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U87 Ribbon Microphones
Old 17th March 2016
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
Kroc's Avatar
U87

I just bought a beautiful vintage U87 on eBay, and it arrived today.
It is in excellent condition for its age. It sounds awesome, and seems to work perfectly. There's just one problem:
When I took it out of the box, I noticed a rattling noise. I took it apart, and found it was coming from the headbasket. After I eventually mustered the courage to unscrewed it and carefully take off the grill, I discovered there was a tiny chip in the end of the diaphragm case, and the piece that had fallen off was shaking around inside. (See pics below)
I took it out and put the microphone back together, and it still sounds beautiful and seems to work fine.

So here's my question: will this likely affect the sound or performance of the microphone in the long run? And if so, should I return it rather than putting up with the hassle?
Or should I just let it slide, considering it's a beautiful, well-kept specimen in every other regard?
What would you do if you were me?



Old 17th March 2016
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
So here's my question: will this likely affect the sound or performance of the microphone in the long run? And if so, should I return it rather than putting up with the hassle?
Or should I just let it slide, considering it's a beautiful, well-kept specimen in every other regard?
What would you do if you were me?
Based on everything you've said, you should keep it, and get to making beautiful music with it. Since you already have the head basket open, just ensure any free floating pieces are removed before you close her back up.
Old 17th March 2016
  #3
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RoundBadge's Avatar
dab of superglue.
hit record.
Old 17th March 2016
  #4
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John Willett's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kroc View Post
I just bought a beautiful vintage U87 on eBay, and it arrived today.
It is in excellent condition for its age. It sounds awesome, and seems to work perfectly. There's just one problem:
When I took it out of the box, I noticed a rattling noise. I took it apart, and found it was coming from the headbasket. After I eventually mustered the courage to unscrewed it and carefully take off the grill, I discovered there was a tiny chip in the end of the diaphragm case, and the piece that had fallen off was shaking around inside. (See pics below)
I took it out and put the microphone back together, and it still sounds beautiful and seems to work fine.

So here's my question: will this likely affect the sound or performance of the microphone in the long run? And if so, should I return it rather than putting up with the hassle?
Or should I just let it slide, considering it's a beautiful, well-kept specimen in every other regard?
What would you do if you were me?



I would have it looked at by Neumann.

I would look *very* carefully at the diaphragm to see if the broken part has caused any damage by rattling around.

It also looks as if the diaphragm my need cleaning - not too sure at the camera angle.

Though if it is in excellent condition otherwise and the price was good, I would certainly consider it a "keeper".
Old 17th March 2016
  #5
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Barish's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoundBadge View Post
dab of superglue.
hit record.
Don't.

The fumes of a cyanoacrylate glue may damage the holes on the diaphragm.

Ain't broke soundwise, don't fix it.

M.
Old 17th March 2016
  #6
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

You have to wonder what kind of whack it would take to knock that thing off, and how it didn't damage anything else. Have you tried all three patterns on the mic?
Old 17th March 2016
  #7
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Kroc's Avatar
Thanks for the great feedback!!

Apart from this chip, it's in near-immaculate condition, without any major dents or dings, and with the plastic toggle switches still intact. It's a 1971 model, and has only had two owners in that time. So it doesn't seem like it had been smashed around, and looks near-new for a 45-year-old mic.
It's certainly a weird place for a chip to happen. It's not exactly exposed! But the piece is absolutely tiny, and very light, so I'd be surprised if it damaged the capsule. However, I've never dealt with that kind of problem, and this is my first vintage microphone purchase, hence this thread.
Also, I just checked and all the polar patterns seem to work.
Here's a better photo of the chip, with a nano SIM and ruler for scale:



Here are a couple other photos of the capsule. They're not the best - I wanted to minimize the amount of exposure time the capsule had outside the headbasket in my dusty NY apartment, and just snapped these quickly:



Old 17th March 2016
  #8
I think the bigger problem other than the chip (which is not a problem at all), is the foam. It's over 40 years old now, so everything that falls of (because of deteriation, age, air blasts, vibration, spit), will end up on capsule. I would change it, or remove it altogether. Otherwise the cleaning would be necessary, like the one on the picture.
The Neumann mic guru: "The sponge was discontinued a long time ago for reasons unknown to me. Maybe because it has a tendency to shred foam particles after a while. When that starts to happen, it's best to just remove it. I have not made any tests to compare the sound of the mic with and without the foam, but am sure that the domed capsule base does most of the suppression of sound reflections."
Attached Thumbnails
U87-4_before.jpg-original.jpeg  
Old 17th March 2016
  #9
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pongmaster's Avatar
 

hi kroc
i don't understand the panic here, not from you, from some other guys. you have a perfect vintage u87.
it will not affect the sonics, other parameters of parts and aging are MUCH bigger.
i have about 30 vintage neumanns and always did small repairs myself, but that aside,
your u87 is in very nice condition and its working beautifully.
if you have a steady hand, just take a q-tip, with a little bit of epoxy on both parts and repair that little nothing for completeness reason.
i don't know what superglue is, and i don't believe it could do harm from the gas, but just take epoxy.
Old 17th March 2016
  #10
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Kroc's Avatar
And just for fun and reference, here's a sound clip I just did.
https://soundcloud.com/dankrochmal/1...test-1/s-nC7iP
Old 17th March 2016
  #11
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Klaus's Avatar
 

Neumann installs Nylon collars on all of its U87/U87Ai capsules to prevent material distortion of the diaphragm rings, should they ever hit the inside wall of the wedge shaped basket.

This can happen when the elastically mounted capsule whiplashes during sudden deceleration (fall, bump, hit) and its movement is stopped by the basket. The collar absorbs the impact force and transfers the energy, via the two mounting screws, to the capsule's backplate, where its absorption does not cause harm.

The broken off piece on your collar indicates that such a whiplash impact has happened. And it must have been quite substantial, because the Nylon rarely breaks, due to the material elasticity (hence epoxy will not work to fix it).

Have Neumann/Berlin ship up you a new collar (they may even do that for free, if you ask nicely!) and inspect the edge of the diaphragms for any signs of wrinkles.
Old 17th March 2016
  #12
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pongmaster's Avatar
 

there is perfect epoxy for nylon, but klaus' idea for a new part is much better
Old 17th March 2016
  #13
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Klaus's Avatar
 

Can you share a brand name? I have not had much luck with the long-term durability of epoxy/nylon bonds. Soft, elastic Nylon material almost acts like lubricant between it and the usually harder, stiffer epoxy.
Old 17th March 2016
  #14
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Motoxxx's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaus View Post
Can you share a brand name? I have not had much luck with the long-term durability of epoxy/nylon bonds. Soft, elastic Nylon material almost acts like lubricant between it and the usually harder, stiffer epoxy.
I just used a plastic epoxy to fix something...now what was it?......it was awesome but had as many fumes if not more than Superglue does....

This is the stuff I used. :
Loctite Epoxy Plastic Bonder 0.85-Fluid Ounce Syringe (1363118 ) - Acrylic Epoxy - Amazon.com
Old 17th March 2016
  #15
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pongmaster's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaus View Post
Can you share a brand name? I have not had much luck with the long-term durability of epoxy/nylon bonds. Soft, elastic Nylon material almost acts like lubricant between it and the usually harder, stiffer epoxy.
if it happens to be really tricky you must get expert-advice or try some stuff out, but there is a solution for pretty much anything chemically. its a very big industry in materials science and technology.
if you have a (really important) problem and no solution and the effort is worth it, then i can give you good advice to call your Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology- they're usually very helpful.
maybe there is also a glue-slutz forum?
Old 17th March 2016
  #16
Here for the gear
 

The biggest mistake I have ever made, is selling my original 1970 U87. I was the original owner..It was in perfect condition...only used in my home studio..no dents.
****But..over the years..the foam windscreen, which covered the top half( and that is what we used back in the day) had broken down and lightly filled the wire mess. It is something you can not see by the naked eye. The person I sold it to, told me that he had notice a few DB down in level in comparison with other u87's, and took it to a pro who diagnosed it with foam in the screen.
So I would recommend you really clean that screen before you reassemble it. Don't know if it is true...but Neumann wanted an arm and a leg to clean it! or at least that is what I was told at the time.
I stepped out of recording for 30 years..I would love to hear your take on what you find the u87 has over some of the modern mics of today.
Old 17th March 2016
  #17
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I forgot to address the TS question about the acoustic foam filter mounted below the capsule. These rarely deteriorate, much more rarely than the material would suggest.
Test: rub a finger hard against the foam positioned over a white sheet of paper. If flakes are visible on the paper, removed the foam by carefully cutting it off around the lead out wires which are fed through the foam.

The same rub test applied to external wind socks, and these are much more dangerous for the diaphragm's health than the filter foam at the base of the capsule: if you see black specs on the white paper throw the wind sock away.
Old 17th March 2016
  #18
Gear Maniac
 
Kroc's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaus View Post
I forgot to address the TS question about the acoustic foam filter mounted below the capsule. These rarely deteriorate, much more rarely than the material would suggest.
Test: rub a finger hard against the foam positioned over a white sheet of paper. If flakes are visible on the paper, removed the foam by carefully cutting it off around the lead out wires which are fed through the foam.

The same rub test applied to external wind socks, and these are much more dangerous for the diaphragm's health than the filter foam at the base of the capsule: if you see black specs on the white paper throw the wind sock away.
Hi Klaus! Thanks for pitching in.
I've wanted a vintage U87 for many years now, and have read many of your posts, and very much appreciate you sharing your knowledge here.

That's interesting about the nylon collar being for shock absorption. It was shipped to NYC from Florida, so perhaps Fedex got a bit rough. It was well-packed otherwise though, so that would explain how the chip happened in spite of a complete lack of external damage. Say, if someone dropped the box.

I'll open it up again and have a look at the capsule to check for wrinkles, and check the foam.

Otherwise, I'm really enjoying this mic so far. I'm a little bit scared by how good it sounds. I just threw it up and live-tracked acoustic guitar/vocals together in my untreated apartment, and it barely needed any EQ. ^_^
Old 19th March 2016
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
Kroc's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaus View Post
Neumann installs Nylon collars on all of its U87/U87Ai capsules to prevent material distortion of the diaphragm rings, should they ever hit the inside wall of the wedge shaped basket.

This can happen when the elastically mounted capsule whiplashes during sudden deceleration (fall, bump, hit) and its movement is stopped by the basket. The collar absorbs the impact force and transfers the energy, via the two mounting screws, to the capsule's backplate, where its absorption does not cause harm.

The broken off piece on your collar indicates that such a whiplash impact has happened. And it must have been quite substantial, because the Nylon rarely breaks, due to the material elasticity (hence epoxy will not work to fix it).

Have Neumann/Berlin ship up you a new collar (they may even do that for free, if you ask nicely!) and inspect the edge of the diaphragms for any signs of wrinkles.
Hi Klaus,

I opened up the headbasket and took out the capsule again, and I have another question: On looking at the circuitboard more closely, I noticed that there is a component with a red plastic cover that appears to be broken. What is it, and should I be concerned?

Here's the component:


I also took better photos of the capsule up close. I can't see any wrinkles, thankfully.
This is the rear side of the capsule, where the chip occurred:



And the front side:


Thanks.
Old 19th March 2016
  #20
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Klaus's Avatar
 

Quote:
On looking at the circuitboard more closely, I noticed that there is a component with a red plastic cover that appears to be broken. What is it, and should I be concerned?
The part in question is the plastic housing for the positive terminal of the calibration input. Nothing to be concerned about, just a cosmetic flaw.

Quote:
It's a 1971 model, and has only had two owners in that time.
Of note: your capsule has a 1978 manufacturing date. It is at least seven years younger than the 1971 mic. I.e. the original capsule was replaced at one point. Again, nothing major to worry about and no consequence for the resale value of the mic.

Last edited by Klaus; 19th March 2016 at 05:38 PM..
Old 19th March 2016
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
Kroc's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaus View Post
The part in question is the plastic housing for the positive terminal of the calibration input. Nothing to be concerned about, just a cosmetic flaw.
Great! That's a relief.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaus View Post
Of note: your capsule has a 1978 manufacturing date. It is at least seven years younger than the 1971 mic. I.e. the original capsule was replaced at one point. Again, nothing major to worry about and no consequence for the resale value of the mic.
Thanks again for the info!
That's a little bit strange: I asked specifically before buying if it was the original capsule, and the seller said, 'The microphone is completely original, including the capsule. Though I am its second owner, I knew the seller, and it was practically unused when I purchased it in 1981.'
Mind you, he may not have known, as it may have been replaced three years before he came into possession of it.
That's good to know that it has no consequence for the resale value. At any rate, I bought it to be my primary vocal mic, not as a period-accurate museum piece, so not a big deal. At least it's not a current 'Ai' capsule, and still has the lush vintage tone I was after, which is the main thing.

If I wanted to find out more about this microphone, do Neumann have an address I could email with the serial?
Old 19th March 2016
  #22
Old 20th March 2016
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
Kroc's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Mac View Post
Thanks heaps, Jamie!
Old 20th March 2016
  #24
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Klaus's Avatar
 

If you can read the value of the silver capacitor next to the yellow calibration terminal (it's either 220 or 820- I suspect the latter) AND give me the serial number, AND the manufacturing date stamped on the two 2.2 MFD capacitors sitting next to each other on the lower right corner of your picture, I can give you a manufacturing year, and possibly a month. Looking at the build components, my guess is the mic was made (not delivered!) around mid to late 1970.

As mentioned numerous times here and elsewhere, Neumann only records the year of delivery to the distributor (its website name for such inquiries is misleading).
There was a time when they revealed not only the year AND month of delivery, but also to whom it was sold, and whether and when the mic had come back to Neumann for servicing. But German privacy laws put an end to some of the information being available to third parties.
Old 21st March 2016
  #25
Gear Maniac
 
Kroc's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Klaus View Post
If you can read the value of the silver capacitor next to the yellow calibration terminal (it's either 220 or 820- I suspect the latter) AND give me the serial number, AND the manufacturing date stamped on the two 2.2 MFD capacitors sitting next to each other on the lower right corner of your picture, I can give you a manufacturing year, and possibly a month. Looking at the build components, my guess is the mic was made (not delivered!) around mid to late 1970.

As mentioned numerous times here and elsewhere, Neumann only records the year of delivery to the distributor (its website name for such inquiries is misleading).
There was a time when they revealed not only the year AND month of delivery, but also to whom it was sold, and whether and when the mic had come back to Neumann for servicing. But German privacy laws put an end to some of the information being available to third parties.
Thanks for the information, Klaus! Appreciate all your help.
The silver capacitor next to the yellow terminal has a value of 820, as you suspected. The microphone's serial number is 17397. The two parallel capacitors don't seem to have a manufacture date printed as far as I can see, just the 2.2uf and 6.3v specifications.
Old 21st March 2016
  #26
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The dates on the caps are on the underside, opposite the value. Though these numbers will only indicate the manufacturing date of the part, it's been my experience that the caps were usually installed within half a year of the U87's manufacture.

Anyway, your mic was made winter of 1970/71 and Neumann will help you further with the delivery date.

KH
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