I'm not going to do the thing where I give you the full history of Neumann microphones and how the U 67 fits into it. There are already plenty of places to read about all of that. We're taking it for granted here that original U 67s, produced from 1960 to 1971, had a very special sound that inspired many people to use them on a lot of important records.
Neumann's recent reissue of the mic has gotten people talking, particularly since the company reports that it's a 100% replica of its predecessor, "made to original specifications" and "sonically identical." Although I've used several vintage U 67s over the years, I didn't have one at hand for direct comparison with the reissue during my review period. I did, however, have Figure 8 Recording's oft-used vintage Neumann M 269 c, which is essentially a U 67 with an AC701 tube instead of an EF86. The AC701 is known to be brighter than the EF86, and my experiences certainly confirmed that. The capsules, on the other hand, are the same. The reissue also uses the K 67 capsule, which has been in constant production for the past 59 years, and this was evident by the fact that other than that high end boost from the AC701 tube, a male vocal sounded almost identical in the two mics. I could have done a completely believable comp between the takes after cutting a couple of dBs at 10 kHz on the M 269 c; the body of the vocal sounded equally rich, full, and deep. The only other difference between the two mics was a more pronounced plosive on the M 269 c, which makes me think the internal shock mounting of the capsule has been improved upon.
I had a couple of sessions during my review period with singers whom I had recorded before, using other large diaphragm condenser mics at Figure 8 Recording, such as the Josephson C700A [Tape Op #62] and Brauner VM1 KHE (Klaus Heyne Edition). Both of these mics originally sold for almost identical prices as the reissue U 67 does now (although the Brauner has skyrocketed on the used market since it was discontinued) and both of them lost in these comparison tests to the new Neumann. That doesn't mean those other mics aren't amazing, because they are, but discerning singers with great ears who had at one point chosen them in similar blind tests against other mics happened to prefer the U 67 this time around, and I wholeheartedly agreed in these particular cases. There's a reason the U 67 is many singers' preferred vocal mic, due to the presence and depth of the response, and the mic's ability to represent the full dynamic range without sounding fuzzy or restricted.
Throughout the rest of the test period, I used the single U 67 for mono piano, acoustic and electric guitars, sitar, multiple percussion instruments, and as both a drum overhead and room mic. It excelled in all of these applications in whichever pattern was right for the application – the mic wields cardioid, omni, and figure 8 polar patterns – and didn't get kicked out of bed once. My notes contained adjectives like "balanced," "warm," "throaty," and "natural," with nouns like "depth" and "clarity." However, other than as a vocal mic, I had two revelations. One was on saxophone, while recording multi-instrumentalist Will Epstein at Spillway Sound in the Catskills. He's a great player, and I record a lot of great saxophonists, and this was the least harsh, most balanced, pleasing alto sax sound I had gotten in ages, with zero EQ and minimal compression. The preamp was a Retro Instruments Powerstrip [#82], which has several tubes in the signal path, so perhaps the tube-on-tube action was part of the magic.
The other head-turning moment was recording Shahzad Ismaily (the owner of Figure 8 Recording) playing bass in a duo with Dirty Three drummer Jim White. I placed the U 67 a couple of feet away from Shahzad's vintage Ampeg B-15 bass amp, which was cranked in an iso room. The preamp was a vintage Altec 458A (also tube). The resultant tone was exactly what we both wanted from his vintage Fender Precision bass guitar, with just enough growl, body, and depth to contend with Jim's tom-tom rumbles and resonant kick drum. It also helped that we were recording to two-inch tape, but in any case, it was a bit of a holy grail moment for me in regard to achieving a classic, forward-leaning bass tone.
After all of those positive feelings, I have a few words about the accessories that come with the mic. There's the NU 67 V Power Supply, which has the same militaristic heft and look that the original ones did. It was redesigned for modern safety specs and to pair better with the modern EF86 tubes, but you can also use it with any vintage U 67 you may be lucky enough to have. The case everything comes in has a nice look and feel as well; it's both handsome and instills confidence that it will protect its valuable contents for many years. But the other two accessories, the shock mount, and the cable, both failed to impress me (and the other engineers at Figure 8 Recording. First off, I take every opportunity I can to implore mic manufacturers to stop using the "classic" elastic hairband and spiny metal ribcage design for mic shock mounts. They're cumbersome, can hinder precise placement, are prone to breaking, and are expensive to replace – a new Neumann Z 48 shock mount runs $400! Worse than all of that, it's super easy to accidentally flick one of the little retainer clips, and if the mic is hanging upside down it will fall directly through and to the floor. This almost happened to me a couple of times over my review period, but luckily, I had the cable attached so disaster was thankfully averted. Speaking of the UC 5 cable (which connects the mic to the power supply via hefty vintage-looking Tuchel connectors), it's quite thin compared to standard mic cable, which makes for much less kink-free coiling than I'm used to. I know for both of these Neumann was going for a classic look, but I wish they had modernized these two.
If this mic is in your price range, and you've been on the fence about whether it's worth it, I can report that it is, especially given that vintage U 67s go for a significant amount more money and don't carry a warranty. Also, it seems impossible that it won't retain most of its value, should you change your mind about it down the road. On top of that, who hasn't always wanted a U 67? I think so highly of this mic that I'll be purchasing my loaner. However, I would like to point out that if you're reading this review and this mic is out of your price range, you no longer have to spend this kind of money to get a quality microphone. Believe it or not, there are $400 mics being reviewed in the pages of this magazine that can hold a pretty serious candle to the U 67. Plus, if the cachet of the Neumann badge is attractive – and it undoubtedly is – the company makes some excellent microphones that are much less expensive. There may well be some small amount of semi-intangible magic you're missing, but trust me, you can still make great records without $7k microphones!