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The Dead Tour with Telefunken M80 Mics

Pictured onstage with Telefunken M 80 mics are, from left: The Dead’s Jeff Chimenti, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Warren Haynes and Mickey Hart.

Photo: Jay Blakesberg

The Dead, comprised of founding members of the Grateful Dead, have been touring extensively this year with the new M 80 dynamic microphones from Telefunken Elektroakustik.

President Barack Obama is credited with inspiring the band to officially reunite after meeting with them following a February 2008 concert in San Francisco called “Deadheads for Obama.” In October 2008, Grateful Dead founding members Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, joined by Warren Haynes and Jeff Chimenti, played a second show for the Obama campaign, called “Change Rocks,” at Penn State University. On January 1, 2009, the Dead announced their touring schedule, and after extensive rehearsals testing the Telefunken M 80 dynamic microphones, the band’s audio engineers decided to use Telefunken microphones during this year’s grueling tour, which culminated on July 2 with a performance at Michigan’s Rothbury Festival.

“Over the course of time The Dead have tried just about every brand and make of vocal microphones,” explains Derek Featherstone, front-of-house engineer for The Dead. “When it came time to do the Dead 2009 tour, I was trying out different simple dynamic mics with the intention of keeping the stage wash down and the tone of all vocal mics the same. My goal was to use the same microphone model on all of the 6 vocal positions so when the band was not singing the front line wash would at least sound consistent.”

The Telefunken M 80 microphone features a low-mass capsule with an extremely thin Mylar membrane and a custom wound step-up transformer from AMI/TAB-Funkenwerk. The M 80 delivers condenser-like performance and a rugged dynamic design, producing a microphone suitable for voice and instruments in a live stage environment.

“The vocals in this band vary greatly in tonality and strength,” Featherstone continues. “Finding a microphone that could handle and reproduce all voices well was not a simple task. Bob Weir had previously used the Telefunken M 80 and suggested I check it out. The M 80 microphone has an incredible balance of fidelity and rejection. These microphones worked flawlessly in the Dead’s somewhat hazardous live sound environment.”

During the 2009 Dead tour, Telefunken Elektroakustic founder and CEO Toni Fishman spent the entire spring on the road beta testing new battery power supplies for two prized vacuum tube mics from the Telefunken line: the small diaphragm ELA M 260 and the large diaphragm ELA M 270. Traditionally used only in the studio, these microphones are said to have performed well in live concert recording. Click here for examples of these 2009 recordings.

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For video clips of The Dead in concert, visit