Field Test: Neumann KM D Digital Microphones

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Kevin Becka

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LET'S HEAR THEM

I first used the mics to record three different drum kits on different sessions at 96 kHz. I employed them as cardioid overheads twice, and for the third application as a pair of room mics using omni capsules. The first thing I noticed — or actually didn't notice — is the noise floor: It's conspicuous by its absence. Even with the gain cranked, the signal is crystal-clear. The air at the top is open and natural, and everything else sounds even and just as it should sound: like you're in the room.

As overheads, the mics portrayed the cymbals crisply with no brashness or clang. Tom and kick hits were tight and precise with great transient response. When the other mics were brought into the mix, the kit sounded beautiful. As room mics, the omni capsules represented the room beautifully, with great off-axis response, plenty of low end from the front of the kit, and an even and clean “roominess” from the boundaries. I found that I was able to use these overhead and room tracks with just a kick and snare drum close-mic for a great and full kit sound.

It's worth noting that the software is simple and the GUI easily floats above your DAW's session window. I found that once I set up the mics, I forgot about the software just as I would a mic preamp if the levels looked good. I used the integral tone generator every time I set up the mics; it's a great added feature, allowing me to pay attention to the session setup and getting signal through the system, even if I were alone in the building.

When using the mic's integral compressor, latency was a major issue. The software compression sounded great and works fine if the player didn't have to hear the audio through a cue send, but in an overdub situation they'd be unusable.

I then used the pair with cardioid capsules to record an acoustic guitar, and the results were stellar. Because the mics are so clean, you hear every detail of picking and the physical sound of the human hand on an instrument. The guitar player commented that the tracks sounded just like his instrument, with little coloration throughout its range. The tone was even from top to bottom, and the air on top made it easy to stay away from any EQ.

IS IT DIGITAL TIME YET?

The sound of the KM D Series digital mics is truly delicious. In every situation, they were crystal-clear, providing an incredible level of detail and transparency. However, when setting them up, be prepared to provide some extra special infrastructure and be somewhat inconvenienced. They'd be ideal for use in an open-area recording situation like a concert hall, where you could run cables up to 300 feet without any barriers, or left set up in a personal recording space where you could set and forget. But in a traditional studio setting where setups vary, walls separate you from your source and you don't have 110-ohm cabling throughout, you may have to jump through some hoops for optimal performance.

All that said, nothing great is ever achieved without a little extra effort, so get out your wallet and prepare to be dazzled. These mics set a new standard for recording and give purists a new path to audio nirvana. Prices: KM D Series mic with one capsule, $1,958; extra capsules, $798 each; DMI-2 2-channel interface, $1,418; AES or S/PDIF connection kit, $198.

Neumann, 860/434-9190, www.neu mannusa.com.


Kevin Becka is Mix's technical editor.






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