Ah, it’s one of those microphones with a nickname, once again! Among senior German live sound guys, the Telefunken M811 is known as the “Stabgranate”, and if you’ve handled one of those things, you know why. It’s heavy, bulky and it really feels like holding one of the infamous German Model 24 stick grenades in your hands.
Although no physical harm has been caused by this mic, a lot of really bad jokes, boring sermons and dubious opinions have been unleashed on the public through the M811, so I guess it has earned its nickname? Anyway, several sources claim that it contains an AKG capsule, and some even go so far and claim that it’s a D224, which is possibly the nicest among AKGs dual-capsule dynamics. This is most certainly wrong. The M611, lower in the ranks of the high quality Telefunken live sound series, is actually a dual-element microphone built by AKG, but this one here: not really.
Opening up the M811 though revealed that its innards had Sennheiser written all over the place – capsule shape, diaphragm, side vents, the characteristic grey resonator, it didn’t look like AKG at all. Further research revealed that it might just be a vintage Sennheiser MD431 (subtitled “Profipower”) in disguise, and I am willing to agree with that. The MD431 has been Sennheiser’s top-tier dynamic live vocal mic for ages now, famous for its well-balanced and pleasant sound, mega gain before feedback, rock-solid directional pattern, immunity to inept handling and basically everything you could expect from a live vocal mic.
So, the Telefunken M811 has a large Tuchel connector, and probably catered to the live sound and PA crowd who wouldn’t kick their old gear habits for modern-day XLR connectors just yet, around the middle of the 1970s. German TV (which relied heavily on the large Tuchel standard for a long time) was also one of the possible applications, indicated by the two colour choices black and silver for different filming locations and situations. I guess it’s fair to say that the M811 was the top of the line of professional Telefunken OEM microphones – yet its original packaging, quite anticlimactically, was a cheap styrofoam box with paper wrapping. I guess styrofoam was considered modern, sleek and elegant back then?
The Sennheiser MD431 is often used for speech and voice over work rather than singing, as it sounds very “HiFi” and can be a little too present to blend in live with a band, so we’ve used the M811 on guitar amp, obviously, and it sounded pretty fantastic. Crisp, lots of power, very detailed. Also pretty neat for snare drum, even though it is really hard to place there, being so incredibly unwieldy. In the studio it’s definitely worth a try for vocals, it takes EQ very well in our opinion. Assuming the Sennheiser hunch is correct, I’ll simply give you the data for the old MD431. The new MD431II seems to be a different beast.
- Frequency response: 40 – 16.000 Hz
- Pickup pattern: Hypercardioid
|Style:||(4 / 5)|
|Sound:||(5 / 5)|
|Uniqueness:||(4.5 / 5)|
|Usefulness:||(5 / 5)|
Trash:Gold ratio – 1:5