Microtech Gefell UM92S
Multi-Pattern Tube Microphone
Microtech's classic-sounding tube mic is up there with the best, as Paul White finds out after using it on a couple of recording sessions.
Just a few short years ago, nobody in the UK had heard of Microtech Gefell; the company was on the wrong side of the iron curtain in East Germany, and when they put their UM70 capacitor model on sale in the UK, it was greeted with much enthusiasm, not only for its low cost but because of its warm, transparent sound.
Available in matt black or satin nickel finish, the new UM92S is based on the M7 capsule, offering omni, cardioid or figure-of-eight pickup patterns. Microtech's M7 capsule is a dual-diaphragm pressure gradient device incorporating a gold-sputtered, plastic film diaphragm. The tube preamp requires an external power supply, and it is from this remote box that pattern switching is accomplished. The signal output from the power supply is a standard balanced XLR at microphone level, while the connection to the mic is via a proprietary 7-pin (Tuchel) multipin cable.
The power supply provides the DC voltages for powering the mic's amplifier circuits as well as the polarising voltages to drive the capsule. The tube (an EC92) is located inside the microphone body and the valve heater voltage is stabilised inside the mic body itself.
Most valve mics produce a warm sound, but by the same token, some colour the sound so much that they might almost be considered in the same way as effects or equalisers. The UM92S seems to present a nominally accurate picture of what is actually being played or sung, but also seems to have the knack of drawing out fine detail and pushing forward the bass end at the same time. With the UM92S, vocals take on an air of increased confidence and life, yet at the same time, they retain the impression of being true to the performer. Similarly, instruments such as acoustic guitars sound full, rounded and nicely detailed.
I've tried several good valve mics over the past several years and few have impressed me as much as this one. It doesn't come out as the cheapest valve mic on the market but it's also far from being the most expensive — indeed, it costs little more than some high ranking solid-state capacitor mics. To get the best vocal sound for a particular singer, the characteristics of the mic have to suit those of the vocalist, and a mic that works brilliantly with one person might produce disappointing results with another. Having said that, the fact that the UM92S doesn't radically change the natural sound character of whatever it's working with leads me to conjecture that if the source sounds good acoustically, the UM92S isn't going to do anything to spoil it.
In this era of DAT and digital multitrack, many of the analogue stages that add character to a sound have been eliminated or bypassed, and this may well account for the increased interest in capacitor mics with valve preamps which contribute to tonal character. Many of the differences between pro and semi-pro studios have been eroded in recent years, and the main difference in capability between a home studio and a professional facility is now in the mics on offer. In this light, Microtech's UM92S stands comparison with the best of the valve mics on the market; our Production Editor and consultant recording vocalist, Debbie, goes so far as to say it's the best mic she's ever worked with. One thing is certain — few people will be disappointed.
UM92S, all accessaries including well-engineered shock-mount and aluminium briefcase £1821; M92S (cardioid only) £1645. Prices inc VAT.
Stirling Audio, (Contact Details).
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Review by Paul White
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