LDC Voiceover Mic Test

Saturday, February 26th, 2011 | by

The Aseyer Electric Technology Nanjing Co L36BAseyer L36B is a premium large-diaphragm condenser microphone, made in China. It has a fixed Cardioid pickup pattern, a beautifully simple amplifier circuit, and a transformer-coupled output. At a glance, it’s a very interesting mic for vocal and voiceover applications.

(No, you’ve probably never heard of it, but that’s what RecordingHacks is for!)

I invited my pal Blair Hardman over to record some voiceover samples through the L36B and a couple other mics I had lying around, one of which was a vintage Neumann U87. Unmarked audio samples are below; take a blind listen and pick what you like without the burden of your preconceptions.

Blair is a bassist, studio owner, and professional voice actor, with a shelf full of CDs, radio spots, and audiobooks to his credit. It is a little-known fact that when Blair recorded the audiobook version of Dr. Phil’s Real Life: The Seven Most Challenging Days of Your Life, he had to grow a mustache first.

Well, not really.

Voiceover Audio Samples

All tracks were recorded dry at 24-bit, 44.1 kHz using the BLA-modded preamps in my Digi-002. Tracks were gain-matched in Pro Tools, to match the peaks of the first words of each clip. Samples were bounced at 24-bit, then converted to 16-bit MP3 at 320kbps using Peak LE 6.

[24-bit WAVs: U87, CM-87, AT4047MP, L36B]

The Microphones

Although all the microphones user are solid-state condensers, there is a lot of variation among them. Capsule sizes range from ~25–36mm. Sensitivities range from 8mV/Pa–30mV/Pa. Prices range from from $379 to $4700 (!).

What to listen for

I always tend to hear the differences in high-frequency response first. But the fact that there’s a large-diaphragm Neumann in the lineup means we should listen for the magical midrange that Neumann’s LDCs are famous for. How believable and how emotionally compelling is the voice in each take?

Listen also for the dynamic range, or the 3D quality of each track. Some of these mics sound more open, more lifelike, more dimensional, but it’s not just a matter of frequency response.


The script Blair used is an excerpt of the infamous “Retro-Encabulator” parody from Rockwell Automation:

Rockwell Automation

The lineup consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzelvanes, so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that sidefumbling was effectively prevented. The main winding was of the normal lotus o-deltoid type placed in panendermic semiboloid slots of the stator, every seventh conductor being connected by a non-reversible tremie pipe to the differential girdlespring on the up end of the grammeters.

Contacting Blair Hardman, Voice Actor

If you need a radio spot, a narrator, or a male voiceover talent, contact Blair Hardman via his website,

If you haven’t seen his Ignite talk, Everything You Need to do Voiceovers, and One Thing You Don’t, it’s a great intro to voice acting:

What did you like?

How did the L36B fare against the grandaddy of LDC FETs, the U87?

Speaking of which, if you had $3200 to spend on a VO mic, would you pick up a Neumann U 87 AiU 87 Ai or the CM-87 plus, say, any six other broadcast/VO mics that catch your fancy?

We are working on a fuller review of the L36B. In the meantime: voice actors, directors, and recordists, I would enjoy hearing your comments about the audio samples above!

Posted in Microphones, Shootouts, voiceover | 20 Comments »

20 Responses to “LDC Voiceover Mic Test”

  1. Ian!

    March 2nd, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    To my ear, the CM-87 is the closest to the U87 in tone, but is a hair darker. But pleasantly so.

    The L36B was distinctly bassier, but still a nice, useable tone.

    I’d be eager to hear them on some more musical applications, particularly ones where proximity effect would play less of a role.

  2. mista min

    March 7th, 2011 at 2:49 am

    The U87 has the richest and most correct tone for this voice over. The other mics do a good job, but the U87 is just perfect.

    Definitely the reason these mics are still so loved.

    Still, really cool and great values found in the other mics.

  3. Hendrik

    March 8th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    To my ears the AT4047 would be the best choise.
    The upper mids in the recording of U87 & CM-87 are ‘cutting’ too much, what makes it very demanding to listen to for a longer time – for adds I would prefer this sound, but for
    Audio Books and narrations I prefer a more relaxed (english) tone .
    The L36B is somewhere in the middle and would be an ‘o.k.’ choise.

  4. Steve Faul

    March 12th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    In the blind test, the AT4047MP came out the winner by a nose over the U87. Both had the right presence for the voice, but the AT grabbed my ears with the first sentence with a fuller body that I personally like and felt suited this voice. The U87 is more neutral which is what many producers want and why this mic is the standard. The L36B had the most pronounced low end, which seemed to vary a bit as if the talent was moving. I can see radio production guys going for this one, especially if the price is competitive with the RE20. The CM-87 came across weak compared to the others. It had the most subtle low end which would compliment certain bosso voices, but here it felt a bit wimpy.

    There’s no doubt the U87 sets a high goal for what a VO mic should be. But with the MKH-416 now priced at around $1,000, and increasing competition from mics like the AT4047MP, it’s getting harder every day to justify a U87 price tag on the balance sheet.

  5. Martin

    March 22nd, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Music has no standard, only consensus. Even the U87is the case, ,compare the U87 and today’s U87-AI to know how big a difference

  6. Paul Morris

    March 22nd, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    No Shure KSM44s?

    Many top recording folks are using the KSM44s and the new KSM44A has the least internal noise, 4db, of any mic made. Just surprised is all.



  7. matthew mcglynn

    March 22nd, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Paul, this was not an attempt to test every LDC. That said, I’d have been happy to include the KSM44 if I’d had one on hand.

  8. armman

    March 27th, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    L36B is very good,clean and reality,i like it.thank u matthew mcglynn.i hope to enjoy more tests like this.

  9. andilar

    March 29th, 2011 at 7:08 am

    i did not do in-depth comparison of the frequency response curve of these microphones, but i already have a deep impression of their sounds from Matt’s voice over.

    U87 has a bright hi-end, and rich in the middle.
    4047 is clear and transparent, does a very good job copying U87.

    But when we come to look at the overall performance of the four mics, L36B is far better than the rest(although it’s a strange mic for me). Not only does this mic have a very satisfying middle and low frequency response, it also has brought out the sound with all the details, vividness, dimensional and balanced.

    If you try to listen to all the sounds 3-6 dB louder, the U87 and 4047’s excessive hi-frequency will make your ears tired very soon, like every single note are knocking at your forehead repeatedly. Whereas the L36B will keep its overall style as played in the lower volume, and this is what we want in post-production.

  10. BGilbert

    March 30th, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I think I prefer the extended bass of the L36B in this application (voiceover), but that’s listening through earbuds. I might think differently through my AKG271s.

    What is most revealing, though, is how identifying the mics colored my preference. I will generally ALWAYS reach for a Neumann given the choice, but this test demonstrates my bias. I feel quite confident that, had the mics been identified BEFORE the test began, that my favorite would have been different.

    Still … “I loves me some Neumann…”


  11. matthew mcglynn

    March 30th, 2011 at 11:05 am

    @BG, that’s exactly why we don’t identify the mics when we publish most of these tests. 🙂

  12. Archie Anderson

    March 30th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    Interesting…. I find my self liking the 4047 the best. It had the lowest sibilance. I’m getting rather cranky about having to De-Ess things these days. I am rather surprised that the U87 had more sibilance than the others. Truthfully, they all sounded pretty good. the l36 had more bottom which gave the the voice a little more “weight”. Its interesting to listen again to see how my first impressions match my prejudices.

  13. Bob Kuhn

    April 26th, 2011 at 9:56 am

    What a bewildering set of responses! It makes me wonder whether the differences are more the result of the listening environment than the microphones.

    It also makes me wonder about what one is looking for in a mic. Personally, I want a neutral mic that records things exactly as they were. Which brings me to microphone frequency charts. seemingly, I just need to compare charts to find the most true-to-life mic … that is, if we can trust the graphs. Some are suspiciously smooth, others are not. How reliable is such testing and such reporting by manufacturers?

  14. matthew mcglynn

    April 26th, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Bob, I imagine people’s personal monitoring environments (or lack thereof) play a significant role in the perception of these samples. Also, people listen for different things; e.g., some people are more sensitive to sibilance than others.

    Frequency graphs vary in quality and utility from one vendor to the next. There are no standards for measuring distance, chamber size, smoothing, or anything else. Most graphs will give you a rough idea of a mic’s EQ curve, on-axis, but actual results can vary significantly with placement and source material.

    Most graphs are measured at 1m, unless otherwise marked. This is outside the range of proximity effect for most microphones. Assuming you stand closer than 1m for VO work, you’d be hearing a fuller low end from *any* mic than is suggested by its graph.

  15. Fredrik Nyström

    September 23rd, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I have ordered a CM87, and when I listened to this shoot-out I hoped #2 would be the CM87. Actually #1 was the one i favoured the least. Turns out the one that is on the way to me is that one… Hm. Well, it will probably be useful anyway, voice was’nt what I have intended to record with it.
    And who knows, it could turn out to suit my voice anyway.
    Thanks for taking the time to do this shoot-out!

  16. Colin Day

    October 26th, 2011 at 6:40 am

    On first listen most people wouldn’t spot a huge difference in these mics. The question I never see asked is; which mic did the talent prefer?

    If the voice talent is happy and feeling good about the mic then he/she can concentrate 100% on the performance. The right sound in a voice talent’s headphones is like a positive feedback loop.

  17. Damon Myers

    June 18th, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Funny to me that the CM-87 and Neumann U87 were neck and neck for my favorite on this voiceover. The U87 has a slightly more lively quality to it and feels a little more full in the midrange, but the CM-87 was easily a close second.

    A few others posted that the AT4047 was their favorite for the voiceover but I felt like the clarity just wasn’t there like it was in the CM87 and U87.

  18. Chris L

    May 23rd, 2015 at 10:25 am

    i do agree that the cm87 was very close to the u87.tho nothing seems to beat the original,i think anyone who knows how to mix a song will get away with great results using the lower priced cm87.when your song is being played on the radio and people is buying it,i doubt that anyone will know that u didn’t use the u87

  19. Tim McKean

    December 6th, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Thanks for this shootout. This really helped tip the scales for me and I purchased the AT 4047. The CM 87 to my ear was most like the original u87, though I liked the warmth of the AT. Definitely some great mic out there in the sub $1,000 range these days.

  20. Wes

    February 17th, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    This shoot out is very inaccurate because of each performance varying. In one mic he might speak the part at a different volume and pitch as well as stand even just half an inch closer or farther away than one of the other mics which makes a huge difference dont you think.

    Its 2017

    im bored

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