the rear capsule has to be activated. See for instance this post on the Neumann forum. There is a more detailed explanation by Martin Schneider but I cannot retrieve it at this moment.
The Listener
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#20
29th February 2012
Old 29th February 2012
  #20
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From just listening I really like the mic in the positions from the "cardioid" towards "omni". I don't see a reason to even want a "traditional" cardioid, be it from just front membrane or both combined, since a bit wider cardioid positions sound more natural to me and still focused enough. Omni is the best sounding position of this mic if the room allows it, but for just a bit more directional focus a click or two towards the cardioid position is very nice, too. It worked in figure 8 as a SIDE mic in MS in my quick tests and you can get darker and intimate VO tones in hypercardioid setting, but you need to EQ some high end back if dealing with darker voices. So, all positions are useful and I also became friend with low cut filters and heard where it is useful in close recording, I never went past 80Hz, though.

I wouldn't get too anal-ytic about which setting is true cardioid, it matters where the mic pics up sound in the most pleasing manner, no? And it's in wider cardioid settings (to my aesthetic preference).
#21
1st March 2012
Old 1st March 2012
  #21
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Remoteness's Avatar
I'm with Plush on this one.

I own two of them and get great results capturing live jazz performances.

The only problem I have is the fact that GS members do not trash this Mic enough; the used price on this mic is still pretty high.

GS did a great job bringing the used price of the True Systems P8 down, so I thank you for that. I was able to grab a few mint pieces at a steal.

That said, it seems like the used P8 prices went up again; perhaps folks have noticed that I'm using them a lot. Heh

Come on GS, get it together - I want at least two more of these mics and a few more P8s;
Remember, these products should be trashed for all the reasons you have heard here on GS!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
I have been using this mic and we also have the Gefell mics here too.

Your post asks some good questions and also raises some questions and issues about the specific used mic you are interested in getting.

You're all over the map with your assumptions and observations, so perhaps I can give you some perspective.

This is the #1 top of the line microphone from Neumann. It is an incredible sound with ability to portray width, girth, very deep bass and with a sparkle-y top end. It is a greatly admired microphone in the recording world but not here on GS.

The mic is expensive new and the price you have been offered is a very good price if the microphone is in good condition.

The beauty part about this mic is the extensively variable pattern control and the sparkle-y sound.

For example set the mic in the cardioid pattern and both front and back capsules are active. the mic is portraying a good cardioid pattern. Now move the pattern selector one click towards hypercardioid. Now the mic has shut off the rear diaphragm and is a tighter cardioid with greater sound rejection from the rear. EACH intermediate position on this mic gives a different sound.

So an afternoon experimenting with the mic is not nearly long enough to discover its flexibility.

There is nothing cheap build on the mic. That's a GS myth. It uses a tuchel connector---get over it.

You cannot turn the M149 in to an M150 sound because the M149 is a dual diaphragm design, because it's capsule is not set in an acoustic sphere, and because the M150 is a small capsule design.

But the M149 is not made to imitate an olden tube mic--it is its own sound. There should be no noise from the mic, so if there is noise, then something is wrong with the one you are looking at.

Gefell is a completely different sound family. Use Neumann and Gefell but don't wonder why one does not sound like the other one. Ask yourself why should it sound like a mic different from itself??

Neumann M149 is fairly unforgiving in its pick-up. The player / singer / instrumentalist has to play well because nothing is hidden or fuzzed over by the way the M149 picks up sound.

Early versions of this microphone had tubes failing and then Neumann changed to a different tube. Since the one you are looking at is fairly recent, it has the new, better quality tube. If it is making noise, then it is defective.

Ask the seller why they are selling it. If you do not feel you are getting a good answer to the question, then maybe pass on the mic.

Here in the USA the new price is around $3800.

Best from Chicago,

Plush-FLFush
Quote
1
#22
1st March 2012
Old 1st March 2012
  #22
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rumleymusic's Avatar
Quote:
Remember, these products should be trashed for all the reasons you have heard here on GS!
...on second thought what kind of terrible design is a hypercardioid front capsule. What was Neumann thinking!? Did you also know the capsule is mostly plastic, what kind of cheap junk is that? I wouldn't use an M149 if they were giving it away.

.
.
.

did it work?
#23
1st March 2012
Old 1st March 2012
  #23
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
Yes, it is indeed cheap junk. I wouldn't pay more than $1000.00 USD for that mic used; maybe even less.


I believe it may be working!

Must check eBay in a few days.


Quote:
Originally Posted by rumleymusic View Post
...on second thought what kind of terrible design is a hypercardioid front capsule. What was Neumann thinking!? Did you also know the capsule is mostly plastic, what kind of cheap junk is that? I wouldn't use an M149 if they were giving it away.

.
.
.

did it work?
The Listener
Thread Starter
#24
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #24
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The Listener's Avatar
 

Thread Starter
Ah, on the second thought, I tried recording bass clarinet with it and it came out sounding like piccolo, the oud came out so fine because of UM70 I used along with it and the vocals I thought sounded great came out that well because the singer is really good and she can sound good on anything, I am now SORRY I didn't use some other mic on her, since it could be much better.















...you check the US ebay and leave the German one to me.
#25
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #25
Super Moderator
 
Remoteness's Avatar
Thank you for helping the cause and affect...

The German site is all yours my GS friend!

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Listener View Post
Ah, on the second thought, I tried recording bass clarinet with it and it came out sounding like piccolo, the oud came out so fine because of UM70 I used along with it and the vocals I thought sounded great came out that well because the singer is really good and she can sound good on anything, I am now SORRY I didn't use some other mic on her, since it could be much better.















...you check the US ebay and leave the German one to me.
#26
2nd March 2012
Old 2nd March 2012
  #26
Gear addict
 
Bibster's Avatar
 

I particularly enjoy the new turn this thread has taken... "honest assessment"..
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