Category Archives: Vintage Broadcasting

RSA Selmer RL1 Ribbon Microphone 1947-1958

Wireless world Advert October 1946

Looking back from the 21st century it is hard to picture a ‘dream’ PA system as being 2 x 8” speakers attached to a 12 WATT amplifier with 2 mic inputs!! However, in the UK this marks the beginning of the age of amplified, modern popular music. Within a few years the wattage and power output of PA systems would be rising rapidly, trying to keep pace with bigger and louder guitar amps!

In 1947 R.S. Amplifiers Ltd was bought by H. Selmer & Co Ltd who were at that time the largest musical instrument manufacturer in England. RSA’s newly launched Truevoice U12 PA system (described in detail below) continued in production until 1958 and formed the starting point for the Selmer Truevoice range of amplifiers. Selmer amps soon became a firm favourite for a whole generation of guitarists and bands.

R.S.A Selmer U12 PA system
Photographs of U12 PA Courtesy of Mario Martins.
R.S.A Selmer U12 PA Amplifier
R.S.A Selmer U12 PA Speaker with Mic compartment.

The handy compartment lined with green baize is where the microphone would be stored in transit.

The RSA Selmer RL1 Microphone

R.S.A. Selmer RL1 Ribbon Microphone.

Designed as a gigging PA microphone the body of the R.L.1. is very solidly cast in aluminium. The styling is distinctive and unusual. Somewhere between Art Deco and Mock-Tudor!  I can’t think of another microphone like it. The design of the grill is also peculiar to this model (and the later RL2) with baffled slots cleverly contrived to prevent the direct implosion of breath on the ribbon.

Inside the R.L.1. the ribbon motor is also further protected by a cotton bag.

R.S.A. Selmer RL1 Ribbon Microphone Interior.
R.S.A. Selmer RL1 Ribbon Microphone Interior case.
R.S.A. Selmer RL1 Ribbon Microphone Grill Interior.
R.S.A. Selmer RL1 Ribbon Microphone Rear View..

Optional step-up transformer 15 Ohms – 50k Ohms (below)

 This enabled the mic to be plugged into a high impedance PA input or even a guitar amp.

R.S.A. Step-up Transformer 15 Ohms- 50k Ohms.

Performance.

In terms of performance the R.S.A. Selmer RL1 is pretty much what you would expect from a ribbon microphone designed to go with the U12 PA system. Although it is somewhat lacking in high end response this would not have been a problem when delivering through 2 x 8 inch speakers! However, it has a pleasing, warm midrange which is flattering for most vocalists.

I had been intending to record a vocal clip to illustrate the qualities of this microphone but current COVID-19 restrictions here in the UK still make it difficult to meet up with performers. Hopefully in the next few months this situation will improve and I will be able to add a suitable recording to complete this post. 

P.S.

Here are a couple of likely lads from Liverpool (circa 1960) with the Selmer RL2. The grill is identical to the RL1 but the bodywork is somewhat different. I wonder what ever happened to these fresh-faced youths?

Tannoy Microphone Circa 1950.

Background.

The Tulsemere Manufacturing Company was founded in London in 1926 by Guy R. Fountain. In 1928 the name was changed to Tannoy. Rectifiers used in the company’s amplifiers utilised an alloy made from lead and tantalum. The name is simply a contraction of TANtalum/allOY.

 In the UK throughout the 1930’s Tannoy built up a considerable reputation for the design, manufacture and installation of industrial public address systems. Tannoy systems appeared in department stores, factories, offices, public buildings, academic institutions and sports grounds. In fact, just about anywhere that public announcements needed to be made- indoors or outdoors. There were even mobile systems fitted to vans!  

During World War 2, Tannoy manufactured installations for the British Army, Navy and Royal Air Force. Orders and day to day communications would be announced over ‘the Tannoy’.

By the end of WW2 the Tannoy brand was pretty much synonymous with any PA system. In 1946 the word ‘Tannoy’ passed into the Oxford English Dictionary as a noun meaning ‘public address system’. This usage is still current in the UK today.

As can be seen on the microphone featured here, Tannoy were not shy when it came to emblazoning the company name on their products. Judging from the tasteful antique bronze and grey paint finish, this gooseneck announcement microphone may well have been mounted on a mahogany desk in a Town Hall or other municipal building.

At first glance I assumed that this specimen, which has no model or serial number on it, was simply a dynamic paging mic in a fancy-looking case. However, when plugged in I was very surprised to hear how good it sounded! I carefully removed the grill and inside this is what I found……………

……. A well-made and neatly constructed, end addressed, ribbon motor. The back of the ribbon is enclosed by the magnet and the rear section of the casing. This produces a pretty much cardioid, directional polar pattern. It is similar in design to the STC4113 featured in a previous post.

So what does it sound like?   Because, here in the UK we continue to be under COVID-19 lockdown restrictions I still can’t get close to any proper musicians. I have therefore put together a slightly eccentric audio ‘collage’ of ‘percussion’ from around my desk to illustrate some of the impressive qualities of this distinctive Tannoy microphone. Marvel at the slightly sinister sound of 2 small terracotta plant pots being rubbed together and check out the creaky floor board! The finest details and complex textures of a variety of sounds are effortlessly reproduced as well as delivering natural speech with a high level of intelligibility.  

 CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.  

Conclusion.

This is definitely a microphone to keep. Apart from vocals and percussion, I have a feeling that it will work well on a whole range of instruments. Ribbons are always great for beefing up guitars! Can’t wait to get back to gigs and try it out!

Tannoy Mic on Rycote shock mount.

P.S.  

Here below are a couple of photos of another Tannoy microphone sent to me by Stewart Tavener at http://xaudia.com/. This mic appears to share the same casing and ribbon motor as mine but has a switch and hinged stand mount.

Electro-Voice DO56L Dynamic Shock Mount Omni circa 1980

Perfect for the socially distanced interview!Electro Voice DO56LElectro Voice DO56L OmniElectro Voice DO56L with original case

Following in the company’s long tradition the Electro-Voice DO56L is a triumph of innovative design and precision engineering. The 11 and a half inch 56L is the Long version of the DO56 and was intended as the perfect tool for TV news gathering or Talk Show Hosts. Even the dull ‘Silver tone beige’ finish was carefully chosen to be unobtrusive and none-reflective under TV lighting.

Electro-Voice advertising material from 1980 featured below explains in detail the design of this exceptional new microphone. The clever arrangement of the internal shock mounting is particularly impressive.

Electro Voice DO56L Literature. page1Electro Voice DO56L Literature. page2Electro Voice DO56L Literature. page 3

Phil Donahue Edit

Can’t beat a bit of subtle product placement/celebrity endorsement!

So What Does it Sound Like?  CLICK HERE for spoken word clip.

What else can it be used for?

Back in the 1950’s when AKG came up with the D12 they fondly imagined that they had designed a general purpose instrument and vocal mic. The marketing blurb featured photos of pretty girls warbling sweetly into the new microphone and indeed it was a great success with singers. Then along came the studio engineers who took a look at the tech spec and said, ‘Hey…. I bet with that frequency response curve and high SPL rating the D12 would sound great on bass drum’!  Within a few years it was on bass drums all over the world! In fact these days it is often referred to as the ‘legendary bass drum mic’ (no mention of vocals). So when I see marketing literature declaring a microphone to have a particular purpose I always find myself imagining (based on the tech spec) what else it might be good for.

Although the Electro-Voice DO56L was very much designed with demands of TV journalism in mind and a frequency response tailored to the human voice, I feel sure that it could also have a range of other uses. So let me see now……………

More Sound Clips to follow as soon as COVID-19 allows!

 

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

 

‘The Beatles Mic’ Reslo RB/L Black Label (Circa 1961)

Reslosound Ltd were a British company based in Romford, Essex, manufacturing microphones and electrical equipment throughout the 50’s and 60’s. In recent years the Reslo RB has become known as ‘The Beatles Mic’ because of its association with The Beatles early days at The Cavern Club.

However, as I recall (‘cos I’m that old), the Reslo RB was simply a popular vocal mic with many up-and-coming young beat groups in the clubs and pubs around Liverpool and Manchester. Like the Shure SM58 today, the Reslo RB was not, perhaps, the greatest vocal mic in the world, but it wasn’t bad either, and most importantly it was pitched at a price that gigging musicians could afford! In 1962 the Reslo RB/L could be purchased for £9.12s, which was less than half the price of an AKG D19B. A Sennheiser MD21 cost £16gns, or if you couldn’t quite afford the Reslo you could always settle for a Grampian DP4 L at £8. For their first gig at The Cavern in 1961 The Beatles were paid £5.

So how on earth did a delicate ribbon microphone survive whilst an enthusiastic singer (straining to get heard through a 50watt Vox PA) screamed ‘Twist and Shout’ at a distance of half an inch? (Or in the case of my mate’s band, an old valve amp built into a re-purposed rabbit hutch!) Reslosound clearly knew their market and gave this problem some thought. To avoid instant annihilation of the ribbon, Reslo had a cunning plan! Firstly the RB was designed with the ribbon motor facing backwards i.e. with the ribbon nearest the back of the microphone and thus somewhat shielded by the magnet. Secondly the RBs were supplied with a set of fine fibreglass ‘ acoustic correction pads ‘.

Reslo Filter Pads Kit 1961

These had a range of functions, described in detail in the Reslo Instruction Manual. However, the most important purpose of the pads was to prevent the implosion of breath on the ribbon.

ResloRB_INSTRUCTIONS_TECHDATA

In the almost inevitable event of catastrophic failure Reslo also had ‘Plan B’ in the form of replacement ribbons which came mounted on a plastic frame ready to do a quick swap.  It was also not uncommon for musicians to replace a blown ribbon themselves using the thin aluminium foil that came in cigarette packets! Having heard the results this is not to be recommended……… but it worked!

Rolling Stones 1963

Another bunch of likely lads with a Reslo RB. The Rolling Stones in 1963

The BBC Connection

In 1961 the BBC were looking around for small, unobtrusive microphones to use on TV. After serious deliberation, and thorough testing of the Reslo RBM/T, the Research Department concluded that ‘The performance of the microphone fell short of broadcasting standards’ (a night out at The Cavern would have told them that!).  However, the cheapness and robust construction of the RB was also noted, and they therefore suggested implementing a number of simple changes to the design which would bring it up to broadcasting specification. The full report can be read here…….

 1961 BBC Modifications.

The modified broadcast microphone is known as the Reslo VRM/T

The VRM/T was sold to the BBC for the princely sum of £10 per microphone.BBC TV Grandstand Reslo VRM/T

Home Taping

The Reslo RB was also popular with amateur tape recording enthusiasts. Once again, it gave good results without breaking the bank. The British tape recorder manufacturer Ferrograph sold Reslos with some of their machines and made their own in-line transformers to match them to the input. Here is a review of the RB by Fred Judd, who edited Amateur Tape Recording magazine for a number of years……. ResloRB_review by F Judd

Reslos also appeared in re-badged versions for various equipment manufacturers including VOX and GEC.

Conclusion

Fronting many famous (and not-so-famous) names of the 60’s the Reslo RB has rightly earned a place in rock ’n’ roll history, and thanks to its solid design there are many examples still in circulation. With a bit of a clean and a new ribbon they will probably carry on rocking for another 60 years.

So what does the Reslo RB/L sound like?

CLICK HERE Pete Gill with Reslo RBL

P.S.    If your Reslo RB needs re-ribboning or if you fancy upgrading to BBC spec http://xaudia.com/ do a fantastic job.

 

Remembering D-Day June 6th 1944

CLICKHEREJohn Snagge announces the D-Day Landings in France 75 years ago today.

The STC4017c was used by the BBC throughout World War 2 to broadcast many momentous events and speeches. Possibly the most important communication tool of the 20th century it was the first microphone robust enough to withstand the rigors of serious outside broadcasting in a war zone.

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

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!

 

 

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 STC4001B Acoustic Baffle for the STC4021 (Apple & Biscuit) circa 1935.

The very first post that I wrote for this blog back in 2012 was about the STC4021 (Apple & Biscuit). Still one of my favourite microphones.  I even made a YouTube video to go with it! In the course of the video I mentioned the STC4001B Acoustic Baffle. According to the STC brochure this could be purchased to modify the frequency response and directionality of the microphone. These days the 4001B Acoustic Baffle is very hard to find. So imagine my surprise when a brand new old stock 4001B (still in the box) appeared on eBay. 

So I thought I had better ‘Buy it now‘ and make another video to celebrate the occasion!

 

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-connector

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

Melodium 75A plug

These Mélodium locking plugs are very hard to find!  (They also fit the 42B ribbon mic.)

Melodium 75A Locking plug

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