Pianoteq’s Neumann U87 vs AKG C414: microphone test and comparison

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The choice of the microphone is a crucial step for piano recording. It usually depends on the music genre, but also on the artistic sensibility of the performer and the sound engineer.

Here, we want to highlight the qualities of two popular microphones modeled and available in Pianoteq: Neumann’s U87 and AKG’s C414.

INFORMATIONS ABOUT TEST RECORDINGS*
Instrument: Grotrian Concert Royal
Recording venue: Bayerischer Rundfunk Studio 2, Munich
44.1 KHz, 24-bit

For optimal listening quality, we recommend you to listen to the audio samples below with a high quality monitoring system, if possible.

Introduction about Neumann U87 and AKG C414

The Neumann U87 is one of the most popular microphones in recording studios. It is a large-diaphragm microphone introduced in 1960 with three directivities (omnidirectional, cardioid and figure 8). It is often presented as ideal, as main or close microphone, in the most diverse recording situations. Of course, the technical characteristics of the U87 have evolved over the years, but the typical sound of this microphone has remained a classic.

Below, the frequency response diagram of the U87 latest version shows a flat curve in the midrange and a bump of about 5 dB around 8 KHz.

For piano recording, the U87 is most often used as a close mic placed near the piano, or in some cases indoors, just above the soundboard.
We have made here two different tests in different configurations to demonstrate its versatility.

The AKG C414 microphone is also a great standard in recording studios around the world. Like the U87, it’s a multi-pattern with large-diaphragm. It was introduced for the first time in 1971 to replace the C12 A model (a tube microphone introduced ten years earlier).

The image below shows the frequency response diagram of the C414 XLII, with a rather irregular curve above 1 KHz.

Microphone test 1

The first test was made with an AB stereo microphone pair spaced 75 cm and placed about 3.5 meters from the piano.

The excerpt of the piece chosen to illustrate this test is the second movement of the Sonata in C-sharp minor Op. 27 No. 2 ” Moonlight ” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Because of its non-linear frequency response curve, the U87 is generally not the first choice for recording classical piano, but it offers a modern and detailed sound that may be suitable for certain productions.
In the audio example above, the power in the low frequencies is immediately felt with a great precision and air in the high frequency range.

Like the U87, the AKG C414 microphone is not the first choice for recording classical piano. However, it offers a typical sound texture much sought after by some sound engineers.
The audio example above reveals the C414’s ‘darker’ character, with a priority given to the midrange frequencies.

Microphone test 2

The second test was made with two microphones spaced 75 cm and placed above the soundboard.

The song excerpt chosen to illustrate this test is the theme of Yiruma’s ‘River Flows In You’.

Conclusion

Hearing the difference between these two great microphones may require some experience in sound treatment, and the choice is often a matter of personal taste.

From a technical point of view, the Neumann U87 and the AKG C414 are both high-end microphones designed to meet many requirements.

*These recordings are entirely made with modeled instrument, microphones and convolution reverb technologies.

 


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