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251/C12/U47: Do you want to hear some vintage mic comparisons?
Old 30th May 2017
  #1
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Telefunken 251/C12/U47: Do you want to hear some vintage mic comparisons?

Here's a very cool side by side comparison that we just finished of the classic 251/C12/U47 mics. These videos offer three of the greatest vintage mics alongside the modern recreations of these mics by TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik.

I'm eager to see what you think about the similarities and differences between these mics. I was honestly quite surprised by what I heard. I've heard conjecture about the differences for years so this comparison was very revealing to me.

251: Vintage Telefunken 250E and New Telefunken 251E

U47: Vintage Neumann U47 and New Telefunken U47

C12: Vintage AKG C12 and New Telefunken C12

Last edited by Lynn Fuston; 30th May 2017 at 09:53 PM..
Old 31st May 2017
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
Here's a very cool side by side comparison that we just finished of the classic 251/C12/U47 mics. These videos offer three of the greatest vintage mics alongside the modern recreations of these mics by TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik.

I'm eager to see what you think about the similarities and differences between these mics. I was honestly quite surprised by what I heard. I've heard conjecture about the differences for years so this comparison was very revealing to me.

251: Vintage Telefunken 250E and New Telefunken 251E
The new one is obviously brighter -- the top end is still smooth, but more assertive and less silky than on the original. I even hear a trace of unpleasant spittiness on the word "away" at 2:35. The new one is a fine sound in its own right, and I might prefer it for a dense pop mix where I need the mic to force its way to the front, but most of the time I'd pick the vintage one.

The difference seems subtler here, and in a lower register I think? -- not right on top, more in the upper mids. But again, the new one is a little more forward, perhaps at the expense of a bit of elegance/musicality. They both sound fabulous.

Here it's the old mic that's brighter, but in this case I like the brightness--very sweet and shimmery--and I hear the new version as a little flatter/duller by comparison, with something a little unpleasant going on in the midrange--more noticeable on the M than the F singer.
Old 31st May 2017
  #3
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Thread Starter
My question is this: Were you surprised by the results of this comparison?

I was. Honestly, with eyes closed, I don't think that a lot of people could detect when the mics were being switched. And the differences I hear could be matched with minimal EQ. I bet I could match them up so that I could switch every few words and no one would know the difference.

That was not what I was expecting, especially after hearing so many naysayers talk about how the magic is in the originals and the new ones couldn't even come close. It's not hard for me to imagine that the new recreations sound exactly like the originals did when they were new, before years of use, years of humid breath on the capsule, years of caps drying out, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
The new one is obviously brighter -- the top end is still smooth, but more assertive and less silky than on the original. I even hear a trace of unpleasant spittiness on the word "away" at 2:35. The new one is a fine sound in its own right, and I might prefer it for a dense pop mix where I need the mic to force its way to the front, but most of the time I'd pick the vintage one.



The difference seems subtler here, and in a lower register I think? -- not right on top, more in the upper mids. But again, the new one is a little more forward, perhaps at the expense of a bit of elegance/musicality. They both sound fabulous.



Here it's the old mic that's brighter, but in this case I like the brightness--very sweet and shimmery--and I hear the new version as a little flatter/duller by comparison, with something a little unpleasant going on in the midrange--more noticeable on the M than the F singer.
Old 31st May 2017
  #4
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I'd be more than happy with these recreations.

I have a Wunder CM7 and it has all the qualities of the U47's I've used but has a nicer top end imho (being a new mic and not decades old!)

I'd be more than happy with a recreation 251 by Tele, Flea (when they do one) or Bock.
Old 31st May 2017
  #5
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This is another cool test, I'm glad Sweetwater is using their studio to present some interesting and informative shootouts.

This one is a good advertisement for the insanely expensive Telefunken microphone copies.

I'd like to know more about the vintage mics used in this comparison.
Who provided them?
How original are they? (capsule, tube, transformer, caps).

I'm guessing Telefunken company had something to do with this comparison because it would have been a perfect opportunity to record a Slate VMS track to use in a future comparison.

I like the fact that both microphones were recorded in a single pass rather than singing the part twice.

Both of these vocalists represent a Nashville "pretty" singing style, I'd like to hear a rough BB King style, big bluesy rock baritone singer through these microphones too.

Thanks again, and keep the comparisons coming.

Good music to all!
Old 31st May 2017
  #6
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by foldback View Post
This is another cool test, I'm glad Sweetwater is using their studio to present some interesting and informative shootouts.

This one is a good advertisement for the insanely expensive Telefunken microphone copies.

I'd like to know more about the vintage mics used in this comparison.
Who provided them?
How original are they? (capsule, tube, transformer, caps).

I'm guessing Telefunken company had something to do with this comparison because it would have been a perfect opportunity to record a Slate VMS track to use in a future comparison.
Indeed, this comparison was Telefunken's idea and we agreed it was a great idea.

Insanely expensive is relative. If you think the historic recreations are expensive, have you priced originals? I think they are at least twice the price. What adjective describes more insanely expensive? I've seen an original 251 advertised for $22,000! And a U47 for $17,000. The question at that point is would you rather have two recreation 251s or one original? Two is more better, believe me.

NOTE: I remember when you could pick up an original C12 for under $2K and C24s for just a bit more, back in the 70s and early 80s. And that seemed like a lot back then, compared to $1200 U87s. Where's that time machine when I need it??

I'll defer to Telefunken for descriptions of the mics and their condition/authenticity. I know that one of these vintage mics (the C12, I believe) was cherry-picked from Blackbird Rentals in Nashville. The other mics belong to Telefunken. We included serial numbers so you'd know exactly which vintage mics they were.
Old 31st May 2017
  #7
To my ears all the vintage ones are easier on the ear. The new models where brighter and the old ones had a cotton quality to the mids , in a good way!

Not super big difference but i prefered the vintage ones . Just something about the mids that sounded better listening back on cans.
Old 1st June 2017
  #8
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nightchef's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
My question is this: Were you surprised by the results of this comparison?

I was. Honestly, with eyes closed, I don't think that a lot of people could detect when the mics were being switched. And the differences I hear could be matched with minimal EQ. I bet I could match them up so that I could switch every few words and no one would know the difference.

That was not what I was expecting, especially after hearing so many naysayers talk about how the magic is in the originals and the new ones couldn't even come close. It's not hard for me to imagine that the new recreations sound exactly like the originals did when they were new, before years of use, years of humid breath on the capsule, years of caps drying out, etc.
Honestly, I didn't bring much in the way of expectations, because it has not been my good fortune to work with vintage mics of that caliber. But if you had asked me to guess what the modern versions would sound like in comparison to the originals, my guess would have been "very similar, but a little brighter"--partly because it just seems like bright is what everybody wants these days, and partly because of the point you make about the effects of aging, which intuitively would seem likelier to soften the top end than sharpen it, so that if you made a mic that was a letter-perfect clone of a 60-year-old mic, I would expect it to sound a little brighter simply because it was new.
Old 1st June 2017
  #9
47 is the closest by far.
There seems to be a serious problem recreating the CK12 sound smoothly in modern times, so the Elam and the C12 sound harder and thinner by comparison. Which would be okay if they were only $1000 but really, at those prices?
Old 1st June 2017
  #10
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The 47's seemed really close. The 251's seemed to have the biggest difference. I like the vintage over the new one. I have a Upton 251 which in my head lands between the vintage and the modern Tele in a very good way.

I would be curious which tubes are being used in the vintage mics compared to the modern mics. The tubes alone could be the the major tonal difference.
Old 1st June 2017
  #11
Very cool test. The 47s really are extremely close!
Old 1st June 2017
  #12
Gear Maniac
Wow, very close indeed. And yep the U47 is the closest. The C12 and 251 clips just have a tad more upper mids to deal with and a smudge less 'air' if you can call that.
But its not night and day....

I found the VMS thing had a similar thing going on.

But in a dense track , with some EQ, who would notice that?
Old 1st June 2017
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by ianbarter@mac.co View Post
Wow, very close indeed. And yep the U47 is the closest. The C12 and 251 clips just have a tad more upper mids to deal with and a smudge less 'air' if you can call that.
But its not night and day....

I found the VMS thing had a similar thing going on.

But in a dense track , with some EQ, who would notice that?

I'd say that harsher upper mid is what will really cut through the mix. The cheaper the microphone the worse it usually is. Not that the Telefunken's are cheap by any means haha but that upper mid's is usually where all good vintage mic's shines and that makes them special
Old 1st June 2017
  #14
The C12 is the best Telefunken mic. IMHO. Though I dig their 251, just not compared to the real deal...the 47 is too light in the shoes and shiny sounding for my taste.
Old 1st June 2017
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post

I'll defer to Telefunken for descriptions of the mics and their condition/authenticity. I know that one of these vintage mics (the C12, I believe) was cherry-picked from Blackbird Rentals in Nashville. The other mics belong to Telefunken. We included serial numbers so you'd know exactly which vintage mics they were.
Thanks for listening everybody! This was a fun little project and something we knew the community would appreciate being able to hear. Thanks to Sweetwater for allowing us to make it happen in their facility, on neutral ground per se.

The vintage microphones used in this shoot out were provided by us - TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik (South Windsor, CT), and Blackbird Audio Rentals (Nashville, TN).

The U47 came from a matched pair of short-body Neumann U47s (5158 and 5211). These mics are owned by TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik and include original M7 capsules, VF14 tubes, BV8 transformer, and stock original components. Power supply unit and cabling are also original.

The ELA M 250E #624 came from TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik as well. It features the original CK12 capsule, T14 transformer, GE 6072A (5-star) vacuum tube, and stock original components. Power supply unit and cabling are also original.

The AKG C12 came from Blackbird Audio Rentals in Nashville, TN. It contains the original CK12 capsule and T14 transformer. The tube in this mic is not stock original, it is a GE JAN 6072A, same as what is installed in the new TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik 251E and C12 replicas. The output capacitor is replaced with a modern film cap, and the resistor & capacitor polarizing the capsule are also replacements; the other passive components are original. Power supply and cabling are original. (Note - this microphone system was used STOCK from Blackbird, TELEFUNKEN did not service or alter anything.)


In all honesty we didn't go to any lengths to find pairs of vintage/new microphones that would sound closest to each other, that wasn't really the spirit of the shootout. The new TELEFUNKEN replicas are the mics that are already used regularly at Sweetwater Studios, and the vintage mics were what we had access to with the least amount of modifications. As many of you that have used lots of vintage mics know, they can vary quite a bit, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse...all in the eye of the beholder. For example, we've had a vintage 251 come in here for service from a rental company that was far out of the normal "spec" in terms of frequency response, but when the client was informed that we could tweak the CK12 capsule response to even it back out, the answer was "no thanks, we have a few 251s, and we have regular customers who only rent this one because it's much darker than other 251s". This particular vintage 250E #624 , according to our experience, does fall in the "darker" category, although I wouldn't say it's outside the average swing of original CK12s.

Cheers!
Old 16th June 2017
  #16
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Thread Starter
We now have the 24/96K files available for these Telefunken mic comparison recordings. If you'd like to hear them, just let me know and I'll provide the download link.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Mixwell View Post
The C12 is the best Telefunken mic. IMHO. Though I dig their 251, just not compared to the real deal...the 47 is too light in the shoes and shiny sounding for my taste.
This is really interesting to me, because I've been over at Tele and listened to all these mics. For me, their U47 is their best product. The C12 that I heard in their shop I didn't like at all. The one in this video seems good, but I can still hear how I liked the original better. The Tele C12 seems harsh to me. I thought the U47 that I heard was super warm and full in the low end.

It just goes to show you that there are so many variables when it comes to mics and taste in mics. The new Telefunken U47 is a mic I aspire to. It's an amazing re-creation.

*Edit: I forgot to note that I have a Telefunken 251 here in my studio on semi-permanent loan. It's tremendous, and really does remind me of the 251s that I used to use during Telefunken E's early days.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
We now have the 24/96K files available for these Telefunken mic comparison recordings. If you'd like to hear them, just let me know and I'll provide the download link.
Yes thank you. A download link to the 24/96 files would be great.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Actualsizeaudio View Post
This is really interesting to me, because I've been over at Tele and listened to all these mics. For me, their U47 is their best product. The C12 that I heard in their shop I didn't like at all. The one in this video seems good, but I can still hear how I liked the original better. The Tele C12 seems harsh to me. I thought the U47 that I heard was super warm and full in the low end.

It just goes to show you that there are so many variables when it comes to mics and taste in mics. The new Telefunken U47 is a mic I aspire to. It's an amazing re-creation.

*Edit: I forgot to note that I have a Telefunken 251 here in my studio on semi-permanent loan. It's tremendous, and really does remind me of the 251s that I used to use during Telefunken E's early days.
Thats why i wrote the IMHO part......
Old 2 weeks ago
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Mixwell View Post
Thats why i wrote the IMHO part......
.......and I think opinions will vary tremendously depending on the actual mic that you get to audition. As much as I didn't like the C12 I heard at their place that day, I would never tell anyone it was a bad product. I might have just heard a bad one, or I might have just been suffering from expectation bias.

All of that is what makes this video so impressive. I have to ask though: were the results homogenized by using some preamp/compressor combo that would have type of effect? I have a few vocal paths in my studio that can do that.

Did they list the signal path anywhere?
Old 2 weeks ago
  #21
Gear Nut
 

I would like the download link to the 24/96K files from this test.

Thank you very much for these mic comparisons Lynn and Sweetwater!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
We now have the 24/96K files available for these Telefunken mic comparison recordings. If you'd like to hear them, just let me know and I'll provide the download link.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StevenLMorgan View Post
I would like the download link to the 24/96K files from this test.
Me too.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #23
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by StevenLMorgan View Post
I would like the download link to the 24/96K files from this test.

Thank you very much for these mic comparisons Lynn and Sweetwater!
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisdee View Post
Me too.
Just call a Sweetwater sales engineer and they can give you the URL for downloading those files. 800-222-4700.
Old 2 weeks ago
  #24
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chrisdee's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
Just call a Sweetwater sales engineer and they can give you the URL for downloading those files. 800-222-4700.
I thought you said you have the download links?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lynn Fuston View Post
We now have the 24/96K files available for these Telefunken mic comparison recordings. If you'd like to hear them, just let me know and I'll provide the download link.
I live in Norway so it's about $1 a minute to call the US.
I don't know if Sweetwater has a automatic answering system and how long it takes to get a hold of a sales engineer that knows about this shootout.
Old 1 week ago
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisdee View Post
I thought you said you have the download links?

I live in Norway so it's about $1 a minute to call the US.
I don't know if Sweetwater has a automatic answering system and how long it takes to get a hold of a sales engineer that knows about this shootout.
Indeed I do. We always prefer for customers to call our well-trained Sales Engineers, but for our friends in Norway we can make an exception.

Here are the download links. The first is a PT session with audio files on tracks. The second link is to a folder of the 24/96 files.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/ssipublic/m..._ptsession.zip
https://s3.amazonaws.com/ssipublic/m...audio_only.zip
Old 1 week ago
  #26
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