The ADK Custom Shop Fab-Four Class A FET Microphone Collection features four killer mics based on the classic sounds of yesteryear. ADK Custom Shop utilizes modern, solid-state electronics to effectively reproduce the sonic character of classic Austrian, Danish, and German tube microphones. I reviewed the Hamburg II-Au (now called the Hamburg 67Au) and the Vienna II-Au (now called the Vienna 12Au) back in 2007 and I subsequently bought them both. Naturally, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend some serious time with the remaining two mics in the collection, the Berlin-47Au and the Cremona-251Au.
The ADK Custom Shop Fab-Four mics are visually identical, with the only difference being the model number printed on the front of the mic. All four of the mics boast a unique Australian-designed capsule (thus the “Au” in the model number) as well as British Oxford transformers and a high-quality Phillips Norelco Uber-FET. Furthermore, they each feature two-step attenuation pads (8 or 16 dB) and highpass filters (100 or 160 Hz).
These cylindrical, side-address ADK mics have a beautiful matte-nickel finish on a body that is 2 inches in diameter and 8.25 inches long. They can be purchased individually or as matched stereo pairs; in both instances, they include a case that protects the mic and carries its accessories. The single microphone case carries the microphone, standard, and shock mic mounts, and foam and gooseneck pop filters. The stereo pair, in two cases, comes with two microphones and pairs of standard and shock mic mounts.
In addition to the four Fab-Four mics, ADK Custom Shop offers the Berlin-47Au in three variations (guitar, vocal, and horn), each with the capsule tuned with a specific use in mind. Moreover, ADK will fine-tune any of its custom mics (Valve or FET) for no charge (except shipping) anytime during the first 12 months of ownership.
I had the Cremona 251 and all three versions of the Berlin 47 for this review and had superb results, as I used all four mics in almost every imaginable situation during the review process.
The stock 47 (also known as the Guitar Version) is reminiscent of a 1960s-era FET 47 and is perfectly suited for electric guitar cabinets and, as long as the 18 dB pad is engaged, it can easily capture a massively loud cabinet without a hint of distortion (believe me, I tried). The 47 Vocal Version is a slightly mellower version of the mic (reminiscent of 1950s sound) and is closer to the historical tube “U47 sound.” The Horn Version/Mark Isham Edition is a “dark” version of the mic; its ribbonesque quality is closer to the sound of an M-49 than a 47. It was tuned to the precise specifications of legendary trumpeter and composer Mark Isham.
ADK’s Larry Villella sent me the curves for the three variations of the 47, and while their response is nearly identical from 50 Hz to 2 kHz, it varies slightly below 50 Hz and quite significantly from 3 kHz and up. The 251 sounds very much like a Telefunken 251 sans tubes: smooth, open top end with well-defined lows.
All four of the mics work extremely well on vocals with the specific vocalist determining the mic choice. The majority of the time I found that the 47 Vocal Version was the best of the bunch for capturing male vocals, and the Cremona 251 was the best for female vocals. While the 47 Horn Version was typically my least favorite vocal mic, it surprised me on several occasions by becoming the choice mic of the four (usually when recording a male with an unusually bright vocal).
The 47 Guitar Version sounds amazing on electric guitar. I had the best results placing the mic about 4 inches off the cabinet pointed directly between the center of the cone and the rim and running the signal through a Daking mic pre and a Tube Tech CL-1B compressor.
In addition to vocals, the 47 Vocal Version does a fantastic job capturing acoustic and electric guitars as well as percussion and cello. I recorded a Taylor 514-CE acoustic guitar by placing the Cremona 251 on the neck, the 47 Vocal Version on the body, and running both mics through a pair of Gordon mic pres, a GML 8200 EQ, and a pair of Tube Tech CL-1B compressors for incredible results.
I had great results using the 47 Horn Version to record violin; the mic did a great job of smoothing out the instrument’s top end without dulling the tone. As for recording horns, I’ve only had the opportunity to use the 47 Horn Version on trombone and trumpet, but Larry Villella explained that the mic works equally well with reeds which, based on my experience with other instruments, I’d anticipate would be true.
The Cremona 251 sounds amazing on female vocals. As I already described, I found the mic to be the perfect complement to the 47 Vocal Version for capturing acoustic guitar. In addition, I found that the mic sounds great on electric guitar, percussion, and cello.
I found the three variations of the Berlin-47Au and the Cremona 251Au to be fantastic mics that are extremely versatile. While you may purchase the guitar version of the 47 primarily for recording guitars, it will also work great on vocals or horns just as the horn version typically sounds great on vocals and guitars, etc.
Each mic in the ADK Custom Shop Fab-Four Microphone Collection is astonishingly versatile and priced well below what their performance reveals. Any of these mics would be an ideal choice for the project studio that incorporates a single high-end mic. However, if you have the money, I’d recommend buying all of the Fab-Four FETs (the Hamburg 67Au, the Vienna 12Au, the Cremona-251Au, and the most applicable of the three, Berlin-47Au variations) as all four are fantastic audio colors that will greatly enhance the recording options for any mid- to high-end studio.
Russ Long, a Nashville-based producer/engineer, owns The Carport recording studio. He is a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review. www.russlong.ws