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Neumman U87 v.s. Sony C-38b Condenser Microphones
Old 31st December 2010
  #1
Neumann U87 v.s. Sony C-38b

To anyone on GS who has used both these mics, for interests sake, which do you prefer and why?

I myself have never used an 87, but I've used the C-38b more than any other mic, as well as several different serials of the mic.

I've heard here and there that they are in the exact same category, and once read the sony is preferable...

Is it just lesser known and thus less sought, or lesser sought due to its "Sony" name? Or is just a matter of preference for the most part?

I'm having a field day today with posting....

Thanks heh
Old 2nd January 2011
  #2
Old 2nd January 2011
  #3
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leaper's Avatar
 

I would "prefer" C38. They have proved to be more useful to me over the years. Probably because they have less colouration than U87, can handle higher SPL without having to put a pad in, are maybe easier to place in tight spots, also the C38 handles high EQ smoothly while the U87 can get a bit brittle (this being more from an analogue tape users perspective... wanting to boost highs a little bit before hitting tape).
Of course there are uses for both mics. Just seems like the U87 will more often sound wrong. For example, nasal voices tend to prefer a C38 while a typical U87 is in danger of exaggerating the nose, in my experience.
Pinocchio syndrome?
Old 2nd January 2011
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by leaper View Post
I would "prefer" C38. They have proved to be more useful to me over the years. Probably because they have less colouration than U87, can handle higher SPL without having to put a pad in, are maybe easier to place in tight spots, also the C38 handles high EQ smoothly while the U87 can get a bit brittle (this being more from an analogue tape users perspective... wanting to boost highs a little bit before hitting tape).
Of course there are uses for both mics. Just seems like the U87 will more often sound wrong. For example, nasal voices tend to prefer a C38 while a typical U87 is in danger of exaggerating the nose, in my experience.
Pinocchio syndrome?
Hey, thanks for taking a jump at my question, im excited to own the C38s and not the 87's now heh But in all honestly, If this why don't we ever hear about the sonys... It's not that their not respected, I just thought that there would be more answers to this question (maybe there is and people don't wanna ask haha)
Old 2nd January 2011
  #5
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leaper's Avatar
 

Yes, it is kind of surprising.
The only reason that springs to mind is possibly that the C38 isn't superficially perceived as such a "rock" mic as the U87.
The studios I have encountered with C38's have invariably large recording areas that can easily accommodate big ensembles. These places usually had 10 or so C38/ C40. They are great all round ensemble mics.
Is it also perhaps possible that Sony didn't really make a dent in the USA market with this mic? I'm just speculating here and assuming that the flavor of this website is predominately American, hence the lack of C38 feedback if it's relatively unknown in the States.
Otherwise we can file the mystery of the C38 along with your Sasquatch and my "Nessie"... and then we can both go to eBay.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #6
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jmikeperkins's Avatar
Another BIG factor as to why you don't hear more about the C38 is that Sony DOES NOT SUPPORT OR SERVICE ANY VINTAGE C38 (a or b versions) so when a C38 breaks it tends to get thrown away or stuck in a drawer somewhere and never used again. You can get a replacement capsule (at least you could as of last year) from Sony, but THAT'S IT. NO other parts are available from Sony (or anyone else). They may support (at least for awhile) the C38b reissue, but Sony won't fix any vintage C38 mic. Neumann, on the other hand, offers full support, service, and parts for all versions of the U87 going back to its introduction 1967. So when your U87 breaks, you are covered, but when your C38 breaks, with the possible exception of the capsule, you have a big problem. You also see more U87's because Neumann made more of them than Sony has made C38's. I have a C38a and 2 U87's and I can tell you that both are great and very versatile studio mics. It's too bad that Sony does not support its historical products, but they don't.

As to which one is better? It just depends on the source. The U87 has more and clearer high end than the C38. The C38 can handle very loud sources (like kick drum and very loud electric guitar amps) better than a U87.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by jmikeperkins View Post
Another BIG factor as to why you don't hear more about the C38 is that Sony DOES NOT SUPPORT OR SERVICE ANY VINTAGE C38 (a or b versions) so when a C38 breaks it tends to get thrown away or stuck in a drawer somewhere and never used again. You can get a replacement capsule (at least you could as of last year) from Sony, but THAT'S IT. NO other parts are available from Sony (or anyone else). They may support (at least for awhile) the C38b reissue, but Sony won't fix any vintage C38 mic. Neumann, on the other hand, offers full support, service, and parts for all versions of the U87 going back to its introduction 1967. So when your U87 breaks, you are covered, but when your C38 breaks, with the possible exception of the capsule, you have a big problem. You also see more U87's because Neumann made more of them than Sony has made C38's. I have a C38a and 2 U87's and I can tell you that both are great and very versatile studio mics. It's too bad that Sony does not support its historical products, but they don't.

As to which one is better? It just depends on the source. The U87 has more and clearer high end than the C38. The C38 can handle very loud sources (like kick drum and very loud electric guitar amps) better than a U87.
You know it's the saddest thing, but it's true... About 2 years ago I called Sony Pro Audio to ask them if they could sell me the threadless socket adapter that comes with those mics, and do you want to know what he said?

"Yep, I know what your talking about, yep, I have the part right here, yep, wait a second, the part isn't allowed to be sold seperately... yeah, sorry kid, there's no number here, I cant sell you it, I'm looking at it, but I can't sell it..."

SO close yet SO far... I ended up using copper fittings, and I used the mics for a while until one crapped out on me, and alas, I pulled the other one over and smashed it good and broke... I was shocked and didn't know what to do... (knew Sony wouldn't touch them) Jim at jjaudio (haz-mat-strat) offered to repair the mics for me at a fair price, but I decided to get 2 new ones instead, because it was more worth my money...

Where are the mics now? You guessed it, sitting in a drawer at the studio... It's a major bummer... Sony makes me mad, especially in the case of the socket adapter, a non technical part that shouldn't be an issue...
Old 3rd January 2011
  #8
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leaper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
You know it's the saddest thing, but it's true... About 2 years ago I called Sony Pro Audio to ask them if they could sell me the threadless socket adapter that comes with those mics, and do you want to know what he said?

"Yep, I know what your talking about, yep, I have the part right here, yep, wait a second, the part isn't allowed to be sold seperately... yeah, sorry kid, there's no number here, I cant sell you it, I'm looking at it, but I can't sell it..."

SO close yet SO far... I ended up using copper fittings, and I used the mics for a while until one crapped out on me, and alas, I pulled the other one over and smashed it good and broke... I was shocked and didn't know what to do... (knew Sony wouldn't touch them) Jim at jjaudio (haz-mat-strat) offered to repair the mics for me at a fair price, but I decided to get 2 new ones instead, because it was more worth my money...

Where are the mics now? You guessed it, sitting in a drawer at the studio... It's a major bummer... Sony makes me mad, especially in the case of the socket adapter, a non technical part that shouldn't be an issue...

WOW!
Okay... thanks for sharing this. Is this lack of support from Sony only applicable to the C38? What do you think jmike? It's bizarre that you can still buy them new yet receive no support. How about something like a C800? Weird!
Old 3rd January 2011
  #9
Lives for gear
 

The repair of C38b's is no big deal, any competent electronic tech can fix them.

The capsules can be repaired.

They are great mics and like any good equipment just need the right care.
Old 3rd January 2011
  #10
Gear Nut
 

So...what you are saying is you have some C38's that you might be willing to sell?

Ray
Old 3rd January 2011
  #11
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lemix's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
To anyone on GS who has used both these mics, for interests sake, which do you prefer and why?
Hello there,

I have and use both mics on a regular basis.
They are both great mics !!
I tend to grab the Sony for roomier, orchestral type applications. It is wider, darker sounding. Rooms have a nice "depth" with it. It is 38b.
On the other hand..I would call the 87Ai a delicate, precision tool.
Accurate and sensitive. One must really know how and where to use it.
Details galore.
These are of course just my opinions.
Two more instruments in a well equipped mic locker.
( I should also mention that my original 1978 U87 was stolen and now I have an insurance replaced Ai )

best of luck
Old 3rd January 2011
  #12
Lives for gear
 

No, sorry, I quit selling mics anymore, I always regret it.

My wife has a different opinion.

I have fixed many of them, that's all, and don't look at them as any sort of
mystic thing that can't be brought back from the dead.

Driven over, smashed flat, is one thing, electrical problems are another.
Old 4th January 2011
  #13
Lives for gear
 
jmikeperkins's Avatar
Sony will (at least for now) support the C38b REISSUE (made 2003 onward) but not any historical C38 a or b model from the 1960's - 1970's. I have a C38a from 1969 which needs repair and I have had trouble finding a tech to fix it. I sent it to Bill Bradley at the mic shop in Nashville and he could not fix it and sent it back to me. Jim Williams does not want to work on it either. I do hope that there is some tech who might be able to fix it, but its not so easy finding that person. I am open to suggestions.

Sony supports the mics that are currently in production, like the C800g, but if they ever discontinue a mic, they will likely stop servicing it shortly thereafter. You can still get replacement capsules from Sony for some of their historic mics, but that's it. They have a terrible reputation for not supporting their professional audio products once they go out of production. I am sure that one of the reasons you don't see more C38's in use these days is because a large percentage of them are broken after 40+ years of use, and people like me do not know how to get them fixed.
Old 4th January 2011
  #14
Lives for gear
 
illacov's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
You know it's the saddest thing, but it's true... About 2 years ago I called Sony Pro Audio to ask them if they could sell me the threadless socket adapter that comes with those mics, and do you want to know what he said?

"Yep, I know what your talking about, yep, I have the part right here, yep, wait a second, the part isn't allowed to be sold seperately... yeah, sorry kid, there's no number here, I cant sell you it, I'm looking at it, but I can't sell it..."

SO close yet SO far... I ended up using copper fittings, and I used the mics for a while until one crapped out on me, and alas, I pulled the other one over and smashed it good and broke... I was shocked and didn't know what to do... (knew Sony wouldn't touch them) Jim at jjaudio (haz-mat-strat) offered to repair the mics for me at a fair price, but I decided to get 2 new ones instead, because it was more worth my money...

Where are the mics now? You guessed it, sitting in a drawer at the studio... It's a major bummer... Sony makes me mad, especially in the case of the socket adapter, a non technical part that shouldn't be an issue...
Check your pm

Thanks
Peace
Illumination
Old 4th January 2011
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Kennedy View Post
No, sorry, I quit selling mics anymore, I always regret it.

My wife has a different opinion.

I have fixed many of them, that's all, and don't look at them as any sort of
mystic thing that can't be brought back from the dead.

Driven over, smashed flat, is one thing, electrical problems are another.
So are you the guy we have all been looking for????
Old 4th January 2011
  #16
Gear Nut
 
4'33"'s Avatar
 

He's the guy who makes Great River preamps, if you want to know.
Old 4th January 2011
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by 4'33" View Post
He's the guy who makes Great River preamps, if you want to know.
well then, he ain't no one trick pony then I spose?
Old 4th January 2011
  #18
Gear Head
 
Meko's Avatar
 

very interesting mic! are there any sound examples around, maybe even comparisons? maybe even with a neumann?
Old 4th January 2011
  #19
Gear Nut
 

There's a japanese seller on eBay that often sells sony c38 for 700-850$, so, compared to a U87, it guess it's a good deal (?)
Old 4th January 2011
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by dalcl View Post
There's a japanese seller on eBay that often sells sony c38 for 700-850$, so, compared to a U87, it guess it's a good deal (?)
That's the guy I buy from, his mics are great...

Here's some pics of the 2 he sold me.

Picasa Web Albums - smitty - 38
Old 5th January 2011
  #21
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leaper's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
So are you the guy we have all been looking for????
Hi Rene,
In case you missed it, here's another thread with additional C38 tech suggestions.
Dan Kennedy spreading a bit of his knowledge and experience.
Actually.. I'll also PM you this link.

sony C 38B repair??
Old 5th January 2011
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
That's the guy I buy from, his mics are great...

Here's some pics of the 2 he sold me.

Picasa Web Albums - smitty - 38
Great !
This mic is so ugly... what a beauty !
Old 5th January 2011
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
OhioGreg's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dalcl View Post
There's a japanese seller on eBay that often sells sony c38 for 700-850$, so, compared to a U87, it guess it's a good deal (?)
on going now....
Vintage Sony C38B Condenser Professional Microphone - eBay (item 200561543725 end time Jan-10-11 18:21:50 PST)
Old 5th January 2011
  #24
Gear Nut
 
cavemusic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmikeperkins View Post
Sony will (at least for now) support the C38b REISSUE (made 2003 onward) but not any historical C38 a or b model from the 1960's - 1970's. I have a C38a from 1969 which needs repair and I have had trouble finding a tech to fix it. I sent it to Bill Bradley at the mic shop in Nashville and he could not fix it and sent it back to me. Jim Williams does not want to work on it either. I do hope that there is some tech who might be able to fix it, but its not so easy finding that person. I am open to suggestions.

Sony supports the mics that are currently in production, like the C800g, but if they ever discontinue a mic, they will likely stop servicing it shortly thereafter. You can still get replacement capsules from Sony for some of their historic mics, but that's it. They have a terrible reputation for not supporting their professional audio products once they go out of production. I am sure that one of the reasons you don't see more C38's in use these days is because a large percentage of them are broken after 40+ years of use, and people like me do not know how to get them fixed.

It's definitely possible for a tech to fix it. That mike has discrete components: resistors, caps, transistors. Nothing special except the capsule and the transformer/inductor can. The capsule and the transformer might be trickier, but it should be possible to find something equivalent. It's more about the cost. It's going to take a few hours of troubleshooting and repair, plus parts.
Old 6th January 2011
  #25
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illacov's Avatar
 

Just wanted to let you guys know that we do service Sony microphones like the C48, C38b and the C37a.

We have access to the Sony transformers and can also get your capsules reskinned if need be at Thiersch. We also source NOS caps, get FETs made etc.. We definitely are cost conscious when it comes to repairs.

For example from us the Sony C48 output transformer is $150 installed.

We also have access to machining if you absolutely need a part MADE for example like the mount one poster mentioned.

Sorry for the shameless plug but I have been getting alot of requests for Sony repairs so I thought you guys should be made aware.

Thanks

Peace
Illumination
Old 6th January 2011
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by illacov View Post
Just wanted to let you guys know that we do service Sony microphones like the C48, C38b and the C37a.

We have access to the Sony transformers and can also get your capsules reskinned if need be at Thiersch. We also source NOS caps, get FETs made etc.. We definitely are cost conscious when it comes to repairs.

For example from us the Sony C48 output transformer is $150 installed.

We also have access to machining if you absolutely need a part MADE for example like the mount one poster mentioned.

Sorry for the shameless plug but I have been getting alot of requests for Sony repairs so I thought you guys should be made aware.

Thanks

Peace
Illumination
It's not shameless at all, months ago when I broke my sonys I couldn't find any help for fixing them on GS, now your affiliate haz-mat-strat at JJ contacted me personally, which was nice, but now hopefully when someone searches sony repair this comes up... (hopefully they somehow click the C38b vs U87 link )
Old 7th January 2011
  #27
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skybluerental's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Kennedy View Post
The repair of C38b's is no big deal, any competent electronic tech can fix them.

The capsules can be repaired.

They are great mics and like any good equipment just need the right care.
dan speaks the truth.
; )

sony C38b is a GREAT mic and way under appreciated in my opinion.
i use ours on almost every session..........

i would much rather have a C38b than a U87.
Old 7th January 2011
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by skybluerental View Post
i use ours on almost every session...........
I definitely use the mic in every session...
Old 28th January 2011
  #29
Gear Nut
 
cavemusic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Kennedy View Post
No, sorry, I quit selling mics anymore, I always regret it.

My wife has a different opinion.

I have fixed many of them, that's all, and don't look at them as any sort of
mystic thing that can't be brought back from the dead.

Driven over, smashed flat, is one thing, electrical problems are another.
Funny you should say that! Right Rene? LOL. Anyway, the mikes are back from the dead. Capsules are kind of in rough shape but they work.


Quote:
Originally Posted by rene-lemieux View Post
I definitely use the mic in every session...
I've been using my C38B more and more lately, both in the studio and live. Guitar cabs, vocals, u/r bass, acoustic instruments. It's definitely a decent mike.
Old 29th January 2011
  #30
WOOO! Let's do a mic shootout soonish then, I can let you know the next time I'll be at the studio maybe, or I could come to yours, whatever is more convenient.
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