- Oktava MK-012 Matched Pair. My favourite Stereo Microphone Techniques.
- Mélodium Mélodynamic 75A (1948-1958)
- BBC Engineering Training Manual. MICROPHONES. (1951)
- Shure 430 ‘Commando’ Controlled Magnetic / Controlled Reluctance Microphone (Circa 1957)
- Sennheiser MD441-U Another Classic Dynamic Microphone! (1971 to the present)
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- 1950's Microphone
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Line array theory has been around since the 1930’s. In the 50’s and 60’s basic line arrays were very popular in the form of the column loudspeaker commonly used for PA. These days we are used to seeing massive line array speaker systems flown above the stage at festivals and concerts.
On the other hand the line array microphone is a rare breed and the few that are around, such as the impressive Microtech Gefell KEM970, tend to be expensive. The KEM970 is around £10,000.
In common with the shotgun microphone, the line array is a phase-reactive device. Unlike the shotgun where the on-axis position is down the length of the interference tube, with the line array the on-axis position is side-on at 90 degrees to the vertical column. Sound arriving at 90 degrees will be in phase at all of the capsules. The electrical output from each capsule will be identical and therefore additive. Sound arriving off-axis will suffer varying degrees of phase cancellation, depending on the frequency and the angle of incidence.
The polar pattern of a line array microphone is therefore wide in the horizontal plane and narrow in the vertical, getting narrower with rising frequency. This enables the mic to pick up over longer distances whilst rejecting mid and high frequency sound arriving off axis ( ie below and above.)
N.B.The longer the array (ie the more elements in the line) the lower the frequency at which it starts to be effective.
Below about 400Hz my 4 element model becomes increasingly omni-directional. In this respect it is once again similar to a shotgun.
Over the next few months I am planning a number of experiments to explore how this array will behave and to see what practical applications I can find for it! I’ll report back…………..
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. 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!
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 )
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?
Grampian Brochures and Technical Information (These came in the box with my DP4.)
It is not often that I buy anything simply on the strength of the advertising, but in the case of the Aston Origin that is exactly what I did! In fact worse than that I bought two! As a rule when you make this kind of impulse purchase, the goods arrive and you are doomed to disappointment. However, on this occasion it turns out that Aston microphones are as good in real life as they look on paper and on the website! Every aspect of the product has been carefully considered and designed from the ground up, everything from the unique flexible grill to the eco-friendly packaging.
At the present time the myriad of competitors in this price range are mostly derivatives of older designs, often vaguely resembling particular vintage Neumann or AKG models. Aston Microphones have launched into this rather tired and jaded market place with product that is radically different.
Designed and built in the UK the Aston Origin not only has eccentric good looks, but it also boasts a distinctive ‘British’ sound. A sound shaped by a panel of 33 well known UK producers and recording professionals, who listened to every element of the audio chain, and by a lengthy process of elimination, chose the very best sounding components. For the full story and technical specifications visit: – http://www.astonmics.com/
My only criticism of screwing the mic straight on to the stand is that whilst this is quick and easy, it is not always possible to manoeuvre the mic into exactly the right place.
Below is my homemade rotating knuckle joint which allows the mic to be moved into any position whilst screwed directly to the stand. It is made from the top piece of an old camera tripod. Using Milliput (which sets rock hard) I glued a 3/8 inch thread adapter into the base. Then over the screw which would normally hold the camera, I glued a 3/8 inch stand adapter to hold the mic. The ball-joint, which can rotate in any direction, is fixed by screwing down the chrome locking ring.
So What Does It Sound Like?
The Neumann U87Ai is 8 x the price of the Aston Origin!
The Sennheiser MD21, the Aston Origin and the Electro-Voice EV664.
What do these 3 microphones have in common?
Post guesses in Comments below.
Answers Next Week…………………………………………….
One Week Later
In addition to the correct answer given by Chris Dando, here is the other one I had in mind.
Answer. The manufacturers of each of these microphones have made extravagant claims about their product’s durability, and in order to demonstrate this each mic has been subjected to somewhat ‘rigorous’ testing!
From Sennheiser’s website:
“The indestructible design of the new microphone was impressively demonstrated at the Industrial Fair in Hanover in 1954. “We set up a round wooden board, about 5 feet in diameter, on which we had fitted ramps at regular intervals. An MD 21 suspended on a short cable was placed on the board, which was then rotated quite fast. The microphone was dragged up each ramp and could be seen crashing down onto the board again and again,” said Fritz Sennheiser describing the unusual demonstration. “It was sensational – at that time, microphones were delicate objects and had to be handled carefully.” And even today, the extremely low percentage of repairs for the MD 21 – 0.4% – speaks for itself.”
John Woram, 1986
(Reminiscing about Lou Burrows, one of the founders of Electro-Voice)
Lou’s lectures were often hard to forget, as anyone who attended a demonstration of the E-V 664, the Buchanan Hammer, can testify. Lou would show up with a few mics, a piece of wood, and a nail. When the talk got around to the matter of durability, he’d unplug the 664, use it to pound the nail home, and then get on with the talk, having more than made his point.
Following in this illustrious tradition of abuse here is James Young MD of Aston carrying out his very own ‘Microphone Destruction Test’ . Enjoy!
Back in the 1950s the iconic Marconi AX ribbon microphone was the main tool for BBC drama production. Actors were familiar with its figure of eight characteristics, and would utilise the dead zones at the sides of the mic to great effect. Noisy page turns could be avoided by holding the script to the side of the mic. The impression of going off into the distance could be achieved by simply delivering the lines whilst slowly moving to the side of the microphone. Shouting from a distance could be managed in the same way. Actors were also very conscious users of proximity effect, moving closer or further from the microphone as the script required.
BBC Training Manual 1942
Bearing this in mind an elderly ex-BBC producer told me the following delightful tale about a well- known actor of the day.
Whenever a trainee or inexperienced engineer was spotted entering the control booth he would go through the same entertaining routine. On being asked to deliver some lines to test the mic, he would start speaking in a fairly quiet voice whilst very gradually moving his head round the side of the mic. All the while the hapless young knob- twiddler in the control booth would be increasing the gain on the input. When our actor judged that the gain was almost certainly up full he would deftly swing his head back to the front of the mic and inquire in rich, thespian tones, (as if addressing the back row of the gallery) ‘HOW’S THAT FOR LEVEL?!!’
In the early days of talking pictures, years before the invention of the shotgun microphone, considerable use was made of the directional characteristics of figure-of-eight ribbon microphones to minimise the pick- up of unwanted noise on the set. Cameras and other noisy equipment could be positioned in the dead zones. This greatly improved the quality and intelligibility of the end product. It also made it possible (using more than one microphone) to balance the levels of different performer’s voices. This had not previously been possible using Omni-directional models.
Filming in locations with high levels of surrounding ambient noise, a figure-of-eight could be suspended horizontally above the actors’ heads. The back of the mic faced upwards (away from the sound sources) and the front faced downwards towards the actors. In this position the dead zone effectively attenuated 360 degrees of surrounding noise!
These days, when recording studios seem to be generally stuck in Cardioid mode, I thought it might make a pleasant change to revive some of these vintage figure-of-eight techniques. In the following episodes I shall take a look at more uses for this versatile but somewhat neglected polar pattern.
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!