I want to buy my main vocal microphone. I want a balanced microphone, with a smooth top end. I’ve heard the Telefunken ELA M 251E and I love how it sounds and plan to use it to record a capella, without music, but it’s commonly used on female vocals and I have a deep baritone voice. The specs show a low‑end roll off from about 100Hz and I’m concerned that this could be too high for a male vocal. Should I go with an alternative like the Telefunken TF51 that has a fuller low end, or could the Neumann U87 be a safe choice? Or perhaps there is a better solution?
SOS Editor In Chief Sam Inglis replies: I haven’t used the current Telefunken ELA M 251E but, in my experience, modern 251 copies vary in sound. Some are quite well balanced and others are a little brighter. Either way, there is no reason why they shouldn’t work on male vocals, and many classic records have been made using these mics on both male and female singers. I wouldn’t worry too much about the low‑end roll‑off — this will be compensated by the proximity effect, assuming you are using the mic fairly close up.
I think it’s really important to try out a few different options yourself rather than buying ‘blind’.
You don’t mention a budget, but since you are considering the ELA M 251 I assume you are willing to consider quite costly mics! If so, it would definitely be worth trying the new Neumann M49 reissue. In fact, since you are planning on using the mic mainly for your own voice, I think it’s really important to try out a few different options yourself rather than buying ‘blind’. Can you make a trip to a retailer who has these models in stock, or hire a local studio that owns some of them?