Tag Archives: 1960’s Microphone

Electro-Voice EV642, 643, & 644 Cardiline Microphones , (circa)1960

Ever since the advent of the ‘Talkies’ sound technicians have struggled to pick up speech in motion pictures with sufficient clarity. For many years the problem of getting the microphone close enough to the performers without it being in the camera shot was a constant challenge!  On the other hand if the mic was too far away the sound was often ruined by the pickup of unwanted surrounding noise.

Seeking to address this problem, in October 1959 Wayne A. Beaverson of Electro-Voice filed for a patent on a new type of directional microphone which could be successfully operated at a distance from the sound source.  At low frequencies this microphone exhibits the directional characteristics of a cardioid mic, with excellent rear rejection. As the frequency response rises it becomes a line mic with considerable attenuation of unwanted sound from the sides. Thus the new ‘Cardiline’ design provides excellent directivity right across its operating frequency range.

Electro-Voice Patent for Unidirectional Microphone 1963

The success of the new microphone was such that in 1963 Electro-Voice received an Academy Awards “Oscar” for the development of the model 642 Cardiline, The award, in part, read “To Electro-Voice for a highly directional dynamic line microphone… capable of picking up sound in situations where a microphone cannot be placed close to the sound source and where unwanted sounds are to be discriminated against.”

Although the Academy Award went to the 642, the microphone drawn and described in the original patent application was in fact its close cousin the EV644. At this point you might be wondering about the 643?  Well ……… The 643 was pretty much the same as the 642 except in one significant detail ……… it was just over 7 feet long!  All three of these mics were of the Cardiline pattern but they were aimed (excuse the pun) at different areas of the market. As we know, the 642 was tailored very much for the film and TV industry and came with an elastic mount for attaching to a boom.

EV642 Advert 1963

EV643  Advert

Electro-Voice_643 Advert

electrovoice_643_2

Although extravagant claims are made for the mighty 643 in the advert above, I suspect that this mic was in fact quite awkward and unwieldy to use (even sighting along the barrel!!) It is certainly hard to find any fond recollections of it. I came across one report from some poor sod who once spent an afternoon standing on the roof of a football stadium trying to follow the ball round the field!! Anyone who has ever operated a theatre follow spot will appreciate just how ludicrous that must have been!

Which leaves the 644. (My latest eBay bargain!)

electro-voice-ev644

Designed for use on stage, in theatres, auditoriums and churches,  the EV644 Sound Spot came with a microphone stand mounting and was finished in classic Electro-Voice chrome. You could also buy it with a dull matt paint finish,(non-reflective under lighting), but why do that when the chrome version just looks so rock’n’roll cool !

Allied Catalogue 1960

List Price $110. A bargain at $64.68 ! (Not cheap in 1960!)

ev644-back-end ev644-body-and-stand-mountev644-end-grillev644-original-box-insideev644-original-box

CLICK HERE for Voice recording at a distance of 12ft

CLICK HERE for Glockenspiel Recording

In Conclusion

The 1963 patent shown above acknowledges a number of earlier inventions relating to directional microphones. In particular the patents of Harry Olson dating back to 1939. However, the earlier inventions, (mostly involving complex arrangements of multiple tubes of differing lengths), were awkward and cumbersome. In contrast, Beaverson’s Cardiline microphone, using a single multi-path tube feeding a single cardioid capsule, was an uncomplicated work of genius. It was both effective and easy to use.

To this day the elements of Beaverson’s patent can to be seen in shotgun microphones all over the world.

Below are the Techincal Specification Sheets for all 3 microphones.

Electro-Voice 642 Spec Sheet

Electro-Voice 643 Tech Spec.

Electro-Voice 644 Tech Spec

The Shure SM58 (1966-2016). 50 Years at the top!

The Shure SM58 is a microphone I have never owned, and it is not a model that I would particularly recommend. I can always think of a better alternative. Nevertheless, if I arrive to engineer a show and find that the theatre or the PA company have supplied SM58s for all the vocals I am not unhappy with the choice! It is unlikely that any of the vocals are going to sound amazing. At best they will probably sound good and at worst they will be ok. Part of the ‘magic’ of the Shure SM58 is that whilst accuracy is not one of it’s hallmarks, it does a reasonably good job of flattering most singers. The SM58 is like Dave the rhythm guitarist in your band………… He is never going to be an inspired soloist but he turns up at all the rehearsals and can be relied upon at the gigs to play the right chords. Not fantastic but utterly dependable. A safe pair of hands!

With the 58 it is not just vocals. If you run out of quality mics at a gig and a stray conga player turns up who is not listed on the technical rider you will inevitably stick a couple of 58s on them. [NB. It is a matter of scientific observation that no matter how many microphones are used at a concert there will always be 2 x SM58s left in the case!??]  Not the best choice but they will do the trick! I once had a ‘guest’ fiddle player suddenly appear on stage during a live recording. He grabbed the nearest 58 on a stand and pointed it at his instrument. I hastily adjusted the gain and the impromptu fiddle track ended up on the album. (In fact quite a few people commented afterwards on how good it sounded!)

Shure SM58Another clue to the enduring popularity of the Shure SM58 lies in this photograph. They will put up with almost any amount of abuse!! On tour it is very hard to find one without a dented grill. In fact there is a brisk trade on eBay for replacement grills. (see pic above) You can drop a 58 regularly for 30 years and it will probably still be working  (that may not quite be true but I have certainly seen examples that look like that is what has happened!) and after the gig you can store them in a damp, unventilated van. Don’t worry; just chuck them loose in the glove compartment or in an old cardboard box under the front seat. (These appear to be popular storage solutions preferred by SM58 owners!)  Even when the paint is all corroded and chipped they will still be working just fine! A friend of mine was engineering at a festival a few years ago when an ‘overexcited’ singer vomited all over his 58. After a bit of a wipe and a rinse, unlike the singer, it was back in action! No problem!

The legendary rock’n’roll credentials of the SM58, I think, can be traced all the way back to the film of the Woodstock pop festival in 1969. The only mics used at Woodstock were in fact modified Shure 565s which are very similar to the 58 (just more shiny?!) They were used on everything from bass drum to vocals. Martin Scorsese’s film was seen by millions worldwide and in every camera close-up of the stars on stage there appeared the same Shure microphone! Woodstock was the first big festival PA system, setting a benchmark for years to come and cementing the place of the Shure SM58 in the forefront of popular music.

So Happy 50th Birthday SM58!

P.S.       If you want to listen to sound clips of this mic there are several million on the internet!

sm58_specsheet

OKTAVA MD-186 A Classic Clone?

It is quite a few years since AKG stopped manufacturing the remarkable D224 cardioid dynamic. There are still some appearing on eBay but the supply of ones in good working order is dwindling. I was therefore very curious when I spotted a Russian microphone which I had never seen, or heard of before, that looked somewhat reminiscent of the D224. It had a similar twin capsule design with separate elements for treble and bass, which means that like the 224 it would not exhibit proximity effect. It also appeared that the frequency response was not dissimilar (30Hz – 18kHz).  It even had an almost identical-looking stepped roll-off filter at 50Hz.  So to satisfy my curiosity I bought 2!

Oktava MD186

When the mics arrived I was immediately reminded of a well-known brand of margarine which has the slogan ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter!’ However, unlike the margarine that wouldn’t fool anyone, these Russian microphones look and sound very similar to their Austrian counterparts. Even the nickel plating appears to be as good as anything found on an AKG. It rapidly became clear that the Oktava MD-186 is not simply a cheap ‘knock off’.  It is a very solid, well-engineered, high quality, professional microphone.

Oktava MD186 Logo Closeup

Oktava MD186 Roll-off switch

Oktava MD186 Frequency Response Graph

Oktava MD186 Frequency Response Graph

So does it really sound anything like the classic AKG D224 ?  

Below are links to 3 very different sample recordings:-

CLICK HERE for Voice recording comparing an AKGD224 and the Oktava MD-186.

CLICK HERE for  Clarinet recorded on the MD-186

CLICK HERE for Live recording of Guitar and Cajon on MD-186 x2 

My two MD-186s are from the tail end of the Soviet era (1989 & 1990) when Oktava was still wholly owned by the Russian State. Although manufactured around a year apart they sound identical to one another. So much so that I would  not hesitate to use them as a stereo pair.

In Conclusion.

Looking on Oktava’s Russian website I was excited to find that the MD-186 appears to be still in production!    

 http://www.en.oktavatula.ru/production/dynamic_mic/

  However, upon further investigation I can find no retail outlet actually selling them! It has been suggested to me that maybe they are only on sale to Russian TV and Radio Stations.  Or it could be that they are no longer manufactured and Oktava simply haven’t updated this web page on their Russian site! Whatever the explanation it seems a great pity that these classic dual element dynamic microphones are no longer available from Oktava………… or AKG !

A Classic Dynamic Microphone. Sennheiser MD421 (Circa 1960)

Sennheiser MD421-2

Introduced in 1960, the Sennheiser MD421 is a robust, large diaphragm, cardioid, dynamic microphone originally designed as a general purpose tool for the German broadcasting industry. It has an excellent frequency response from 30 Hz to 17 kHz with a brightness boost at around 4-5 kHz making it perfect for speech and vocals. 55 years later the 421 is still in the Sennheiser catalogue and continues to be one of the best-selling microphones ever made!

  • Great for speech and vocals both in the studio and on stage.
  • Excellent for brass, delivering smooth full tone, and rich timbre.
  • Effortlessly handles even the loudest electric guitar.
  • Especially good on drums and percussion, producing both punch and fine detail!
  • For many engineers the 421 is the bass drum mic of choice with its ability to accurately reproduce low bass and cope with high SPLs.

Throughout the 1960’s the MD421 was adopted by recording studios and performers all over the world. Here is a review from Hi-Fi Sound (Dec 1967)

Sennheiser MD421 Review from Hi-Fi Sound Dec 1967

Sennheiser MD421-2 Side view.

The 1960’s was of course  a time of experimentation and innovation, and one unusual feature of the MD421 is that the body is made of plastic which is rare for a high quality professional microphone. Other examples I can think of (also from the 1960’s) are the AKG D202 and the D222.

In 1971 George Harrison and Ravi Shankar held their famous Concert for Bangladesh at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The stage was positively bristling with MD421s, including all of the stars’ lead vocal mics  (Eric Clapton, Ringo Star, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell and Billy Preston)  Check out the video: –     https://vimeo.com/66413717

Sennheiser MD421 Script Logo

My Sennheiser MD421-2 pictured above with its rare script logo is a fine example from the early 1960’s. It still sounds as good as it ever did. In fact some say that the early models (which have no bass roll-off switches) sound better than the new ones!                                                                                                                       (N.B. This might just be a myth spread about by owners of old mics!)

Tech Spec for the current MD_421_II_GB

Here are some sound clips of my MD421-2 in action.

CLICK HERE for Tenor Sax

CLICK HERE for Drum Kit Overhead

CLICK HERE for Bird Song.

STC4113 Cardioid Ribbon Microphone (c.1967) Restoration

STC4113 Before Restoration

I have recently been generously given this STC4113 cardioid ribbon mic which is rather in need of some TLC. The socket on the bottom is badly damaged and I don’t even know if it works. I think that it will make a nice little restoration project. However, as yet, I haven’t fathomed out how to take it apart!

The 4113 was designed by Michael Gayford (STCs chief designer) who was also responsible for the 4104 noise-cancelling lip mic, and played a key role in designing the famous BBC / STC4038 which is still made by Coles today.stc-advert-1968

In today’s money 11gns (ie £11.11s) is worth about the price of a Shure SM58

Although it was the cheapest of STCs microphones the 4113 features an unusual and innovative design and Gayford’s  patent (filed in 1963) makes interesting reading.

Michael Gayford’s Patent for the STC4113

The plastic horn arrangement used in this mic to create a cardioid polar pattern appears to be somewhat similar to the one that is to be found in the Beyer M260.  In both mics the plastic horn causes a shift in the phase relationship between the front and rear of the ribbon thereby modifying the polar pattern from the usual figure of eight to hypercardioid in the case of the Beyer, and cardioid in the STC.

So on with the restoration. My first job is to sort out that connector…….. I will report back.

SOME WHILE LATER……………………………………………………………………………..

The connector problem has been solved. Preh, the company who made the original connector still make exactly the same connector. So I have bought a brand new replacement!

Having prised off the grill it was immediately obvious that the ribbon was in need of replacement.  So I decided to take the whole thing to pieces and re-build it! As you can see in the pictures below the plastic horn is glued to the circuit board, which makes it a bit of a pig to get apart! After prising it all all round with the blade of a knife the glue eventually gave way without breaking the board. Phew!!

STC4113 Dismantled Pic 1STC4113 Dismantled Pic 2And now all I need to do is to make an new ribbon, line it up in that gap, get it nicely tensioned and do up the clamps without breaking it!!!!!

This may take some time …………………………………………..

Re-ribboning and rebuilding.

Da Dah!

STC4113 Fully RestoredFully restored and repainted !!                                                                                      OK now to find out what it sounds like……………….

CLICK HERE for  my first recording which is a simple voice test.

And now for something completely different………

 CLICK here for Ukulele and Flugelbone!

STC4037A ‘The Stick’ ! (1955- late 1970s)

STC4037A

After years of lugging around the mighty (heavy & cumbersome) STC4017, BBC outside broadcasters must have been absolutely delighted, in the mid-1950s, by the arrival of the 4037! Designed specifically for the burgeoning new medium of television, the STC4037 was a triumph of British understatement! Even by modern standards it is light (260g) and well-balanced, and its slender, tapered, profile feels very comfortable in the hand. Also the black shrivel enamel finish is non-reflective under TV lighting. The 4037 was so beautifully minimal and unobtrusive (and black) that it soon became affectionately known as ‘The Stick’. ‘The Stick’ came in 2 sizes, the 21.3cm long version, the STC4037A, and the shorter 13.6cm STC4037C. The short version had slightly less bass response but was extremely unobtrusive, all but disappearing in the presenter’s hand.

A couple of TV clips from the 1960s featuring the STC4037  :-

Gwyn Thomas talks to Alan Whicker about the Chip Crisis

A great Liverpool band The Undertakers with 4037 on vocals 

The original box arrived a wee bit bruised and battered!

The original box arrived a wee bit bruised and battered!

STC4037A with 4069A connector and stand adapter

STC4069A connector and  PAS45/14 stand adapter

STC4037A Base of mic

3 pin connector on base of mic

STC4069A Connector

STC4069A Connector

 STC4037A Grill STC4037 Brochure 1961

Click Here For Short Sound Clip.

Meanwhile here is another couple of suggested uses!!

STC4037A the perfect kit overhead!

Crisp snare, nice fat toms, and smooth detailed cymbals, and so much bottom end that the kick mic was nearly redundant! Job done!

Here is a short live clip of this kit with the 4037 as pictured.

Also tasty on double bass!