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AMI brings Telefunken up to date

While many companies strive to bring new technologies to the audio market, some have found that there is a strong demand for classic products that have been left behind in the audio industry’s mad rush to the digital future. One such company is AMI’s TAB Funkenwerk brand, which is leveraging classic circuit designs by the Telefunken name, creating updated versions that incorporate modern updates while respecting the sonic integrity that made these mics and preamps legendary.

Founder and President Oliver Archut began his career at AEG, the parent company of Telefunken. While there, he obtained all the legal documentation for the company’s classic products, which were being discarded. Archut took it home as a hobby and began applying the knowledge to his vintage audio equipment repair business, eventually moving to the United States.

Seeing a strong potential market for classic Telefunken products that are compatible with modern studio equipment and techniques, Archut began his own company that specialized in tube preamplifiers and related products. The key to their authentic sound lies in the preamplifiers, which are all built in-house. From there, TAB Funkenwerk has applied its unique expertise to transformers and a variety of product lines.

One area of success has been in tube microphone preamplifiers, based on the original V72S circuit used at places like Abbey Road Studios and most EMI studios across Europe. The V72S was popular because it could achieve 6dB more gain than competing models, which was a huge plus in the recording process. TAB Funkenwerk designed its modern counterpart, the V78M, using the same schematic, their hand-built transformers and using “new-old” stock of the original Telefunken and Philips vacuum tubes.

Product upgrades over the original include such features as a phase inverter, ground resistive buffer, 48V phantom power and switchable 120Hz shelving. This approach has given TAB Funkenwerk a positive and ongoing direction across its full range of products, all of which feature vintage tube sound combined with modern features and design.

“On the V78M, we actually split the gain into a sensitivity switch and a makeup gain switch,” said AMI’s Joe Hauck, vice president of sales and marketing. “That allows the user to compensate for tone changes in the gain structure. The makeup gain is directed from the feedback circuit and amplifier circuit. When you’re at -60 input sensitivity and 40dB on the makeup gain, you’re basically using a classic V72S.

“When you change the impedance, you are changing the tonality of a preamp,” he said. “The V78M allows the user to maintain that tone at any input level or to use it creatively to drive harmonics and create the kind of tube distortion that can add thickness to a male vocal or electric guitar, for instance.”

Another preamp model based on the same original circuitry, the V72M, combines those two controls into a single knob. “We’ve blended the input sensitivity and makeup gain on the V72M,” Hauck said. “The goal is to make the preamp sound the same tonally across the entire gain structure: from -6 to 60, it sounds the same.”

From preamps, TAB Funkenwerk has also expanded into the area most audio folks identify with the Telefunken name: microphones. “It was natural for use to leverage our capability on transformers to make output transformers for microphones,” Hauck continued. “We now make historical versions of the VV8 for the U47 plus a historical version of the T14 made for the C12 and Elam 251, and a variety of others. We do a lot of OEM work for other companies as well as making our own microphones.”

The company’s flagship mic is the Lucas CS-1, which is based on the classic AKG C12 model. “We’re using the David Bock-specified capsule, which we feel is the best CK12 capsule recreation in the world,” Hauck said. “The CS-1 not a clone; rather, it is the result of imagining what would happen if they original designers had today’s capabilities available to them. For example, back then, relays were too big to fit inside a mic. But now, we can, and that allows us to have a true cardioid where we actually shut off the back half of the capsule electronically. We designed our own transformer to fit with a large batch of new-old tubes we picked up.”

Thus, the company’s Lucas CS-1 is homage to the C12, not a clone. Similarly, the Lucas CS-4 was designed and built as homage to the original U47, using TAB Funkenwerk’s in-house transformers, built to Neumann’s original specifications from 1950.