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Telefunken Elektroakustik AR-51 review

The new addition to the R-F-T range draws upon classic heritage

  • £1522
  • $2195
We found nothing that the Telefunken sounds bad on.

MusicRadar Verdict

A classic smooth condenser with great all-round performance that lives up to the Telefunken name.


  • +

    Classic smooth condenser frequency response. High standard of engineering. As versatile as they come.


  • -

    For an 'affordable' mic, the price is still steep.

The Telefunken R-F-T range has been developed to offer this iconic brand at a more affordable price by using what are coyly called 'off-shore' components.

In the case of the AR-51, this means that the diaphragm and power supply are made off-shore, tested in the US and combined with a new-old-stock ECC81 valve-based amplifier and the same transformer as found in their C-12 and ELA M 251E models.

As a hybrid design, the AR-51 - looking like a slightly squat C-12 - has been branded a 'utility' mic and, as such, escapes the expectations of a direct vintage facsimile. Even though it's only 20% of the price of a reissue C-12, at £1,500 it's still no impulse purchase.

Supplied with shockmount, power supply, IEC cable and 5m mic-PSU connector, the mic itself is weighty, though not too challenging for standard mic stands, and engineered to a very high standard inside and out. The shockmount is simple but, again, of the standard expected from a high-end mic.

Tele tone

When Telefunken say it's a utility mic, they really do mean it - we found nothing that the AR-51 sounded bad on, and for many sources it really shines. The tone is classic smooth condenser: never sounding exaggerated or scooped, always allowing the reality of the source to come through unmolested.

The proximity effect performance is excellent - vocals, particularly deep male voices, come forward without booming. On guitar amps the same is true, with no low-mid-mush, even right up close.

In the aforementioned roles, the smooth response extending across the mid and high frequency ranges manage to balance presence and airiness without over-articulating sibilance or hyping the 10kHz+ range. The nine pickup patterns provide all the variation one needs without becoming nasal around cardioid/super-cardioid.

The well-balanced frequency response keeps the foreground/background relationship intact in omni mode and still manages to focus on the forward position on tighter patterns without becoming uneven.

The clear low-mid articulation can create the illusion of the AR-51 being a tad bass-light, but there's plenty of low-end extension: it's just not as scooped as on some mics. This even tonal balance makes the AR-51 a rare candidate for corrective EQ, and yet provides a rich source for creative tone shaping.

Performance mic

Transient response is excellent, easily capturing percussive sources realistically across a wide dynamic range, from the subtlest snare ghostings to the most intense floor tom wallops. There is no pad control, but the relatively low output gain ( 10dB down from my main valve condenser) means loud sources don't require padding.

Despite this, there's enough low noise output to capture quiet sources with a standard 60dB range preamp. The sheer quality of this mic means that £1,500 is a reasonable price to pay considering that it will easily fill that 'lead vocal' spot in a mic collection.

There are a lot of mics in this price bracket - all promising some small variation on classic designs - and many have performance qualities that it's hard to fit a cigarette paper between. Even so, the AR-51 more than deserves the place it will be afforded on the basis of the Telefunken badge it carries. ...