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Telefunken Elektroakustik AR-51 Tube Condensor Microphone

Telefunken Elektroakustik AR-51

3.9 3.9 out of 5, based on 3 Reviews

Fantastic modern sounding tube mic


3rd December 2011

Telefunken Elektroakustik AR-51 by halcyo

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Telefunken Elektroakustik AR-51 Tube Condensor Microphone

The Telefunken AR-51 is the newest mic in their R-F-T range of microphones, which are 'more affordable' than their higher end lines, which can run many thousands of dollars. At under $2000, this microphone is within reach of fairly serious project studio owners without the dough to swing $5k or more for a microphone.

However, don't assume that Telefunken skimped on the design of the R-F-T line. If their Diamond series mics are the 'Holy Grail' microphones, the R-F-T line is still highly professional and very high end.

The AR-51 is a solidly built, fully featured, and beautiful looking tube condenser mic. If I were to describe its sound in a phrase, it would be "modern, smooth, tube goodness". In many modern genres, engineers are looking for sounds that pop out from the speakers and stand strong amidst walls of synths and drums, and the AR-51 does just that. It has a nice, present, SMOOTH top end that really gives the right amount of excitement to a pop vocal without being rough, zippy, or strident. This top end is not cheap sounding like many lesser 'bright' condensers, but just eq'd enough to sound fantastic in a mix without touching a dial. The mids are also smooth and have that classic tube heft and weight that carves out a place in a dynamic mix for any given part. Although not as large in the lows as many more 'vintage' sounding microphones, I find that it is beautifully and tightly voiced in this range, where you would be reaching for the lo-cut knob on your eq with those other vintage sounding mics when it comes to mix time.

I find that this mic's strongest trait is how easy it is to capture a performance that is nearly eq'd just right for a mix. If you are looking for a mic to record pop/rock/r&b vocals, you barely need to eq this thing. It gives you a present, smooth, up-front vocal that is solid and tight. It is very flattering.

The power supply allows for changing between 9 polar patterns from omni to cardioid to hyper cardioid to figure-8 and steps between. The shockmount is totally pro and well made. The mic comes with all the cables necessary to hook it up and get making music!

For pro studios looking for another modern, versatile color - or a project studio looking for a flagship, go-to mic for lead tracks, the AR-51 fits the bill.

3rd December 2011

Telefunken Elektroakustik AR-51 by ZMcNee

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Telefunken Elektroakustik AR-51 Tube Condensor Microphone

Last year, having the good fortune to escape the latest onslaught of snow to pummel NYC, I flew down to Lexington, KY to record a project at a local residential recording studio. While I was there I was lucky enough to test drive a pair of Telefunken's new AR-51 condensor mics. As the AR-51 is said to be a marriage between the amplifier electronics of a C-12 and ELA M 251E, and a globally sourced capsule and power supply, I couldn’t wait to see how these mics would stand up against the best of the best.

TECH SPECS: The AR-51 is a large diaphragm tube condenser mic powered by dedicated external power supply (included). Controlled from the power supply are three main polar patterns: Omni, Cardioid, and Figure 8 with six intermediate stages. The tube is a NOS (new old stock) ECC81 twin triode – the same tube found in Telefunken’s C12 and ELA M 251E.
Telefunken’s R-F-T series of microphones has been designed to ease the price burden normally associated with microphones of this stature by offering off-shore built capsules and power supplies (tested in the U.S. prior to installation) with the same excellent amplifier electronics used in their more expensive models. At a street price of $1,895, the AR-51 is virtually 1/5th the cost of Telefunken’s highest-end microphones.

IN USE: I will mention first off here that one of my favorite features of this mic is the XLR-style snapping cable lock that connects the power supply cable to the mic. This is a breath of fresh air for any engineer who has used a screw-in style cable for any number of external power supplied mics. This feature alone will save the owner of this mic several days of down time due to repair over the life of the mic.

The AR-51 is billed as an all around utility mic capable of reproducing brilliant sound on an endless number of sound sources. In my six days of tracking, I was never convinced of anything less.
Although the AR-51 and the studio's ELA M 251 we’re never tested side by side, I was thrilled and pleasantly surprised at just how close the AR-51 sounded to the ELA M251 from my listening tests with other recent projects tracked through the studio’s mic.
The body of the mic is extremely solid with a slightly textured finish and feels sturdy yet less heavy and bulky than its big brother, the 251. Having a pair of them at my disposal, my first move was to set them up over the kit for the first two days of rehearsal and basic tracking with the band. I was immediately impressed.
The mics were placed in a spaced pair approximately three feet above the drum kit. I was blown away by the warm yet punchy sound that greatly covered not just the cymbals, but the snare, toms and even a healthy amount of kick drum just from the overheads.

While this type of coverage may not be ideal for every engineer or style of music, for a big rock sound, they do a brilliant job. Coupled with a vintage pre amp and stereo compressor, the foundation of my drum sound on this record was built completely around the sound of these mics and their coverage on the kit.
Once we wrapped basic tracking, I made sure my assistant knew to leave at least one AR-51 up to shoot out with virtually every sound source we had left to cover on the project from acoustic and electric guitars to cello and percussion.

Pointed at the 12th fret approximately 18” off the guitar, the mic translated excellently providing a sharp and crystal-clear tone with a healthy amount of tube saturation and warmth. There’s plenty of room for EQ with close-up sound sources as the AR-51 provides more than enough low-end but not so much that it’s overwhelming the source.

Male rock vocals shine on the AR-51 with terrific clarity and slight grit. The proximity effect on vocals was very noticeable allowing the deepest and most pleasant aspects of male vocals to stand out. The noise floor is extremely low allowing for the quietest whispers to come through. High SPL is also not a problem as the mic handled the most vocally dynamic songs from top to bottom without any adjustments at the preamp.
We were all especially excited to listen to the AR-51 on cello as one of the songs on the record was arranged for five separate parts, allowing for every element of the instrument to shine.
The mic was placed about two feet away fairly low on the instrument slightly above the F hole. Coupled with a room mic further back in the room, the AR-51 was a remarkable spot mic for cello providing deep, dramatic low end and just enough bow and string air. I’m not even sure we even bothered checking the second mic we had up as we were under a time crunch and everyone in the room seemed more than pleased with the sound.
Finally, on percussion, the AR-51 provided sharp and clear percussive tracks from shakers and tambourines, and even a little more cowbell baby! Preamp adjustments were minute between instruments as the majority of the level adjustments were accomplished with the player simply moving closer or further away from the mic.

TO BE CRITICAL… My assistant and I both found that while the included clasp-lock shock mount did the job of holding the mic very well with no discernible problems, we were both a little off-put by the general feeling that the shock mount wasn’t as durable and high quality as we were expecting perhaps due to the thin and very flexible feel. Besides our initial trepidation with the shock mount, I honestly had very little to be critical of here!

WRAPPING UP: I couldn’t be more impressed with the overall quality and versatility of the AR-51. At a price point that could easily be misconstrued as an imitation version of their more expensive products, the AR-51 competes on the same plane as everything else in Telefunken’s line hands down.

While these mics will certainly still be a stretch of the budget for a number of studios and engineers (myself included!) they are easily one of the best options in their class for anyone looking to marry world-class quality with a price point that’s within reach.

 
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