We try out Telefunken’s affordable take on an Austrian classic.
Telefunken Elektroakustik’s Alchemy range was released in late 2019, and saw the company introduce a series of affordable large‑diaphragm tube condenser microphones. I had the pleasure of reviewing these mics early last year and was impressed with a great‑sounding and stylish‑looking range of mics that offered different audio flavours inspired by some of the big hitters from the Telefunken Diamond range (see www.soundonsound.com/reviews/telefunken-alchemy-series). For review here is the latest addition to the Alchemy series, the TF11 FET, which is not only their first non‑tube large‑diaphragm offering but also their most affordable to date.
Telefunken describe their new release as having an Austrian‑style voicing, with a capsule inspired by the legendary CK12 — but with modern FET amplifier technology. The price for the TF11 has seemingly been made possible by cherry‑picking design aspects and components from their other products. The TF11 is cardioid‑only and uses a single‑membrane version of the capsule featured in the TF51, for example, and the FET microphone amplifier is similar to the version employed in Telefunken’s M60 small‑diagram pencil‑style mic. The amplifier is coupled with a Carnhill transformer (premium components are apparently used throughout), and the mic is designed and built by hand at their Connecticut‑based USA factory.
Being familiar with the rest of the Alchemy range, the first thing that initially struck me about the TF11 was its modest size (175 x 46 mm). This is not unusual for a FET mic, however, and the TF11 has a solid, compact feel that should lend itself to most studio or live applications. The mic ships with a simple but sturdy enough case, with two mounting options and a microphone protection sleeve. Like the rest of the Alchemy range, it looks and feels great.
The first job I had for the TF11 in my studio was capturing a picked acoustic guitar. Starting with my default position of pointing the mic about 6 inches from the 12th fret, I was impressed with the detail and gentle emphasis on the higher frequencies. With a tight, restrained low‑end it reminded me of how much I enjoyed using the TF51 in my last Telefunken review. The TF11 was right at home in this application and I liked how it captured the transients on a strummed guitar part: it sounded clean, but not sterile.
Next, I wanted to see if the stated SPL handling of 135dB would enable it to handle being used outside a kick drum. Positioned how you might a U47 FET — ie. close up to the resonant head — it captured a more than respectable ‘thud’ with plenty of usable low‑end. With a little cut around the 350Hz region it sounded even better, and although I could hear a very slight saturated edge to the sound on the louder hits, this was quite complimentary. It also fared well on drums as a mono overhead and as a room mic, with the cymbals being fully represented but without getting harsh.
I was immediately impressed with the detail and gentle emphasis on the higher frequencies.
Ideally, I would have tested the TF11 on a few different singers during the review period but it was difficult during the current lockdown here in the UK. I did my utmost to put it through its paces, however, and I liked how it sounded on my voice in a voice‑over setting. The low‑frequency response is restrained but it was still possible to manipulate the mic’s proximity effect to get more of a fuller sound. The real strength of the mic, though, is in its balanced midrange, and how it can gently flatter any high‑frequency information. It worked superbly in front of a guitar cab for both clean and more distorted parts, and while I would have loved to try it on a female singer, it was so reminiscent of the valve TF51 mic that I would be very surprised if it didn’t sound great in this role.
A quick peek at the TF11’s frequency response graph confirmed what I observed when trying it out in my studio. There’s a very slight roll‑off below 100Hz, followed by a flat midrange until you get to 2.5kHz. From this point up there’s a gentle boost centred around 3.5kHz and again at around 10kHz. As well as reminding me of the TF51, I also found its sound reminiscent of the older‑style AKG C414, which is not at all surprising given that the early (and now eye‑wateringly expensive) versions of these mics combined a CK12 capsule with FET amplifier technology. Like a good 414, the TF11 is a seriously handy mic to have around, providing detail when needed on guitars and voice as well as being equally at home above a drum kit or piano.
The TF11 offers good value compared to the rest of the Telefunken range — especially if you’re not massively bothered about not having additional polar patterns to play with. The designers have done a great job of shaving what they could off the price whilst retaining the sound quality you would expect. With the caveat that I wasn’t able to do my normal range of voice tests, I was very impressed with this stylish little mic. If you’re looking for an all‑round studio tool and it fits your budget, then the TF11 is a great choice.
Visit https://sosm.ag/telefunken-tf11-media to hear the TF11 in action on a range of sources or download the ZIP file and audition the hi-res WAVs in your own DAW.
- Compact, stylish‑looking mic.
- Frequency response worked very well on acoustic instruments and guitar amps.
- Versatile, with high SPL ability and fast transient response.
- Good value.
Telefunken’s most affordable addition to their Alchemy range is a compact, stylish, large‑diaphragm condenser mic that performed well on a number of sources and would make a great studio all‑rounder.