Category Archives: Microphone techniques Ancient & Modern

Extinct Audio ‘Valkyr’ BMx2 Blumlien Stereo Ribbon Microphone (2019)

Following the success and critical acclaim of the ‘Viking’ BM9, Extinct Audio have continued the Nordic theme with their latest creation the ‘Valkyr’ BMx2 Blumlien Stereo Ribbon Microphone. If you are looking for a stereo ribbon mic which sounds fantastic and looks stunning this is it! The immediate reaction of performers and audio colleagues is ‘Wow, what is that’?  Even the ‘Fenrir’ anti-vibration mount is a beautiful and effective piece of engineering, gripping the mic firmly and making it easy to position.

Extinct Audio 'Valkyr' BMx2 Blumlien Stereo Ribbon Microphone

These microphones are hand built by Extinct Audio at their workshop just outside York here in the UK. The ribbons are painstakingly tuned and perfectly matched.

So what does it sound like? 

  1. Acoustic Guitar Recorded in M-S Stereo.Extinct Audio 'Valkyr' M-S Stereo
  2. Swing From Paris. Recorded in X-Y configuration.Swing From Paris
  3. Church Organ. Recorded in M-S StereoValkyr Organ Recital
  4. Baroque Chamber Orchestra. M-S ConfigurationBlog pic 1
  5. Eight A Cappella Singers followed by 70 Strong Choir . X-Y ConfigurationSet-up for Choir

Minimal Mic’ing.

I have always been a fan of minimal mic’ing. The more open microphones on any recording the more distortion and low-level noise. On multi-mic’d orchestral and choral recordings almost inevitably there are also an abundance of out-of-phase signals to deal with, (caused by sound arriving at different mics at different times). In reverberant acoustics this problem is compounded by large amounts of reflected sound.

The last 2 recordings above demonstrate all the advantages of using a single, high-quality pair of coincidentally mounted microphones. In these examples the two microphones are encased in one body, the Extinct Audio ‘Valkyr’ BM9x2 . For both concerts the mic was set on a tall stand positioned dead centre, (angled slightly down towards the back of the performers), a couple of metres behind the conductor.

  1. The acceptance angle of the microphones either in M-S or X-Y configuration easily takes in the whole orchestra/choir.
  2. The audio arriving at the front of the mics is phase coherent.
  3. The stereo image produced has excellent depth and positional accuracy, such that the listener can easily identify where individual players/singers were sitting/standing!
  4. The balance obtained completely reflects the conductor’s direction.
  5. The rich acoustics are also accurately reproduced, capturing a clear impression of the building.

What’s not to like?

 

For more information: https://www.extinctaudio.co.uk/

 

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!

 

 

Wind Shield 4001.A. to fit STC4032 and 4035

In the post yesterday came a small cardboard box  containing a very pleasant surprise. On reading my last post on the STC4032, one of my readers had observed, that I didn’t have the 4001.A. wind shield. These days they are extremely hard to find. He happened to have 2 and so he sent me this as a present! That is very kind and made my day. So, a big thank you to John Machling

Wind Shield 4001.A to fit STC4032 and 4035

And it is in absolutely perfect condition!

The construction of the wind shield is interesting, consisting of a cleverly designed dome of fine wire mesh packed with rubberised hair and other fibres. (Even the thickness and spacing of the wire and hair/fibre is critical! ) An airtight rubber seal easily attaches the wind shield to the mic.

Inside view of STC4001.A. Wind shield

No. It is not a nest for an extremely small bird!

Inside rim of STC4001.A. Wind shield.

To understand exactly how this slightly crazy-looking piece of vintage British technology works it is worth reading the original patent application which explains all. 

Patent Application for STC4001.A.

STC4032 with 4001.A. Wind Shield.STC4032 with 4001.A. Wind ShieldSTC4032 wit 4001.A. Wind Shield

With the wind shield in place, the level of noise caused by winds in the range of 10 – 30 mph  is reduced by up to 16 db, with surprisingly little effect on the frequency response. It also provides a valuable additional layer of waterproofing. It certainly looks like it should be very effective, and as soon as we have some really bad winter weather I will get outside and record a demonstration!

 

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 BBC Type C portable disc recorder weighing 44lbs!!!   (see pic below)   Perfect for recording in a gondola!                                                                                                     BBC OB Disc cutter Venice 1946Michael Reynolds reporting for the BBC in Venice 1946.

Can’t imagine the rocking of the boat helped the disc cutter very much. The mic is an STC4017c and none of this gear is waterproof (apart from Michael’s sturdy military raincoat!)

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

Here is a short demonstration of the STC4032-D

In Conclusion.

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

Click Here for a short except from Suite for Soprano Saxophone and Church Organ – ‘In Remembrance’ composed and performed by Patsy Gamble with Jonathan Hope on Sat 11th Aug 2018 in Gloucester Cathedral. Photograph by Duncan Laker.

Click Here for a short clip of Acoustic Guitar. Many thanks to Joe Martin for the brief impromptu solo.

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 PICS  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

UPDATE.  Nov 18th  2018.

Clip from winner’s concert.

 

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/

 

Extinct Audio BM9 Directivity response plots

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