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Telefunken TF51 review: Affordable sonic excellence

Telefunken, a name often associated with pre-war era microphones and preamps, has been based in Connecticut since 2001. The company specializes in creating authentic recreations of classic mics like the U 87/47 and the C12.

While the price tags of these recreations have typically aligned with the originals, Telefunken aims to make this technology more accessible to the modern engineer.

The TF51, a recreation of the legendary ELA M 251, is part of the company’s Alchemy series, which includes four microphones designed to achieve this goal. Let’s dive deeper into the TF51 and explore what it has to offer.

Telefunken TF51 with power supply
Image: Higher Hz

Final verdict on the Telefunken TF51 5.0

For just under $2000, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tube condenser of this caliber and quality. It’s quite versatile, and while not necessarily a show-stealer, its performance is consistently good and natural-sounding, making it easy to recommend for anybody.

What I like

  • Excellent for instruments with high-register.
  • Versatile.
  • Great value for price.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing to note.
Buy Telefunken TF51 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Why you should trust me

Brandon Schock, author and contributor at Higher Hz

I’m a producer and audio engineer with over 12 years of experience with a wide range of gear and recording techniques. I’ve tested and worked with a huge variety of microphones from Shure, Electro-Voice, Neumann, and AKG, among others.


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Polar pattern and frequency response 4.5

The TF51 features a frequency response of 20 Hz 20 kHz, as well as the ability to switch between cardioid, omni, and figure-8 polar patterns.

The low-end and midrange is quite tight and neat-sounding, while the upper midrange region feels more forward and bold. The microphone is bright but not overbearing, making performances sound rather smooth without becoming too aggressive.

There is some noticeable presence around 10 kHz in the cardioid and omni settings, whereas when it’s set to figure-8, this area is much more subdued. While the microphone is fairly bright on the whole, the high-end doesn’t sparkle as obviously as say a C414 would.

Vocals (studio and live) 5.0

This can be a spectacular microphone for female vocalists in particular, I found the slight peaks at 3 kHz and 10 kHz were quite complementary to this application.

The TF51 doesn’t do much in the way of exaggerating or highlighting the fullness of a sound source, and as a result felt less gripping on male voices. However, this can be used to your advantage when recording backing vocals to avoid overcrowding the lower mids.

Telefunken TF51 with microphone stand
Image: Higher Hz

This mic could feasibly be used in more intimate live settings, although I wouldn’t be too keen on bringing a $2k tube mic to anything rowdier than say a Tiny Desk concert.

Acoustic guitars 5.0

On acoustic guitars, the TF51 was fantastic. The body felt phenomenally open and full, the midrange was forward-sounding without being too nasally, and the high-end was crisp and sparkly without being too much. I would imagine getting quite a lot of use out of this mic for this application.

Guitar amps 4.0

The TF51 offers an articulate and bright performance, which can make it a good option for recording electric guitars.

In my opinion, the brightness wasn’t as complementary towards tones with high-gain and heavy distortion. Cleaner tones, on the other hand, fared far better with the slightly aggressive upper mids and sizzle of the microphone.

Again, the low end and lower mids are well tamed, making it a solid choice for layering guitar parts without having to worry about things sounding too bloated.

Bass amps 2.0

Not my favorite for bass cabinets, while the TF51’s low-end sounds pretty nice and tidy, it doesn’t do much to add heft or bring out the fullness of instruments with lower registers.

It could maybe be used in tandem with a more suitable mic to add some different tonal characteristics to your bass tone.

Drums 5.0

The TF51 makes a fantastic overhead or room microphone. The high-end can faithfully capture the high-end of cymbals without getting too brittle or harsh, and you don’t need to worry about the bottom-end or low-midrange getting too bloated.

Due to its somewhat assertive midrange, I can see it being a decent choice for snare in certain circumstances.

Build quality 5.0

It’s rather evident that Telefunken put an awful lot of care into the overall feel and design of this microphone.

Right out of the box it feels solid and robust, all along with some key accessories in the carrying case, including a shockmount, stand mount, an XLR, a power-supply unit, and a soft mic pouch.

Telefunken TF51 carrying case
Image: Higher Hz

The CK12-style capsule and German-made Haufe transformer further prove Telefunken’s commitment to delivering high-end appointments at an affordable price.

Compared to other microphones

Here are a few alternatives to compare against the Telefunken TF51.

Telefunken TF51 vs TF47

The TF51 is a bit more focused and detailed-sounding than the TF47, which is much darker and fussier by comparison.

As the name would suggest, the TF47 was modeled after the Neumann U 47, utilizing an accurate recreation of the BV8 transformer originally used in the Neumann. It is a bit more mid-forward than the U 47 in my experience, but is still a worthwhile microphone to have.

The TF47 and TF51 are ultimately very different sounding microphones resulting in different uses and applications. They’re about the same price, so choosing between the two is truly up to your preference and needs.

Telefunken TF51 vs Neumann U 87 Ai

Aside from being close to twice the price, the U 87 Ai is a very different beast from the TF51. The U 87 Ai is warmer-sounding, and its flatter frequency response makes it a slightly more versatile mic.

While it still doesn’t compare to a genuine U 87, I still prefer the Ai over the TF51 for most instances.

Telefunken TF51 vs Golden Age Project GA-251 Mk2

Both of these microphones are inspired by the original Telefunken ELA M 251, a microphone that people seldom get to use, let alone buy. The GA-251 Mk2 is an insanely authentic recreation in both sound and look.

Who is the Telefunken TF51 best suited for?

The TF51 is a great option for anybody looking for an affordable first step into the mid-price bracket of tube condensers. While it might not be the best of its kind, you might be hard-pressed to find something better for the price.

Buy Telefunken TF51 at: SweetwaterAmazon

Video demo

Watch this video by my colleague Fabio, where he puts the Telefunken TF51 multi-pattern tube condenser microphone to the test.