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U87 vs. U87ai Shootout
Old 9th February 2012
  #1
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guitarmax_99's Avatar
 

U87 vs. U87ai Shootout

I recently conducted a shootout between a vintage U87 and a recently manufactured U87ai. I thought I'd share the sound files and see if folks heard significant differences between them.

I conducted these tests as "scientifically" as I could. The mics were placed 'end to end' (thus capturing the same performance). They were run through a pair of Focusrite ISA One preamps. The files were normalized afterward for level matching purposes.

I conducted three tests: Fingerstyle Guitar, Strummed Guitar, and Vocal. I am posting these as 16bit WAV files for your perusal. I'd love to hear some opinions on them. Which mic do you prefer for which application? Does one outperform the other on one application in particular? Can you hear a difference?

For the moment, I'm going to keep this a blind test so as to minimize biases (one way or the other). I'll post the identities of the mics after people have had a chance to weigh in.
Attached Thumbnails
U87 vs. U87ai Shootout-u87_-_u87ai.jpg  
Attached Files

Mic_1_Fingerstyle Gtr.wav (3.24 MB, 36611 views)

Mic_2_Fingerstyle Gtr.wav (3.24 MB, 35278 views)

Mic_1_Strummed Gtr.wav (2.00 MB, 30483 views)

Mic_2_Strummed Gtr.wav (2.00 MB, 30394 views)

Mic_1_Vocal.wav (2.19 MB, 38576 views)

Mic_2_Vocal.wav (2.19 MB, 37405 views)

Old 9th February 2012
  #2
I checked out the vocal examples and the differences were pretty apparent. Mic 1 sounded like the U87 where Mic 2 sounded like the U87ai.

The vintage U87 had a much rounder and even tonality to it whereas the new ai version has a high end spitty (hi-fi) characteristic that I don't care for.

I look forward to reading the results and confirming my suspicions.
Old 9th February 2012
  #3
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at4033's Avatar
They both sound pretty good to me, but I also hear more upper mid-range in mic 2. I HOPE mic 1 is the ai (though the pair I owned in mid 90s never sounded quite like that).

Looking forward to seeing the reveal.
Old 9th February 2012
  #4
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McPhaul's Avatar
Mic 2 sounds more like my U87ai. I wish it sounded more like mic 1.
Old 9th February 2012
  #5
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mic 1 is the vintage u87
Old 9th February 2012
  #6
For what it's worth my mid 70's U87 is less edgy than both of these examples.
Old 9th February 2012
  #7
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guitarmax_99's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip S Bova View Post
For what it's worth my mid 70's U87 is less edgy than both of these examples.
FWIW, the U87 used here is from the 70's. I have read that there was more variability in the vintage U87's (from mic to mic), while the U87ai is alledgely more consistent (from mic to mic). I can't verify this personally, but perhaps someone out here could.

I want to wait until more people have had a chance to listen and comment before I reveal which mic is which.
Old 9th February 2012
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarmax_99 View Post
FWIW, the U87 used here is from the 70's. I have read that there was more variability in the vintage U87's (from mic to mic), while the U87ai is alledgely more consistent (from mic to mic). I can't verify this personally, but perhaps someone out here could.
I can't say which is which, but 1 sounds more like what I'd expect out of my 60's U87.

It would make sense that existing ai's would be more consistent, because they are newer. Older mics have been subjected to a wide variety of conditions that have affected the electronics and capsules in a wide variety of ways. Seems to me that 87's were extremely consistent back in the 60's, 70's when new.

Also, my experience only, newer 87ai's are better cared for these days. Back in the 70's they were just mics. We were careful, but they got left out on the stands, used for toms (got hit), etc...
Old 9th February 2012
  #9
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mic # 2 sounded darker/warmer to me. i like both although i might actually prefer mic2 given how i'd process it. i heard more upper mid clarity in 1 and i heard more low mid cloudiness in 2. curious
Old 9th February 2012
  #10
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Slikjmuzik's Avatar
 

I could work with either. A different preamp could change things drastically. From the sounds of these samples, just going from a Daking/compressor to an La610 will give me completely different tones, but quite usable ones with either mic.
Old 9th February 2012
  #11
I think that the differences are very subtle. They both sound great.
Old 9th February 2012
  #12
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Chagalj's Avatar
 

I listened to fingerstyle guitar track only and I wouldnt say the differences are subtle. Mic1 has clear frequency spectrum all the way but with slightly enhanced highs (although very natural sounding), and mic2 is very similar but sounds muddier after Mic1, without that small high freq boost. Havent checked the levels, but Mic1 could also be a bit louder.

My guess -
Mic 1 is u87ai
Mic 2 is u87

Nice playing, btw.
Old 9th February 2012
  #13
Mic 1 sounds brighter to me. More high end sheen. Mic 2 sounds more closed off at the top. I would associate that sound more with the U87i.
Old 9th February 2012
  #14
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

1 sounds like the ai to me, brighter. Both pretty much the same, 1 a little more exciting, 2 a little sweeter. One turn of an eq knob and you'd have either one sound like the other.
Old 9th February 2012
  #15
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The Listener's Avatar
I usually try to listen to the shoot-outs on the monitors, but this time I have to say the usual "I'm listening on my laptop with earbuds".

No1. seems more balanced, acoustic guitar sounds more natural, the high end is missing or is weird in no.2 (without EQing - even adding high end with Windows media player eq makes it sound similar to no.1 )

But soloed I prefer no.2 on voice, but I guess the no.1 would be more natural and cut through better without EQ in the mix.

If I had to choose which one to buy and if in all the tests I would do myself the difference would be the same I would choose no.1 / or I would buy the one in better shape and less $$...

I didn't use any of those mics, so just from reading other people opinions I would say that no.1 must be the newer mic - more high end, no.2 is more mid forward and has less high end - guessing that it's the vintage one.

But people also say that the vintage one sounds better and that Ai can sound weird - then I would say no.2 could be the Ai and no1 the vintage one.

I don't know, because I don't know the mics, but I prefer no.1 in this listening scenario (laptop, earbuds)

AND - I think those two mics are so close (being the same mic with some differencies) that you can really turn one into another with a few EQ strokes.

I fail to understand the new mic bashing...
Old 9th February 2012
  #16
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I would guess that mic 1 is the vintage one. It has a lot less high end that is likely due to old/dry capacitors. I think you'd be fine with either choice.
Old 9th February 2012
  #17
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The Listener's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dysenterygary View Post
I would guess that mic 1 is the vintage one. It has a lot less high end that is likely due to old/dry capacitors. I think you'd be fine with either choice.
Ok, I really have to listen again on the monitors since my impression is the exact opposite - no.2 sounds mid forward to me, while no.1 seems to have more high end and being more "even" through the whole range.

Interesting how we can hear exactly the opposite.
Old 9th February 2012
  #18
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BlueMountain's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lugo View Post
1 sounds like the ai to me, brighter. Both pretty much the same, 1 a little more exciting, 2 a little sweeter. One turn of an eq knob and you'd have either one sound like the other.
Probably the most sensible answer I've ever read in a 'U87i vs U87Ai' thread.
Old 10th February 2012
  #19
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Mic 1 = Vintage 87

Mic 2 = Ai
Old 10th February 2012
  #20
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I didn't listen to the files because none of them stress the mic out, and that is why I find the older ones more versatile. An AI will distort in front of a high SPL source sooner than a non AI (like guitar cab) And even before distortion occurs on an AI, they start getting harsh when stressed out. Under more gentle applications I have no real preference, many times I prefer an AI - I just find them less versatile.
Old 10th February 2012
  #21
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dysenterygary's Avatar
 

I made my statement that mic one sounded more rounded based off of the finger picking clip. Now that I have listened to the strumming clips it sounds like mic 1 is the brighter one. That leads me to believe that mic placement was probably an issue here. I would guess that in the finger picking clips that mic 1 was closer to the bridge than mic 2 or at least aimed more directly at it. Photos would be good.
Old 10th February 2012
  #22
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guitarmax_99's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dysenterygary View Post
I made my statement that mic one sounded more rounded based off of the finger picking clip. Now that I have listened to the strumming clips it sounds like mic 1 is the brighter one. That leads me to believe that mic placement was probably an issue here. I would guess that in the finger picking clips that mic 1 was closer to the bridge than mic 2 or at least aimed more directly at it. Photos would be good.
I didn't get pictures of me playing into the mics (it's kind of hard to do when you are by yourself!). However, I can tell you that they were placed end to end. Furthermore, for the guitar clips, they were placed about fifteen inches from the guitar (one directly above the other), each pointed at the 14th fret (where the neck meets the body). In short, I was very careful to make sure that they set up as "symmetrically" as possible (in relation to the source). I can assure you that they were both equidistant from the bridge / lower bout, and much care was used in "aiming them".

I'm going to go back and listen again (with your comments in mind) and see if I can hear what you are hearing.

Has anyone else noticed what dysenterygary pointed out?
Old 10th February 2012
  #23
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guitarmax_99's Avatar
 

By the way, thanks to everyone for their comments/guesses. Keep 'em coming! I want to wait a little bit longer before the "big reveal", as I'm interested in getting as many unbiased opinions about what folks are hearing. As the "tester", I want to refrain from expressing my own opinion about the sound of these mics until after I reveal their respective identities (basically, I don't want to introduce my own bias and possibly influence anyone else's perception).

Thanks again.
Old 10th February 2012
  #24
I have never owned a u87, either vintage or new, and am unlikely to do so in the near future.

So my amateur opinion is that I slightly preferred mic 1 on the finger picking clip and mic 2 on everything else but cannot hazard a guess as to which was the 87 and which was the U87AI, nor do I really care quite frankly. All of the clips sounded excellent to me and I would be happy to get anything close to the results achieved in any of the clips
Old 10th February 2012
  #25
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Never owned a U87. Would like to some day. I personally like the sound of Mic 2 better. Sounds more like you're in the room with the guitar. Vocals also sounded more pleasant through Mic 2.
Old 10th February 2012
  #26
Pip
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BlueMountain View Post
Probably the most sensible answer I've ever read in a 'U87i vs U87Ai' thread.
Yup let's be honest and I know it get's bashed, I can't afford a locker of mikes I saved and got an ai having had a vintage on loan for 2 years, some of the best cash I have every spent, and if you eq and I suspect they would sound very similar, e.g classy, versatile and mine gets used every day I've owned my ai for 7 years and I would not swap it out.
Old 10th February 2012
  #27
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mic 1 sounds to me like the vintage 87. It has the m7 capsule sound like the Gefell um 70

mic 2 is less open and is the 87ai
Old 10th February 2012
  #28
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James Lugo's Avatar
 

So what's the verdict man?
Old 10th February 2012
  #29
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Scott Whigham's Avatar
 

I loved this - thank you for sharing. Wonderful guitar playing too - I'd love to hear the final product.

I liked both (only listened to the guitar though) - I don't know enough about the nuances of 87/87ai to make a guess as to which is which but, like James said, I would think that the slightest bit of EQ could make them sound almost identical. There are differences but, if it was me having to make this decision, the differences are so subtle that I would just go with whichever I felt was cheapest/most-usable/easiest-to-service.
Old 10th February 2012
  #30
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studiostuff's Avatar
 

I'm guessing 1 is the Ai, 2 vintage
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