Georg Neumann GmbH (Neumann), founded in 1928 and based in Berlin, Germany, is a prominent manufacturer of professional recording microphones. Their best-known products are condenser microphones for broadcast, live and music production purposes. For several decades Neumann was also a leading manufacturer of cutting lathes for phonograph disks, and even ventured into the field of mixing desks. Currently it is also a manufacturer of preamplifiers, studio monitors and headphones.
The company’s original product was the CMV 3, the world’s first commercially available condenser microphone. It was a rather large (40 cm tall, 9 cm diameter) microphone with several interchangeable capsule heads which gave it different directional patterns. Because of its shape and size, this microphone was often known as the “Neumann bottle”. It is often seen in historical photographs of public events in Germany through the period of World War II.
Neumann’s factory in Berlin was damaged by Allied firebombing in November 1943. Georg Neumann relocated his company to the much smaller town of Gefell in Thuringia and resumed production at the beginning of the following year. At the close of the war, Thuringia fell under Soviet control and the company eventually became an East German “Publicly Owned Operation” (i.e. a state-run enterprise). After the reunification of Germany, the company in Gefell, which had continued to use the Neumann name, became known as Microtech Gefell.
Meanwhile, Georg Neumann re-established his company as “Georg Neumann GmbH” in one of the Allied sectors of Berlin and in 1949 began producing a new model of switchable pattern microphone, the U 47, based on the M 7 capsule of the earlier CMV 3 series. This microphone was one of the first condenser microphones to gain widespread acceptance in the recording industry worldwide.
In the United States, for example, the sound of the best-known crooners of the 1940s (e.g. Bing Crosby and later Elvis Presley) had utilized the ultra-smooth, rolled-off tone of RCA ribbon microphones; on the other hand, pop recordings in the 1950s (e.g. Frank Sinatra and later The Beatles) were sharper, clearer, and more present as the result of using condenser microphones with elevated upper-mid-range response such as the U 47. The U 47, which was distributed worldwide under the Telefunken brand name, was also used for some early classical orchestral recordings in stereo.