Warm Audio WA-251 Tube Condenser Microphone

Warm Audio’s WA-251 is a vacuum tube, large diaphragm multi-pattern condenser microphone based on the vintage classic ‘251 European studio microphone. Inside there is a CK12-style capsule with a 6-micron thick MylarTM diaphragm, a JJ Slovak 12AY7/6072 tube and a CineMag output transformer.

Unlike the original 251, the pattern switch is located on the included power supply not on the mic’s body. With the Warm 251’s power supply within reach, you can change the pickup pattern between cardioid, omnidirectional and figure-of-8 while auditioning your singer.

An included 5-meter, 7-pin XLR GAC-7 Gotham cable connects the power supply to the microphone; it has ample length for in- control room vocals or out on the floor in the recording room.

My first test was an acoustic guitar and vocal recording. I used Warm Audio’s 84 for the guitar and the 251 for the vocal. I set the 251 to omnidirectional and had the singer close in—about four to six-inches away. I used 40dB of gain from a Sunset Sound S1P mic pre-amp, no EQ and a Pete’s Place Blast Filter. The sound was rich, present and dynamic with virtually no noise.

At another studio, I used an AEA RPQ mic pre-amp starting with about 28dB of gain and found the 251 had about the same output as other multi-thousand dollar vintage microphones in that studio’s collection. I tried and compared all sorts of different speaking and singing volumes and the WA-251 held up well under scrutiny!

I found that Warm’s 251 is excellent for soft to medium loud singers who may tend toward shrillness at the top of their range. It has an overall mellow tone and takes post-processing well. I liked the nice kit—the individual wood box for the mic, basket shock mount, all cables and power supply. But there is no carrying case for the entire kit.

I didn’t care for the shock mount as it proved to be fiddly to use. Nonetheless, apart from those two gripes (and you can certainly buy those items in the aftermarket), I have to recommend the WA-251 for budget-minded recordists who want the sound of a large diaphragm, tube powered vocal microphone. The WA-251 sells for $799MSRP.