Mic of the Month - March 2017 - Neumann KM184
Finding just one superlative to describe the Neumann brand is like choosing a single favorite jellybean-it simply can't be done. My inner fat kid grew into an adult-sized mouth-shoveling jellybean fiend who washes it all down with crisp, cool and pristine audio quality sprung from the artisanal wells of the Neumann lineup. With so many (insert superlative here) microphone manufacturers springing forth nowadays, one might find it easy to forget the original trend-setting brand, right? One might be wrong. The good folks at Neumann continue to build upon their legacy through centering new designs around the core of what made the vintage stuff so indispensable.
Enter March's Mic of the Month: the Neumann KM184. This microphone stands on the shoulders of a giant predecessor--same as most other Neumann microphones do. In the case of the KM184, the inspiration springs forth from the classic small diaphragm condenser KM 84. Neumann chose to build off of the KM84's success while employing modern manufacturing techniques to add additional response in the high frequencies. What you get is a detailed, airy response in the highs that doesn't get 'brittle' like your more budget SDCs will give you.
I tried these microphones on all of the usual small diaphragm condenser test subjects: acoustic guitar, piano, and drum overheads. The first thing I noticed was how easy it was to position the mics in an ORTF configuration and come away with a clean and natural sound; I felt as though I was sitting in front of the instrument rather than listening back from across the glass. I could clearly hear the attack of hammer strikes, string plucks, and sticks striking cymbals. The low frequencies were present without sounding 'boomy', and the high frequencies were crisp without harshness. I was fairly unsurprised by this, given that I've never really been let down by a Neumann microphone. What never ceases to amaze me, however, is how naturally these sources fit into the mix with little effort. That, to me, is the most telling aspect of a microphone's worth, and the Neumann microphones ace this test every single time.
We were almost reluctant to feature Neumann as our second Mic of the Month because it's already such a well-known brand, but I'm glad we did. It was a nice reminder that other manufacturers work tirelessly to replicate that signature Neumann sound for a reason. There's a reason why the best compliment you can give a replica is that it "sounds almost like the original". If I was reminded of anything from my experience (other than I need to use ORTF stereo pairs more), it was that if given a choice between the 'real deal' and the 'close but no cigar' imitators, I'll take the cigar every single time.