Here are the photos of two older Cascade LDC microphones. I can’t find any information on them but will update this post as I acquire information.
Microphone manufacturers seem to have a thing about being confusing about model numbers. The Shure 55 has been around since at least the 1940s and in many different incarnations from the original “fat boy” to the latest 55SH with its Unidyne 3 cartridge. AKG may have set a record with the many different versions of the venerable 414.
RØDE is no different with the NT1 which was their first studio condenser microphone. They then developed the NT1A. and now have released their new NT1 which has little in common with the original NT1 except for the headbasket. The new NT1 is far superior to the old one with a self-noise of just 4.5 dbA and a very smooth response as opposed to the original one’s hyped high-end response.
I see confusion on the forums all of the time where people think the new mike is the same as the old, a Chinese import with a hyped high-end, when in reality this latest version of the mike has a custom designed, edge-terminated capsule, and the capsule and the microphone are all built in RØDE’s factory in Australia.
My dislike for the name aside, this microphone is an amazing value and I would highly recommend it. It needs to be in your microphone locker.
We’ll take a look inside the new RØDE NT1 in this first new video of our “Inside” series.
I have always liked the Groove Tubes resonator capsule design since it adds diversity to my mike locker. Over the past couple of years, I have acquired a couple of GT-55s and the successor to it, the Sterling ST-55, as they became available on eBay.
So, when micparts came up with the T84-55 circuit kit, I jumped at the chance to have a microphone with the resonator capsule and upgraded electronics and was near the beginning of the line to get the new kit. I decided to video the modification process in case anyone would like to see what is involved in a mike mod if they are anticipating one or just curious.
Here’s a video of the whole process. Micparts does a superb job on their instruction manuals with step-by-step instructions and color photos. If you have the ability to solder and can follow instructions, the process should yield success.
The micparts T84-55 circuit kit is available on the micparts website.
I’ve had this Electro-Voice mike in my collection for a number of years, but never bothered to test it since it had an Amphenol MC-3 connector on it and I didn’t have the proper cable. But, I acquired a box of Amphenol connectors recently, so I thought it was time to check out this classic mike.
This is a large microphone, comparable in size to my Shure 556 “fat-boy, Elvis” microphone. It weighs in at about 2 ½ pounds. The best I can tell, it first appeared on the market in the late 1940s.
According to the EV spec sheet:
The CARDYNE microphones are cardioid unidirectional dynamic types operating on the E-V Mechanophase principle. They utilize dual phase shifting diaphragms to produce a high degree of uni-directivity at all frequencies.
The CARDYNE models are designed for extremely accurate reproduction of music and speech. The directivity gives it unusual versatility in increasing the working distance from the user by reducing reverberation and acoustic feedback. High output provides an excellent signal-to-noise ratio for broadcasting studio pick-up.
My unit is in excellent physical condition externally, but I decided to open up the mike to make sure the insides were OK before wiring up the new cable. Two screws on the back loosened the rear of the case and two screws under that loosened the front cover.
The insides were clean and not corroded, but all of the rubber shock-mount material had hardened and some of it turned to powder. Since the cartridge assembly just flopping around inside the case, I needed to replace all of the shock-mount material.
This microphone achieves its cardioid directionality by means of a resonance chamber that is part of the dynamic cartridge assembly. This assembly rests against a block of sponge rubber that is about ½ in. thick, 1 inch high, and two inches long. I was easily able to cut a replacement piece from a piece of ½ rubber that I had and glued it into place. There were a couple of bumpers on the front of the cartridge assembly that rested against the front of the case. These I replaced with pieces of self-adhesive rubber that I cut from a sheet that I bought from a craft store.
The shock mounts that held the back of the resonator to the mike frame were not as simple. What I needed were eight ½ inch diameter rubber washers, ¼ inch thick, with a ¼ inch hole in the center. I used a hole punch to punch the ½ circles out of a sheet of rubber, and then punched a ¼ inch hole in each one of those. These were close enough in size that I was able to re-assemble the shock mounts with the new rubber pieces, tighten the screws, and verify that is worked properly.
I double-checked the wiring inside of the mike to make sure that I hadn’t broken any wires, and then put the mike back together. I didn’t have any silk or thin foam to replace the windscreen inside the shell, but it was in fairly good shape, so I’ll save that for a later date. I then used my Dremel tool with a brass brush to remove oxidation from the exterior of the mike, and it cleaned up nicely.
I wired up a new cable for the mike to go from the Amphenol connector on the mike to a standard male XLR connector. I set the impedance switch on the back of the mike to “Low” and plugged the mike in. It worked.
Then, into the studio for some comparative recordings between this E-V mike and the Shure 556. The E-V is brighter and has a higher output than the Shure. Both mikes seem to have a significant amount of distortion. I am guessing that the capsules in both mikes are showing their age and may have some damage. Replacement capsules of the same type are not available. I could upgrade to a newer capsule, but then they would no longer be vintage mikes.
So, I’ll just be on the lookout for NOS capsules on eBay. There was a NOS capsule for a Shure 55S on eBay this week, but the mounting is entirely different that the 556, so I passed on it even though it is probably the same capsule. These mikes will be mostly for decoration, except for that occasional funky recording project that pops up now and then.
What is interesting is the amount of mechanical apparatus that was needed back in the 40s to create a directional mike. My new Electro-Voice N/D 468 microphones provide hyper-cardioid directionality and great sound in a package that has probably 1/8 the volume of the old 726. We’ve come a long way in the past 70 years!
Microphone kits are readily available these days, at least for condenser and ribbon microphones, but that certainly wasn’t the case in the early 1960s. I was what today we would call a geek in my younger years, so when I saw the ad for the American Basic Science Club kits in the back of an electronics magazine, I talked my parents into subscribing me to the set of 8 monthly kits for my tenth birthday.
James S. Kerr created the American Basic Science Club in 1957 and operated the company into the early 1980s. The kits were elegantly designed so that you could reuse many of the items for different experiments and it certainly was a wonderful introduction to science and technology with a lot of emphasis on learning the basic principles of electronics, optics, and many other areas. The ad below shows all of the different experiments that one could do and the kits evolved and expanded over their lifetime with the addition of an analog computer later on.
These kits contained a lot of electronics projects with vacuum tube circuitry. Mine used three octal tubes, but later kits used miniature tubes. The company never made the transition to solid state circuitry.
One of the projects was an AM radio transmitter, and that project required a microphone, so included in the kit were parts to build a carbon microphone from scratch. I built it, it worked, and so began my saga with microphones and audio. I don’t have any of the pieces of the original kits except maybe for the tuning capacitor.
A few years ago, the nostalgia bug bit and I started buying some of the American Basic Science Club kits on eBay as they showed up for sale, fortunately before the prices shot up. I managed to acquire most of the whole set at that time. I keep some of the pieces on display, but most of the kits are still in their original boxes.
I thought it might be fun to construct that microphone again, so I started rummaging through the boxes and managed to find all the pieces to assemble the same mike that I had built 55 years earlier. The instructions were very basic, and it was certainly a little bit of a challenge. I wondered how I was able to accomplish it when I was only ten years old, but I probably had a bit of help from my dad who could build just about anything.
A carbon microphone works as a variable resistor. Carbon grains are loosely held in a small chamber between two metal contacts. One of the contacts is attached to the diaphragm of the microphone, and the vibrations of the diaphragm from sound move the carbon granules and vary the resistance at the vibrational rate. A small DC bias current is passed through the microphone, and thus a varying voltage is generated. If you hook a carbon microphone, a headphone and a battery in series, you’ve built a simple telephone.
The body of this microphone was stamped out of masonite. The hole in the handle was the chamber that held the carbon particles. A tinfoil layer covered the bottom of the hole and contacted the carbon granules. A screw head attached to the diaphragm made contact with the other end of the granules.
There were few instructions, and I needed to rely on the drawing for most of the assembly. The screw head from the diaphragm passed through a little square of plastic bag that was glued across the top of that cavity to keep the carbon granules from leaking out. The type of glue wasn’t specified, and I kept choosing the wrong kind and softening the piece of plastic bag and having the carbon grains leak out. I finally used a piece of double-stick tape to attach the plastic bag, and ended up with a non-leaking microphone.
I applied a 9V bias to the microphone through a resistor and coupled the signal from the microphone to the line input of an amplifier through a capacitor.
And just like the first one, I had a working microphone. Not exactly hi-fi, not even telephone quality, but able to reproduce understandable speech. I still find it amazing that you can build a working microphone with the simplest of parts and basic hand tools.
It’s amazing the number of small manufacturers creating great microphones. It’s good to have a “palette” of different sounding microphones to record with, and the large number of companies building quality microphones and providing modification kits and services makes it easier to build a diverse microphone collection.
I’ve acquired Studio Projects C1 and C3 microphones as these microphones have outstanding electronics. Both the “B” and “C” series Studio Projects microphones use a transformerless circuit based on the Schoeps design. Brent Casey of PMI adapted the design and it is built with quality components. Some find the microphone a little too bright and there are a couple of solutions.
I have upgraded the circuit in the C1 with an upgrade kit from microphone-parts.com. This mod kit provides an adjustable high-frequency roll-off to tame the brightness of the microphone. If you have never modified a microphone before, this kit is a good place to start because it is very simple, and the C1 and C3 microphones are large and easy to work on.
Another way to reduce the high-end on the mike is to replace the capsule with a darker capsule like the MicParts RK-47. With this capsule, the EQ kit isn’t necessary. I replaced the capsule in the C3 with an RK-47 capsule. I’m looking for another C3 that I will modify with the circuit upgrade kit and install an RK-12, AKG style capsule. I used these mikes on a brass section and they sounded great. I can’t wait to try them out on other sources including vocals.
I’m starting to organize some of the stuff I brought from the old studio and found this old Shure Model 556B “Fatboy” microphone that I bought at a flea-market, probably about 15 years ago. It was one of the original Unidyne, 55 series mikes, and I bought it mostly for decorative purposes.
The 556B is the mike that Elvis and others used at Memphis Recording Service during some of their early recordings for Sun Records. (Not this particular microphone, but the same model.)
The 556B that I have is a broadcast mike, whereas the 555 is a general purpose microphone. Bob LaJeunesse tells me that the data sheet has a 1942 date, so the mike could be pretty old. The “B” indicates that the impedance is 200-250 ohms. Strangely, when Shure introduced the Unidyne II in 1951 which is about 2/3 the size of the original Unidynes, they kept the same model numbers for the new microphones. So there was a Unidyne 556 like mine and a smaller Unidyne II 556. Very confusing. The smaller Unidyne II was re-issued several years ago, with a more modern cartridge, and is still available new.
Model number trivia aside, I plugged the mike in this morning, which I thought I had never done, but Kevin Mileski reminded me we used it on his first album – the memory is going. A quick check proves it still sounds really great. Rumor has it that we’ll be using it on some vocal sessions shortly, stay tuned.
I was aware of the possibility that I would occasionally have a problem with recording due to external noise that was beyond my control. It could be a lawnmower, chainsaw or any of a variety of outdoor tools and appliances, and it could happen at any time. I hadn’t had an opportunity to gauge the amount of threat that existed. Until last week.
There were several large maples and a pear tree that were shading my garden so much that I soon wouldn’t have enough sunlight to grow vegetables, so I contracted to have the trees removed. The crew worked quickly and efficiently and once enough of the trees were down, it was time to grind up the branches.
They parked the large chipper in my driveway, which put it 15-20 feet from my basement control room. If you have never been near an operating wood chipper, they are one of the loudest mechanical devices you will ever encounter. This machine would be the ultimate test of sound isolation for my new studio.
Once the engine was going and they were grinding branches and limbs on a continuous basis, I headed for the basement. I sat in the control room with the chipper less than 20 feet away, and although audible, it would not have been disruptive to a recording or mixing session.
I went out to the studio and listened. If I listened really hard, it was just barely audible. I can’t think of any close-miking situation where the sound would have gotten into the recording. That was excellent news! I was convinced that no matter what is going on outside, recording or mixing wouldn’t be disturbed. After this, if any outdoor sounds disrupt a recording session, I know that I probably have a lot bigger problems than an interrupted session.
My friend, Bill, had a problem with his guitar amp and since I had a tube tester, I told him to bring it over, and I would test the tubes, and hopefully be able to get it working again. We got to talking about how some people upgrade the tubes, replace the capacitors and tweak everything to get the “perfect” sound. Then he said, “All they do is mess with the equipment, but never play any music.” It’s about the music. It’s about the music.
Now, some people are into recording because they love working on equipment and the recording part is almost incidental. I get that, and it’s perfectly OK, as long as it’s not an excuse to avoid the hard work of producing something creative and of lasting value.
Equipment is only a means to an end, and what matters most is the creative process and the end result.
A high-end German microphone is not going to fix a voice that needs training and practice.
More plug-ins, better preamps and whatever other equipment you lust after is not going to make up for inexperienced engineering and failure to spend lots of time learning your craft.
More effects and more tracks cannot fix a poorly arranged song.
I have a friend, Paul, who plays upright bass in a trio with two guitar players. They all sing. They needed a demo and were going to come into the studio, but we had trouble scheduling a time. They finally decided that since they were producing a demo to get more work, a mono demo would be adequate and they decided to record with a single mike. They spent their time balancing their mix and making it sound good in that one mike. I’m sure they’ll have a more than acceptable demo, and they probably honed their performance techniques a bit in that process. It’s about the music. The people who are booking them for a live gig really don’t care about how their demo was recorded or what mike they used.
If you are just learning guitar, you don’t need a $10,000 classic Martin. A $200 beginning guitar will work just fine. And remember, a guitar player who has been honing his craft for 30 years is going to produce some fantastic music out of that $200 beginner’s guitar, and a 2nd-year guitar student on a $10,000 Martin is still going to sound like a beginner.
So, it’s really about balance. Find some good music and musicians to record, learn your craft well, and then worry about the fine points of the equipment. We are at a unique place in the evolution of recording technology in that professional quality recording equipment is available at such a low price point that equipment purchase is no longer a large barrier to building a small or home studio. However, just because the gear is capable of great results doesn’t make those results automatic. Like mastering any instrument, learning how to produce good recordings takes lots of practice and time. Purchasing better equipment is no short cut to the process, any more than acquiring a Steinway is going to instantly make you an accomplished pianist.
So, don’t worry too much about that classic German microphone at the beginning. Once you’ve honed your craft for a while, getting better preamps and microphones will be another incremental step in improving your product. No “magic microphone” is going to let you skip the years of learning and practicing.
When I started in the recording business in 1973, my work was primarily live concert recording for schools and churches. My location setup was a Teac 7030 2-track reel-to-reel recorder, a Shure M-688 stereo mixer, and two Sony ECM-22P Electret condenser microphones.
Sony’s ECM series of electret microphones were a game-changing innovation in condenser microphones when they were first introduced in 1968. First of all, the electret capsule in the microphone did not require a separate bias voltage. Electret technology allowed a permanent electrical charge to be applied to either the diaphragm or the backplate of the microphone capsule, similar to the way a permanent magnet is magnetized, except in this case it is an electrical field rather than a magnetic field.
Elimination of this need for external bias meant that there was less circuitry inside the microphone and no external bias power supply was required. Phantom power had only made its way into microphone technology a few years prior, so most condenser microphones still had an external power supply.
The other innovation was the use of a JFET transistor amplifier for the electret capsule. Solid state circuitry was only introduced into condenser microphones a few years before this, so many condenser microphones still required heavy, bulky power supplies for their vacuum tube amplifiers. In fact, the Neumann U-87 solid state microphone was released in 1972.
So the ECM-22P was a real innovation and quite revolutionary. It brought the cost of a quality condenser microphone within reach of the small and home studio owner and was one of the products that helped fuel the home recording revolution. I paid about $100 each for the pair of microphones at that time.
This mike was powered by an Eveready 206 9V battery which was expensive and hard to find, or from phantom power. I didn’t have a phantom powered mixer at the time, and there were few, if any, available. If you forgot to turn the switch on the mike off, it was likely the battery would be drained the next time you needed to use it.
The circuitry in the microphone was very simple with a single JFET driving an output transformer with a switchable 600 or 250-ohm output. The power switch had three positions, Off, Music, and Voice. The voice position engaged a low-frequency roll off filter.
The ECM-22P is a cardioid microphone with a rated frequency response of 40-15,000 kHz. The signal-to-noise ratio was 66 dB, which is quite noisy by today’s standards, but a little better than the signal-to-noise of a reel-to-reel recorder running at 15 ips. with high-bias mastering tape. So the mikes performed well for me for some years.
I bought another pair of the microphones when I moved from my home studio into a commercial space in 1976. I still have all four of them, and they all still work even though I don’t use them anymore. I eventually replaced them in the early 1980’s with Shure SM-81 microphones which still get a lot of use today.