Category Archives: Microphone techniques Ancient & Modern

STC4032-D Outside Broadcast Microphone Ex BBC Circa 1955

STC4032-D

STC4032-D

STC4032C Advert

From the earliest days of outside broadcasting and recording, keeping the microphone dry has always been something of a challenge. Condenser microphones in particular don’t function well in damp conditions, and pretty much any mic can be completely ruined by a good soaking.

These days’ companies such as Rycote make windshields and water resistant protection to cover a wide range of different professional microphones. Back in 1955 STC came up with their own neat and convenient solution to the problem.

Advertised rather grandly as being ‘an all weather instrument’ with ‘full marine and tropical protection,’ the STC4032 is a robust hand-held, omnidirectional, dynamic microphone with a moisture resistant black Bakelite body. The grill is a dual layer of fine stainless steel mesh and an optional windshield (pictured above) may be added to give an additional 15db noise free performance in high winds and additional protection from the rain. The handle incorporates a switch, which can be wired to provide muting or remote start/stop function for a tape recorder (such as the E.M.I Midget).

EMI Midget Tape Recorder

This super lightweight setup was used by BBC outside broadcasters from 1955 until the mid-60’s and weighed a mere 14lbs!  You may laugh…….. But this was a vast improvement on carting round the previous equipment…….. A portable disc cutter weighing 44lbs!!!

Legendary sports comentator David Coleman

Legendary sports commentator David Coleman with his trusty STC4032 in hand.

The following is a hilarious period piece, almost like something out of Monty Python:

Alan Whicker interviews Beatniks in Newquay in 1960  (STC4032 appears at 5min 50secs)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W3WfXA9JL9w&t=350s

Actress and opera singer, Rosalina Neri.

This picture of actress and opera singer Rosalina Neri being interviewed for the BBC really deserves a suitable caption!                       ………………………………………………………………………………

STC4032-D

STC4032-D

Although it looks somewhat like a World War 2 battlefield telephone, in terms of technical performance the STC4032 is exactly the same as the STC4035 studio microphone, and very similar to the famous Apple & Biscuit STC4021. It has a notably smooth frequency response from 30Hz to around 10 kHz, with a presence peak of around 5db at 6.5kHz . The only difference with the 4032 is the water resistant case.

Technical Specifications.

STC4032

In Conclusion.

Although ostensibly designed for outside broadcasting, the STC4032 is a high quality dynamic microphone that could be used for many different tasks.

Here is a short demonstration of the STC4032-D

P.S.

For those who are interested in the history of broadcast recording I would thoroughly recommend these 3 sites which are a rich source of fascinating information:-

http://rfwilmut.net/broadcast/recording.html

http://museumofmagneticsoundrecording.org/StoriesBBCEMI.html

http://www.orbem.co.uk/repwar/wr_recorders.htm

The Viking(s). Extinct Audio’s BM9 Matched Stereo Pair…… Following on from my post in January.

The danger in buying an Extinct Audio BM9 ribbon microphone is that very soon you will want a stereo pair! When Stewart Tavener at Extinct offered to lend me a second one to ‘try’ he knew exactly what would happen! ( Yorkshire cunning!)  It didn’t take long before I hit the PayPal button. So I now have a beautiful matched pair!

Extinct Audio BM9 Matched Stereo Pair

The mics are coincidentally mounted, vertically one above the other and set at 90 degrees. (Classic Blumlein) I have used Rycote InVision 044901 Universal Shock Mounts as these make it really fast and easy to position the mics. They also provide the best possible isolation, and there is no chance of the mics falling out! The magnets in these microphones are seriously heavy and would make a considerable impression landing on the performer’s head!

The recording clip below of saxophone virtuoso Lydia Kenny would present a considerable challenge for any pair of microphones. The dynamic range is huge. It is packed with fine detail of tone and texture, from the delicate phrasing of the piano accompaniment to the rapid articulation of the blistering runs on the saxophone at full volume. The way that the acoustics of the hall support the music is also very subtle.

Having worked a great deal with jazz and rock ‘n’ roll over the years I had never previously been a fan of classical saxophone, but this excerpt from Lydia’s performance of ‘Fantasie’ by Jules Demersseman is quite simply an irresistible tour de force of 19th century technique and musicality. Demersseman was a friend of the inventor Adolphe Sax and the piece was published by Sax.

Pittville Pump Room in Cheltenham (UK) had its heyday in the mid-19th century and its spacious acoustic and glorious Regency architecture is the perfect setting for this recording. The Extinct Audio BM9 crossed stereo pair flown below the chandelier also look very cool!!

CLICK ON PIC  to listen

 Lydia Kenny Alto Saxophone accompanied by Damian Kenny Piano.
Lydia Kenny Saxophone with Damian Kenny Piano

Lydia Kenny is the winner of Gloucestershire Young Musician of the Year 2018

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.

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

 

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

Shure 430 ‘Commando’ Controlled Magnetic / Controlled Reluctance Microphone (Circa 1957)

Shure Model 430 CommandoShure 430 Commando grill

The Controlled Reluctance microphone (aka Controlled Magnetic) was developed by Shure during World War 2 to fulfil the need for a battle announce microphone that could operate reliably at extremes of temperature and humidity. (Subsequently also perfect for Korea and Vietnam!)

Although the Controlled Reluctance design was in some respects similar to a conventional dynamic in other ways it was significantly different.

The 2 diagrams below illustrate the differences.

  • DYNAMIC MICROPHONEDynamic-moving-coil-diagram
  • CONTROLLED RELUCTANCE/MAGNETIC MICROPHONE (2 slightly different versions)Controlled Reluctance Microphone Sectional Diagram

Here, in response to an email enquiry, is an explanation from Shure of the working of this microphone

On 3 May 2017 15:06, “Shure Europe” <support@shure.eu> wrote:

Response By Email (Michael P) (05/03/2017 09:06 AM)

Controlled reluctance is a variation of a dynamic mic.  The controlled reluctance mic diaphragm connects to a small lever made from ferrous material.  The other end of this lever is positioned inside of a stationary coil of wire.  Surrounding the coil of wire is a stationary magnet.  As the ferrous lever is moved by the mic diaphragm, the lever disturbs the magnet field.  This induces an AC signal (the audio signal) in the coil of wire.

Answer Link: Difference between controlled reluctance and controlled magnetic

This type of mic was originally designed for military applications.

Michael Pettersen

Shure Historian

 


2 pin Ampenol Connector

If you buy a 430 make sure it comes with one of these as 2 pin Amphenol connectors are hard to find.

The CR/CM elements have a high output (making them suitable for transmission over large distances) and require no additional transformer. They are therefore cheaper to manufacture than a conventional dynamic.

After WW2 Shure introduced several models for the civilian market, including the famous Green Bullet (still popular with harmonica players to this day). These were mostly budget PA mics intended for speech applications such as paging and announcements. Whilst not being particularly noted for high quality audio, their main selling points were cheapness and reliability. It is therefore not hard to see why these sturdy, affordable mics soon found favour with musicians and singers.

Apart from being highly profitable, Shure’s military communications contracts had the additional spin-off of enhancing a lasting reputation for reliability. Indeed, the company have often boasted that all of their products are tested to military standards (MILSPEC).  Even though the Model 430 was made for the civilian, domestic market it nevertheless trades on its military heritage with the name ‘Commando’ and it’s distinctive, camouflage green head!

Shure 430 Commando head

Data Sheet for the Shure Commando series.:-     us_pro_415_ug

Shure Microphones  :-  1957 Catalogue

 430 Commando Original Box

So what does it sound like?  CLICK HERE for a short clip of spoken word and Blues Harmonica.

 

Dynamic Microphones for Classical Recording?!

Oktava MD-186 ORTF pair

In the late 1950’s Electro-Voice ceased production of both ribbon and condenser microphones. In an article in his series ‘MICROPHONE FACTS for the operating engineer’ Electro-Voice founder Lou Burroughs explained the decision and presented reasons why dynamic microphones were, in every way, superior. The feeling at Electro-Voice was that ribbons and condensers were too fragile and prone to failure and that dynamics were solid and reliable and sounded better. Towards the end of the article (referring to dynamics) Burroughs declares that ‘These are the microphones of the future’.

Today, although dynamic mics are still revered for their robustness and ability to handle high SPLs they are not generally considered to be sonically superior to all other microphones! Indeed, I can’t imagine many engineers taking a pair of dynamics out to record an orchestral concert of classical music instead of their usual selection of condensers and ribbons.

Compared to condensers Burroughs claimed that dynamics have a ‘smoother high frequency response’ and so, here (by way of an experiment) are a  couple  of clips from an orchestral concert I recorded recently using a pair of Soviet Era, Russian, Oktava MD186 dynamics! I was simply curious to see if Lou Burroughs maybe had a point?

CLICK HERE for End of Beethoven’s Fifth

CLICK HERE for Mozart Piano Concerto

Oktava MD-186 ORTF pair 2