The art of microphones
"One of the best I have seen in years." The compliment comes from Peter Gabriel no less, who is now the proud owner of almost a dozen Brauner microphones. It was his guitarist Richard Evans who put him onto Brauner microphones. They tried them out for the recordings of the soundtrack to an Imax film by National Geographic in Budapest. Gabriel is delighted: "Dirk Brauner is not just a fantastic microphone maker; he is also someone who knows how music works and what it does."
Janet Jackson, Eric Clapton, Marius Müller-Westernhagen, Paul Young – when Dirk Brauner talks about his company history, he can't avoid mentioning many famous names. But if you want to see where these small miracles of technology are created, you have to venture to the rural town of Rees in the Lower Rhine region. There, on rather unassuming premises in a business park in Rees, the microphones are developed, built and sent all over the world. Dirk Brauner landed in the Lower Rhine region pretty much by chance. He was living in his home town of Oberhausen, and had a recording studio in Mülheim. A friend who worked in Hamminkeln-Marienthal set up a barn for his first studio in the Brünen neighborhood. He felt happy there, on the right side of the Rhine. "I like to be in the countryside." As an artistic and creative person he needs to keep his head clear. He couldn't work in the town because of all the distractions. He meets his customers at trade fairs, but he has also found new friends in the area, for example at the Haldern festival, which he now sponsors.
Brauner Microphones has now been in business for over 15 years; it was founded in 1995. "Our goal is to reproduce the sound heard by the human ear as closely as possible. The hearing aspect is the most important for us. The measuring, which allows us to reach the limits of the physically possible in terms of technical data too, comes after it. We call it the art of the microphone." You can understand why musicians in particular are so delighted with these microphones. With Brauner many different aspects come together: he is a musician and sound technician, inventor and craftsman all in one.
Even as a child in Oberhausen he used to play about with electronic components. With the magazine "Radio basteln für Jungen" ('Making radios for boys') he built a fire brigade siren and produced robot voices. At the same time he discovered the world of music for himself. At the age of 12 to 14 he taught himself how to play guitar, and later he had a go at the piano and drums. Then he played in various bands, just for the fun of playing music. Peter Gabriel and the music of "Genesis" accompanied Brauner throughout his youth. He couldn't possibly imagine back then that Gabriel would later become one of his customers.
Brauner remembers exactly what it was that first sparked his interest in microphones. At the age of 18 he went to a professional studio for the first time with a band – Interface Recording Studios in Cologne. He's been on the search for the perfect sound ever since. Back then, a clever dealer in Cologne was buying up discarded equipment from WDR for five deutschmarks which he went on to sell at a much higher price in the USA. Brauner didn't want to give his money to this shark. In Mülheim he then worked in film production with the experimental film-maker Werner Nekes, who also made his first movie, "Johnny Flash", with Helge Schneider. There Brauner got to know a sound engineer from Hamburg who gave him a garage full of old "tube junk". He got hold of documents on the circuitry and built his first fully functioning microphone. "I wanted to know how it all works." Brauner began his technical diploma in electrical engineering, but he also had to help his father, a self-employed floor tiler. So he had to plough on with learning by doing. Even if tube technology was becoming "a thing of the past" thanks to transistors, he combined the old technology with a modern sound. For him tube microphones are the "icing on the cake" when it comes to producing as natural a sound as possible. "Our aim is to build the best microphones we can possibly make". Today in Rees they make tube microphones which reach the limits of the technically possible; they have an inherent noise of less than 11 dB A while being incredibly sensitive and dynamic. They have moved away from the old, primarily technically-focused approach. Perfectionism is one side of it, but the real secret is in the perception. The products from Rees bring together the best of technology and artistic ideals. Brauner's microphone manufacturing site, where a small, high-caliber team of staff all work in unison towards the same goals, is today one of the leading international companies in his industry.
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