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Author Topic: Alternatives to Genuine (AKG-Made) Ela M 251?  (Read 9466 times)

Johnkenn

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Alternatives to Genuine (AKG-Made) Ela M 251?
« on: January 09, 2013, 09:53:00 am »

At the risk of being mocked for asking, are there any cheaper alternatives out there that resemble the sound of this mic? I used a reissue Tele 251V AC - had a vintage CK12 capsule and an AC701 - and it was superb. The main thing I noticed was the rich, euphonic detail of the mids...almost a "reediness" that reminded me of the resonance your chest feels when being next to a sax, bassoon or other reed instrument. I know that's an obscure analogy, but that was the quality I really noticed in this mic that made it stand apart.
This particular mic was $12k, so a bit out of my reach. I was hoping  ;) there would be something in the $3k range that might approach it...any such animal?
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klaus

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Re: Alternatives to Ela M 251
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2013, 03:59:03 pm »

My (subjective) answer to an age-old question (looking forward to different perspectives):

1. I do not believe you can get $18,000 performance from a $3,000 mic. If that were so, the buying public would immediately recognize a bargain, and the manufacturer of the copy mic would immediately see his chance of making lots more money, and would quickly price his mic close to that of an original ELA M251.

That is a general market rule which, to my knowledge, has never been broken in a free market environment where quality, supply and demand determine the price.

2. The fact that you had such a good experience with a copy mic that included two of three vital components of an original ELA M does not surprise me (if I can believe that you have a genuine ELA M capsule in there, not just any old CK12!): the more original, sound-shaping components in a copy mic, the closer you will get to the sound of the original. We then can quibble how much closer you would get if you also added an original ELA M transformer, all of the electric components, wiring type and quality, housing and head basket hardware, power supply... to your copy mic. And, guess what:

3. You can get pretty close if you try hard enough, long enough, and spend enough. But you will eventually hit a wall: your now have a tricked-out copy mic which will have cost you in the end so much money that it may be a satisfying performer for you, personally, but resale value, determined by general recognition, will be disappointingly low. Or, to put it simply: the market for copy mics is indeed limited to the price environment copy products typically occupy: a fraction of the price of the real thing.
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Klaus Heyne
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DigitMus

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine AKG-Made Ela M 251
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2013, 08:35:55 pm »

While I agree with Klaus' observations, there is (or perhaps WAS) a newer microphone which you might like as much as a vintage ELAM 251. That is the Lucas CS-1.
   It is NOT a "clone", but a modern take on the ELAM 251/C12 family of mics.
It is in production, but all of the limited run of 300 are spoken for (about 200 have already shipped - I own 2 of them).  You might be able to get on a waiting list in case there are cancellations, and a very few have changed hands in the aftermarket (@ around the $3,750 - $4,000 price range).

  Scott Gould
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klaus

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine AKG-Made Ela M 251
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2013, 08:41:35 pm »

I guess, the keyword in the OP is: "resemble".
It then is entirely up to the OP to define how much something has to resemble something else to be in the ball park of acceptability for him.
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Klaus Heyne
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Nob Turner

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine AKG-Made Ela M 251
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2013, 01:04:00 am »

I'd respectfully disagree that these mics (genuine ELAM 251 and CS-1) sound significantly similar. I had one of each up in front of an extraordinary vocalist this week. While both sounded decent on her, they weren't close to each other. There is an airiness to the Telefunken that the Lucas doesn't approach.

As it turned out, we all agreed she sounded best on a VM-1.

DigitMus

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine AKG-Made Ela M 251
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2013, 02:22:54 am »

Nob - I guess it would depend upon which particular 251 you were comparing it to. And which particular singer/song as well. If the OP is looking for a serious studio tool which "resembles" the sound of a 251, I wonder how many examples he has heard. The individual variations in sound of 40-50 year old mics of the same model are not subtle.
As Klaus says, it will depend on the size of the OP's "ballpark" whether any given mic will suit him.  For you, a CS-1 isn't close enough (or wasn't in one particular application).  I merely suggested it because it is a serious modern studio tool that MIGHT suit because IMO it is more like a 251 than a U47, M49 or other "classic" mics, and is built to a higher standard than most modern "clones" or "tributes".
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Nob Turner

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine AKG-Made Ela M 251
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2013, 02:35:27 am »

well... i'll continue to disagree. i've used several original 251's, as well as a couple of clones. and i own a cs-1. and i certainly like the lucas, or i wouldn't keep it. but as klaus said, the operative word here is "resemble." that's hard to define. to me, while there are similarities in the two microphones, i'd never confuse one for the other.

Jim Williams

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine AKG-Made Ela M 251
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2013, 12:14:06 pm »

Having never heard any two of those mics ever sounding the same, you are in a position of attempting to clone a unique mic with a one-off variation in tone. Plus, age has set them apart sonically as well.

Probably a futile exersize.

However, if you want a 'similar" type of sound, that is easy to do and pretty cheap as well.

I got the $189 Chi-com Apex 460 tube mic. Dropped in a ck-12 copy capsule, upgraded the electronics and changed the tube to 6072A. If you are anal about the C-12 circuits, drop off the cathode follower and place a Cinemag output transformer insides. Then you can play with feedback caps and other "c-12" stuff to fine tune it. Got the anal disease again? Pay for an original capsule and then you are very close.

I used to do this in those AKG "The Tube" mics, but the Apex is a mic better platform to work on and so, so cheap to buy.

Does it sound like an original? No, only because all of them also sound different from each other as well.

Does it sound close? You bet. Is it useful? You bet. Does it make any difference once a track is mixed and ripped to MP-3? Not any I can hear, and definately not enough difference to ever justify paying those $$$ prices for an original.

If it is too lowly to be mentioned on this forum, I appologise.
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klaus

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine AKG-Made Ela M 251
« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2013, 02:41:33 pm »

... Got the anal disease again?...

...If it is too lowly to be mentioned on this forum, I appologise (sic)...

What may be too lowly for this discussion is your dismissal of the efforts of those who strive for excellence in different ways than you do.

Your sincerity as a professional is not questionend-you often share interesting tricks and tips for microphone modifications.

But there are quite a few professionals who deem the sound characteristics of an original ELA M251 inimitable. I see no need to dismiss those who do not wish to go your route towards achieving a certain kind of sound as having an anal disease.

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Klaus Heyne
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Johnkenn

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine (AKG-Made) Ela M 251?
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2013, 09:53:50 pm »

I guess I was hoping that the differences in a $1500 mic and a $8000 mic were smaller these days with the advent of technology. I'm sure some would say that the advent of tech has made mics sound worse...at least the quality. I guess I'm just going to hope for a big single and invest my money in the real thing...or a Tele approximation with vintage parts...
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klaus

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine (AKG-Made) Ela M 251?
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2013, 10:46:40 pm »

... I'm sure some would say that the advent of tech has made mics sound worse...at least the quality.

The 'advent of tech' has forced all serial manufacturers of mics into a race to the bottom: how cheap can you produce and still get away with enough quality that the product is sellable.

This race to the bottom is partially the fault of the buying public: we are offered and accept products which, if we would invested enough time and energy to become more discriminating listeners, would not even exist.
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Klaus Heyne
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Johnkenn

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine (AKG-Made) Ela M 251?
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2013, 10:51:40 pm »

The same could be said about music...
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gpiccolini

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine (AKG-Made) Ela M 251?
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2013, 10:27:38 am »

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klaus

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine (AKG-Made) Ela M 251?
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2013, 02:54:35 pm »

This is not a forum for propagating snobbishness- There is a growing market for those recording enthusiasts who cannot afford the considerable layout for a vintage mic and its upkeep, and who want to communicate their experiences or ask questions from others with experience.

I am happy for you that you are happy with a put-together mic from several different manufacturers and consisting largely of aftermarket copy-components. Your satisfaction with the results is really all that matters in this case! And, yes, by all means, try different transformers- you may hit the jackpot and find one whose electric properties complement the mic in an appreciable way.

I get irritated mainly with those who keep making direct comparisons between well-working vintage mics and their copies, pretending there are no differences, asserting that you can save a lot of money while getting vintage mic quality. I have never heard a copy mic that comes close to the original in the quality of its sound.

Having worked in the field my entire adult life, I know enough about the many building blocks that make good mics sound good. These building blocks-all of them developed before the 1970s- are uniformly complicated and expensive to manufacture- beyond simple reverse engineering, and requiring investment beyond what copy manufacturers could ever afford or recoup through sales in the 21st century.
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Klaus Heyne
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Alternatives to Genuine (AKG-Made) Ela M 251?
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2013, 01:17:26 am »

As an owner of a 251 and a CS1, I can tell you they sound nothing alike, unless you think a Les Paul sounds like a 335.
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