The U 47 fet

“The music is made in front of the microphone” – even today, this golden rule has lost none of its significance. In every recording, the microphone thus continues to be an element that defines the sound. The real challenge today lies in making the right choice of microphone. This determines whether “the music in front of the microphone” will be influenced decisively during recording, or whether more of the decision-making will be transferred to the subsequent post-production.

It is interesting to note that in the present age of digitalization, in many artistic fields in particular, we are experiencing a renaissance of the analog realm. In photography, for instance, it is the Polaroid photo that is making an unexpected comeback. In music production it is the retro sound of the 1960s and 1970s that is being rediscovered, especially by young musicians. Why is this the case?

The distinctive look and individual esthetic of old Polaroid photos are as easily recognizable as the typical sounds of the period. In comparison with modern equivalents, both seem freer, more experimental and often more authentic. Not always technically perfect, they nevertheless convey passion in a particular way. This makes the results unique, less arbitrary, and less readily replaceable than is the case in today’s digital world. Perhaps it is precisely the recollection of these artistic values of the 1960s and 1970s which is the answer to our question. In combination with studio technologies of the present generation, the sound colors from those pioneering days are now introducing experimental possibilities and the freedom required for a new evolution in sound creation.

The U 47 fet is an essential contributor to that time. As a secret weapon for recording producers eager to experiment, it was not only a top microphone for soloists, but also decisively affected the spatial dimension of the sound and the tonal depth of countless productions. The good processing of extremely high sound pressure levels, not previously attainable, also permitted the direct miking of loud guitar amplifiers, bass amplifiers and kick drums. This feature, combined with the capsule sound derived from its famous tube-based predecessor, enabled the U 47 fet to contribute to many legendary recordings of the time. It was precisely this newly discovered versatility that was closely associated with the U 47 fet and its characteristics.

Now the U 47 fet, made by Neumann.Berlin, is back!

Today considerable efforts are being directed toward copying historic working tools and imitating the sound signature of these models. The return of an original such as the U 47 fet is like the return of an icon of that era that is able to give the sounds of the new century an additional unmistakable character. The magical sound of the late 1960s, the 1970s and beyond is thus within reach.

The list of renowned artists who have created musical masterpieces with the sound of the U 47 fet – including AC/DC, Kate Bush, Bruce Springsteen, and later R.E.M, the Pretenders, a-ha, Dire Straits, Metallica, Michael Bublé and many others – can now grow longer ...

Statements

Bruce Swedien (r.) with Wolfgang Fraissinet (President of Neumann)

For decades, legendary recording engineer and producer Bruce Swedien has been an enthusiastic fan of the U 47 fet. One of the many highlights of his career was recording and mixing the Thriller album with Michael Jackson in the year 1982. Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Diana Ross, Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand are only a few of many other stars with whom he has worked. He has been nominated for a Grammy award 13 times, and has been a Grammy winner five times.

In his book Make Mine Music, he wrote about the U 47 fet: “My personal favorite of this series (Neumann fet 80) is the U 47 FET. I have two U 47 FETs, very close in sequence numbers, that sound simply fabulous! I absolutely treasure these lovely mikes.”

In 2005, in the Music Player Network Internet forum, he wrote: “The U-47 fet is one of the best sounding Neumann condenser mikes! It is vastly underrated by the industry! I absolutely love mine” and “The U-47 fet is a wonderful vocal mike! A nice and very useful amount of proximity effect. Great for thin voices. The great thing about using the U47 fet on acoustic guitar is also the proximity effect on some guitars ...”

At the 137th AES Convention in Los Angeles in October 2014, Bruce Swedien was a guest at the Neumann stand on the occasion of the U 47 fet relaunch. To commemorate the year that the Thriller album was released, he was personally presented by Neumann President Wolfgang Fraissinet with the U 47 fet Collectors Edition microphone bearing the serial number “82”. Delighted, Bruce Swedien recommended to press representatives who were present that they should listen to the recording of “Smile” by Michael Jackson with the strings of the New York Philharmonic, in order to hear Michael’s voice recorded with the U 47 fet.