The Neumann U87 is one of the most sought-after microphones for its rich sound and versatility. This comes at a cost… it’s not cheap! However, there have been serious attempts at recreating this highly successful classic large-diaphragm condenser microphone by other brands in a more affordable product.
For those who can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars for a recording microphone, these might interest you.
In my opinion, the Warm Audio WA87 makes the best effort at cloning the classic. It’s, therefore, my Top Pick. If you’re searching for a U87 alternative with a lower budget, then check out the TZ Audio Stellar X2.
Note: When buying a large-diaphragm condenser microphone, it’s important to make sure you have good acoustic treatment in your room, as these mics can pick up a lot of background noise. Make sure to put a good deal of your budget towards room treatment rather than spending it all on your microphone!
The Best U87 Alternatives (2021)
Let’s look at these in more detail:
Not many manufacturers have launched a switchable large-diaphragm condenser microphone with “87” in the product code as Warm Audio has done! But there’s more to this clone than the name!
To reduce transmission from the microphone stand, the WA87 is mounted in a handsome spider. This is also based on the “EA” design (elastic suspension) from Neumann. As with the original: ball, cardioid, and figure-eight polar patterns are available.
- Performs well for vocals
- A good microphone for stringed instruments
- Optimal frequency response
- Good-quality overall professional sound
- Not the same frequency response as the U87, but some EQ processing can fix this.
- Although it’s far more affordable than the original U87, it still can’t be classed as “cheap”!
The main difference between the clone and the original is in the frequency response, which Warm Audio struggles to bring to par with the original.
|Frequency range||20 Hz to 20,000 Hz|
|Polar pattern||Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Figure-8|
|Sensitivity/sound pressure level||125 dB maximum without a pad|
The WA-87 is recommended for aspiring engineers and professional voice actors. It’s also most recommended for those looking for a scaled-down Neumann U87, not necessarily in performance, but mostly in price!
2. Stellar X2
The Stellar X2 isn’t directly designed based on the famous U87 as much as the Warm Audio WA-87 is. This is a unidirectional microphone. However, the Stellar X2 is an alternative that offers many similar qualities as the original U87, but for a way more affordable price.
The TZ Audio Stellar X2 is a high-quality condenser microphone sold at a very affordable price. It contains a concentrate of technology and excellent materials that make it one of the best low-budget home-studio microphones for vocals.
- Lighter than the U87
- Low distortion and self-noise
- Balanced sound needing less editing
- Good for voice-overs
- Good build quality
- Hand-tuned capsule
- It doesn’t match the quality of the U87.
- Not good for big transients like percussion sound sources
The resulting sound is very decent from this, though not with the same quality and level of detail you would expect from the U87 or the previously mentioned WA87.
|Frequency range||20 Hz to 20 kHz|
|Sensitivity/sound pressure level||130 dB|
In conclusion, the Stellar 2 can’t really compete at the level of quality of the U87. That said, you probably wouldn’t expect it to at a tiny fraction of the price of the original U87. However, it’s a really decent low-budget microphone to record vocals in a home studio.
What To Expect from U87 Clones
Here’s the part you have to be frank with yourself. You need to set your expectations a little bit lower when getting a U87 clone. Some of the key things to note about them are that:
They Vary Greatly
Yes, they are clones, but the audio manufacturers simply can’t get them to sound identical to the original. In fact, even Neumann’s U87AI microphones don’t even sound quite the same as the original!
While the Warm Audio model is a complete copycat (same finish, same polar pattern, similar sensitivity, and more), TZ Audio produced a mic with some significant differences to the U87, but it’s still a reasonable alternative.
Putting aside brand power, you can’t get the same sound quality and charm from a clone that’s a tiny fraction of the price. In essence, many of these clones will not sound exactly like the original, but if you choose the right one, you’ll still get a great recording.
Why Is the Neumann U87 So Popular?
Perhaps the main reasons why the U87 is so popular are its reliability, versatility, and overall popularity of use in famous recordings. The U87, one of the pioneers and mainstay in large diaphragm condenser technology, is a classic and rightly so. It has been manufactured since 1967 and has only undergone moderate modifications during this time.
The microphone can be found in almost every major professional studio; it was one of the founding elements of the typical Neumann sound.
Why Is the Neumann U87 So Expensive?
Neumann microphones are expensive because of their brand reputation, quality, as well as their relatively high manufacturing costs.
Neumann microphones are made in Germany, and they follow very high standards of production, so they can’t be sold as cheaply as mass-produced microphones in lower-wage countries.
That said, we can’t expect higher manufacturing costs to be the sole reason these mics are more expensive. Neumann microphones have become quite iconic in the recording world, and, as such, can command a much higher price.
To satisfy audiophiles and professionals looking for a taste of the qualities of the Neumann model, manufacturers are experimenting with clones. You’re never going to get a sound exactly like the original, but the options on this list will get you some of the qualities of the signature sound.
For those looking for one of the better clones of the U87, check out my Top Pick, the Warm Audio WA87. Those on a lower budget should consider the TZ Audio Stellar X2.