Studio Connections | Expect to pay: $1,549
The famed German ’67 is considered by many to be one of the holy grails in the audio world: without a doubt, it’s a desert island tube condenser mic. Used by the likes of The Beatles, Nirvana and Frank Sinatra, it has truly etched its place into the recording industry as one of the most ubiquitous vocal microphones.
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Until recently, finding an original and functional ’67 would prove both difficult and expensive – originals known to sell upwards of $12,000 AUD and even then, there is all kinds of split opinion on reconditioned versus original factory parts, serviced versus non-serviced – the list goes on.
For those new to vintage microphones, the price-tag and specificity regarding what’s under the hood would almost be enough to put the 67 in the too-hard basket, were it not for one reason. These are renowned for being some of the best sounding microphones ever made with designs that are still at the top of their game, even some 60 years after the fact.
Enter Warm Audio and their WA-67 Tube Condenser Microphone: a rock solid, modern interpretation of the classic 67, with a price-tag that looks closer to a decent commuter bike than it does a HECS debt.
Warm Audio are a relatively new player in the space (celebrating their tenth year of operation in 2021), making their start like so many – in a garage. They first made waves in the pro-audio sector back in 2011 with their WA12 – an excellent and well received recreation of the API312 preamplifier circuit.
Since then, Warm Audio has expanded into all facets of the studio space, developing accurate recreations of a whole manner of highly sought-after vintage and contemporary microphones, preamps, compressors and even guitar pedals.
Warm’s mission is to bring the classics to the everyday musician and audio engineer, and it shows both in the quality of their wares and in the affordability of the price-tag.
Right from the get-go, it was clear that the WA-67 had little in common with any kind of ‘budget’ microphone I had ever encountered. Features like the heavily padded box, timber ‘coffin’ case, deluxe shock mount (with spare elastics), additional standard mount, power supply, IEC power cable and seven pin cable by Gotham were all a welcome sight, exuding the kind of top-shelf European construction so prevalent in those classic microphones.
The WA-67 boasts boutique and high quality components to deliver the instantly familiar ’67 tone, that broad spectrum capture with an iciness in the highs that we have come to associate with big budgets, big artists and the like.
The components themselves feel weighty and are of premium quality, and there is little question that Warm Audio have gone to great lengths recreating the discrete tube circuit path of the original ’67 in the WA-67.
To complement Warm’s brass custom K67-style capsule is the EF-86 Pentode vacuum tube and a high quality output transformer from industry heavyweights Lundall, while the circuit also features high quality capacitors from Wima and Solen.
This combination of discrete components faithfully recreates the crisp high frequencies and thick, buttery low / low-mid frequencies that the original ’67 is known for. The nickel-plated microphone chassis is slightly larger than the original, though features all of the appropriate functions: three polar pattern modes (Cardioid, Omni-Directional and Bi-Directional), switchable high-pass filter and -10dB attenuation pad.
For those fortunate enough to be familiar with vintage German microphones, they will be quick to note the inconsistencies from one microphone to the next, particularly for tube models like the original U67. As is the nature of vintage equipment, it is tremendously difficult to find two specimens that are identical.
Purists may argue that recreations of vintage equipment never meet the mark, but the reality is that due to component degradation, years of use/abuse and makeshift repairs, this gear deviates from its original specifications.
The WA-67 does not exhibit the bitey, harsh upper midrange characteristics that many other budget tube condensers tend to, maintaining a smooth and complimentary tonal response in most applications.
While the exact essence of the original ’67 is hard to pinpoint, given the tonal variation from one unit to the next, what the WA-67 gets so right, is to scratch all the right itches in terms of the original’s strong suits and marrying them with all the benefit of hindsight, consistency of components and batch numbers that modernity affords us.
The draw-card of the original ’67 microphone is in its ability to make anything it’s pointed at feel larger than life with harmonically rich hyperrealism, and thankfully, the WA-67 has this in spades.
Its frequency response is colourful to the ear without over-exaggerating any distinctive frequency range, making it perfect for delicate vocals, big piano-like acoustic guitars and even as a tool to add mojo to percussion. The tube circuit adds a pleasing harmonic texture to the high frequencies and presents a very quiet self noise, making it a perfect recording tool.
For the asking price, there is little competition in ’67 voiced microphones that perform quite as well as the Warm Audio WA-67.
Warm Audio have demonstrated once again that it is possible to deliver high quality recreations of classic pro-audio equipment at a more consumer friendly price-point, offering a wallet-friendly alternative for any studio boffin.