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C12 versus 251
Old 6th December 2013
  #1
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C12 versus 251

I'd like to hear from owners of the original vintage articles if possible on this one...

I am curious if one can make a general statement about the timbre difference between the C12 and ELAM 251. I know ALL about the history and objective/physical differences between these mics (body/headbaskets, types of capacitors, self bias versus fixed bias, circuit difference, tube type for non-E version, etc.), but I am curious about sound.

I'm also aware that the tolerance for the CK12 capsule was all over the place, and they all sound different especially considering the capsule itself was modified over the years by AKG. Still, is it possible to make a qualitative statement about the sound difference between these mics?

I have heard completely opposite things..."The 251 is more scooped and has a smiley-face curve" to "the 251 is more Neuman-esque with a reedier midrange and a coupling cap that smooths out the high-end compared to the C12."

I've also heard clips of the Telefunken reissues compared, but I'd like to hear about the original vintage units if possible. In the Telefunken reissue world, it seems the 251 is definitely brighter and scooped compared to the flatter C12.

So, is a vintage 251 brighter, or is a vintage C12 brighter? Did mics vary too much from one another to make a blanket statement like this? Everyone has their opinion on which they prefer, but I'm looking for the answer to a hopefully less-subjective question.

Thanks
Old 6th December 2013
  #2
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jjblair's Avatar
I find the brightness is the same, and depends solely on that particular capsule. I've never felt there's a "smiley face curve" with 251s. I simply feel that 251s have a fuller low end, and more robust mids than a C12, with the exception of Henry transformer models. I tend to prefer 251s to C12s, but it would be a toss up, if that C12 is an early Henry transformer equipped version.
Old 7th December 2013
  #3
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peeweedrummer's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jjblair View Post
I find the brightness is the same, and depends solely on that particular capsule. I've never felt there's a "smiley face curve" with 251s. I simply feel that 251s have a fuller low end, and more robust mids than a C12, with the exception of Henry transformer models. I tend to prefer 251s to C12s, but it would be a toss up, if that C12 is an early Henry transformer equipped version.

+1

It really depends on the individual mic and capsule. The Vintage 251's I've heard are a little tamer in the highs whilst the vintage c12's are more pronounced in the 12k-15k area in a smooth silky way. The 251's have all been fuller bodied but definately not in a muddy way.

To me the 251 is more versatile than a c12 but when the c12 works there is really nothing like it.

if i had the chance id lean toward owning a 251 for a professional studio with different singers coming in everyday, But this is gearslutz so i think i need a matched pair of both.........vintage of corse
Old 7th December 2013
  #4
Lives for gear
 

Thanks to both of you for chiming in!

peewee, does that mean you define "bright" as some range of frequencies below 12k, or did I misunderstand?
Old 7th December 2013
  #5
Slate Pro Audio / Slate Digital
 
Steven Slate's Avatar
 

I have studied both of these mics in various forms and conditions, and can say the following:

The 251 and C12 are brothers separated at birth. C12 went to the finest schools, is elegant, smooth, crisp, and has some shimmery sizzle. 251 grew up in the slums, was on the streets as a teenager, and is more smokey, edgy, and has a bit more guts.

These mics are certainly cut from the same cloth.. but have a uniquely and beautifully different vibe.

Cheers,
Steven
Old 7th December 2013
  #6
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madehumble's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Slate View Post
I have studied both of these mics in various forms and conditions, and can say the following:

The 251 and C12 are brothers separated at birth. C12 went to the finest schools, is elegant, smooth, crisp, and has some shimmery sizzle. 251 grew up in the slums, was on the streets as a teenager, and is more smokey, edgy, and has a bit more guts.

These mics are certainly cut from the same cloth.. but have a uniquely and beautifully different vibe.

Cheers,
Steven
Well put.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SGH-I317
Old 8th December 2013
  #7
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jjblair's Avatar
The different grill is going to have some type of effect on the highs. However, I find that if you have a really bright C12, and you throw that capsule in a 251, it will continue to be bright. I don't find the mic itself has any effect on the brightness. The CK12s simply tend to be all over the place, and the really special ones that have the top end I like have only only turned up in about 25% of the 251s I've ever used.
Old 8th December 2013
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
Gav G's Avatar
 

The c12 for me is definitely all about the top end. It is a beautifully balanced mic all the way down, but it's the top that makes it sound "expensive". So it really shines on things like acoustic guitars and overheads. I rarely choose it for vocals.

I've only ever had experience with a Elam 250 in the vintage world, which is apparently the same mic but cardioid only version. Definitely darker, more textured midrange. Sounds a bit more mysterious if that makes any sense while the c12 is just rose tinted reality.

I've use the teleUSA 251 (reissue) quite a bit and that sounds brighter to me. It's a good mic but nowhere near the mojo of the old boys.
Old 9th December 2013
  #9
Lives for gear
 
jjblair's Avatar
The 250 is cardioid and omni. The Tele USA should not sound brighter than a good vintage Ela M. I have found the opposite to be true. As nice as some of the new ones sound, that beautiful top end has eluded them by about -2dB. If the 250 you heard was dark, it was simply not a good specimen.

The lack of low end in a T14/1 equipped C12 might give some people the impression that the C12 is brighter, but it certainly shouldn't be any brighter than a 251.
Old 9th December 2013
  #10
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gear is cool's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Slate View Post

The 251 and C12 are brothers separated at birth. C12 went to the finest schools, is elegant, smooth, crisp, and has some shimmery sizzle. 251 grew up in the slums, was on the streets as a teenager, and is more smokey, edgy, and has a bit more guts.

Well done Steven!
Old 2nd November 2018
  #11
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CJ1973's Avatar
 

revamping an old thread here.......would be curious to know any new experiences and comparisons...
Thx!!
Old 3rd November 2018
  #12
Gear Addict
 

Both incredible mics full stop.

However, I prefer a C12 if I have the choice. Subtle differences, but a good C12 seems to have just a little more dimension overall and retains this quality better in a busy track.
251's can sound like the best mics in the world in solo, but as more instruments are added its many other virtues can sometimes get overshadowed by its upper mid emphasis leaving it sounding a little 'pointy' compared to a C12 in the same mix.

Again, im talking minute differences here. 99% of the time I wouldn't turn my nose up at either!
Old 5th November 2018
  #13
In my opinion you indeed hit the nail on the head with this one, Steve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Slate View Post
I have studied both of these mics in various forms and conditions, and can say the following:

The 251 and C12 are brothers separated at birth. C12 went to the finest schools, is elegant, smooth, crisp, and has some shimmery sizzle. 251 grew up in the slums, was on the streets as a teenager, and is more smokey, edgy, and has a bit more guts.

These mics are certainly cut from the same cloth.. but have a uniquely and beautifully different vibe.

Cheers,
Steven
Old 5th November 2018
  #14
Engagement Manager
 
Sniperschool's Avatar
Agree
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