Switched On: The Brand Reborn
The name Telefunken is synonymous with some of the most legendary recording equipment ever created. Rich in tradition, TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik of South Windsor, Connecticut, carries on a legacy started over a century ago in Germany, building premium microphones and other professional audio equipment for both the studio and the stage. The Telefunken Diamond found on every product continues to represent premium quality and craftsmanship.
TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik's origins began in 2000 with the reverse engineering of a single part known to break over time: the original ELA M 251E polar pattern selector switch. The true story is that after purchasing an original 251E with a broken polar pattern switch and realizing there was no suitable solution for this common issue with the original units, current owner and CEO Toni Fishman set out to create a replacement and decided to revive the historic brand in the process.
After acquiring the rights to the name and iconic Diamond logo for use in North America and re-creating the switch, the next two years were spent meticulously reverse engineering the rest of the ELA M 251E microphone to 100% original specification, as dictated by original documents and drafts. With the 251E revived, the C12 and U47 soon followed before Telefunken created the R-F-T Series, a line merging vintage-inspired microphone designs and modern manufacturing practices. Dynamic and phantom-powered designs utilizing the same principles soon followed.
Legends Never Die: The Diamond Series
The Diamond Series features three primary microphone models that epitomize vintage vacuum tube microphone technology, which characterize and color the sounds of popular recorded music from the 1940’s through today. These three pillars of the vintage microphone world were selected to preserve their legacy not only because of their extremely high-fidelity sonic abilities, but also because they exemplify the nearly gone culture of high-quality manufacturing and hand-made workmanship.
TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik of South Windsor, CT, USA was incorporated in 2001 out of the desire to remake restoration parts to keep these iconic recording instruments working. This passion grew into the ambitious goal of recreating the ELA M 251 in all of its original glory, both sonically and structurally. The new production 251 was first showcased at the 2002 Audio Engineering Society convention and shocked the audio industry with its remarkable accuracy to the original, both inside and out. The microphone won the 2003 TEC Award for Studio Microphone Technology. The same attention to detail and expertise were applied to other classic microphone models that make up the Diamond Series.
Currently, the Diamond Series comprises of five microphones: three main models and two variants. They are the C12, ELA M 251E, ELA M 251T, U47 and U48. All of the parts for these products were reverse engineered and recreated exactly to the originals in order to manufacture new models and provide restoration parts for the vintage versions. Almost all of the parts are custom tooled and machined in the USA where TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik is located. Every microphone is hand-built and assembled from the ground up and tested in the TELEFUNKEN facility located in South Windsor, Connecticut.
The dream of TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik remains to preserve these iconic microphones and their history, and to develop new microphone technology that draws inspiration from them. TELEFUNKEN continues the tradition of producing high fidelity recording instruments to benefit the recording and performing world, and to continue to characterize music for generations to come.
Modern Meets Vintage: R-F-T Series, Alchemy Series, & Small Diaphragm Series
In seeking to release new microphone models designed for a new generation of sound engineers and musicians, Telefunken began to apply modern manufacturing techniques to their in-depth knowledge of iconic vintage microphone design and sound. The first microphone designs applying this concept were released as the R-F-T Series in 2005. The name R-F-T is a nod to the East German brand that manufactured communications electronics including microphones and vacuum tubes in the 1950's and 1960's.
The biggest departure from the historically accurate Diamond Series was the use of circuit boards and standardized metalwork, which significantly reduced the overall cost without sacrificing sound quality. What also made the R-F-T Series, and later the Alchemy Series and SDC Series, stand out in a crowded microphone market was Telefunken’s rigorous quality control and testing procedures, all performed in South Windsor, Connecticut, USA.
The next few years saw refinement and expansion of the R-F-T Series, all with the goal of delivering vintage-inspired sound in a more accessible package. The line at this point included the C12/251-inspired AR-51, the M49/U47-inspired AK-47 MkII, the unique-yet-classic CU-29 Copperhead, and the C24-inspired AR-70, a stereo version of the AR-51. Also in production at this time was the vacuum tube-based small diaphragm ELA M 260 which, like the R-F-T models, is a nod to a classic microphone design but made with modern manufacturing techniques.
After over a decade of making the R-F-T Series, it was deemed time for a ground up reevaluation of all designs. In-house skill and knowledge learned over this time of microphone technology and manufacturing and a goal of improving all current models led to a full rebranding as the Alchemy Series in 2019. Improvements included circuit tweaks, component upgrades, improved accessories, an American-assembled power supply, and a headgrille redesign. While based on the original R-F-T designs, enough was changed and improved to warrant new names for all models. The Alchemy Series at this time was comprised of the Cardioid-only TF29 Copperhead, multi-pattern TF39 Copperhead Deluxe, German-voiced TF47, & Austrian-voiced TF51.
During the years of R-F-T improvement and eventually replacement, new technologies found their way into Telefunken’s product line. 2015 saw the release of the M60 FET, Telefunken’s first transistor-based microphone. Utilizing the same form factor and thread-on capsules as the vacuum tube-based ELA M 260, these two models now are known as the Small Diaphragm Series and are made in South Windsor right beside the Diamond and Alchemy Series models. Similar FET design was later used in the development of the TF11 FET, a phantom-powered large diaphragm condenser that was added to the Alchemy Series in 2020.
Taking the Stage: Dynamic Series & Direct Boxes
Telefunken entered the dynamic microphone market with the release of the M80 in 2008. Featuring a uniquely low mass voice coil and a custom-wound output transformer, the M80’s condenser-like response, excellent feedback rejection and high SPL handling bolstered its acceptance and overall praise as one of the premiere dynamic microphones on the market for vocals and snare drum applications.
2012 saw the release of the M81, a variation of the M80, which offers a flatter frequency response more suitable for instruments including speaker cabinets, toms & brass. Like the M80, the M81 got its fair share of praise, including winning the 2013 TEC Award for Microphone Technology in Sound Reinforcement.
The following year saw the development of wireless versions (-WH) and low-profile versions (-SH) of both the M80 and M81, as well as the release of the M82; a large diaphragm microphone with two switchable filters designed for specifically kick drum and broadcast vocal applications. The M82 won a TEC Award for Microphone Technology in Sound Reinforcement in 2014. The M80, M81, M82 and their variations now make up the Dynamic Series.
In meeting the demand of touring musicians and home studios alike, 2013 also saw the release of the DD4 and DD5 Dynamic Drum Packs. After the release of the M60 FET in 2015, the DC6 and DC7 Drum Packs were released, both including a pair of M60 with Cardioid capsules.
Looking to expand their presence in the Live Sound arena, Telefunken released a series of Direct Boxes in December 2016, offering passive and active transformer-based DIs in both mono and stereo packages. Their design concept is based around the tried-and-true large format transformer-coupled direct box with a rugged extruded aluminum chassis and all through-hole component assembly.
As Telefunken Elektroakustik moves forward, one foot is rooted in the rich history of the brand, and the other in new pro audio innovations. Over the past few years, the company has introduced a new line of direct boxes, a series of XLR and instrument cables, studio isolation headphones, and vacuum tubes. Telefunken has evolved exponentially from a single pattern switch to one of the industry leaders in top-quality microphones and professional audio equipment for the studio and the stage, and plan to continue to do so for decades to come.