Brauner VMA Large-Diaphragm Microphone
The now legendary VM1 was not designed and built for mass production but rather as a single unit for Brauner Microphone’s founder Dirk Brauner himself. As is the case when exceptional gear is built, people hear it, use it and then they’ll do whatever’s necessary to get their own. That’s what happened with the VM1. Dirk handmade the first 20 VM1s himself and then, as the demand continued to increase, it became a full production mic (though it is still handmade).
I first used the VM1 in the late ‘90s after its endorsement by top-notch engineer Steve Bishir, and I was immediately a fan. I found that the fantastic-sounding mic had an amazing sensitivity and, not to mention, it was the quietest tube microphone I had ever heard. (It turns out that it was the quietest tube mic ever built). In less then 10 years, Brauner grew into one of the most renowned and respected microphone manufacturers in the world, and their product line grew to include several top-notch models.
A few years later I reviewed, and then purchased, a limited edition Brauner VM1-KHE, the Klaus Heyne tweaked version of the VM1. It remains one of my prized audio possessions. The Brauner VMA combines the performance of the original VM1 and Dirk’s version of a tweaked VM1, giving the user the option of switching between the two totally different sonic characteristics. Users can switch between the original VM1 and a tweaked/vintage sound with the flip of a switch.
The $9,719 large-diaphragm Brauner VMA measures 2-inches x 8.75-inches and it ships in the FC1 robust aluminum carrying case. It includes a Brauner SM shock mount, pop filter, PSA power supply with mode switch and pattern control, and C1-7.5 Brauner low-capacitance cable (for VMA to PSA connections). The pressure gradient transducer mic has an equivalent Noise of 11 dBA and an 83 dB (1 Pa/1 kHz/Cardioid) signal to noise. Its sensitivity is >28mV/Pa and its polar pattern is continuously variable in both modes. The microphone has a frequency response of 18 Hz-24 kHz and its maximum SPL is 142 dB SPL @ 0,3 percent THD. It operates on either 115 or 230 volts.
The VMA utilizes a single set of dually used electronics, essentially making it two microphones in one. A toggle switch on the microphone’s power supply allows the user to determine the mic’s operational mode. One position represents the multi-purpose VM1 sound, perfectly suited for precision and detail. The second position sets the microphone to operate with a sweet and mellow tube sound, reminiscent of vintage mics. This setting yields rich and full-bodied vocals and instruments.
The VMA achieves each of its individual sounds through unique circuitry and biasing, not with filter networks. Switching from one position to the other introduces parameter changes, re-biasing the microphone and introducing different sets of components, crucial in achieving the two distinct sounds, into the circuit.
The beautifully crafted Brauner VMA not only looks fantastic, it sounds fantastic as well. I had incredible results using the mic to capture acoustic guitar, mandolin, dobro, electric guitar and percussion. In each instance, the microphone sounded rich and full with a warm, smooth, well-defined bottom end. On vocals, the microphone is brilliant. The wraparound pop filter (identical to the filter on the VM1) works extremely well and it simplifies the mic’s placement. In the VM1 mode, the extremely transparent mic delivers clarity and detail that rivals any microphone I’ve encountered. In the tweaked/vintage mode, the mic’s smooth and warm sound is gigantic.
In almost every instance I found that when recording instruments and backing vocals, I preferred the sound of the VMA in the VM1 mode and when recording lead vocals I preferred the sound of the mic in the tweaked/vintage mode. The only exception was there were a couple of instances where I preferred the sound of a female vocal in the VM1 position.
The VMA is completely revolutionary in how it uses a single set of tube electronics to achieve two totally different sounds. I really don’t have any complaints about the VMA. At $9,719 it is expensive. However, when compared to the price of a vintage C12 or 451, it’s a bargain and it truly can be considered two distinct microphones in one.
Using the VMA has been a complete delight. The two different sounds are completely distinctive from each other. While doing a shootout between several different microphones, we treated the two modes of the VMA as two separate microphones. When I explained the mic’s two independent modes to the artist and producer, they listened back and couldn’t believe that the two VMA modes were the same mic. There is sonically as much difference between the VM1 and the tweaked/vintage modes as there was between the VM1 and the C12 that was included in the shootout.
A microphone with a $9,719 price tag better sound good. And, believe it or not, the VMA is worth every penny, in my opinion. There are a lot of pretty good microphones out there today but there aren’t very many outstanding mics. The Brauner VMA is the latter; its sounds are simply stunning.
The VMA is on the short list of the finest microphones ever made. Its true German craftsmanship coupled with an outstanding sonic character should give it top consideration to anyone with deep pockets who simply must have the best.
by Russ Long, 3.15.2008
Russ Long, a Nashville-based producer/engineer, owns The Carport recording studio. He is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review.
Courtesy of Pro Audio Review - http://www.proaudioreview.com