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Are all great microphones made in Germany or Austria?

A post by David Mellor
Friday February 26, 2010
Some people working at the high end of audio believe that nearly all great mics are made in Germany or Austria. But can you make a great recording with a mic made in China?
Are all great microphones made in Germany or Austria?

I'll let you into a little secret - I'm learning to play the violin. Why? Because it's hard. One day I'll get round to doing the other things too.

(Americans of a certain age might get that one, but what were those other things anyway?)

I've been scratching away for around two years nearly and I would say that I'm coming along fine. Well I would say that, wouldn't I?

Musical instruments of course are just as interesting as audio equipment. So I wasn't content to settle on the first violin I came across. So over this couple of years I have bought a few violins from eBay, following the plan that sooner or later I will get a good one. Then I can sell the rest.

And I have got a good one - it was made in Mirecourt France around 200 years ago and it plays really well. It is way better than any student instrument I could buy in a shop for around the same price.

But I also noticed that a lot of instruments made in China are advertised on eBay. In the photos, which are often enormous in listings from China, they look fantastic. But can they be any good? What do the Chinese know about making violins?

So I took a chance and ordered a violin from a company called Yitamusic. It is one of their high-end models and cost just a little more than my antique violin.

And you know what? It is a very good instrument - when it is properly played in I am sure it will easily be the equal of my vintage French instrument.

OK, we have to be clear that in neither case are we talking about an instrument of Stradivarius quality, but we are most definitely talking about excellent student instruments.

So in my opinion they can indeed make good violins in China.

So let's turn to microphones...

They make microphones in Germany and Austria, don't they? Where else in the world do they make great microphones?

Well, I'm not going to say that you can buy the equivalent of a vintage Neumann U47 or AKG C12 from a Chinese manufacturer advertising on eBay.

What I will say however is that I have taken Chinese mics into Abbey Road studios and compared them directly with mics from traditional manufacturers, and with original U47's and C12's.

Testing microphones at Abbey Road Studio 2
Testing microphones for Audio Masterclass at Abbey Road Studio 2 (singer Niccie Simpson)

And I can say with confidence that there are excellent mics coming out of China.

This next sentence could have contained a 'but', or at least an 'if'. Yet it doesn't.

I firmly believe that there is no reason why you can't make a totally professional recording with mics made in China. Of course not just any mic, but one from a manufacturer with a reputation that is on an upward trend.

And if they can make good mics now, what will they be able to achieve in the future? (And with violins too!)

A post by David Mellor
Friday February 26, 2010 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)