And while Soundelux and others have been selling versions of the 251 for some time now, the prices for most of them have remained fairly stratospheric. Moreover, while a 251 can be a spectacular sounding mic on some sources, they do have some drawbacks. The wonderfully open sounding top end can sometimes be a little too much on some singers, the cardioid pattern is fairly tight, and off-axis tonality is definitely different than the on-axis response. Additionally, like most classic condenser mics, the proximity effect boost of a vintage 251 is well below the fundamental frequencies of most singers’ voices. In an effort to address some of these issues, Soundelux has designed and released . . . the E250.
The E250 can be thought of as a cardioid-only version of the ELUX 251, but with some significant changes. The proximity effect was moved upward to the 200 – 250Hz range, instead of below 100Hz (like on the ELUX). Instead of the 6072 tube used in the ELUX and the original ELA M251 Es, the E250 uses an EF732 tube. The capsule is similar, and is still based on the classic CK-12 design, but was modified somewhat to widen the cardioid pattern and raise the frequency of the proximity boost. The mic features the same basic color scheme as the ELUX — a light mint green-tinted cream color — but lacks the chrome and visual sparkle of the ELUX, as well as the multi-pattern capabilities.
Nonetheless, it’s still a classy looking, extremely well built and finished mic, and it vibes far more “vintage” and cool sitting in the included shockmount on a stand in front of you than it does in photos. The mic comes bundled with a nice spider style shock mount, a power supply that is custom tailored to each individual microphone, a multi-pin Tuchel style connecting cable, and a cherrywood storage box. I appreciated that Soundelux slightly modified the design of their shockmount as well, making it easier to tighten or loosen the adjustment screws without the elastic bands getting in your way.
SOUNDS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT
First and foremost, this is a vocal mic. A no-holds-barred, take no prisoners, make-no-excuses world class vocal mic. A good singer can work this mic almost like nothing else out there. Get closer and it doesn’t get that ultra-low, below the singer’s fundamental frequency range proximity boost — the singer just gets “larger.” You can get HUGE vocals with this mic, and it‘s just a blast to sing into. The top end is open and sweet, but not as present as on the ELUX — making it a better choice for some singers with excessively bright or sibilant voices. And rockers will adore this mic for the sheer depth, weight, size, and detail it gives to vocals.
And while classic vintage vocal mics were never originally intended for use at the “up close and personal” distances favored by many producers and engineers these days, the E250 was designed and optimized for exactly that . . . it’s not that you can’t use it at greater distances, but it really shows its magic when the singer is within a few inches of it. In addition, the cardioid pattern is a little wider and more forgiving than on a vintage 251 or an ELUX, which is something you’ll definitely appreciate if you’re dealing with a singer who can’t stay put in one place while performing.
SMELLS LIKE A WINNER
While many will consider the E250 as strictly a vocal mic, don’t overlook the possibility of using it on other sources too. For example, for a cool aural treat, try it as a room mic on guitars or drums. Also, some of the same characteristics that make it work so well on vocals helps it to shine on saxophone.
Okay, okay, I know: It’s hard not to sound like an ad for Soundelux here, BUT I’d be lying if I said that this mic does NOT kick ass and/or takes names. Sure, compared to an ELUX, it’s not quite as present on the very top, but it carries a lot more weight in the lower midrange and is more forgiving with off-axis sounds. In the time I’ve had it in here for review, the E250 and ELUX have been the only mics I’ve needed to pull out in order to effectively capture any vocalist who walked in the door — if one wasn’t quite right, the other was always perfect for what we were after. I would be very hard pressed to pick only one of these two mics for inclusion in my mic locker, so I won’t. I’ll be begging, borrowing, or stealing whatever I need to, to own the review unit.
So, if you’re in the market for a high-end vocal mic, you owe it to yourself to put the E250 on your audition list. For taking the best of a classic mic and making changes to it that actually improve things, and creating a truly world class vocal microphone at a price point that is actually affordable to any serious recordist, Soundelux earns an EQ Exceptional Quality award.