Tag Archives: 1970’s Microphone

Sennheiser MD408 N Super-Cardioid Dynamic Gooseneck Microphone. 1960’s/70’s

Sennheiser MD408N
Sennheiser MD408N

Originally designed for speech and vocals the Sennheiser MD408 N is a solid, reliable, workhorse microphone which is useful for many tasks. It performs well on guitar cabs, delivering a rich beefy sound with plenty of midrange punch. The flexible gooseneck makes it particularly easy to position. It is also useful on snare and a variety of percussion. Once again the gooseneck is very handy for manoeuvring in awkward spaces. Being a super-cardioid it also has excellent feedback rejection.

Some microphones were destined to appear with the stars, glittering centre stage with Elvis or Tina Turner or David Bowie. Others however, never quite made it to the limelight. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the MD408 N was often used as a humble studio talkback mic. Even so, when it comes to dull publicity photos the shot below takes a lot of beating!

Sennheiser Advert 1969 for MD408N
Sennheiser MD408N  Klien Tuchel Connector and standard 3/8 inch stand adapter.
Sennheiser MD408N Klien Tuchel Connector and standard 3/8 inch stand adapter.
Sennheiser MD408N On/Off switch

The MD408 also has a silent on/off switch which is very handy if it is used for talkback or as a lectern mic. The neat square plastic actuator has sadly gone missing on mine but you can see it in the publicity photo.

CLICK HERE to listen to the MD408 on rock’n’roll Guitar at a live show.

Conclusion

Whilst it may not have the kudos and charisma of the more famous Sennheiser Models such as the MD421 and MD441 it is nevertheless a recommended addition to any collection.

Omnidirectional Dynamic Vocal Microphones

Up until the late 1960’s, cardioid, omnidirectional and figure of eight dynamic microphones were all commonly found in use on public address systems. Singers were able to choose whichever pattern suited their particular style of delivery. Figure of eight ribbon mics, for instance, were enormously popular with the jazz singers and ‘crooners’ of the 40’s and 50’s because of their smooth response and rich proximity effect which enhanced the low end of the voice. Omni was preferred by singers who required a more ‘open’ sound and the ability to move around without altering tone. Unfortunately, with the development of high power PA systems and the introduction of wedge monitoring in the late 60’s, only cardioid microphones had the required rejection characteristics to deliver a suitable amount of gain before feedback. Consequently, within a few years figure of eight and omni all but vanished from the stage and were pretty much banished to the studio!

I recently acquired a number of vintage omnidirectional dynamic mics from the tail end of the last century. Although the primary purpose of these mics was originally news gathering, my attention was drawn to the following excerpt from the AKG Engineering Data sheet for the D130. It perfectly describes the numerous benefits that an omnidirectional microphone offers the vocal performer.

AKG D130 Data Sheet.

A wide-range instrument, the D-130E offers “open”, natural reproduction of speech and music -without harshness, popping or bass emphasis. Moreover, the D-130E ‘s omnidirectional pattern and consequent absence of proximity effect enable the microphone to retain this natural quality -regardless of the relative position or distance of performers working into it. Together with its handling comfort and attractive styling, these same characteristics also lend the D-130E to a variety of hand-held on-camera applications in the studio -especially to pop-free coverage of vocalists who do not desire proximity effect.

Many singers (especially male vocalists) have an uncomfortable relationship with cardioid microphones because of their inclination towards ‘boomy’ bass and unpleasant popping plosives. I have also worked with performers who are in the habit of pulling away from the mic when delivering the loud bits leaving their voices sounding suddenly thin and weedy (N.B. Proximity effect works in both directions i.e. moving away reduces bass). With omni the bass remains constant with the desired reduction in volume.

And another thing………

For performers whose vocal style involves ‘cupping’ the back of a cardioid dynamic, maybe an omni would be a better choice? It comes ready ‘cupped’!

SM58 cuppingBeyer M58 2 N (C)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So…….. Here’s a thought…….

With the rise of in-ear monitoring many performers and bands are dispensing with their cumbersome (and feedback prone) on-stage wedges. So it would seem to me that for cardioid averse vocalists, perhaps now would be a good time to consider bringing back the considerable benefits of the

Omnidirectional Dynamic Vocal Microphone.

AKG D130

UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 Cardioid Condenser (1970’s/80’s)

History

In the early 1970’s MB Electronic (now known as MBHO) produced the MB C540. This was a high quality battery powered condenser microphone. It boasted an almost flat frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz with a slight dip at the low end. The MB C540 was modular in construction and had the option of 2 capsules (omni or cardioid).

MB C 540 AdvertMB C 540 Frequency response

In the UK it appeared as the PEERLESS MBC-540.

Reviewed here in Studio Sound May 1977.Review. Peerless MBC 540 - Studio Sound - May 1977

Meanwhile in Communist Era Eastern Europe.

This German design was also manufactured under licence by the Polish state owned electronics company UNITRA Tonsil and marketed as the MCO-30 (omni) and the MCU-31 (cardioid). According to Polish sources, the only difference between the German and Polish versions appears to have been variation in quality control at the Tonsil factory. This lead to some Polish mics reputedly sounding rather better than others.

Around 1980 the design was modified and updated. Whether this was done by MB Electronic or by Tonsil’s own engineers is not clear. (MB licenced a number of different designs to Tonsil but sadly MBHO now have no records relating to this microphone !)…….. Anyhow, the resulting microphone was somewhat shorter in length, the battery powering was changed from 2 x 15v to 1 x 6v and the previously unbalanced output was upgraded to balanced. The WCU-31 and WCO-30 capsules were retained and the frequency response appears pretty much the same. The new model was the UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 (cardioid) / MCO-52 (omni).  The Tonsil 50 series continued in production through the 1980’s. In the late 80’s a further modification was carried out to provide 48v phantom power. This model was the MC-265.

UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53

UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 exploded view

A clever modular design. Well constructed and finished in shining nickel plate.

Tonsil WCU-31 Cardioid capsule. Front view

WCU-31 Cardioid capsule.

WCU-31 Cardioid capsule. Rear view.

Unusual 5 pin DIN connection.  (below)

Pins 4&5 in the plug are shorted together to provide a ‘switch’ for the battery. When the cable is plugged in the power is thereby switched on. N.B. This also means that if you accidently leave it connected when not in use you end up with a flat battery!! Arrrgh!

5 Pin DIN socket on Tonsil MCU-53 5 Pin DIN plug Tonsil MCU-53 Tonsil MCU-53 5 pin DIN Plug

Technical Specifications.

Pages from MCO-52/ MCU 53 Owner’s Manual UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 ManualUNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 Manual P2UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53 Manual P3

In Conclusion.

Being battery powered made the MCU-52 /53 suitable for use with cameras and tape machines which in the 70’s and 80’s often did not provide phantom power. This made it a popular choice for wildlife and location recording.

When there is once again an opportunity to record music I will be interested to see how the MCU-53 compares to the AKG C451E as their frequency responses appear to be somewhat similar. I suspect the Tonsil may have a bit more self-noise but tonally may give the AKG a run for its money. Let’s wait and see…………

Credits.

Many thanks to Adam Wilma for sending me this pristine example of the UNITRA Tonsil MCU-53. Very generous. And thanks to my old mate blues guitarist Keith Thompson for bringing it back from Poland. His March tour was sadly cancelled after only 2 shows as Poland went into COVID-19 lockdown. Luckily for me the second gig was in Adam’s home town of Torun and he kindly dropped the mic off for Keith to bring back before the borders closed!

Update Dec 2021

CLICK HERE to hear the MCU-53 on Acoustic Guitar.

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

 

Philips LBB9050/05 Dual Capsule Dynamic Microphone 1970

 Philips LBB9050-05

 Philips LBB9050-05

Philips LBB9050-05

Launched in 1970 the LBB9050/05 was Philips flagship dynamic microphone, and was heralded in Philips literature as being a ‘revolutionary new design incorporating high and low frequency systems’. However, a small amount of research reveals more than a passing similarity in technical specifications between the LBB9050/05 and the popular D200 series of microphones by AKG, which had been around for several years.

Philips LBB9050-05

The mystery unravels further, and the true origins of this microphone become clear when we observe the words ‘Made in Austria’ on the packaging, the storage case, and on the microphone itself. Michael Amon, top technician at AKG for 30 years, has confirmed to me that the LBB9050/05 was indeed made by AKG for Philips in 1969.

Box for Philips LBB9050/05

 Philips LBB9050-05 Bass Capsule Ports

Picture above shows Tuchel socket, and ports for the LF capsule.

The Dual Capsule Design.

The original Austrian patent dates from 1960. The full specification appears in the English patent registered by AKG in 1965, and shown below. This makes an interesting read if you want to understand how this clever piece of technology works.

Original AKG Patent for Dual Capsule Microphones

Philips Advertising Leaflets Courtesy of Philips Company Archives.

LBB9050 microphone,

leafletLBB9050 microphone, leaflet, 1971

So What Does It Sound Like CLICK HERE for a short clip of Blues Guitar

In Conclusion

Just like its AKG cousins the D200, D202, D222 and the D224, the Philips LBB9050/05 is a serious quality professional microphone, exhibiting a wide frequency response, tight cardioid polar pattern, and no proximity effect.  Sadly, these days it is much less well known than the AKG models.  But maybe Philips is to blame? If you were to choose a completely unmemorable name for a product you really couldn’t do better than to call it the LBB9050/05!  Two minutes from now you will probably have forgotten it!

 

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!

 

 

Mélodium 76A 1960’s / 70’s

Looking like a cross between a Van Gogh Sunflower and a pepper pot, the Mélodium 76a is a shining gem of chrome and aluminium. A classic of French design!

Melodium 76A Front Grill

In the 1960’s Mélodium developed a variety of modular parts and accessories to give their range of microphones greater versatility and customers more options.

The basic 76A microphone (head) came with a choice of 10 ohms or 200 ohms impedance.

Melodium 76A Head

The mic could be used plugged straight into the cable. (Great for harmonica players!)

If required this handy plug-in transformer converts the 76A from 200 ohms to Hi-Z.

Melodium 76A Transformer

There was also a choice of handles.

Melodium 76A Detachable handle

Melodium 76A with 314 Handle

In this 1970’s Mélodium Catalogue (below) the technical details of the microphones are presented along with a full range of parts and accessories, including goosenecks, tall stands, short stands, table stands and a large selection of adapters, switches and transformers. It is a very comprehensive selection, to cover every possible application.

CLICK Here for MelodiumCatalog

Sadly these days it is hard to find much information about Mélodium. Even in its heyday the company was little known outside of the French speaking world. By the end of the 1970’s Mélodium were no longer in business. Probably wiped out by the superior German and American competition.

Melodium 76A

Finally

Having finished re-soldering all of the joints in my eBay ‘bargain’, I just need to plug it in and find out what it sounds like!

CLICK HERE for Sound clip of Voice and Blackbird in the garden.

Mélodium 76A 1960’s / 70’s Construction Kit!

Mélodium 76A Construction Kit

When the previous owner mentioned in the description that there were ‘a few wiring issues’ with this vintage French PA microphone he wasn’t kidding! (It looked perfect enough in the eBay photograph!)

Was that why it was so cheap, and no one else bid? Hmmm…….

So now for a bit of fun wiring it back together!

I’ll report back if it by some miracle it works!!

P.S.  Just to make things a little more exciting Mélodium have their own plugs and sockets that only fit Mélodium microphones. They are made so that the pins can be moved about in various configurations up to 5 pins! This 431 socket will be 3 pin…… when I get them in the right holes!

Melodium 431 plug

P.P.S  Just noticed that there should be a rubber gland inside the knurled ring at the top!

OKTAVA MD-66a Noise-cancelling Microphone (1979) Brand New!

Oktava MD-66a New Old Stock

A Rare Find! Still wrapped up in it’s original box!

According to the yellowing Russian leaflet pictured above, the Oktava MD-66a is  a ‘Dynamic coil microphone meant for sound amplification of speech and air traffic/transport controllers/officials communications.  One direction microphone.’  (literal translation)

Oktava MD-66a Grill

AKG D58 and Oktava MD66 Frequency Response comparison v2

Although the Oktava MD-66a doesn’t look anything like an AKG D58 it is clear from the 2 frequency response graphs above that the design intention of both mics is fairly similar, with a steep cut from the mid-range downwards and a considerable boost to the frequencies which affect the intelligibility of speech. N.B. The dotted line on the AKG graph shows how the low-end frequency response is restored to flat when the sound source is very close to the mic (bass proximity effect).  Low frequency sound emanating from further away, however, will be greatly attenuated thereby improving the clarity of the close mic’d sound.

Oktava MD-66a Polar Plot

The polar plot also shows a  narrowing of the high frequency response on axis. High frequency sound arriving off axis will therefore be considerably reduced.

Although I don’t have any ‘air traffic’ or ‘transport’  to control or ‘officials communications’  to make, it does occur to me that this neat little noise-cancelling dynamic might have many other uses.

CLICK HERE for Acoustic Guitar & Harmonica.

P.S.    Having taken the MD-66a out on a number of live gigs recently it is currently my favourite mic on snare. It delivers a crisp, fat, punchy sound whilst picking up very little of the bass drum.

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 !