Hugh Robjohns auditions the latest addition to Neumann's renowned range of KM‑series condenser mics.
There is no shortage of high‑quality condenser microphones which excel at capturing the singing voice in the controlled environs of the recording studio. However, achieving similar levels of quality during a live performance on stage is a far greater challenge. Neumann's new KMS105 is their newest mic to address this challenge, and it shares many similarities with that old favourite the KM84, though the capsule design is actually derived from the K50 capsule employed in Neumann's KMS150, KM150 and KM185 microphones.
The KMS105 is supplied in an attractive turquoise padded pouch made of hard‑wearing nylon, affording excellent protection to the enclosed microphone and stand adaptor. The complete package measures roughly 70 x 190mm, but the microphone within is a slim 48 x 180mm and weighs a comfortable 350g. The substantial metal body acts to reduce handling noise and it's not too long to be well‑balanced. The grille, with its internal steel‑gauze pop shield, can be unscrewed for cleaning.
The capsule is a typical Neumann high‑quality unit with a diaphragm measuring roughly 18mm in diameter. It is configured to provide a very well‑defined supercardioid polar response which varies little with frequency and has superb rear‑rejection of over 15dB across the stated frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz. This characteristic makes the KMS105 ideal for stage use, providing good resistance to feedback from stage monitors. The microphone has relatively low self noise, measuring 18dBA (DIN), and can accommodate peak sound pressure levels (for 0.5 percent distortion) of 150dB, at which point the output level will be bending back the desk meters with a whopping +12dBu!
The frequency response is tailored for close‑miking applications, producing an almost ideally flat frequency response when used at around 5cm from the source. At greater distances the proximity effect is far less pronounced, with a smoothly falling low‑frequency response below 200Hz. A high peak of around 5dB at 12kHz complements the clarity and presence of voices without emphasising sibilance.
The output level appears low at 4.5mV/Pa, but it must be remembered that this mic is intended for close‑miking applications, therefore the actual output level achieved in practice will be comparable with any other decent condenser mic. Phantom power is obviously required, but the mic only draws around 3.5mA from a standard 48V supply. An internal DC converter circuit derives the necessary power rails for amplification and capsule polarisation, and it takes only a few seconds to stabilise.
The KMS105 is a delightful microphone, both to use and to listen to. It is a comfortable size and shape for both large and small hands, and is relatively immune to handling noises. The polar response is extremely tight and well‑defined, providing superb resistance to feedback from monitors and front‑of‑house PA. On axis, there is considerable sensitivity when used in a typical handheld, close‑mic fashion, but this falls away very rapidly with increasing distance — this is ideal for capable performers with well‑honed technique, though it could catch out inexperienced vocalists.
The frequency response of the mic is wide and clean, clearly balanced for close‑mic applications and with a high‑end brightness which works well on vocals. The microphone is sufficiently neutral in its characteristics to provide good service in a secondary role with a wide range of acoustic or amplified instruments. However, there are other models in the KM100 range which might provide more flexibility and therefore offer better results in these applications.
It would be wrong to think of the KMS105 as just a high‑quality stage mic, because it works admirably in the studio too. A more distant placing results in considerably lower output level and a noticeable lack of low‑frequency energy, but these points are easily addressed with low‑noise mic preamplifiers and a little equalisation. The output quality is certainly of a high calibre — different to a traditional large‑diaphragm mic, of course, but extremely good none the less. If you are looking for a top‑notch vocal mic to use on stage as well as in the project studio, this should feature very high on your shortlist.
- Comfortable to use.
- Low handling noise.
- Excellent immunity to monitor feedback.
- Easy to clean.
- Clever protection case.
- Tailored frequency response.
- As always, this sort of quality will cost you.
An excellent vocal condenser mic intended for hand‑held and close‑miking use. Typical Neumann quality in sound and construction, and suitable for use both on the stage and in the studio.