Soundelux E49 Review
There are just some products that you absolutely know are going to be great as soon as you unpack the box, it’s a combination of their appearance, packaging, and sometimes just their overall heft! Let me cut to the chase, the Soundelux E49 was even better than I thought it would be, based on those very first impressions.
For the benefit of those that might be unfamiliar with the original microphone that the E49 is based upon, the Neumann M49 was developed in 1951 and was a dual diaphragm microphone which used the same M7 and K49 capsules as used in the venerable U47. What made the M49 unique in its day was the capability to remotely switch the pickup pattern of the microphone.
Soundelux, in recent years has reissued/remanufactured/revised several Neumann designs, producing microphones which by all accounts are at least the equal (if not better than) many of the surviving vintage examples.
The Soundelux E49 maintains the overall design cues of the original U49 but also incorporates a few nods to the advances in technology that have taken place to provide for a lower noise floor, and better usability. In addition the choice of tube has changed from the VF14 tube which is in really short supply (and sells for somewhere around $1000 when you can find one) to the ES732 tube, which behaves in a manner similar to the VF14.
The E49 ships in a nice jewel box, and includes a high quality (Gotham) cable with keyed (non-xlr) connectors, and the P99E power supply. One of the interesting things about the E49’s power supply is that it features continuously variable polar pattern selection. A microphone stand adapter is included. One thing that isn’t included is a shock mount, and that is due to the fact that the E49 is internally double shock mounted. A bit of tapping was all that it took to demonstrate its effectiveness.
As far as specifications go, the E49 has a 13dB self-noise which is excellent for a tube microphone.
I’ve had the pleasure of using the Soundelux for the past few months, and have had great success utilizing it on a variety of sources.
One of the very best applications that I have found for the E49 has been as a room microphone, whether recording the studio’s GMS maple drum kit, Hammond A100, or a Dual Rectifier through a Marshall 4×12 at a distance, the E49 not only captured, but enhanced the sound of the instrument and the room.
The continuously variable polar pattern selector made it simple to dial in the ratio of room sound versus direct sound from the control room. This allowed for completely different “sounds” to be achieved with the same audio chain.
The included microphone clip seemed a little bit unsuited to the job, sometimes making me feel a bit hesitant to suspend the microphone upside down. A little bit of creative metal bending made me a little bit more confident, and according to the distributor an improved version of the microphone clip is shipping with the E49.
I found the E49 to work well with both tubed and solid state preamps. It seemed to be mostly immune to differences in the preamps, which is not to say that it homogenized the differences between the preamps, rather that the E49 sounded great no matter what I plugged it into.
From a foot or so back, the E49 sounded absolutely tremendous on my Jean Larrivee Jumbo Cutaway guitar. It was almost too big, and when I say big I’m not just talking about bottom end. Rather that the image of the guitar was vividly presented, with size, shape, and color intact…maybe even enhanced!
Vocals were present and warm at the same time through the E49; it truly has the sound that normally you would need a 40 year old microphone (or a Sinatra record) to achieve. Both male and female voices sounded great through this microphone, and with the addition of a little bit of compression (and in some cases a bit of high pass filtering) the resultant sound was right on the money with no further eq’ing necessary or desired.
If you are even considering purchasing a vintage tube microphone, you should give the E49 a good listen before making any decisions. The E49 sounds great on virtually every instrument (and vocalist) I tried it on. Truly the only thing better than having an E49 would be having a pair of E49’s!