Ah, yes. We all know about the holy grail of vocal microphones: the Neumann U87ai. It can be heard on thousands of recordings and is in every large studio in the world. It absolutely is standard when it comes to recording vocals.
The Best U87 Alternatives at a Glance
While I’m not a singer myself, I do know that a spaced pair of U87s sounds phenomenal on drums. So yeah, it’s a drum microphone, too. While not everyone can afford a U87, there are many companies making amazing clones of this exact vocal microphone.
Today we will dive in and find the best U87 alternatives.
Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphone with 3 Switchable Polar Patterns, Highpass Filter, and 10dB Pad - Nickel.
I’ve been reading more and more positive press on Warm Audio each and every day. Their whole mantra is focused on affordable, yet quality audio gear. They’ve tackled many different classic preamps, EQs, and compressors already and now they have moved on the U87.
The Warm Audio WA-87 is not based on the modern Neumann U87ai, rather it’s based on its vintage counterpart. The original vintage model had a bit more of a crunchy high-end and isn’t as bright as the modern U87ai.
Since the WA-87 also takes very well to EQ and compression, brightening it up is no problem.
What’s Included in the Box of the WA-87?
The Warm Audio WA-87 comes in a very nice wooden box. Included is a shock mount (with spare elastic bands), as well as a smaller microphone clip for those super-tight recording situations.
Stam Audio SA-87
Best Sounding U87 Alternative
I was most unfamiliar with the Stam Audio SA-87, particularity since this company is located in Chile. I had been seeing more and more people talking about Stam, so I wondered what all the buzz was about.
This SA-87 is a replica of a Rev16 1979 Neumann U87. This is considered to be the pinnacle of the U87. In terms of build quality, the SA87 is killer. While I don’t have direct experience with the mic itself, the video below does it justice.
Multi-pattern, wide diaphragm solid-state condenser.
I originally heard about Peluso in college when my audio teacher pulled out a P-12 microphone. Needless to say, I was blown away when I heard it. Peluso is a boutique microphone company that does make a lot of wonderful mics!
The P-87 was a bit disappointing, however.
The P-87 sounds very thin and almost tiny when comparing back to a real U87. The high end is very brittle. You need a lot of parametric EQ to smoothen out the high end. It’s not exactly harsh, but definitely fragile and weak sounding around 10k.
What’s Included in the Box of the Peluso P-87?
This microphone comes with a velvet bag, a shock mount, hard mount, a foam wind screen, and a flight case. I wish it was presented with a wooden box like the WA-87, considering the price point. The flight case is nice.
Large-diaphragm Tube Condenser Mic for Vocals and Instruments - Satin Nickel.
If you’re not looking for a clone, I suggest checking out the Mojave MA-200. This is a tube condenser microphone, so it’s a little different from the U87, but is very similar to the U67. Mojave Audio is company owned by world-renowned microphone makers Royer. It’s a solid choice for versatile recording applications.
Things to Consider When Buying a Neumann U87 Clone
First off, the microphones listed are not going to be perfect recreations.
Clones are just… Clones
It’s pretty obvious, but don’t expect one of this clones to sound identical. Old vintage microphones, like the U67, U47 or U87, had a unique character to them. Not one mic sounded the exact same.
They were built by hand and weren’t manufactured with 100% accurate precision. There’s going to be unique characteristics among each one. Don’t get hung up if your U87 alternative doesn’t sound exactly like a real Neumann U87.
The Microphones Listed are all Great
In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with any microphone on this list. No matter which U87 clone one you pick, you will get an amazing result. These four microphones are all very high quality and I willing to bet you can deliver a quality recording to a client using any of these.
Save your Money
For those on the fence, it might be better for you to invest in another piece of gear instead. Rather than buying one $3,000 microphone, you might consider picking up a compressor (like the Warm Audio WA76), studio monitors, a desk, you name it, along with your U87 clone.
Deck out your studio instead of blowing it all on one mic!
Use the Clone on Different Sources!
Don’t just use your U87 alternative on vocals! Try it as a mono drum room. You could even purchase two U87 clones and use them as drum overheads!
A Brief History of the Neumann U87
Neumann is easily one of the most recognizable microphone manufacturers around today: both for incredible quality and price. Around 1950, Neumann released the pinnacle of condenser microphones: the U47. The tonal quality and detail were stunning. It is by far the most musical sounding vocal microphone ever made.
Neumann made another microphone, the U67. Both the 47 and 67 required an external power source: something the main microphone of this discussion does not require. The U87 was released at a time when phantom power was being used in microphone design and manufacturing.
Since 1967, the Neumann U87 has been one of the most popular vocal microphones available.
Why is the Neumann U87 Such a Popular?
I guarantee you can find thousands of records that used this microphone during the tracking process. The U87 just sounds so great. It is not harsh at all and just sounds expensive. This microphone takes very well to compression and EQ.
It’s definitely an “industry standard.” The Neumann U87 is also extremely versatile. In addition to recording vocals, you can use this microphone on drum overheads, rooms, toms, secondary kicks, amps, etc.
It’s an amazing all-around microphone. That being said, everyone’s voice is different. You may find that one singer sounds way better on a Shure SM7b than your $3,000 condenser microphone.
Have you tried any of these microphones before? Do you own a microphone you think is similar to the U87? Let us know in the comments below!