Category Archives: 1970’s Microphone

Omnidirectional Dynamic Vocal Microphones

Up until the late 1960’s, cardioid, omnidirectional and figure of eight dynamic microphones were all commonly found in use on public address systems. Singers were able to choose whichever pattern suited their particular style of delivery. Figure of eight ribbon mics, for instance, were enormously popular with the jazz singers and ‘crooners’ of the 40’s and 50’s because of their smooth response and rich proximity effect which enhanced the low end of the voice. Omni was preferred by singers who required a more ‘open’ sound and the ability to move around without altering tone. Unfortunately, with the development of high power PA systems and the introduction of wedge monitoring in the late 60’s, only cardioid microphones had the required rejection characteristics to deliver a suitable amount of gain before feedback. Consequently, within a few years figure of eight and omni all but vanished from the stage and were pretty much banished to the studio!

I recently acquired a number of vintage omnidirectional dynamic mics from the tail end of the last century. Although the primary purpose of these mics was originally news gathering, my attention was drawn to the following excerpt from the AKG Engineering Data sheet for the D130. It perfectly describes the numerous benefits that an omnidirectional microphone offers the vocal performer.

AKG D130 Data Sheet.

A wide-range instrument, the D-130E offers “open”, natural reproduction of speech and music -without harshness, popping or bass emphasis. Moreover, the D-130E ‘s omnidirectional pattern and consequent absence of proximity effect enable the microphone to retain this natural quality -regardless of the relative position or distance of performers working into it. Together with its handling comfort and attractive styling, these same characteristics also lend the D-130E to a variety of hand-held on-camera applications in the studio -especially to pop-free coverage of vocalists who do not desire proximity effect.

Many singers (especially male vocalists) have an uncomfortable relationship with cardioid microphones because of their inclination towards ‘boomy’ bass and unpleasant popping plosives. I have also worked with performers who are in the habit of pulling away from the mic when delivering the loud bits leaving their voices sounding suddenly thin and weedy (N.B. Proximity effect works in both directions i.e. moving away reduces bass). With omni the bass remains constant with the desired reduction in volume.

And another thing………

For performers whose vocal style involves ‘cupping’ the back of a cardioid dynamic, maybe an omni would be a better choice? It comes ready ‘cupped’!

SM58 cuppingBeyer M58 2 N (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So…….. Here’s a thought…….

With the rise of in-ear monitoring many performers and bands are dispensing with their cumbersome (and feedback prone) on-stage wedges. So it would seem to me that for cardioid averse vocalists, perhaps now would be a good time to consider bringing back the considerable benefits of the

Omnidirectional Dynamic Vocal Microphone.

AKG D130

UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 Cardioid Condenser (1970’s/80’s)

History

In the early 1970’s MB Electronic (now known as MBHO) produced the MB C540. This was a high quality battery powered condenser microphone. It boasted an almost flat frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz with a slight dip at the low end. The MB C540 was modular in construction and had the option of 2 capsules (omni or cardioid).

MB C 540 AdvertMB C 540 Frequency response

In the UK it appeared as the PEERLESS MBC-540.

Reviewed here in Studio Sound May 1977.Review. Peerless MBC 540 - Studio Sound - May 1977

Meanwhile in Communist Era Eastern Europe.

This German design was also manufactured under licence by the Polish state owned electronics company UNITRA Tonsil and marketed as the MCO-30 (omni) and the MCU-31 (cardioid). According to Polish sources, the only difference between the German and Polish versions appears to have been variation in quality control at the Tonsil factory. This lead to some Polish mics reputedly sounding rather better than others.

Around 1980 the design was modified and updated. Whether this was done by MB Electronic or by Tonsil’s own engineers is not clear. (MB licenced a number of different designs to Tonsil but sadly MBHO now have no records relating to this microphone !)…….. Anyhow, the resulting microphone was somewhat shorter in length, the battery powering was changed from 2 x 15v to 1 x 6v and the previously unbalanced output was upgraded to balanced. The WCU-31 and WCO-30 capsules were retained and the frequency response appears pretty much the same. The new model was the UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 (cardioid) / MCO-52 (omni).  The Tonsil 50 series continued in production through the 1980’s. In the late 80’s a further modification was carried out to provide 48v phantom power. This model was the MC-265.

UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53

UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 exploded view

A clever modular design. Well constructed and finished in shining nickel plate.

Tonsil WCU-31 Cardioid capsule. Front view

WCU-31 Cardioid capsule.

WCU-31 Cardioid capsule. Rear view.

Unusual 5 pin DIN connection.  (below)

Pins 4&5 in the plug are shorted together to provide a ‘switch’ for the battery. When the cable is plugged in the power is thereby switched on. N.B. This also means that if you accidently leave it connected when not in use you end up with a flat battery!! Arrrgh!

5 Pin DIN socket on Tonsil MCU-53 5 Pin DIN plug Tonsil MCU-53 Tonsil MCU-53 5 pin DIN Plug

Technical Specifications.

Pages from MCO-52/ MCU 53 Owner’s Manual UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 ManualUNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 Manual P2UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 Manual P3

In Conclusion.

Being battery powered made the MCU-52 /53 suitable for use with cameras and tape machines which in the 70’s and 80’s often did not provide phantom power. This made it a popular choice for wildlife and location recording.

When there is once again an opportunity to record music I will be interested to see how the MCU-53 compares to the AKG C451E as their frequency responses appear to be somewhat similar. I suspect the Tonsil may have a bit more self-noise but tonally may give the AKG a run for its money. Let’s wait and see…………

Credits.

Many thanks to Adam Wilma for sending me this pristine example of the UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53. Very generous. And thanks to my old mate blues guitarist Keith Thompson for bringing it back from Poland. His March tour was sadly cancelled after only 2 shows as Poland went into COVID-19 lockdown. Luckily for me the second gig was in Adam’s home town of Torun and he kindly dropped the mic off for Keith to bring back before the borders closed!

 

AKG C451E (Circa 1970) A Classic from The Golden Age of AKG

Today AKG is little more than a brand name owned by a multi-national corporation. Like a tired old rock star it rests on the laurels of its former glory whilst still churning out a few old favourites.

However, if we go back to the late 1960’s and into the 70’s AKG was a powerhouse of innovative design and high-tech engineering. Major achievements include the D200 series which took dynamic microphone design to a peak which even today sees few competitors. This period also saw the legendary C12 condenser evolve into the C414 which continues to be a favourite in studios across the world.

In 1969 AKG launched its newly developed Condenser Microphone System (CMS) using audio frequency circuitry with Field Effect Transistors. This was a fully modular microphone system based around the C451E, the inherent features of which were claimed to be;

  • Low noise level,
  • Extremely high reliability and
  • Life-long sta­bility.                                                                                                    

AKG C451E with old style logo

AKG C451E no serial number

A selection of interchangeable capsules and extension tubes could be purchased along with a variety of accessories covering a wide range of recording and live sound applications. The CMS proved to be enormously popular with broadcasters, TV companies and studios throughout the 1970’s and beyond, and can be seen on many BBC music programmes of the period.

These contemporary AKG brochures/guides explain the features of the CMS in detail.

AKG C451 CMS Technical Specifications

Technical Info AKG CMS microphones.

AKG CK1 CapsuleAKG C451E with capsule removed.AKG C451E body with CK1 Capsule

C451E original case interior AKG C451E Original case

My C451E

Judging from the old style of logo and the lack of an externally stamped serial number on my newly purchased C451E (see top 2 pics), I think that it must be a fairly early example. It is in perfect condition and even the case is hardly marked. As always it was a bargain!

So What Does it Sound Like?    

Sadly, like many, many other people I am stuck at home at the moment practicing social distancing, and so recording music with my beautiful new C451E will have to wait until the current COVID-19 pandemic dies down and we can all get back to work!

Meanwhile Stay safe!

P.S.   Went for a walk today and recorded this:-    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5MHEL6ZPHI

 

Philips LBB9050/05 Dual Capsule Dynamic Microphone 1970

 Philips LBB9050-05

 Philips LBB9050-05

Philips LBB9050-05

Launched in 1970 the LBB9050/05 was Philips flagship dynamic microphone, and was heralded in Philips literature as being a ‘revolutionary new design incorporating high and low frequency systems’. However, a small amount of research reveals more than a passing similarity in technical specifications between the LBB9050/05 and the popular D200 series of microphones by AKG, which had been around for several years.

Philips LBB9050-05

The mystery unravels further, and the true origins of this microphone become clear when we observe the words ‘Made in Austria’ on the packaging, the storage case, and on the microphone itself. Michael Amon, top technician at AKG for 30 years, has confirmed to me that the LBB9050/05 was indeed made by AKG for Philips in 1969.

Box for Philips LBB9050/05

 Philips LBB9050-05 Bass Capsule Ports

Picture above shows Tuchel socket, and ports for the LF capsule.

The Dual Capsule Design.

The original Austrian patent dates from 1960. The full specification appears in the English patent registered by AKG in 1965, and shown below. This makes an interesting read if you want to understand how this clever piece of technology works.

Original AKG Patent for Dual Capsule Microphones

Philips Advertising Leaflets Courtesy of Philips Company Archives.

LBB9050 microphone,

leafletLBB9050 microphone, leaflet, 1971

So What Does It Sound Like CLICK HERE for a short clip of Blues Guitar

In Conclusion

Just like its AKG cousins the D200, D202, D222 and the D224, the Philips LBB9050/05 is a serious quality professional microphone, exhibiting a wide frequency response, tight cardioid polar pattern, and no proximity effect.  Sadly, these days it is much less well known than the AKG models.  But maybe Philips is to blame? If you were to choose a completely unmemorable name for a product you really couldn’t do better than to call it the LBB9050/05!  Two minutes from now you will probably have forgotten it!

 

Sennheiser ”Telemike” (Circa 1976) with ME20, ME40 & ME80 capsules.

Sennheiser ''Telemike'' Operating Instructions. 1976

Sennheiser Telemike with ME80, ME40 and ME20 Capsules

My eBay bargain with K2-U powering module and MZF 802-U 100Hz filter.

Below, page from ‘Telemike’ manual.Sennheiser Telemike Operating Instructions 1976Spezial Teleskop MZS 802

Sennheiser’s ‘Telemike’ is an extremely versatile, high quality, modular, electret microphone system originally designed for reporters and film makers. It consists of a powering module K1, K2 or K3, a metre long telescopic boom arm MZS 802, (how cool is that?) and a choice of 3 interchangeable microphone modules (ME-20 Omni, ME-40 Super-Cardioid or ME-80 Shotgun) There were  also a number of accessories such as the 100Hz filter, windscreens and various clip mounts and table stands.

Unlike all of the other Sennheiser microphones in my collection ‘Telemike’ is extremely light. Even with the ME80 attached to the telescopic boom it adds very little weight to a camera or portable tape machine, making it an attractive tool for location recording. Back in the 70’s an additional benefit of the telescopic boom was that it kept the microphone at a distance from the motor noise of the camera or tape machine.

Apart from professional users ‘Telemike’ also attracted an army of amateur video camera owners and tape recording enthusiasts. It was easy to use and came with a handy booklet of instructions on how to connect Sennheiser mics to a huge range of tape recorders from 51 different manufacturers!! (No that isn’t a typo!) My Dad was a tape enthusiast with an interest in local history, and so when I was a child we always had at least 2 tape recorders in the house! The microphones that were supplied with domestic machines were usually of poor quality. These Sennheiser mics offered the keen amateur a huge improvement in sound quality. They also produced excellent results with more professional machines such as the Revox A77 and B77 which did not provide on board phantom power.

CLICK HERE  for a short voice demo of ”Telemike” featuring all 3 capsules.

Original Users guide and Technical SpecificationsSennheiser MKE 202 User manualsennheiser mke202 manual002sennheiser mke202 manual003sennheiser mke202 manual004sennheiser mke202 manual005sennheiser mke202 manual006sennheiser mke202 manual007sennheiser mke202 manual008sennheiser mke202 manual009sennheiser mke202 manual010

Sennheiser MKE 202. (with K2pre-amp)Sennheiser MKE 202Sennheiser MKE803 (K3 pre-amp with 3 position bass roll-off)Sennheiser MKE803

These versatile modules can also be simply used either hand held or stand mounted. All in all, a very useful set of microphones!

 

 

Mélodium 76A 1960’s / 70’s

Looking like a cross between a Van Gogh Sunflower and a pepper pot, the Mélodium 76a is a shining gem of chrome and aluminium. A classic of French design!

Melodium 76A Front Grill

In the 1960’s Mélodium developed a variety of modular parts and accessories to give their range of microphones greater versatility and customers more options.

The basic 76A microphone (head) came with a choice of 10 ohms or 200 ohms impedance.

Melodium 76A Head

The mic could be used plugged straight into the cable. (Great for harmonica players!)

If required this handy plug-in transformer converts the 76A from 200 ohms to Hi-Z.

Melodium 76A Transformer

There was also a choice of handles.

Melodium 76A Detachable handle

Melodium 76A with 314 Handle

In this 1970’s Mélodium Catalogue (below) the technical details of the microphones are presented along with a full range of parts and accessories, including goosenecks, tall stands, short stands, table stands and a large selection of adapters, switches and transformers. It is a very comprehensive selection, to cover every possible application.

CLICK Here for MelodiumCatalog

Sadly these days it is hard to find much information about Mélodium. Even in its heyday the company was little known outside of the French speaking world. By the end of the 1970’s Mélodium were no longer in business. Probably wiped out by the superior German and American competition.

Melodium 76A

Finally

Having finished re-soldering all of the joints in my eBay ‘bargain’, I just need to plug it in and find out what it sounds like!

CLICK HERE for Sound clip of Voice and Blackbird in the garden.

Mélodium 76A 1960’s / 70’s Construction Kit!

Mélodium 76A Construction Kit

When the previous owner mentioned in the description that there were ‘a few wiring issues’ with this vintage French PA microphone he wasn’t kidding! (It looked perfect enough in the eBay photograph!)

Was that why it was so cheap, and no one else bid? Hmmm…….

So now for a bit of fun wiring it back together!

I’ll report back if it by some miracle it works!!

P.S.  Just to make things a little more exciting Mélodium have their own plugs and sockets that only fit Mélodium microphones. They are made so that the pins can be moved about in various configurations up to 5 pins! This 431 socket will be 3 pin…… when I get them in the right holes!

Melodium 431 plug

P.P.S  Just noticed that there should be a rubber gland inside the knurled ring at the top!

Sennheiser MD441-U Another Classic Dynamic Microphone! (1971 to the present)

Following on somewhat from the theme of the previous post.

Sennheiser MD441-U

Sennheiser MD441-U Grill

Launched in 1971 as Sennheiser’s flagship dynamic the MD441 has remained in production ever since. Famous users include David Bowie, Stevie Nicks and Elton John. It is a superb example of German design and engineering, and even today has few competitors. However, a microphone of this quality does not come cheap. A new MD441-U will set you back around £700.00 !

Cool Mic Dave!

When AKG produced the remarkable D224 (c1967) they went to great lengths with their twin capsule design to eliminate proximity effect, and create a wide, flat frequency response from 30Hz-20 kHz, regardless of distance from source. With the MD441 Sennheiser took a rather different approach. Whist the frequency response is similar to the AKG (30Hz-20kHz), Sennheiser allow the user of the MD441 to have creative control over proximity effect and also high end brilliance.Sennheiser MD441-U Frequency response graphs

This is achieved using a five position bass roll-off switch and a 2 position brilliance switch. This provides a choice of 10 different frequency curves to suit the needs of a wide range of applications!

The Sennheiser MD441 User Manual below explains very thoroughly the operation and characteristics this extraordinary dynamic microphone.

Sennheiser MD441 Manual.

Sennheiser MD441-U

So What Does It Sound Like?  CLICK HERE for a drum clip illustrating the wide frequency response, dynamic range and highly detailed transient response.

CLICK HERE for Tenor sax and clarinet.

In Conclusion
Whether you choose heavy metal guitar at full volume, or a solo violin, a baroque recorder, or a baritone sax, the MD441 delivers! There is little to distinguish between what goes in and what comes out! It sounds remarkably natural on a wide range of acoustic instruments and the human voice. The Sennheiser MD441-U has all the subtlety normally associated with a high quality condenser combined with the smoothness and punch of a great dynamic. If I was only allowed one microphone in my ‘desert island’ studio this would probably be it!

Grampian DP4 (circa 1963) A trip down memory lane!

It was the mid 1960’s and I was a teenager at school in Manchester. Only 30 miles from Liverpool. Before the age of discos. It was a fantastic time for live music. The Mersey boom was at its height and the pubs and clubs were rocking to the latest beat groups. (It is worth noting that none of the music clubs such as The Cavern in Liverpool, or The Twisted Wheel in Manchester, were licensed to sell alcohol. Nevertheless on a Saturday night their subterranean vaults were crammed with teenagers who had often queued for hours to see their favourite bands!)

In the 5th form some of my school mates formed a group. I used to lig along to their rehearsals in the school music room. They had a couple of Vox AC30 guitar amps and an old Selmer which was used for PA. I can remember the singer turning up one day with a very shiny new microphone. All black enamel and chrome, like the headlamp on a classic British motorcycle.Grampian DP4  Removed from it’s bright blue box the mic was duly plugged into the Selmer amp. The lads then launched into their version of Buddy Holly’s ‘Peggy Sue’. The assembled hangers-on (including myself) thought it sounded amazing!

I was therefore overjoyed a few weeks ago when a friend kindly gave me this bright blue box. I recognised it straight away!Grampian DP4 Box

Grampian DP4 with clip

Just below the chrome bezel there is a ribbed rubber ring designed to prevent the mic rolling off flat surfaces. Brilliant feature!

If you buy a DP4 make sure it comes with the 2 pin mic connector as these are as rare as hen's teeth!

If you buy a DP4 make sure it comes with the 2 pin mic connector as these are as rare as hen’s teeth!

Grampian DP4 Label

Here in the UK although the Grampian DP4 enjoyed a good deal of popularity as a PA microphone, and also with amateur tape recording enthusiasts, it was never really thought of as a top quality professional instrument. Sennheiser had launched it’s superb MD21 in 1953 and followed it in 1960 with the MD421.  Around the same time AKG gave us the D19 and the D24. The poor old Grampian was not quite in the same league. However, for a while the DP4 was used by the BBC for outside broadcasts and by their Wildlife Department in conjunction with the Grampian Parabolic Reflector. (As seen on the front cover of this issue of Tape Recording Magazine from 1969 )

tape-recording-uk-1969-04

A few weeks ago on TV I saw an old film clip featuring an impossibly young David Attenborough in the middle of the jungle somewhere clutching a Grampian Parabolic reflector with a DP4 mounted on it.

In the end Grampian Microphones were no match for the German. Austrian and American competition. As the 1960’s rolled on bands got louder, PAs got bigger, stage monitors were introduced and the omni-directional dynamic microphone fell out of use. Cardioids simply had more gain before feed back! By the mid-1970s the Grampian DP4 had disappeared from the stage and eventually the company went out of business.

So what does it sound like? 

 CLICK HERE for a short vocal trip down memory lane!

 

Grampian Brochures and Technical Information (These came in the box with my DP4.)

grampian-dp4-page-1grampian-dp4-page-2grampian-dp4-page-3grampian-dp4-page-4

grampian-dp4-instruction-sheet-page-1028grampian-dp4-instruction-sheet-page-2030

Repairing a Rycote Windshield and Panamic Shock Mount for Sennheiser MKH815T

On the day I chose to record the voice-over for this video the wind was lashing the trees and bushes in my garden and the branches were swaying backwards and forwards. So I thought it would be a great idea to demonstrate the effectiveness of this vintage Rycote windshield by recording the voice-over sitting on a bench at the bottom of the garden!

Sennheiser MKH 815T Manual