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I bought a pair of RØDE NT5 for about 350 EUR, while Shure's KSM 141 is about 750 EUR. The latter has more features and for instance lower noise level. Still these are not exactly the latest technology out there, KSM 141 was released 2003, if I recall correctly.

Why is this old technology so darn expensive?

I can get the absolute latest semi-conductor technology CPU for 300 EUR, but a microphone whose design is two decades old costs double.

I suspect market failure. Companies like Shure (and their individual products) have strong brands and hence can take out large brand premiums.

Sure, it is delicate technologies and they are hand-built and calibrated (so the producers say at least), but this is still way off.

Any explanations?

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  • This shouldn’t be posted here, but I think there are some logical flaws here as well as truth.(eg. branding) Professional audio technology and computer chip technology advance at vastly different rates. Also you should be comparing the KSM with the TF5 not the nt5 and you will see they have the same price point. In this industry you get what you pay for and it holds true majority of the time. Aug 3 at 6:49
  • @Timinycricket - I think this is answerable in broad terms. I've had a go below, let me know what you think.
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 3 at 8:37
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It's a logarithmic scale.
You get the same situation in many things - buying a car, or a camera, or a guitar or violin.

You can get crap for cheap. Double your money & you can quickly get to 'pretty good'. From there it's a logarithmic scale, every time you double your money you get maybe 10% better. By the time you get to truly outstanding you're spending ten times as much. Increasing quality in most precision structures gets more & more difficult, & therefore expensive, as you reach towards 'perfection'.

The same still actually applies to a CPU chip. They make millions & test them all. The ones that come out higher quality get stamped with a higher product number & cost 5 times as much as the ones that didn't pass muster & are farmed out to the masses cheaply.

You are also in more rarified air with any high end product. Fewer of the really good ones are made & sold than the general run of the mill. Mass-production brings costs per unit down. Hand-made or even hand-finished is expensive & labour-intensive.

Consider the Neumann U87. Industry standard. Pretty much perfected in the 60s, though there have been some slight tweaks over the years. As far as I'm aware, machine-made, hand-finished & measured.
They hold their value. Whether you buy new or 40 years old, you'll still be paying around the same price - two grand or so - unless they have some 'collectible' value.

Be glad you don't work in the film/TV industry. You can get a cheapo lens for $£€ 50, but a serious cinematic lens is going to be getting towards the price of a good car; or for a set of primes, the price of a good house. See Just How Expensive Are Real Cinema Lenses?

If manufacturers could make Rolls Royces, or Neumann U87s, or Stradivarius violins for cheap, they would. That way costs right through the production would be smaller - & everyone in the world would buy one.

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Part of the answer is implied in the question: concerning age of microphones vs. CPUs: microphones just didn't get "better" in their main criterium which is their sound. A Neumann U47 may be 60 years of age, but its sound may still be top of the notch. Now think of CPUs instead...

You may argue that microphones got better in terms of SNR. That's true, but first of all, this is not the most important criterium for a good microphone and second, the "size" of the improvement is just some decibels that don't affect the overall usability, whereas the size of improvement in CPUs is enormous.

Same holds for the KSM 141: it's still a very good microphone and you can still use it in a professional production. (Try working professionally with a 18 year old CPU...)

Another part of the answer is just market logic: especially the old mics are hard to get.

For sure, another part is given by nostalgia.

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