Review: Schoeps V4U Condenser Microphone

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Review: Schoeps V4U Condenser Microphone

Words by Liam McShane

Studio Connections | Expect to pay: $3,905

There exists a home truth amongst the professional studio fraternity, that when it comes to recording peripherals like mics and monitors (products that are on the first and last line in regards to overall sonic quality): you really do get what you pay for.

Explore all the latest microphone, monitor and headphone reviews here.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t entry level mics and monitors that can’t excel in a very specific context or application; moreso that in a reputation based industry like pro studio, where the stakes are high and where the ability to replicate a ‘professional’ level of sound quality, first time, every time is literally in the job description – understandably there is a level of investment required in order to hit this target consistently and efficiently.

This approach is no longer just reserved for the professional studio either, and as we lay witness to the continued maturation of home recording (and the increasingly pro level setups of the modern DIY producer) we are seeing a blurring of the lines between pro and prosumer, both in workflow and with a host of exotic brand names traditionally reserved for top flight commercial studios, finally starting to make their way into the broader public lexicon.

Perhaps there is no better example of this than legendary German microphone haus Schoeps and products like their stunning V4U – a brand who for the last 70 years have been one of the finest proponents of the European microphone tradition, while also bearing enough forward-thinking design nous to translate into the modern recording climate, becoming a favourite premium option for engineers on both sides of the proverbial fence.

In a market saturated with large diaphragm condensers for all seasons, Schoeps stand out for a myriad of reasons, least of all their ongoing dedication to small-diaphragm technology.

For the uninitiated, Schoeps deal exclusively in small diaphragm (not a diaphragm over 1” in sight) and it is this sense of restriction that has propelled them into such interesting, cutting edge design territory with the V4U.

Not content with settling for being the reigning kings of classical stereo mic’ing, the engineers at Schoeps have applied this aforementioned SDC mastery and applied it to one of the most LDC dominant sources of all: the human voice. The result is something both unique and truly special.

The V4U marries Schoeps’ small diaphragm expertise with the desirable sonic imprint of a large diaphragm microphone, resulting in a nimble, pleasant sounding vocal mic with a host of tricks up its sleeve, particularly for off- axis concerns like capturing an animated vocalist outside of the direct line of incidence.

It’s an area of microphone design that isn’t always talked about as much as it should be in regards
to its influence on recording quality, but it is a conversation that needs to be had. Needless to say, the V4U’s stellar off-axis properties mean you’d have to be working hard not to be able to pull something high quality and usable from it – given the multitude of placement sins it is able to absorb and tolerate.

This aforementioned tight cardioid pickup and neutral off-axis colouration aren’t the only indicators of Schoeps’ focus on directionality and spill with the V4U. Thanks to a handy hinge contraption on the neck of the microphone, the entire capsule can be tilted forward and backwards 20 degrees, independent to the body of the microphone, only further increasing the V4U’s versatility of application.

A more-than-respectable self- noise of 15dB quells any concerns one may typically have for a typical small diaphragm condenser and this, coupled with its ability to pull lifelike detail from a broad range of program material, is yet another reminder why Schoeps are such a formidable presence in film/FX work.

No shrinking violet, the exceptional SPL capability of 144dB also lets the V4U handle some serious volume for band work and louder source material. A warm and lucid frequency response lends itself to consistency between different voices, making it a real all-rounder microphone, for vocals and beyond.

While it’s hard not to overlook just how well this thing captures vocals, to limit its use to just vocals would be a folly; the V4U’s lightning fast transient response, one of its more immediate features, gives an uncanny sense of motion to recordings. Between the crispness of a piano’s action and the sighing of a string section, the V4U captures momentum that large diaphragm microphones don’t seem to hear.

Need a better drum kit overhead solution? A pair of V4U microphones is fast becoming a popular premium option for overheads. But the artifice doesn’t end there: the V4U’s ability as an all-rounder makes it a top tier choice for all but the most brutal of recording applications, lending its classy open capture to anything put in front of it.

When it makes anything sound this good, it becomes all too easy to grab as first choice regardless of what convention might say: woodwind, pitched percussion, even foley – the V4U will sound great on all of them.

One of the most thoughtfully designed and sublimely executed microphone releases of recent memory, the Schoeps V4U is an awesome choice, both for the top flight recording/foley studio, or for the home recordist looking to level up their recordings.

Its unique topography, ability to produce detailed rich, critical recordings and its exceptional off-axis response all combine to make it an extremely useful tool for all studios great and small.

For more specs, head to Schoeps and contact Studio Connections for all local enquiries.