THE VIKING, EXTINCT AUDIO’S BM9 RIBBON MICROPHONE 2018.

The English county of Yorkshire has a long and illustrious history of steel manufacturing and precision engineering. Based in York, Extinct Audio are an enthusiastic new company offering beautiful, high quality, hand-built ribbon microphones.                                                                                                                            .The Viking Extinct Audio's BM9. The Box...The Viking Extinct Audio's BM9.

Although the design and styling of The Viking, Extinct Audio’s BM9 pays tribute to the legendary Danish ribbon microphones of the 1950’s and 60’s, it has a unique British character and tone all of its own. The transformers are hand wound at the workshop in York and the ribbons are individually fitted and tuned by Dr Stewart Tavener who has more than a decade of experience restoring and repairing 1,000s of vintage ribbon microphones. The Viking also features an extremely strong magnetic field, giving high output and low noise.

The Viking Extinct Audio's BM9..The Viking Extinct Audio's BM9. Back view.

My own microphone collection divides up into 4 distinct categories:-

  1. Microphones with historic significance or a special place in the development of audio technology; e.g. Marconi-Reisz, STC4017.
  2. Microphones which are good for particular purposes; e.g. AKG D112, Sennheiser e945.
  3. ‘Oooo shiny!’ Microphones purchased for no good reason other than they look cool! (Though occasionally they turn out to be useful!) E.g. Electro-Voice EV664, EV644.
  4. Serious workhorse microphones that will produce fantastic results in a wide range of situations; e.g. AKG C414, Oktava MK-012.

I must confess that when I opened that gorgeous wooden Viking box my instinctive reaction was category 3……. ‘Oooo shiny!’ The nickel finish on these mics is superb. They really look and feel great.

Over the last few weeks I have had a number of recording opportunities to try out The Viking on a range of acoustic instruments. Here below are links to a selection of sound clips from these sessions.

CLICK ON EACH to listen.

  1. Vocal and Tenor Saxophone. Peter Gill and Edi May.
    Peter Gill Vocal
  2. National Steel Guitar and Vocal. Pete Atkin.Pete Atkin. National Steel Guitar and vocal
  3. Anglo Saxon Lyre. Andrew Glover-Whitley.Anglo Saxon Lyre Andrew Glover-Whitley
  4. Chinese Walking Stick Flute. Andrew Glover-Whitley.Andrew Glover-Whitley Chinese Flute Walking Stick
  5. Breton Bombard. Andrew Glover-Whitley. (blowing this thing can lead to burst blood vessels!)Andrew Glover-Whitley. Breton Bombard in Bflat
  6. Rock Flute. Andrew Glover-Whitley.Andrew Glover-Whitley Rock Flute
  7. Tenor Saxophone. Edi May.Edi May Tenor Sax

In Conclusion. 

The Viking, Extinct Audio’s BM9 is a superb, hand built, ribbon microphone, in the finest tradition of Yorkshire craftsmanship and engineering.  It produces an extraordinary level of fine detail. The low end is rich and full. It is a joy to work with and has definitely joined category 4 in my collection……… though I still can’t help going ‘Oooo shiny’ every time I open the lid of the box!

For more information about Extinct Audio visit: – https://www.extinctaudio.co.uk/microphones/

P.S.  Buying a Stereo pair was inevitable!

Extinct Audio BM9s. My custom Stereo Mount under construction

Custom mount under construction. using a pair of Rycote Universal Shock Mounts.

Image

MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 Christmas 2017

AKG C747 More Than Just A Podium Conference Mic.

AKG C747

First introduced in 1987 the AKG C747 was originally designed for ‘unobtrusive speech applications when mounted on a podium or lectern, or for teleconferencing activities’.  From this somewhat uninspiring start, these days the C747 is widely acknowledged as one of the most versatile microphones AKG ever produced!

Just a glance at the tech spec tells you that this was not a microphone simply doomed to deliver the Chairman’s annual report!

  • Smooth frequency response from 30Hz -18kHz.
  • Rapid transient response produced by tiny, low-mass, capsule.
  • Tight hypercardioid polar pattern, giving excellent separation.
  • SPL rating of 133db.
  • AKG C747 Frequency Response GraphAKG C747 Polar Pattern

It didn’t take engineers long to realise that this neat, pencil sized miniature shotgun microphone has many uses away from the conference hall!

AKG C747 Matched Pair

I recently acquired a well-matched pair of old C747s and it occurred to me that although advertised as having some ‘shotgun’ characteristics, these neat little condensers do in fact behave pretty much the same as any other hypercardioid microphone.  I therefore wondered how they would get on as a crossed stereo pair.  I have seen them occasionally used like that in a conference speech setup, but never recording a large symphony orchestra! (Frequently used as spot mics but certainly not as the main pair!)  So here goes …………

CLICK HERE for Symphony Orchestra sound clip.

The mics were crossed at 65 degrees (at the capsules) and positioned on a tall stand about a metre behind the conductor. N.B. To get the full effect of this recording you need to download it in full resolution and play it on speakers at the sort of volume that will really annoy your neighbours!

AKG C747 Crossed pair at 65 degrees

Here below are the Tech specs for both the AKG C747 and the current model the C747 11.  It is interesting to note that in the C747 11 literature various instrumental applications are also illustrated. (guitar, saxophone, snare, drum) The newer model also has a slightly different frequency response, more tailored towards speech. Either way these are fabulous, unobtrusive, little mics that will blend seamlessly into almost any situation!

C747-manual

AKG_C747_Service_Documentation

AKG_C747V11_Manual

AKG_C747V11_Polar_Patterns

AKG_C747V11_Cutsheet

N.B.  The Hi-Pass filter on these mics is hidden away in the XLR plug (also containing the mic preamp) I included this last photo because, in conversation with the previous owner, he told me that he never realised that the 747 had a hi-pass switch!! When working close up he ‘Always found them a bit too bassy ‘ !

AKG C747 Hi-pass filter

 

A Microphonic Metaphor?

Is it just me? For the last year, every time I see this mic setup I can’t help laughing. The enormous hot air filter and the unusual ‘cantilever’ (upside down) mount. The donut shock absorber, the quirky gooseneck stand, and at the heart of it all………… is that a ‘Made in Mexico’ Shure SM57?

The Shure VIP Mount used by previous US presidents was an image copied by politicians all over the world. It will be interesting to see if this  somewhat ‘eccentric’ new look ever catches on. Somehow, I doubt it!

 

 

Oktava MK-012 Matched Pair. My favourite Stereo Microphone Techniques.

If you are looking for a small diaphragm condenser microphone that will add extra sparkle to your high end, more presence to your mids, and greater weight to your bass………… then the Oktava MK-012 is definitely not for you!! However, if you are looking for an accurate microphone which simply reproduces what it hears, then the Oktava MK-012 is definitely worth considering.

Oktava Mk012 Matched stereo pair.

I bought a matched stereo pair about 10 years ago (direct from Oktava) and they have earned me more money than any other mics I own! I have used them on hundreds of live shows for many different purposes, including drum overheads, hi-hat, Latin percussion, grand piano, acoustic instruments, and as ambient mics. However, it is on classical music recording that they really excel. I have used them in a variety of stereo configurations and in each case they provide a clean accurate account of the performance, capturing the finest nuances of timbre and texture.

Here below are my favourite stereo microphone techniques illustrated with the Oktava Mk-012s  

These microphones have not been ‘modified’ in any way and the recordings linked below have not been EQ’d or processed. Although the streaming quality is reasonably good, for more detailed listening most of the tracks can be downloaded off Soundcloud in their original full resolution wav format.

Oktava MK012 Crossed Pair at 90 degrees

Near-coincident X-Y crossed pair at 90 degrees gives a phase-coherent stereo image with excellent positionality. The angle between the mics can be altered to suit the width of the subject and the relative distance of the mic placement. Particularly useful for chamber music and small ensembles. Cardioid or hyper-cardioid capsules can be used.

Oktava do now make a dedicated figure of eight capsule. In which case a pair of those would be another option.

CLICK HERE for sound clip of wind quintet.

N.B. The shock mounts are Rycote InVision  INV-7   and (below with piggyback clips)


Oktava MK012 M-S pair

M-S pair using the Oktava figure of eight adapter which utilises 2 cardioid capsules back to back, in opposite phase. The Mid mic can be cardioid, hyper-cardioid or omni. As with the X-Y array, the M-S pair produce an accurate phase-coherent image. Works exceedingly well on wide subjects such as orchestras and choirs, particularly when the mic position needs to be close to the performers. Has the additional advantage that the relative levels of the mics can be manipulated in post-production. (Reducing the level of the Mid mic and raising the Side channels widens the image. Increasing the Mid and lowering the Sides ends in Mono!)

CLICK HERE for sound clip of male voice choir with brass.


Oktava MK012 ORTF Pair

ORTF pair. Cardioid capsules set at 55 degrees and spaced 17 cm apart. Emulating the inter-aural time differences between our ears this configuration produces a detailed but somewhat more diffuse stereo image than the previous examples. This array produces a good sense of depth and perspective. Many engineers argue that ORTF pairs give a more ‘musical’ sound. (?) Excellent for choirs and orchestras.

CLICK HERE for orchestral sound clip


Oktava MK012 Jecklin Disc

The Jecklin Disc takes the principles of the ORTF pair one step further and introduces a foam and fur covered 12”disc between the microphone ‘ears’, emulating the reflective, and shading characteristics of the human head. This array utilises a spaced pair of omni capsules angled slightly outwards. The Jecklin disc with a pair of MK-012s produces a remarkable sense of ‘being there’. Excellent in situations where, along with the performance, you want to capture the acoustics of a great sounding hall or church. Good with subjects of any size and can be positioned at a distance without losing ‘presence’.

CLICK HERE for sound clip of violin concerto

CLICK HERE for sound clip of choral concert

CLICK HERE for sound clip of A Cappella singers in small church

 Anecdote

Some years ago whilst recording a live performance of Monteverdi Vespers, I was somewhat taken aback at the start of the concert by the following occurrence. As the choir processed in from the back of the church, they suddenly started singing!! Arrgh! With almost any other array this would have been a recording disaster. As it was, the pick-up of the Jecklin disc with its MK-012 omnis is pretty much the same from behind! The choir processed down the length of the church and filed past on either side of the mic stand and took their positions in front still singing! Sounded great!


Response graphs

One thing I particularly liked about my MK-012s when they arrived, was the inclusion of individual printouts of the response characteristics of each of the 6 capsules. Below is the printout comparing the matched frequency response of the 2 cardioid capsules, complete with handwritten details!

Oktava MK012 Frequency Plot for individual cardioid capsules.

Tech Spec for Oktava MK012

Oktava MK012 Wooden Box

P.S.

Having provided a neat wooden box it is commendable that Oktava didn’t waste money on fancy, glossy, printing on the packaging! No hype, no bullshit, no celebrity endorsements, just a great sounding pair of mics !

Oktava MK012 Fancy Packaging

Mélodium  Mélodynamic 75A (1948-1958)

Melodium 75A

Made in Paris between 1948 and 1958 by Mélodium Société, 296 rue Lecourbe 15eme.

Although visually the design harks back to the 1930s it has a surprisingly modern sound. This is borne out by the frequency graph, which shows a smooth response from 50 Hz to 10 kHz.There is a presence lift of 5db at around 4.8 kHz which lends clarity and crispness, particularly to speech and vocals.

The 75A boasts a very light duralumin diaphragm and voice coil (30mg), giving good transient response. It is also claimed that the microphone is impervious to wind, making it an excellent choice for outside broadcasting and sports reporting.

The grill design featured in the technical leaflet above was used on the earlier models.

Melodium 75A Grill

 Melodium 75A Side view

If you buy a Mélodium 75A it is worth noting that it has very low impedance (10 ohms) and will require the services of an appropriate preamp.

Also, the plug socket on the 75A is peculiar to Mélodium!  (N.B. The earliest models have 3 screw terminals.)

Melodium 75A Plug socket

N.B. Right hand pin is ‘hot’. Left hand pin ‘cold’. Centre pin is earth.

Famous Users.

The Mélodium 75A was employed extensively by French broadcasters and was used by many famous entertainers and politicians, including the singer Edith Piaf and President Charles de Gaulle.

President Charles de Gaulle.

‘Non’

 

Even with this slightly creepy, wax works figure of Edith Piaf, at Musée Grévin in Paris, the Mélodium 75A takes stage centre!

CLICK HERE for a short voice recording using the 75A

 


 

BBC Engineering Training Manual. MICROPHONES. (1951)

I was born on January 20th 1951 at St Mary’s Hospital for Women and Children in the centre of Manchester,  just across the road from the Palace Theatre. Less than a mile away, at the BBC Studios in Piccadilly, engineers were avidly thumbing through their copies of the very latest BBC ENGINEERING TRAINING MANUAL . MICROPHONES!

BBC Training Manual 1951

My copy arrived yesterday! (courtesy of eBay). It is in nearly new condition and sadly it’s unmarked pages have all the ‘vibe’ of a book that has never been read!

In recent years I have often regaled students with my reflections on how much audio technology has changed during my lifetime. Reading through this book really brings it home! It is a window into a long-gone world of engineers in brown lab coats and announcers at the microphone in evening dress. For me, as a child, it was the world of ‘Listen with Mother’ and ‘Children’s Hour’ and seeing the valves glowing in the back of the mahogany veneered wireless set on a shelf next to the fireplace in our living room.

My earliest memory of a microphone was standing on a box in front of a huge Marconi AXBT ribbon mic having won a prize in a BBC Children’s Hour competition at the age of 7 or 8. (It looked just like a giant ice cream cone!) I was presented with a silver propelling pencil by the producer Trevor Hill. I said ‘Thank You’ in the general direction of the mighty Marconi, and was escorted back to my seat.

BBC Children's Hour Competition Prize 1958


Anyhow, back to the book. 

What is most striking is how slender this volume is (114 pages). Most of it is taken up with detailed information about the propagation of sound and the physics involved in microphone design and construction. Much of this is still useful knowledge. However, only 7 different microphones are described in detail and most of these had already been in service since the mid 1930’s.

Here, (to give you a flavour of this informative little book) are some of the illustrations.BBC Marconi Ribbon Mic

In the BBC Studio of 1951 the Marconi AXBT Ribbon Microphone (first introduced in 1935) was the principal tool for drama, announcement and music. Broadcasting  was in Mono. With a frequency range from 20Hz-16 kHz, this figure of eight device was very often the only mic used!  One useful piece of advice offered to the engineer, in order to avoid ‘an excessive bass response’ (caused by proximity effect), is that ‘The microphone should never be used at a distance less than approximately two feet.’


BBC STC4017C

From 1938 to 1953 the STC 4017C was the main BBC outside broadcast microphone. Built like a tank, with a solid copper body and an aluminium diaphragm, it was a very robust dynamic. Although, in theory omnidirectional, it did exhibit some frontal directionality at higher frequencies.


BBC STC4021

The STC4021 , nicknamed the ‘Apple and Biscuit’, was a high quality dynamic mic which, due to its spherical shape, was truly omnidirectional. It was mounted vertically and was used for a variety of purposes including ’round table’ discussions and interviews. It was also used as a talkback mic.


BBC EMI Moving Coil

Developed by Holman and Blumlein working for the Columbia Gramophone Company (later E.M.I.) , it was used extensively by the newly formed BBC Television service at Alexandra Palace from 1936.The unusual thing about this microphone is the fact that it’s diaphragm is made of thin balsa wood enclosed between two sheets of aluminium foil! Interestingly, the description in the book ends with something of a warning……..  ‘the instrument is less suitable when high quality is a major consideration’  !!!!!


BBC Marconi Condenser Mic

BBC Marconi Condenser Element

The Marconi Condenser Microphone with built-in amplifier was a large and extremely rare beast, introduced experimentally in the mid-1930’s.  Even at the BBC it was not commonly used. Early condensers were prone to suffer with crackling caused by moisture.When it was employed it was mostly to be found at concerts.


BBC Brush Crystal Mic

BBC Brush Sound Cell

I have never seen a BBC studio picture with one of these. Not sure what it’s duties might have been. Perhaps, included in the manual simply because it is an example of a crystal mic? These were quite common at the time as PA and announcement mics. Also quite popular with amateur tape recordists.


BBC Marconi Lip MicBBC Marconi Lip Mic Back view

The Marconi Lip Ribbon Microphone (designed by the BBC in 1937) is a noise cancelling device which was used for sporting commentaries and broadcasting in noisy environments. It was designed for very close speaking with the ribbon protected from the impact of the speaker’s breath by the enclosing magnet. (see pics above)  One of the most important features of this microphone is the mouth-guard, which is pressed up against the speaker’s jaws, thus maintaining a constant distance between the mouth and the ribbon. This ensures against changes in frequency response, and volume, caused by fluctuations in distance. A variation of this microphone is still made today for the BBC by Coles (formerly STC).

BBC Training Manual 1951012BBC Training Manual 1951013

Foot Note.

In 1953 BBC Television broadcast live the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Amongst the most notable features of this historic broadcast was the commentary delivered by Richard Dimbleby inside Westminster Abbey. The microphone used on this occasion was the latest Marconi L.2 Lip Ribbon mic. The perfect choice! The closeness of the speaker to the microphone, and the rich tone of Dimbleby’s voice, served to give the listening audience an intimate, sense of the grandeur of the occasion. The isolating characteristics of the lip microphone also served to focus attention on his voice. Dimbleby was the undoubted master of this technique of close-mic’d delivery which became a hall-mark of British State occasions.

Richard Dimbleby at the Coronation of Elizabeth II 1953

Richard Dimbleby with the Marconi L.2 Lip Ribbon microphone in the specially constructed commentary box in the Triforium of Westminster Abbey


 

In Conclusion

Within a decade of this manual the BBC microphone cupboard would be rapidly filling with exciting new models from the likes of AKG, Sennheiser and Neumann. In the following years alongside the growth of television and multi-track recording came a whole range of microphones designed for different purposes. Stereo mics, shotgun mics, lavaliers, parabolic, contact, binaural, ambisonic…………….. A whole new world!


Here are some useful links for more information.

http://www.coutant.org/bbc/index.html   (Some great photos of the Marconi Ribbon Mic)

http://www.coutant.org/marconi/    (Pictures and information on this extremely rare condenser mic)

https://martinmitchellsmicrophones.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/stc-4017c-dead-or-alive/