Audio Insiders: The Non-Compromise
Neumann’s KM105 Gains Momentum Coast to Coast

Editors Note: Most new Performance Audio products have some level of “me-too” design criteria. It’s the nature our market. Occasionally, however, a product comes along and changes everything. The Midas XL-3 mixing console was one such product, another was the L-Acoustics V-DOSC system.

While microphones are widely viewed as a commodity, Neumann’s KMS 105 seems to have hit the market with the right product at the right time. Seldom, does any product gain this kind of traction, this quickly.

What follows are some salient points about the KMS 105, plus user updates collected by Neumann regarding the 105’s real world performance.

Feedback rejection and vocal clarity are rarely found on the same microphone, so compromise has always been common when selecting vocal mics. For professionals, the essential choices were either an indestructible dynamic mic that wouldn’t feedback, or a fragile condenser studio mic.

A BREAKTHROUGH

Studio quality vocal reproduction is the trademark of Neumann’s KMS 105. The super-cardioid sound reinforcement mic displays low self-noise and colorless off-axis pickup. A studio grade, DC-polarized condenser capsule enhances these nearly transparent qualities and complements both mobile and live digital recording plus earworn monitor systems.

The KMS 105 delivers a 150dB maximum SPL with 132dB dynamic range across an extended frequency range, especially in the HF. A unique inner-basket structure mitigates plosives for an overall smoother delivery with no pops or breath noises.

Compared to other handheld vocal microphones, the KMS 105 offers unrivaled vocal resolution, with extended frequency response and accurate transient detail. No foam is used in the basket, thus eliminating any “clouding” or “muffling” of the sound.

Frequency response characteristics are developed in the acoustic realm, allowing for accurate representation of transient details found in music and speech. The results yeild a very “open” and detailed capture of the human voice. Because of the superior resolution and linear HF response, artists using the KMS 105 can easily identify whether he or she is “on mic”.

The KMS 105’s triple acoustic filter minimizes popping and wind noise, and with special mechanical and electrical filters, handling noise is virtually eliminated. Gone are the sibilance problems common to most handheld condenser mics.

BAYSIDE BASEBALL

KNBR sports radio in San Francisco, CA installed eight Neumann KMS 105 vocal microphones at the SF Giant’s Pacific Bell Park. All of the station’s activities there, including game announcement, interviews, and talk shows use the KMS 105s.

Raul Velez, KNBR’s primary engineer for SF Giants baseball, was directly involved in microphone selection for the new stadium, along with station management and other announcers. “KNBR is on the AM side so we’ve got limited bandwidth to work with. Most vocal microphones have a ‘presence peak’ to make vocals cut through screaming fans and guitars ‘turned up to eleven’ at rock concerts.

“However, that peak makes things sound ‘crunchy’ on AM radio because we process our signal so heavily. We needed a relatively flat, neutral, yet solid microphone with a cardioid or hyper-cardioid response. Good rejection was essential because we’ll have four open mics in a ten by twenty-foot (3mX6.1m) room and another four in a nine by fourteen-foot room(2.7mX4.3m),” noted Velez.

TRAVIS BALLSTADT SAYS

“Being a regional act without our own PA or sound engineer, our sound is at the mercy of the club system and it’s operator. We decided to take as much control of our sound as we possibly could. Having used the TLM 103 in the studio for nearly every vocal track, the Neumann KMS 105 was our obvious choice.

However, since it had just come on the market, we had to settle for a different handheld condenser until we could track down a KMS 105 that was actually for sale. Apparently, the first 105s in San Francisco went directly to the new baseball stadium.

When we finally got our hands on the KMS 105, everything started to change. From the first show we played with the KMS 105, we’ve noticed a new respect and attention from live sound engineers.

When we put it in their hand, they see that logo and realize that we are a serious band, and we obviously care about how we sound. When they step behind the soundboard that night, they now have a mutual respect with us.

We’re no longer seen as a weekend-warrior garage band doing it for the free beer. Ironically, the first night we brought in the KMS 105 was the same night we were doing a 16-track, 24-bit live recording. The tracks came out so nice and so clean. It’s our newest CD, Beth Waters - Live. You can hear the mic in action at http://www.mp3.com/bethwaters. Even in mp3s, you can hear the difference.”

Editor’s Note: Travis Ballstadt is the guitarist with the Beth Waters Band.


CONNICK CHOOSES

Harry Connick, Jr. was among the first of many vocalist to upgrade his personal vocal microphone to the KMS 105. Soon after, Gregg Rubin, Connick’s live and studio engineer, commented, “We were using a variety of ‘familiar’ vocal mics in the past. Recently, when Harry made the switch to in-ear monitoring, we thought it was time to upgrade to a better vocal mic. “We were anxious to try the new KMS 105. I was really impressed with the KMS 105’s clarity.”

In Connick’s rig, a gooseneck bolted to the piano holds the KMS 105 so that Connick can get “right on top of it.” “Harry’s show has a huge dynamic range,” noted Rubin. “We typically go from 55dB to 100dB in every performance. The KMS 105 has clarity at all those levels that we haven’t been able to capture as effectively with anything else.”

January/February 2002 Live Sound International

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