A rare Neumann U48 - for sale on eBay
The vintage vacuum tube Neumann U47 is often thought of as the world's number one classic mic. Indeed, in George Martin's autobiography it is the only mic he mentions by name. The U48 is a very similar microphone - where the '47 is switchable between omnidirectional and cardioid polar patterns, the '48 offers cardioid and figure-of-eight. The mics are otherwise identical, although I suspect the '47 would command a slightly higher price due to its being better known.
This example of the Neumann U48 is for sale on eBay, as of today (Monday April 1, 2013 - no fooling) and has a 'buy it now' price of $9999. Why the seller didn't make it a round $9999.99, I don't know :-)
So let's not waste time. Here it is...
By the way, Audio Masterclass has no connection with the seller other than that we asked permission to use the photos.
Now it has to be commented that this mic is not entirely in its original state. The capsule has been 're-skinned', which is a rather ugly expression for replacing the diaphragm. I would imagine there's as much skill in this as in making a concert-quality violin. It would involve sourcing the right material in the right thickness, metalizing it in a similar way to the original, and giving it the correct amount of tension. There might well be a myriad other factors involved too.
This perhaps isn't such a problem though. It isn't like great microphones are not being made any more, so the knowledge and skills are most definitely out there. In this case the replacement was performed by Charles Dickinson who also manufactures microphone capsules.
The other issue is that the vacuum tube isn't the original VF14. If it were, then the price would probably go through the roof. The tube is a Zenith Nuvistor, a nuvistor basically being a vacuum tube in a tin can. This replacement is quite commonly done.
But aren't they all unoriginal?
If the deviations from the original specification of this microphone worry you, then you probably won't be buying. However it is worth bearing in mind that there is no such thing as a truly original Neumann U47 or U48. They are all at least 48 years old. Believe me, you won't be as original as you are now in 48 years' time!
I have tried a few U47's and U48's and my thinking is that they all have the characteristic full, solid yet sparkly sound texture that makes these mics popular. But they all sound different. Sometimes subtly different, sometimes very noticeably so. I would say that if the mic is working correctly with a full frequency range, low noise and low distortion, then you won't be dissatisfied. But if you admire the sound of one particular 'U' that you know, you can't expect any other example to match it exactly. Your level of satisfaction depends on how picky you are.
The 'buy it now'
I keep wanting to call this an auction since this is on eBay, but it's a 'but it now' at $9999. You can find the sale here...
When it's gone, it's gone. So be quick if you want it.
The seller, by the way, is geartechpro and there's a lot of other interesting stuff in their eBay Store...