I remember seeing this mic in a news item in Sound on Sound, presumably when it was first released. "OK, that's odd", I thought, but then I thought no more about it. Until now.
Like anyone with an interest in audio equipment, I keep an eye on eBay. The bargains have all gone because everyone knows what everything is worth now. But what's the harm in a little window shopping?
So one morning when my saved searches came in through my email, I spotted this...
[The auction ends August 13, 2011, so the page will disappear at some point after that.]
I'll say straight away that I don't have any connection with the seller other than I shamelessly copied his photo for this article. If anyone wants to shamelessly promote any of my auctions to tens of thousands of additional viewers, then I'd be very happy with that, so I think I'm being fair.
But the mic...
As you will see from the auction headline, it is a dynamic mic, which they specifically market as a broadcast announcer's mic. So it isn't a mic for music. It is a mic for speech.
What?!! Neumann makes capacitor microphones! Or call them condenser microphones if you wish, it's the same thing.
By any standards, this is a bit weird. It's like Thor the god of thunder becoming the god of needlework every other weekend.
But you have to remember (and many audio enthusiasts don't) that audio manufacturing companies work in a commercial world. They have to come up with new ideas for products that will wow the market.
And remember this too...
Neumann isn't Neumann. It hasn't been Neumann for a long time. Neumann, in fact, is Sennheiser and has been for twenty years.
Now when one company buys another, they can choose to give their subsidiary a high degree of independence. Or they can absorb it completely. No-one outside of the parent company's boardroom will know precisely how much influence there is.
But I can imagine the scenario in Sennheiser HQ. "We need a broadcast announcer's mic. How can we fit it into the Sennheiser product range?" Then a voice from a distant corner of the boardroom table responds, "Hi, I'm the Neumann guy. I think we could make it."
I'm not going to write any more of the script, but there must have be a lot of discussion. Neumann as a brand must surely be important to Sennheiser. And messing about with a successful brand isn't something a company does lightly.
And Neumann took the commission very seriously. Anyone could have put a dynamic capsule behind a Neumann grille. Job done - dynamic mic in the Neumann catalog.
But Neumann has gone the extra mile with this... Just to mention a couple of practical points, the mic features interchangeable grilles for multiple users (who probably don't want to exchange saliva germs), with colored identification rings. They also make quite a deal out of structure-borne noise isolation. Speech exposes noise like nothing else, so for a broadcaster this is vital. One last point - since the mic will most likely be suspended from above to allow a clear script area, the badge and lettering reads correctly in that orientation. And, by the way, the badge is green to tell you that this is something different - not at all your regular Neumann.
But why a dynamic? Why not just adapt a condenser mic for broadcast use?
Well dynamics have their own kind of sound. It's a sound that is popular in broadcast. You can't get the dynamic sound from a capacitor mic, so if you want that sound, then a dynamic mic is the only sensible option.
I have no idea how successful this mic was for Neumann (and Sennheiser). But I'm still hoping for the follow-up.
There's another kind of mic that has its own sound - a sound that has been widely used in broadcast in the past...
The ribbon mic.
Now, a Neumann ribbon mic, that really would be something.
Here's another pic. Click it for a large version...