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Lawson L251 Vacuum Tube Mic

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by wafuradio, May 8, 2005.

  1. wafuradio

    wafuradio Guest

    I just purchased the lawson L251 tube mic to replace my Neumann TL103. I have a ten day trial on this mic. Out of the box, i have to say that i am not reallying hearing a huge difference between the two mics. and i might even say that i am really disappointed. My signal path is the mic directly into an avalon M5 then into my motu 2408. In my side by side comparison of the two, the L251 has slightly more clarity over all, but seems to have less output. I really have to crank my avalon to get a decent signal. (I have checked that i have the pad switch off). To me, the L251 and the TL103 are sounding very much alike. I am going to call support on Monday, but meanwhile, i was wondering if anyone has worked with lawson L251 and could give me any tips, feedback, etc... For $2500 i really was expecting to hear a bigger difference between the two mics. I wonder if i should have went with the Soundelux E250.
  2. JBsound

    JBsound Guest

    I wouldn't think that the output is going to be that big of a deal when determining the quality. I don't know if the 251 is multi-pattern, but with my L47 I can put it in "cardioid only" mode and get like 3db more output on it.

    You should really be listening to the clarity (which you mentioned), the smoothness, and the overall body. I find that my l47 reacts to EQ much better than my TLM103's did. It also has a smoothness that was definitely not apparent in them. Try it on several different vocals, and listen to it in the mix. The Avalon is going to give you a pretty accurate picture.

    One thing I noticed this weekend, while my Avalon and some other pre's were being rented by a local studio, is that my L47 sounded really good just through the Digi002r preamps. Even though it was only some voiceover work, it sounded better through those pre's than any other mic has.

    I wish I had some experience with the L251, but if it's like the 47, then it is probably a much better mic than the tlm103.
  3. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    JBSound hit the nail on the head. I do voiceover work from Miami to Atlanta, and used to use my TLM103 for demoes and some ISDN work from my home. The TLM wasn't bad, but it has no real character, just more output and a bit more "edge" than many out there. I ended up replacing it with an AT4047, which has served me well.
    But in every studio I go to, I have asked the house engineer what mic he/she would most like to have if they could have just one. Every one of them-and I mean EVERY one- said the Lawson L47. It offers all the necessary features (i.e., multiple patterns, great build quality, superior sound). They all have that in their workplace and I am in love with it on my voice. That mic seems to work its magic on just about anything you throw at it. Clear,articulate, smooth, and pretty darned quiet. My budget is fairly tight at this point, but I plan to add one to my small collection by the end of the year.
    The 251 is a different animal. Like the Soundeluxe you referred to, it has a different sound. It is very warm, but not as tonally versatile.
    Output level is no parameter by which to measure a mic's performance. Clarity, smoothness (especially off-axis), ability to control plosives and rumble. Lawson rules. I wonder what acoustical environment you are using the mic in. Also, the monitoring system and its environment. Maybe you can't hear these differences in these mics because of these very important factors.
    By the way, the man's name is GENE Lawson. PEACE.
  4. Johnson Cabasa

    Johnson Cabasa Active Member

    Sep 5, 2003
    i sold my lawson 251 and got the soundelux 250 you wont be disappointed
  5. wafuradio

    wafuradio Guest

    moonbaby... you bring up a good point... i think my acoustical environment might be the problem. I am going to work on trying to make that better. I also changed my cables and my output issue is gone. Thanks for the input and correction (GENE, duh).
  6. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    Sorry, I hope I didn't come across as rude. I personally think , from what I have heard and read about the Lawson 251 that it might be considered a "one-trick pony". Ditto with the Soundeluxe. But that is what you get with many single-pattern mics.
    The L47 is a true gem, and the multiple patterns allow you to experiment with the placement of the mic to get the flavor you desire. I don't really know why the 251 is more $$ because it doesn't really seem to be more mic.
    You might try swapping-in the 251 for an L47...
    Also, the "load factor" between your mic and the preamp may have something to do with the sound. I used to have an Avalon 737,which has a transformer-balanced input, and that puppy would give me varied results, depending on the mic plugged into it. The M5 is, I believe, transformerless, so does that have an "impedance" control on the front panel? This may have something to do with the level variations between the different mics. The techies at Lawson will have to weigh in on that. The bottom line is that all the engineers in Nashville can't be wrong, and the L47 is highly touted by them all. Good luck!
  7. Mumbles

    Mumbles Active Member

    Aug 25, 2004
    Upstate NY

    You really need to put something new through it's paces. Do you have any sessions before the trial is up?
    The L251 has the same variable pattern as the L47. We have on coming in the next month or so. We've checked out a Neumann m49, a Brauner Valvet Voice and a Soundelux U99 so far.
    I'll let you know how the Lawson fares. The U99 is winning so far.

  8. wafuradio

    wafuradio Guest

    I have been working with the L251 for a couple of days now, but I was still disappointed with outcome. I called Lawson and they have sent me the L47 to try out. I just got that yesterday. I already hear a huge difference and I am much happier with the sound of the L47. For my voice, it just sounds better. I am going to really try to work it this weekend so I can be sure that this is the mic for me. thanks everyone for your input.
  9. Ciardhubhan

    Ciardhubhan Guest

    hi wafuradio,

    i've actually been going through the same exercise myself, thinking about getting a Lawson L251 or L47 (or combo) to replace my TLM-103. And now that I've read your post, I am a little concerned.

    From what I understand, the L47 is going to sound vastly different anyway- more of a mid range hump, little or no highs after the 10K mark. So from that perspective, the difference "for the money" will be great.

    I was considering the L251 for close up vocals, not necessarily "big" vocals which I think the U-47 style mics are better for. Not hefty sounding, but whispering in your ear sounding. Close and "big" in the sense that it takes up most of the soundstage. My gripe with the TLM-103 is that the proximity effect is too heavy, and the midrange seems a little muddy, and the highs and lows aren't as extended as I'd like. You close mic your vocals (say within 3") and the result is a muddy, "boxy" kind of sound with sibilants that grow increasingly harsh. You can eq out the sibilants but you can't make the muddiness better.

    I was hoping that the L251 was exactly what the doctor ordered - a less overwhelming bass boost / proximity effect, an overall extension in the highs and lows, better clarity in the midrange and highs, yet remaining smooth in the highs and not as sibilant. Basically, in comparison to the TLM-103, you should be able to scoot in closer (or say, sound "closer" at 3" distance) for "close-up" vocals with a respectable bass from the proximity effect but not so much that it starts muddying the detail in the low to mid range, and you should be able to get whisper-close vocals that sound "realer".

    Is the L251 not that? I'd agree that the sound is in the character of the TLM-103, but that in execution, I was hoping it would help get a sound that you can't get no matter how long you fiddle around with the TLM. I'd appreciate any input on this because I was getting all ready to order next week!

  10. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    You are incorrect about the midrange "hump" from the 47, as well as the lack of high frequency extension beyond 10khz. This mic is very smoooooth in the mids, very clear extended top end. I do agree with your assessment of the 103, though.
    As far as the L251 is concerned, I cannot really comment about the
    differences. I saw one in action in a studio in Atlanta, but the engineer said that it was in a "Cardioid Only"mode that I misunderstood as meaning that the mic only had that pattern to deal with. WRONG! He was recording a cello with it, and it sounded pretty good.
    I honestly can't see anyone not hearing, and appreciating, the differences between the 103 and the 47. Give the mic a good workout, try it with different preamps (if possible), try it with different sources and different acoustical environments.
    Like the old TV ad said:"Try it...you'll like it!" PEACE
  11. wafuradio

    wafuradio Guest

    i have to say that after a bunch of testing this past week, the L47 is a wonderful mic and will be a great replacement for my 103. I am very happy with the results. There is a clarity and warmth to the mic that that 103 just does not have. The most striking difference is that my vocals now sound present and are not fighting for their space in the mix. It is as if the person is in the room singing to you during playback. I like to close mic my vocals as well and I always ended up with the same boxy effect you are speaking about with the 103. I am glad i got to test the L251, but it was just not for me. As a user of the 103, i would recommend trying the L47 first.. and dont forget what moonbaby said earlier in the post about the importance of the recording environment, something that I was overlooking during my initial testing of the L251.
  12. Ciardhubhan

    Ciardhubhan Guest

    Thanks for the feedback. Well, the reason I said that I thought the L47 had a midrange hump was that I read some posts a while back on gearslutz I think where the person insisted there was some 3K "hump" that threw him off the mic. Mind you, I'd take it that there is a presence boost coming from a more pronounced midrange vs. the TLM-103

    In any case, wafuradio, I'm glad you mentioned that the L47 sounded "real" during playback, because that certainly is an aspect I'm looking for. Does the L251 not sound "real" in playback? After playing around with the microphone more, did you find that the difference between the L251 and the TLM-103 was still very very slim to none? Was the proximity effect just as muddying for close up vocals?

    Musical tastes aside, if you listen to recordings made by Jon Brion for Fiona Apple on When The Pawn, they were all done through an ELAM-251->Neve pre->Fairchild. If you listen especially to a close-mic'd song like "I Know", you'll see what I mean- despite it sounding very tubey (I guess from the Fairchild), you get the impression the mids are scooped, the highs are a little more present, but overall, it's very very real, like she's singing in your ear. You can't do that with a TLM-103. It will sound more 2D and flatter, and muddier.

    Then, if you listen to Evanescence, say the ballad "Immortal", that was done with a U-47->Neve pre->1176LN. That sound is big, and again, very much like she's singing right in front of you - and I think should be what you can approximate with an L47. But it's a midrange bigness, not a "whisper in your ear" presence which involves the high frequency boost. Both are "big" and "real", but one's closer to your ear than the other.

    So that's why after a lot of thinking, I boiled it down to an L251 over L47. But if the L251 doesn't differ significantly from the TLM, then I'd probably do like you and go for the L47 and eq my way to that "whisper in your ear" sound.

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