Category Archives: Microphones

Sammy Davis Jr had a crazy fkkn life and he wants you to buy an SM-56

Sammy_1977“Samuel George Davis, Jr. was born in the Harlem section of Manhattan in New York City, as an only child, to Sammy Davis, Sr., an African-American entertainer, and Elvera Sanchez,[9] a tap dancer of Afro-Cuban descent. At age 7, Davis appeared in a film in which he sang and danced with Ethel Waters[10] During his lifetime, Davis, Jr. stated that his mother was Puerto Rican and born in San Juan; however, in the 2003 biography In Black and White, author Wil Haygood writes that Davis, Jr.’s mother was born in New York City, to parents of Cuban, Afro-Cuban, and African-American descent, and that Davis, Jr. claimed he was Puerto Rican because he feared anti-Cuban backlash would hurt his record sales.

“Davis nearly died in an automobile accident on November 19, 1954, in San Bernardino, California, as he was making a return trip from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.[24] The accident occurred at a fork in U.S. Highway 66 at Cajon Boulevard and Kendall Drive (34.2072°N 117.3855°W).[25] Davis lost his left eye as a result. His friend, actor Jeff Chandler, offered one of his own eyes if it would keep Davis from total blindness. The offer was not needed.[26] Davis wore an eye patch for at least six months following the accident.[27][28] He appeared on What’s My Line? wearing the patch.[29] Later, he was fitted for a glass eye, which he wore for the rest of his life.

“While in Community Hospital, in San Bernardino, Davis’ friend, performer Eddie Cantor, told him about the similarities between the Jewish and black cultures. Prompted by this conversation, Davis—who was born to a Catholic mother and Protestant father—began studying the history of Jews. He formally converted to Judaism several years later, in 1961.

“In 1957, Sammy was involved with Kim Novak, a young actress under contract to Columbia Studios. The head of the studio, Harry Cohn, was worried about the negative effect this would have on the studio because of the prevailing taboo against miscegenation. He called his friend, mobster Johnny Roselli, who was asked to tell Davis that he had to stop the affair with Novak. Roselli arranged for Davis to be kidnapped for a few hours to throw a scare into him. His hastily arranged and soon-dissolved marriage to black dancer Loray White in 1958 was an attempt to quiet the controversy.” (SOURCE)

Shure_SM_56The Shure SM-56 (click here to download the specs) was the 2nd generation of the Shure 546, and as far as I can tell they are pretty much the same mic.  We have an 546 at Gold Coast Recorders and it’s my go-to top-of-snare mic.  It sounds pretty similar to an SM-57, but the top end is a little smoother; it seems to mellow things out a bit but without ever sounding dark.   SM-56s and 546s have become outlandishly expensive in the past few years, so if you find a working one of these for under $150, i’d recommend picking it up.  As this 1977 advert shows, the SM56 was sold as late as 1977.


MXL R40 Ribbon Mics are back at M F dot com for $69.99

MXL_R40_test_setupHow are y’all doin on this bright+chilly day.  Wanted to L Y K that the MXL R40 Ribbon Mics are apparently available again for $69 at musicians friend dot com.  Click here to go to their website.  The prices on this item fluctuate wildly, so if you’ve been considering buying your first ribbon mic (or maybe a knock-around unit for live sound use….???), this might be the time to move.

While not a great microphone on the level of a good vintage RCA or Beyer, the MXL sounds surprisingly good when mod’d with an aftermarket transformer.  We ran an article on this easy+inexpensive process some years ago, and it has proven to be one of the most popular articles on PreservationSound.

Click here to read that article.

…And click hear to check out a listening test that we did of 4 different ribbon mics, including the mod’d R40.

Fostex “Regular Phase” Microphones c. 1980

Fostex_M88Download the 4pp 1980 catalog for the original Fostex “Regular Phase” microphone line:

DOWNLOAD: fostex_mics_1980

Models covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Fostex M85RP, M88RP, M80RP, M77RP, and M55RP.

Fostex_M88_M77These mics, like the Fostex RP headphones, use a unique method of transduction that combines elements of dynamic, ribbon, and condenser-mic design.  I’m not 100% sure why they are termed ‘regular phase,’ but I suspect that it might be because the design works without any driver suspension.  You may not have realized before, but consider a generic woofer, and the acordian folds in the suspension:  at any moment of driver excursion, portions of the suspension will necessarily be moving out-of-phase with the cone.  This is a significant cause of transducer distortion.  By eliminating the suspension, that particular distortion factor is eliminated.  Here’s a cutaway of the Fostex design:


I’ve seen a few of these things on eBay from time to time, generally from ex-US sellers, and I’ve never seen one in the flesh, so I imagine that they are pretty rare in the US.  The catalog that I’ve scanned above was actually printed in Canada, so I can’t even say for sure if these were sold in the US.  I am super-curious, though, as I have always really loved the Fostex RP headphone line (I own a pair of T50, a pair of T40, and several pairs of T20s), and I’ve also had good luck with the classic Fostex full-range Banana Cone hi-fi drivers, so these mics seem like something I might dig.  Anyone?


Neumann FET 80 Condensor Microphones c.1973

Neumann_1973_catalogDownload the 6pp 1973 Neumann FET 80 microphone catalog:

DOWNLOAD: Neumann_Fet80_1973

Models covered, with text, specs, and photos, include: Neumann KM 83, KM 84, KM 85, 87, and 88; KMS 85; U87, U47 FET, SM 69 FET, and KMA lav mic.

Neumann_U87_1973I have a U87 from this first era, and although it has its share of scars, it never fails to impress.  Expensive but worth it…  these things just WORK.

Neumann_KM_Mics_1973For our scan of the 1980 Neumann FET 80 catalog, click here…

AKG’s “Two-Way” dual-transducer dynamic mics c. 1970

AKG_Two_way_mics_1970Download the 6pp 1970 catalog for AKG’s ‘Two-way” dynamic mics, the D-200E, D-202E, and D-224E:

DOWNLOAD: AKG_2way_mic_1970

As the image above suggests, these operate exactly as you’d expect: there are separate ‘woofer’ and ‘tweeter’ elements, with a crossover at 500hz.  Although the specs are quite good, i’ve never picked these up when I had the chance…  just seems like they’ve gotta sound a little weird?  Anyone?  Anyone still using these?  How do they compare to (x)?

AKG_D224E AKG_D202E AKG_Two_way_mics_Diagram AKG_D200E

RCA’s ‘Starmaker’-brand prosumer mics of the 70’s

Starmaker_RCADownload an eight-panel catalog for the RCA “Starmaker” lineup of 1970s prosumer microphones:

DOWNLOAD: RCA_Starmaker_Mics

Not to be confused with the RCA BK-4 “Starmaker” hand-held ribbon mic of the 1950s, these later Starmakers were cheap prosumer and consumer units.  Models on offer included the Starmaker 96, 97, 98, 101, 99, and 100.  The top-of-the-range 96 has decent specs and useful features; gonna keep an eye out for that one.


More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Old Swedish Microphones

Milab_1981Download about a million pages of product information regarding the complete MILAB microphone line circa 1981 (presented in two parts due to file size):

DOWNLOAD PART 1: Milab_1981_1

DOWNLOAD PART 2: Milab_1981_2

For the low low price of (no fkkn dollars), you’ll get: The MILAB 1981 catalog, price list, product sheets (some of which are quite extensive) on the DC20, DC21, DC63, DC73, DC96, MSXY-8 ETC., as well as a price list and a very confusing attempt at an explanation of what MIPOW phantom-power is (seems like normal Phantom Power except that pin 1 is +48v rather than pins 2 and 3 being +48v relative to pin 1????).


I’ve never used, seen, or, to my knowledge, heard any of these microphones; frankly, I haven’t even read these documents.  It’s too hot out and i’ve had too much wine.  I would imagine that they are pretty decent tho; been hunting for one on eBay for a year now, no luck yet.  Something odd about Swedish products:  while Swedish culture itself has a reputation in America for sex-i-ness (cemented by this classic film, BTW), Swedish products have quite the opposite affect.

Anyway, here’s some pictures of old microphones.

Milab_MSXY Milab_f69 Milab_DC96 Milab_DC73 Milab_DC63 Milab_DC20

Audio Technica ‘Mic Selector’ gadget c. 1979

AT_Selector_1Came across this charming lil ‘Recording Microphone Selector’ interactive marketing-gimmick.

AT_selector_2Inside the cardboard sleeve (which offers frequency-distribution information regarding various musical devices/situations) is a two-piece device.  When pulled/tugged, the device responds by suggesting which A/T offering might best suit your needs.

AT_Selector_3The rear of this slide-rule goes so far as to then suggest where-to-stick said microphone.

AT_selector_4Nice to see that my A/T 813 rates so highly in this competition, garnering numerous “Number-Ones.”

On a more serious note, tho, despite my initial lack of enthusiasm over my $50 eBay-d 813, it seems to be proving its mettle… it gets used weekly for acoustic slide gtr and mandolin in conjunction with my DIY’d REDD47 mic pre…  mainly because it does not require phantom power, true, but it’s hanging tough alongside the much more expensive AKG 451 nonetheless.  Gotta get around to that SDC shoot-out one of these days…

“The Microphone Wardrobe,” Absurd Audio-Technica Offering c. 1981

AT_Mic_WardrobeCan you say “Costume Change!”

“Top artists told us what they wanted, and we listened.”


In 1981 you could apparently purchase an Anvil-briefcase loaded with seven ATM-41 mics, each in a different color.  Seven corresponding mic cables were also included, as well as… touch-up-paint.  The price of admission to this zenith of vanity?  $1595 (list), aka $4080 at the pump this week.