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Of course I am not only interested in the beautifull designs and the role in history that I often highlight in the Mic of the Month columns, the pure audio quality some microphones can produce is one of my main interests.

When people talk of quality microphones, the name Neumann is often the first that comes to mind.
I must admit that I do not write much about Neumanns, nor do I own a lot of them. Other people never tire of mentioning and praising them, so I can direct attention elsewhere, to other great but lesser known mics.

However, I feel obliged to praise one Neumann that often gets overlooked; not so strange, when you know that this microphone is just 92 mm x 22 mm x 22 mm, and weighs only 80 grams.
That microphone is the Neumann KM 140, part of the modular KM 100 system which the company introduced in 1988, specially meant for TV and recording studios.

The whole range consisted of 7 different 'active' capsules (Omni, Cardioid, Hyper cardioid, Figure 8 etc), the KM 100 pre amplifier and accessories for almost every application (see brochure).

In 1988, a year before the Berlin Wall came down, the Neumann company was struggeling, they produce wonderful microphones, but no profit. In 1989 the Neumann family sold their shares of the firm to Sennheiser, that other well known German microphone maker, which had rationalized their own production and would do the same for Neumann: lowering fabrication cost, sell more and simpeler products.

In 1994, the KM 184 was presented, a modernized version of the legendary Neumann KM 84.
According to the specs (and Neumann employees), the KM 184 would sound the same as the KM 140, at half the price because of the non modular design.
In reality the sound of these microphones differ; the KM 184 is harsher, less pleasing to the ear, it is also longer: 107 mm.

The more musical qualities of the KM 140, and the often favoured KM 150, are recognized by many; when I worked at the 'Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ' , a venue for modern and classical music in Amsterdam, we were delighted to use KM140's, the KM 184's did not see any work, whenever we had the choice.

In many studios the same thing happens, many even prefer the KM 140 over the old KM 84's, and although Neumann ended production around 2002, many of them remain in use.

The KM 100 system was never meant to sell in great numbers, but can stil be found secondhand, they are wonderful modern vintage, sometimes even preferred over the Schoeps CMS range, for their silky smooth sound. They excel on piano, acoustical guitar, as spot- or room-mic, and also wonderful as a stereo pair , for recordings; small but great!

These may very well be the last Neumanns where cutting costs was not on the mind of the designers, only the sound quality mattered.

Many more types feature in my book Witnesses of Words. More information about that can be found at

wow cover

Neumann KM140
Neumann KM140b

Top: the incredible small KM 140

Middle: view from the other side

Below: the tiny electronics, sound & KM 100 system brochure

KM100 electronics

Listen to the sound of the KM140

KM100 capsules