Michael Bublé, Dianna Krall and Norah Jones regularly use it, but does this high-end live microphone justify its price tag?
Item: Neumann KMS 105, Stage Condenser Microphone
Price: $700 (US), £375 (UK)
At A Glance: Neumann’s KMS 105 aims to incorporate their renowned ability to make high-end studio microphones into a high-end microphone for stage vocals. The microphone is designed with a high acoustic resolution and smooth frequency response to ensure the type of sound quality you would typically expect in a studio on stage. The KMS 105 features a supercardioid polar pattern, making it particularly good at suppressing sounds originating from the entire 180° hemisphere behind the microphone and helping to eliminate feedback on stage. The microphone has an built-in high-pass filter to help with unwanted low frequency sounds, and it has a maximum sound pressure level of the KMS microphones is 150 dB, making it suitable for even the loudest of singers.
High Notes: Depending on how you like to set up your monitors, Neumann also make the KMS 104 microphone, which offers the same quality but has a cardioid pickup pattern. They also make the KMS 104 Plus which has an extended low frequency response and has been especially optimized for the requirements of female voices in the rock and pop field. The microphone is solidly built to withstand years of use on the road and its grille is made of hardened steel and, if required, can easily be unscrewed to permit cleaning of the interior acoustic filter. Its high-quality sound and low self-noise level of only 18 dB, means you could also use the microphone to record great sounding vocals in your home studio as well as use it live (although it won’t quite come up to the quality of a vintage U47).
Off Pitch: Although this type of quality never comes cheap; the price will no doubt be out of the range of many amateur singers. You will also ideally need a high-end PA system, preamplifier and effects unit to get the very best out of the microphone as well.
VoiceCouncil Reviewer Says: Many singers will be put off spending $700 on a live microphone when you can by mics such as the Shure SM58 for $99; however the vocal quality on offer from the Neumann far surpasses what you could expect from the SM58. That said, in genres such as Rock or Metal where a pristine vocal sound is less important a microphone such as the KMS 105 is not necessarily a better option (which is why you’ll still find many rock singers who have sold millions of albums still using a SM58 or similar). Where the KMS 105/104 particularly shines is when used in jazz or more acoustic styles where you are after a studio-like “hi-fi” vocal sound that captures every nuance of the performance. As such it is no surprise that singers such as Michael Bublé, Dianna Krall and Norah Jones regularly use one. They are also popular amongst pop singers such as Beyoncé and Celine Dion, who want their vocals to sound as close to a studio recording as possible. Overall the KMS 105 (or 104) is an excellent microphone which is a great choice for singers looking for the highest vocal sound quality on stage.
Manufacturer’s Website: http://www.neumann.com
Chris Kennedy is the principal product reviewer for voicecouncil.com. Chris is a musician in the United Kingdom – you can see more about his work at www.chriskennedymusic.co.uk You can also see more articles by Chris here.