Roswell Pro Audio is a boutique microphone company based in California. It was founded by Matthew McGlynn, who is also the founder of the Recording Hacks website, a comprehensive online microphone database that anyone who’s seriously interested in microphones and recording should have in their browser’s Favorites list. Roswell offers a line of high-quality large-diaphragm studio condensers which includes the general-purpose transformerless Delphos and Mini K47 models, and their latest offering—and the new flagship of the line—the Colares.
The Colares is Roswell’s take on the Telefunken Ela M 251, widely considered one of the best mics of all time.
The original was a tube design based on the AKG CK-12 capsule—its sound was similar to the classic C12, but differences in design gave it its own unique character—it’s been described as a C12 with a warmer, fuller sound, or even at times like a vintage Neumann with a little of the C12’s famous brightness and air on top. Today, many companies produce clones or tributes to the original 251, often stratospherically priced. Roswell didn’t set out to make a 251 clone—they looked to it as an inspiration, but the Colares is a new design, utilizing carefully-selected components designed to capture the classic sound and vintage character of the original, but not to imitate that design slavishly under the hood.
Colares is a large-body condenser with a solid feel, housed in a beautiful copper-colored case.
Though its inspiration was a multi-pattern mic, Colares is a cardioid-only design, utilizing a pressure-gradient CK-12-style capsule.
Rather than employing tube-based circuitry like the original, Colares utilizes a carefully-selected JFET and a custom-designed output Transformer to impart the warmth typically associated with classic tube mics. This offers the benefit of lower noise while still preserving the rich tone and vintage character that’s the raison d’être for this mic. The combination of the circuits employed adds a pleasing degree of second-harmonic content, which contributes to the mic’s vintage sound (but see below).
Since it’s a JFET circuit rather than a tube-based design, there’s no special connector, and no external power supply is needed—Colares has a standard XLR connection and draws Phantom Power—you just need to give the circuit around 30 seconds to charge after plugging it in before using it.
As you can see from the published graph, Colares has an extended low frequency range, and slightly enhanced upper mids and highs. Two top-end bumps contribute to its particular presence: a gentle lift from around 1k-5k, centered at 3-4k; and a slightly more pronounced bump centered around 8-10k. This kind of response is typical of classic large-diaphragm (vocal) condensers, and subtly different responses contribute to the unique tonal characters of different models.
On the body are two switches—a three-way Highpass Filter and a 10dB Pad. To control that extended low end, the highpass filter switch offers three different- 3dB cutoffs: 25Hz provides full-range response; 60Hz serves as a typical rumble filter, to eliminate footfalls and the like, and 150Hz is more of a proximity filter—these options should make it easy to compensate for changing bass response at different distances.
Colares is a relatively high-sensitivity mic, and the other switch is the -10dB Pad. But this accomplishes more than just protecting against overloads from higher-SPL sources. With the Pad out, all the second-harmonic warmth designed into Colares will be present, giving the mic its big, warm, vintage sound. But since the Pad attenuates at the front end of the circuit, when it’s engaged not only is the overall level reduced, but that second-harmonic content is reduced as well by 10-12 dB. The result is that with the Pan engaged, the mic takes on a cleaner, more modern tone.
This turns the Pad into something of a subtle character switch. If Colares’ rich presence were to prove to be too much for a particular source, even if you didn’t need to pad the mic for overload protection you could engage the pad—adding appropriate makeup gain—to clean up the sound a little for a less-vintage, more neutral character. This extends Colares’ usefulness, for situations where its big vintage tone may be more than is needed.
In The Box
As is befitting a mic of this caliber, Colares comes in a nice compact padded flight case, and includes a Rycote USM shockmount.
This attaches to the mic via four pressure pads that you hand-screw to tighten, and—as the manual warns in no uncertain terms—you need to make sure they are adequately tightened before mounting the mic on a stand. I’d suggest tightening them and then holding the mic by the stand attachment for a few seconds with your other hand ready underneath to make sure there’s no slippage!
Roswell considers Colares primarily a vocal mic, providing a big, rich vocal sound, but like with all the great classic vocal condensers it can shine equally well with many sources, including acoustic guitar, strings, or ensemble recordings. They specifically don’t recommend it for close-up use on high-SPL sources, like right up against a kick drum—the circuitry that provides Colares’ lovely warmth may be too quick to overload excessively in those scenarios.
Like many large-diaphragm condensers, Colares can be thought of as primarily a vocal mic, but as I mentioned above, it should excel on many suitable sources. Since I didn’t have a vocal session scheduled while I had the mic on hand, I decided to test it out on acoustic guitar, and include a very brief voiceover as well, just to get a sense of its vocal performance.
Sadly, I don’t have an Ela M 251 in my collection (I wish!) to compare the Colares to, but I do have a nice vintage U87, and since they’re both FET-based transformer-coupled designs, I though it would still be an interesting comparison. So I set up to record the guitar with both the U87 and the Colares head-to-head, and had at it.
This first audio clip A/Bs the two mics—at a slow 4/4, you’ll hear 4 bars each of the U87 and the Colares: U87 first; then Colares; U87; Colares; U87; Colares to end.
You can hear the extra presence and top end of the Colares, as it leans more toward the sound of the 251 it was modeled on than familiar Neumann character of the U87. Both mics exhibit excellent clarity, and the Colares’ extended low end adds a little extra depth on the low strings. Now, besides pure sonic considerations, keep in mind that the Colares costs about half what a modern U87 goes for, let alone the price of a vintage ‘87 or 251!
Here’s the same short recording with just the Colares on the acoustic guitar, start to finish..
Though I didn’t have a vocal session scheduled in time to try it on, here’s a very brief recording of the Colares—again compared to the U87—on dialog, just to get a sense of its potential for vocals.
The Colares is well-deserving of its position as the new flagship of the Roswell line—its clarity, presence, and vintage character stand up to both vintage mics and modern reissues, and its take on the classic Ela M 251 puts it in excellent company. It’s not a budget or mid-priced condenser like the Mini K47 or Delphos, but for what it offers in terms of construction and sound, it’s more than a good deal! Anyone in the market for a large-diaphragm vocal-plus condenser should give the Colares a serious listen—you’ll like what you hear.
Price: MSRP: $1399; Street: $1259
Pros: High-end large-diaphragm cardioid condenser inspired by the Ela M 251; big, rich sound with lots of presence; the Pad doubles as a character switch, between vintage warmth and a more modern clean sound
Cons: Make sure to carefully tighten the included shockmount before positioning the mic!
Learn more about mics and recording techniques: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=new-releases