Making a Scene Presents a review of the Warm Audio WA 47 Microphone
For anyone who has or is considering building a home studio, your microphone collection is one of the most critical investments you can make. Many of the classic microphones we would love to have are more often than not priced way out of the budget of the small studio. Warm Audio seems to be on a mission to change that!
I will make this disclaimer before we even begin. I was not provided with this microphone by Warm Audio, I did like many of you all do. I researched and made a purchase based on what I believed this microphone will bring to my studio. So I own this microphone and the views and impressions are based on real world applications in my studio.
I do not have access to a real Neumann U-47 Microphone to compare this mic to. As much I would love to have done that, lets be honest, if I had a real U-47 I would not have purchased the Warm Audio Version. I will be reviewing this microphone based on it’s own merits and how it performed for me in the studio. Not based on some comparison to a microphone I may never be able to afford.
The Neumann/Telefunken U-47 Story
Even though we will not be comparing this microphone to the more famous original. It is important to understand the inspiration that drove Warm Audio to create the WA-47.
The original Microphone Capsule and Large wire Basket combination was developed in Germany in 1932 and was quickly recognized for it’s unique sonic character. After World War 2, Geoge Neumann added a Telefunken tube which fed a custom wound transformer and the now famous U-47 was born. The Microphone debuted at the Berlin Radio show in 1947 and started shipping in 1949. By the 1950’s The U-47 was one of the most coveted microphones in the recording industry and that status continues to today. The U 47 was the first ever switchable-pattern (cardioid or omnidirectional) condenser microphone and took the world, especially the US, by storm. The U 47’s double-diaphragm M7 capsule had two back-to-back cardioid capsules and enabled both diaphragms to be polarised with the same voltage or neutralized with respect to the center electrode, enabling the two cardioid capsules to create an omni field. This technology paved the way for the high-quality multi-pattern mics that are available today.
The Unique sonic character of this microphone can be heard on many classic recordings from such artists as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. In Fact George Martin was so in love with the sound of the U-47 he used it to record almost all the tracks on the Beatles “Rubber Soul” album.
In the mid-1960s Neumann put an end to production of the tube version of the U-47 and worked to develop the same microphone using transistors. The final design became the U-47 FET (Field Effect Transistor) which featured the original K47 capsule, but could better handle high sound pressure levels without affecting the resulting recording. The U-47 FET became a standard in it’s own right in studios throughout the world.
So as you can see the original U-47 was ground breaking in the world of recorded sound from the 1950’s up to today. Unfortunately, for you to get your hands on a vintage U-47 it will cost you between $15,000 to $25,000 if you can find one in good condition. A newer version will set you back $9,000 (Yes, Neumann/Telefunken reissued the tube version) and the U-47 FET can set you back $3,000.
Warm Audio WA-47
Now that we have an idea of where the benchmark is for Warm Audio in creating the WA-47, let’s take a look at how they went about capturing that classic character.
We will first start with the obvious, the overall build of the microphone. On first inspection you get the feeling that there is some real heft to this microphone. With it’s solid brass, Nickel plated shell to the large wire mesh capsule basket. You can tell there was some attention to the detail in the construction. One of the hallmarks of the original U-47 was the unique construction and that signature wire mesh capsule basket. You can tell Warm Audio did not cheap out on the materials and construction of this Mic. And let’s not forget the nice wood box that the microphone comes in. This is a big deal for me, as I always want to protect my investment.
This brings us to the heart of the WA-47 which is the Capsule. Warm Audio had a custom capsule created using the specs of the original K47. Using two vintage U-47’s they tuned this custom capsule to match the sonic character of these two vintage microphones. Each of the capsules are created in a small assembly facility’s clean room and delivered to the Warm Audio Factory in individual jewel cases. The Capsules remain in these cases until they are actually assembled into the microphone.
From the capsule the next in the chain is the Tube. Warm Audio chose to use the JJ 5751 vacuum tube. This tube is a lower gain, low noise tube that forces much of the sonics of the capsule and transformer to be heard better than some higher gain tubes might allow. The Transformer that this tube feeds is an American made TAB-Funkenwerk (AMI) USA transformer with large core imported German laminations. This type of transformer helps provide the creamy smooth top end, and a LARGER THAN LIFE bottom end that you would expect from a ’47 style microphone.
Top round off the rundown of this microphones construction, we have the power supply and cable. The provided Power supply allows for variable pattern switching from Omni to Cardoid to Figure 8. It is well constructed, like the microphone itself and has the feeling that it was created to take a beating if it needed to. The provided 7 pin cable once again shows an attention to detail as it is not just any cable. Warm Audio partnered up with Gotham Audio in Switzerland , a small boutique (and expensive) cable company to provide the connection of their WA-47 to the power supply and your audio chain.
In the Studio
The bottom line for me is how it performs in the studio. If I am going to make an investment in a $900 Microphone it has to perform for me at a level that I can justify it. So from day one I put this microphone to work to see how it would perform.
One of the first projects I had the opportunity to use the microphone was a female vocal that had a unique tonal quality to her voice. I had tried several microphones in my collection on her and none seemed to give me that full body tone I was looking for. This was a perfect opportunity to use the WA-47, so I pulled it out and set it up for her in the vocal booth. I ran the signal through a Warm Audio WA273 preamp into a Klark Teknik KT-2A compressor and immediately I was struck by the fullness of tone and clarity I was getting from this singer. She also noticed how good she sounded and the first thing she asked is what microphone was I using.
I have since used the WA-47 on a wide variety of vocalists and sources. From screaming rockers to soft acoustic guitars, and this microphone never ceased to amaze me with what I was able to capture. As I stated earlier I don’t have a real U-47 to compare this microphone to, but what I can say is this was a worthy investment for my studio and one I do not regret in any way.
As I said before, investing in your microphone collection is always good practice if you own a small studio. The problem is finding the right place to spend that money. With all the cheap microphones flooding the market, finding the really good ones can be hit and miss. Believe me I have some microphones in my collection that will never see the light of day again, but the WA-47 is not going to be one of them.
Warm Audio has been very consistent in putting out a great product, not only with their microphone lines but also with their preamps and outboard gear. I have several of their products and each of them have impressed me with their quality, performance and their value. If the WA-47 ($899) is still out of your reach, Warm Audio also makes the WA-47jr ($299) which is the FET version of the same microphone. Though I don’t have this in my collection (yet) I cannot imagine that it would not be of the same quality and value as the other Warm Audio gear I own.
Till Next Time .. Hit Record and make history!