History & Origin of TELEFUNKEN
TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik was born out of the desire to develop restoration parts for some of the world's most prized vintage vacuum tube-based microphones, and in turn, preserve their legacy. Now in production for over two decades, the Diamond Series consists of the most historically accurate versions of a handful of the most sought-after microphones ever made. The history behind these microphones is unique in how they are connected between three of the most notable microphone manufacturers of all time: AKG, Neumann, and TELEFUNKEN.
The name TELEFUNKEN dates back to 1903. The company began as a joint venture between Siemens & Halske and AEG (Allgemeine-Elektrizitãts-Gesellschaft, or General Electric Company). Siemens & Halske was busy developing wireless communication for the German Army, while AEG was doing so for the Imperial German Navy. When a dispute concerning patents came up, German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II urged the two groups to join efforts, and the shared company TELEFUNKEN was born. The prefix "tele-" comes from the Latin word for distance, and "funken" is the German word for spark, or to make work through electric spark. Throughout the 1900's TELEFUNKEN lead the global technology industry with a number of ventures including wireless radio communications, television sets, electronic video cameras, vacuum tubes, preamplifiers, microphones, and more.
The Neumann company began in 1928 with the advent of the CMV 3, commonly referred to as the Neumann Bottle microphone. This was the world’s first mass produced condenser microphone, a true feat at the time. The CMV 3 featured the M1 Omnidirectional capsule. In 1932, Neumann introduced the CMV 3A, featuring interchangeable capsule heads, including a Cardioid version known as the M7 capsule. At the time Neumann had a worldwide distribution deal with TELEFUNKEN GmbH, as TELEFUNKEN had already established a powerful global distribution network. All microphones sold for broadcast or for export were badged with the TELEFUNKEN diamond logo, while domestic products were badged with the Neumann logo.
In 1947, Georg Neumann released what could be considered his greatest contribution to the modern recording world, the U47. The design stemmed from elements available to him at the time, incorporating the M7 capsule that had been developed for use in the CMV 3A, a steel TELEFUNKEN VF14M vacuum tube that was available through military surplus, and a custom wound BV8 output transformer. The U47 microphone took the broadcast and recording worlds by storm, especially in North America where darker, less detailed ribbon microphones were most common. The previously unheard high fidelity and rich detail of the U47 microphone became the new standard.
TELEFUNKEN provided global distribution for the U47 microphone from its release in 1947 until 1958, when Neumann established their own distribution network. Therefore, all U47 and U48 microphones that were exported in that time period adorned the TELEFUNKEN diamond logo badge. From 1958 on, there was no connection between the Neumann and TELEFUNKEN brands. It is estimated that there were around 5,000 U47’s made, including both long and short body versions.
With the U47 no longer in their product line, TELEFUNKEN sought to replace it with a microphone of equal caliber, and contracted AKG of Vienna, Austria to develop a new series of microphones for their product line. AKG was founded in 1947 and released the renowned C12 in 1953, as well as several other notable microphones during that time period. The C12 microphone features the AKG-designed CK12 capsule, an American made 6072A vacuum tube, and a custom-wound T14 output transformer. The system was designed with a remote polar pattern selector box with nine varying pattern options. It is estimated that around 2,500 AKG C12 microphones were made. The C12 became the basis for one of the new microphones designed for TELEFUNKEN: the ELA M 251, which was released in 1959.
The ELA M 251’s circuit was based around the same CK12 capsule and T14 transformer as the C12 and features two different vacuum tube variations. The ELA M 250/251 (with no suffix) utilizes the TELEFUNKEN AC701k vacuum tube, while the ELA M 250E/251E uses the 6072A vacuum tube, the same as in the C12. The ‘E’ designation implies it was meant for export outside of Germany.
The ELA M 250/250E features two polar pattern options: Cardioid and Omnidirectional. Around the same time, Neumann introduced the U48. The U48 is the same in design as the U47, but features Cardioid and Figure-8 polar patterns, while the U47 had Cardioid and Omnidirectional. The ELA M 251/251E was features all three patterns: Cardioid, Omnidirectional, and Figure-8.
Though only in production from 1959 until 1962, the TELEFUNKEN ELA M 251 is thought to be one of the best sounding microphones ever created. While many more microphones were distributed and designed by TELEFUNKEN, the U47 and ELA M 251 remain their most famous contributions to the world of recording. In conjunction with microphones, TELEFUNKEN vacuum tubes were considered to be among the highest quality ever made and many variations are highly sought-after today. TELEFUNKEN went through a number of ownership changes and company iterations, and ultimately ceased any production or new developments in 1985.
Over the four decades that the ELA M 251 was not in production it gained legendary status as one of the finest microphones ever. The combination of its limited original production quantity and fragility led the good working-condition units to become increasingly rare and exponentially more valuable. To illustrate this, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article in the 1990's citing the original ELA M 251 to be one of the best overall investment holdings of the 21st century. As with any vintage piece of electronics, certain parts began to fail on these original units, making some of them unusable. Seeing the potential and need for this microphone, TELEFUNKEN was reborn.
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 ELA M 251 was revived and reissued to the recording world in 2002 and the U47 and C12 microphones followed suit and were released in 2004.
The U47, the C12, and the ELA M 251E and their variations make up the TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik Diamond Series product line. 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 models. The large majority of the parts are machined in America where TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik is located, and every microphone system is hand-built and assembled in South Windsor, Connecticut, USA.
The dream of TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik remains to preserve these iconic microphones and their history, while developing new microphone technology that continues the tradition of high-fidelity recording instruments that benefit the recording and performing world.