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Author Topic: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons  (Read 930 times)

jemjam

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USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« on: April 14, 2024, 03:43:44 PM »

I want to know people's thoughts on these samples of a USA Telefunken ELA M I purchased from VK.

When it first arrived, it didn't sound right to me. Frequency response seemed to be shifted to the right with a lack of low-end and scooped mid-frequency response and a harsh high med to high frequency.

I send it back to Telefunken who was obliged to inspect the mic. They noticed a deviation in frequency response from factory specifications. They had the mic for about 3 weeks. The final verdict was that the mic worked according to specification after the tube was replaced. Mind you the mic did not have any self noise or other noise issues you might expect from a tube gone bad.

I only had the mic for a few months before reaching out to Telefunken. Upon receiving the mic back from Telefunken, I noticed some improvements but still did not like the sound. Something about its frequency response makes me want to stop recording as opposed to inspiring me to want more. I thought maybe it was just my room acoustics or the apt building power or EMI or grounding issues. So, I went to Vintage King LA and recorded two male vocals of my USA tele 251 mic and their USA  tele 251 mic. To my ears, the  VK mic sounds thicker and has that warm undertone you expect from a 251. It also has a soft tube resistance/compression you'd expect and can hear in the mid frequencies. My 251 sounds scooped in the mids somehow. At bright parts it becomes apparent and even seems to make the vocals sound sharper then they are. It is subtle but I hear something.

I wanted to see if anyone else hears the differences and has any input why? Is it the tube in my mic? Is it too much diaphragm tension (which I believe Klaus said manufacturers might do to compensate for the loss of tension over time)? I like the sound of the VK mic and not the sound of mine so much. And of course, if the expert Klaus has any input, I would appreciate it.

Attached is a google drive link of the files. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1KJGQFHnKxQVs9ORk18dg8AJAxh4zpOc8?usp=share_link
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klaus

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2024, 02:59:40 AM »

Sharing voice samples to compare the sound of mics is tricky, and I have not had good results making a determinate judgement that way. And I don't believe purchasing decisions should be made on that basis (see also https://repforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/topic,37438.0.html).

With that in mind, the samples of both mics you shared are close enough in timbre and overall character that I would not call your mic defective or deficient. The timbres of both mics just differ ever so slightly-most likely due to capsule manufacturing tolerances.

I see at least two options to make you happy:

1. If your head is still "as new", ask VK to swap mic heads; that way you will end up with the mic's sound you heard and liked (the tube is rarely responsible for large timbre differences).

2. Reverse your capsule so that the rear side becomes the front side. Switching front sides will often introduce a new timbre to the mic when used in cardioid (front side only) pattern, which will possibly solve your issues.

Keep us posted.
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Klaus Heyne
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jemjam

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2024, 09:43:03 PM »

Klaus,

Thank you for your swift, thoughtful, and concise response. Your reputation certainly precedes you.
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jemjam

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2024, 04:06:27 AM »

Update, turns out the Telefunken 251 in the Vintage King LA showroom was a loaner from Telefunken, so Telefunken authorized the mic swap. The showroom mic was manufactured only about 6 months before mine, and they are honoring my current warranty period so I am very satisfied with the resolution. Thank you again for the suggestion. I will note the mic I swapped for seems to have a bigger bottom and less pronounced high mid section. Responds to room acoustics differently. This mic is more sensitive to the room than any mic I’ve worked with so good acoustics seem to be the key when using this mic.

On another note, I noticed something sort of by accident. When using a Neve 1073N preamp (can be used standalone or in a chassis), when the earth lift switch is logged on, any use with it sounds much bigger and warmer with a massive bottom end and filtered high end (but not like a low pass filter), just smoothed out.

I have the mic plugged into the XLR mic input of the Neve and XLR line output into line level of prism Lyra. When the earth lift is switched off, feels like a high pass filter is engaged and the mic sounds harsh again. Notably, the neve preamp with the earth lift switched off sounds similar to the Lyra preamp, which makes me think the earth lift toggled off is a more accurate representation. And the manual says the earth lift is only relevant when using DI, but not used when using the mic/line to input are balanced and ground free thanks to the input transformers. Nonetheless, I prefer the sound of the earth lift switched on.  Any thoughts on this?
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RadarDoug2

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2024, 05:16:30 PM »

Your earth lift switch should not cause any difference in frequency response, so something is wrong. Normally a high pass filter soundwhit a transformer output would indicate one wire missing on the transformer output, but the high pass will be at a very high frequency. You should check carefully that the two ends of the output transformer winding in your preamp are going to the right places.
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Kai

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2024, 03:26:15 AM »

I have the mic plugged into the XLR mic input of the neve and XLR line output into line level of prism Lyra. When the earth lift is switched off, feels like a high pass filter is engaged and the mic sounds harsh again.
Error tracking list:

• You might have a mis-wired or partly shorted XLR cable (supposed mic and preamp are OK).
Repair or replace, cable tester is your friend.

• Does the signal run through a stage box / patchbay?
The error might even be there.

• Check with a known working tube mic - does the same happen?
If not, something’s wrong with the mic’s internal wiring.

If the Lyra has a ground lift switch (I think not), you could even test if the same is happening.
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klaus

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2024, 12:11:44 PM »

I am with Kai: there is something rotten in the state of Denmark! In general my experience has been that lifting grounds on devices that are part of the mic chain is rarely the better or preferred setting.

I always start with examining the XLR cable terminations: I have written endlessly how when not incorporating the connector shells in the shielding and grounding scheme all kinds of noises can enter the system.
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Klaus Heyne
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jemjam

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2024, 04:46:02 AM »

Thank you all for your input.
I appreciate the responsiveness. I want to believe it is not an issue with the mic as I just swapped my precious mic with Vintage King's. And samples of both mics are attached to the post that started this thread.

I have tried multiple XLR cables to no avail but haven’t tried all my cables. I will do that and report back. My Sweetwater sales engineer responded to my findings with

if there is a lot of inherent noise in the ground line then that could cause the issues that you’re running into. If you have better success with the ground lift engaged, then great, that sounds like the easy solution to your problems! The more permanent and more expensive solution would be to get a high quality power conditioner. I also have grounding issues in my home and the only way around it would be to either get an electrician in and gut the walls, or purchase one of these: https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/P2400IT--furman-p-2400-it.

I’m not familiar enough with this subject to know if this is accurate or not. However, the logic seems sound that lifting ground may have improved any grounding issues my building is causing. I live in a large apartment complex. When recording, the high end seems “dirty” and harsh and even crackles at times in the higher frequencies. The low end is lean and/or muffled. I have ran into similar issues with my previous mic, the Blue Bottle tube mic, which I have since sold. Heard it in the studio of the guy I sold it to and of course it sounded gorgeous in his set up ‍♂️.

The other thing is when I have a condenser mic plugged into a bus powered interface, it sounds better or more “normal” than my 251 in the interface pre (although still more normal than through the Neve with the ground lift toggled off).
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klaus

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2024, 09:58:48 AM »

You have reported several seemingly unrelated problems with your Tele USA ELA M.
There was the capsule sound, the perceived richer bottom on the mic you swapped out, and there is now a perceived issue with harshness of tone. A Sweetwater salesman then suggested to use a power conditioner. I would take him up on it, order the unit, try it for a few days, and if it solved your issue, you are done, if not, return it for a full refund.

You have yet to confirm that any of the mic cables you used were terminated correctly. Please do so before you post again.
Here is the correct way to terminate any and every condenser mic cable:

*On the XLR 3-pin cable: The cable shield and ground tap connecting the shell of the connector must be solder-connected to XLR pin #1, on both connectors, no exception.

*On the mic cable between mic and power supply: the cable's ground and shield wires and the connector housing must be connected together, on both ends, no exception.

*Connect chassis ground of the mic pre or whatever you plug the XLR cable into. That means do not engage any ground lifting.

Thank you.
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
www.GermanMasterworks.com

gtoledo3

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2024, 12:26:59 PM »

It’s worth buying a simple outlet tester to see what is going on with the electrical source. You can buy a basic one that will tell you the status of the ground, hot and neutral via some colored lights.

Present day, many tube mic PSU are designed in such a way that they do need to have a viable ground at the outlet.
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Kai

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2024, 05:34:57 PM »

When recording, the high end seems “dirty” and harsh and even crackles at times in the higher frequencies. The low end is lean and/or muffled.
Dirty and harsh high end, and crackles usually point on, AD-Converter and DAW are not clock-synced.
This would be a basic mistake that prevents any quality recording to happen.
Check if everything is clock slaved and locked to a single clock master.


Crackles even can origin from spoiled electric mains, e.g. fridges tend to spoil the mains with high voltage spikes.

Correctly grounded systems with all balanced interconnects are quite immune against that.
Help with running all relevant power cords into one single, central power strip, preferably one with surge protection.


For the sound differences:
Establish one reference path - mic (not the Telefunken 251), cable, preamp, converter - that sounds correct and doesn‘t react on the ground lift switch.
Now replace only one piece at a time, starting with the 251 mic, until the sound change happens or the ground lift issue appear.

BTW: even the interconnect cable 251 mic to PSU could be broken.
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klaus

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2024, 08:19:44 PM »

Establish one reference path - mic (not the Telefunken 251), cable, preamp, converter - that sounds correct and doesn‘t react on the ground lift switch.
Now replace only one piece at a time, starting with the 251 mic, until the sound change happens or the ground lift issue appear.

That is excellent troubleshooting advice: concentrate on ONE variable under examination at a time, then move on to the next.
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Klaus Heyne
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jemjam

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2024, 03:48:50 AM »

Hello again all. I have checked all Mogami and Jumperz XLR cables I have available and they all appear to pass the inspection (according to instructions provided by Klaus). I have tried every cable and they all respond relatively the same.

I want to clarify, the issue that started this thread was a minor difference in frequency response I heard when A/Bing my Telefunken 251 recently purchased against the showroom Telefunken 251 at Vintage King LA. This comparison was done at Vintage King, LA, so my building's grounding issues or whatever else were not a factor in that comparison.

The issues I’m currently having while recording in my apt existed with the previous 251 and current swapped 251; the current 251 doesn’t sound as harsh in the high end nonetheless. I am still experiencing other issues I can’t seem to solve (i.e., mic low end response and smoother highs with the preamp earth lift engaged).  And my mic intermittently has static noise either spontaneously or if the mic stand is bumped. All nearby electronic devices are off.  It goes away when I bump the mic again or wiggle the spring surrounding the mic cable.

Lyra and DAW are clock synced. Thank you again for all your advice. I will report back any progress made.
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jemjam

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2024, 06:07:24 AM »

Another recurrent theme is the microphone performing better at 3 am when most people in the apartment complex are presumably asleep and not using power or other electronic devices. Bigger low low end, smoother top end, fuller mid and better dynamics. Mic is louder at lower gain settings as well. Not sure how to fix that. I don’t think it’s voltage related as voltage during the day is usually 118 and 120 at night. Not much of a difference.
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Kai

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Re: USA Telefunken ELA M 251 E mic comparisons
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2024, 10:07:34 AM »

The crackle when bumped says something is broken, making unreliable contact.

No. 1 suspicious: mic to PSU cable.
Could even be something in the mic.

Replace the cable, or get the mic serviced from the seller.
Once solved, check back with your other issues.


If this performance vs. time of day dependability stays afterwards, you might really need a power conditioner.

The 118V vs. 120V doesn’t sound like much of a difference.
But - people's devices not only lowers the AC mains voltage, but pollutes it with all kinds of noises.

Without further investigation it’s impossible to say which of your devices is prone to this - which I’d consider a sub optimum engineering.

Building a clean PSU is the basic of any electronics construction.
Those devices in need for a special PSU to deliver their best are simply under-engineered in the 1st place.


One big question that is still unanswered:
Does your AC have a separate safety ground?
If not, condenser mics can go all over the place.

You can check the safety ground prong against a metal water or heating pipe installation and the voltage should be close to zero.
Be careful not to shock yourself poking inside the AC connector.

In Japan e.g. AC wiring quite often lacks ground connection.
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