New Microphones From Universal Audio
Universal Audio have announced a major expansion of their microphone range with five new models. Here’s a rundown of the complete range…
UA Bock Series
Of most interest to our customers will be three new models from microphone guru David Bock. Bock was chief technician at Ocean Way (Los Angeles) and Hit Factory (NYC) during the 80's and 90's. His duties included maintaining the studios’ extensive vintage mic collections where he learned what made these microphones tick. David started manufacturing his own mics in the 90's at Soundelux Studios (Hollywood) based on his concept of “new vintage microphone production”. This saw the release of Bock classics including U95 and the highly regarded Soundelux 251. Bock’s reputation has been built around creating mics to achieve a particular sound rather than building to a price point – with production only available in very small batch quantities. In short, a “proper” boutique microphone manufacturer.
When UA acquired Bock Audio back in October 2020, speculation was understandably rife over where this new partnership may lead – a new modelling Bock mic? A new budget Bock mic? A completely new high-end Bock creation? As it turns out, the newly announced models will be familiar to Bock aficionados – traditional valve and FET designs based on much-loved classics with no modelling or DSP electronics. David explains, “The UA Bock mics are the best-sounding and most beautiful mics I've had the pleasure of designing over my long career. These mics are going to have discriminating singers, producers, and audio engineers smiling from ear-to-ear." Sounds promising!
Universal Audio describe all three mics as new designs from David – derived from existing Bock models but tweaked for improved environmental compliance. However, nothing in the critical audio path has been altered with capsules and transformers remaining the same.
UA Bock 167 - based on Neumann U67 - “multi-pattern tube condenser microphone for vocals, acoustic instruments, drums, and voiceovers”
UA Bock 187 - based on Neumann U87 - “cardioid FET condenser microphone for vocals, instruments, and guitar amps”
UA Bock 251 - based on Telefunken 251 - “multi-pattern tube condenser microphone for lead vocals, choir, and stringed orchestral instruments”
The new mics will be hand built in Santa Cruz, California in limited quantities – these won’t be “mass production” models – and are slated to be available towards the end of this year. Pricing in the USA (MAP, ex local taxes) has initially been indicated as follows, subject to change nearer shipping:
UA Bock 187 – USD $1249
UA Bock 167 – USD $2999
UA Bock 251 – USD $5999
UK pricing is still to be confirmed, but we’ll keep you updated as more information comes in.
Sphere L22 Modelling Microphone
Until now, this has been Universal Audio’s only microphone offering. UA’s acquisition of Townsend Labs last November brought the TEC award-winning Sphere L22 microphone system in house, with Townsend Lab founder Chris Townsend joining the UA team to work on developing future microphone products under the UA brand. Along with David Bock and ex-Audio Technica product manager Chris Nighman, UA's microphone team now has a lot of big hitters working on their product range.
Based on proprietary microphone modelling technology, Sphere L22 reproduces a wide range of highly sought-after studio mic tones with impressive accuracy, allowing users to audition and select from 34 classic mic models and a range of polar patterns - even after audio has been recorded. The system is a great fit for UAD users who will already be familiar with the effectiveness of UA’s prowess in outboard modelling. Although a highly technical product, Sphere L22 is very simple to use with a slick DAW plug-in interface. The ability to make off-axis corrections is powerful (and very addictive!). Universal Audio have developed an in-house version of the Sphere control plug-in for better integration with their UAD platform - allowing users to audition different models in real time. For non-UAD users, the plug-in can still be used with other DAW’s and support for the original Townsend mic and plug-in will be maintained.
It’s probably fair to say this is the most comprehensive and successful modelling mic system currently on the market. A great choice if you want to create a “vintage mic locker” on a limited budget, or if you are looking for something to fill the gaps in your current mic collection with models that you may not regularly need and can’t justify purchasing separately.
UA Standard Series
Addressing the entry-level market, UA have announced two affordable models as part of their new Standard Series. The SD-1 dynamic mic is aimed at home recordists, podcasters and content creators with new SP-1 small diaphragm condenser mics for stereo instrument recording and live applications. SD-1 is available now, priced @£260 inc VAT, with SP-1 due to be released in the summer @£349 for a stereo pair.
Universal Audio appear to have three fairly clear “typical” customers in mind for their microphone range:
Standard Series – entry level users who are maybe starting out with one of UA’s new budget Volt interfaces – eg. home recordists, hobbyists and podcasters
Sphere L22 – serious home and project studio owners who require professional quality on a more limited budget – the kind of user who may have a system based on an Apollo Twin interface
UA Bock Series – pro users with an existing microphone collection, some quality outboard and one of the larger Apollo interfaces
In summing up the range, UA founder Bill Putnam says, “We're excited to bring UA's audio expertise to microphones, and to bring something new to the table. With Bock, Sphere, and the new Standard Series mics, there's a UA mic within reach of every serious creator — ready to inspire great recordings, performances, and content for a lifetime."
We’re hoping to get more detailed technical info in the following weeks. Watch this space..!