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The History of Neumann Microphones

10-2-11 Recording Techniques Research Paper The History of Neumann Microphones Company founder Georg Neumann was born on October 13, 1898 in a small town just outside of Berlin. He received his vocational training at the firm of Mix & Genest in Berlin, and later worked in a research laboratory at AEG’s Oberspree Cable Works. His work there was focused on building amplifiers, but the director of this laboratory, Eugen Reisz, founded his own firm a few years later and took Georg Neumann as an employee.

While working with Eugen at his new firm, Georg Neumann helped to create higher quality microphones. At the time, microphones used for sound recordings were carbon microphones that had very low quality. When Georg studied these microphones, he tried putting powdered carbon on a marble slab, introduced a direct current, and inserted two electrodes. This gave a very “thin” sound, so Georg tried stretching some rubber membrane over the contraption. With the new membrane installed, low frequencies were finally present and Georg Neumann’s first microphone was born.

It was called the Reisz-microphone, and it gave birth to the first German radio station in 1923. This microphone had a linear frequency response between 50 Hz and 1 kHz, and it had an excess of 10 dB up to 4 kHz. Shortly after Neumann’s creation, he decided to leave Reisz and start his own firm so that he could mass produce a microphone using the capacitative transducer principle. Once Neumann started his own firm he created the CMV 3. This was the first ever mass produced condenser microphone, and it was also far superior to the Reisz microphone.

It became known as the “Neumann Bottle” for its shape, but this microphone was also 40 cm in height and weighed 3 kg. The CMV 3 was established as the standard for studio use, and its design remained unchanged between 1928 and the end of World War II. In 1947, Georg Neumann made his most important contribution to electrical engineering. He developed a process by which nickel cadmium batteries could be made without the excessive formation of gas. This invention has direct links with almost every modern electronic device, such as hearing aids, cameras, radios, etc.

Through this process he also discovered stability cells, which contain a cathode consisting of cadmium, cadmium oxide, and a nickel anode. These cells were then used in Neumann’s condenser microphones in order to stabilize the heating voltage. Besides creating stability cells, 1947 has another significant meaning for Georg Neumann. This was the year that the U 47 was released. The U 47 had the greatest influence on the development of modern studio microphone technology, and it was also the first condenser microphone with a switchable pattern.

In fact, these microphones can still be seen in studios today across the globe. The microphone has a double diaphragm capsule, both of which can be polarized with the same voltage. This means that both the omnidirectional and cardioid polar patterns were adjustable. After the creation of the U 47, Neumann had proven to be the leader in recording technology and kept creating better products. He would later release the KM series of microphones, which are some of the first pencil condenser microphones and are still largely popular today.

After that, Neumann continued to improve on his microphones for years to come. He would even introduce the world to binaural stereo recording in the 1970’s. This was just a dummy head that had two strategically placed pencil microphones in it, which gave engineers the option to record a sound how people actually perceive it. It’s no doubt that Georg Neumann made a huge impact on the audio engineering world, and this brief look back in history shows why.

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