Many engineers believe that Neumann's classic KM84 has never been bettered. Have Warm Audio produced an affordable alternative?
Warm Audio have a simple but very effective business model based around recreating vintage studio hardware on a budget. Their range encompasses affordable copies of classic compressors, EQs, mic preamps and now microphones, of which the latest is an homage to one of the great studio workhorses.
Introduced in 1966, the Neumann KM84 made history by being the first ever phantom-powered microphone. It soon established itself as a popular choice not only in recording studios but also in broadcasting, thanks to its excellent sound and unobtrusive physical presence, and remained in Neumann's catalogue until 1992.
Like rival systems from Schoeps and AKG, Neumann's KM series was modular. The KM body contained the impedance converter, balanced line–driver circuitry and output transformer, with a switchable -10dB pad, and could accommodate one of three capsule assemblies. These were the KK83 omni head, the KK84 cardioid and the KK85 'speech cardioid', which had a fixed bass cut. The 85 and especially the 83 are good mics in their own right, but the classic pairing is the KM body with the KK84 cardioid head.
The KM84, as this combination is known, is an undisputed classic, and Neumann have always struggled to convince the world that its successor represents an improvement. Nearly 30 years after it was discontinued, you'll still pay considerably more for a second-hand KM84 in good condition than you will for a brand-new KM184. Hence Warm Audio's belief that there's a market for a low-cost recreation of it.
The WA‑84 follows the original design in having the capsule housed in a detachable head which can be unscrewed and removed from the body containing the electronics. At launch, there is only a cardioid capsule available, which is said to be a close replica of that found in the original KK84; other patterns are apparently in the works. The electronics are billed as "fully discrete" and a Cinemag USA output transformer is used, although it's not stated whether this is an exact copy of the Haufe BV107 used in the original.
For review, we were sent the WA‑84 stereo set, which comprises a matched pair of mics with clips and shockmounts, in a fitted case. It's fair to say that the low...