Strother Bullins, Technology Editor at Pro Sound News, and Lynn Fuston, veteran recording engineer and author, take an in-depth look at today’s microphone design and manufacture. The report features key aspects of the faithful and dedicated work done by TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik.
Based in South Windsor, CT, the aforementioned TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik is a prime example of the passion within the high-end LDC ‘clone’ sector. It is “a labor of love … a flame rekindled among family and friends working together,” tells Toni Fishman, who launched the company 17 years ago when he acquired the rights to the name and diamond logo for use in North America, originally conceived by TELEFUNKEN Gmbh of Germany. “It all started from a endless passion for classic microphones, vintage tubes and unique recording equipment. Since that time, we have taken a ‘no corners cut’ approach to reverse engineering and process engineering. We have made the investment to find, train and teach our team to build valuable tools for sound collection; sampling the finest microphones ever made, taking them apart, and repairing and restoring [them] led to this reality.”
“We can look back now at the last 50 years and see that many of the same advancements in our society that have provided us a greater quality of life and ubiquitous access to technology have not always fared so well in the world of audio recording,” wisely observes Ian Cluggish, Microphone Technician, TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik. “The sole fact that vacuum tube gear is still in high demand corroborates this. We know that some aspects of the vintage mic designs must always and will always remain faithful to the originals—things that have a direct and profound impact on the sound, which we would not presume to change. We still use NOS (new old stock) vacuum tubes when available, we have audio transformers built by the original manufacturers, and gold still remains the capsule diaphragm coating of choice. However, the modern development of materials and material processes gives us a leg up on the engineers of years past in that we can build our mics with a higher level of consistency and reliability.”
TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik’s flagship Diamond Series—recreations of 50-plus years old classics—is a good example of ‘clones’ featuring materials and manufacturing techniques not present in the originals. “For components, we are able to select 0.1% tolerance precision resistors and sonically superior capacitors to improve upon the original design without changing the circuit,” tells Design Engineer Ryan Loftus. “Certain rubber and plastic materials are available today that have a much longer life cycle without breaking down. For machining, our manufacturing facility is located in a region with high-quality machine shops working in the aerospace and medical fields. Because of this, we are able to machine critical parts to extremely tight tolerances, resulting in consistent and accurate parts.”
Also key to the TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik process, explains Director of Operations Alan Venitosh, is putting their passion into more direct action. For example, his team often hosts live performances from touring bands in the same room as their microphone production. “Called ‘Live from the Lab,’ “The concept is that we have developed a work space that allows our microphones to be designed, built and tested all within a recording studio and sound stage environment,” he explains. “Touring and local musicians are the test subjects and our staff are the audio scientists in the name of research and development of our products.”