Tag Archives: shure

Highlights from the 1970 AES Convention, Los Angeles, CA

GRT_deckabove: the GRT 500 audio-tape evaluator c. 1970

Just in case you were too-young/too-hypothetical to have attended, we are pleased to bring you highlights from the 1970 convention of the Audio Engineering Society (via ye olde DB Magazine, r.i.p.).   You can download the whole shebang here…


…and we’ve also reproduced it below for your browsing enjoyment.  Products on offer at that time include: mixing consoles from Electrodyne, Gately, Quad-Eight, Spectra-sonics, Fairchild, Langevin, and Altec.  Opamp labs had kits on offer as well.  Tape machines include 3M, Otari ‘of Japan,’ Teac 7030, GRT 500, Norelco (Phillips) pro-51, Sony Superscope TC-850, and Ampex. Dolby’s model 360 N/R system debuted, as did the Melcor ‘all electronic’ reverb and the Urei LA-3. New microphones on offer included the Electro-voice DS-35 and the Shure SM-53.


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.


Some interesting mid-60s broadcast mics


Today: just a round-up of some broadcast mics that caught my eye for some or another reason:  above, the ‘Stanford-Omega’ condenser mic.  This is an odd one.  Anyone?

EV_666_1965EV (electrovoice) 666.  I think I have mentioned this one about a million times already:  it’s the predecessor to the RE-20, a mic that I have used+ dig more than almost any other. EV 666’s appear in just a ton of great-sounding old TV music-broadcasts… Miles Davis on PBS comes to mind…  I must have bid on these things on eBay about 20 times. No luck yet.  Soon enough.  Oh but BTW I finally did get an RE15 (and not cheap either…) and it is really, really underwhelming.  Still my faith persists…

Sony_TeleMic_1965Sony TELEMIKE circa 1964, with an (up-to) seven-foot probe!  And it comes with a built-in headphone amp.  Wild…

AKG_1965AKG D-12 and C-60 circa 1963, a few years before the D-12 became the industry-standard in kick-drum mic’ing.  AKG recently sent me one of their new D-12 ‘VR’ models to review, and it’s pretty great, although not a re-issue in any strict sense…  full review to come soon.

EV_655_1965And finally the EV 655, another favorite of mine…  just great sounding omni mics, pretty incredible fidelity for units that were introduced in 1951.  Lots more on this site about them.

Shure SE-1 RIAA phono pre-amp circa 1964

Shure_SE1_preampAbove, Shure’s SE-1 RIAA phono pre.  I would love to see the schematic for this is anyone can direct me to it.  The specs look extremely good.  These seem to go for a pretty penny on eBay and seems like a worthwhile thing to DIY.  Anyone?Shure_Broadcast_1964And above, again, this time next to Shure’s 576, 570, 546 (AKA SM-56) and 333 mics.  I have the ‘other’ broadcast – quality Shure Ribbon, the 300, and I like it alright…  had it re-ribboned by Stephen Sank and it’s decent.  The 300 definitely sounds v v vintage but it’s a useable sound.  Really want a 333.  This is the same as an SM-33, yes?  No?  anyone using these things lately?

A Few Interesting Mics of the 70s

Shure_SM53_1972Today at PS dot com: 70’s month nears its close with a quick look at some promising but lesser-known mics of the 70s.  If you are using any of these pieces in the studio these days, drop us a line and weigh in.  above: the Shure SM53, a high-end dynamic cardiod that seems to maybe have been Shure’s answer to the RE15?  I’ve been trying to pick one these up on eBay, no luck yet… anyone?

EV_RE15_1975And speaking of the RE15…  after watching the prices slowly rise on eBay for the past year, I finally picked up one of these..  expect some audio clips/shoot-out here soon.  I always ignored these in the past, i figured, I have an RE20, what’s the point…  but I finally had to know.  I recently worked with a contractor/tech from a major live-sound company who had 1/2 the stage mic’d with these things, swears by ’em…  anyway, I am super-curious.  They are apparently very hi-fi with very accurate off-axis response.  More to come…

Turner_TC10_1972While on the subject of dynamic mics…  above, the Turner Model 10 circa 1972.  Those of you who’ve been following PS for a while will know that I am a big fan of obscure Turner models, especially the flagship models like the 510…  I recently bought my second 510 for Gold Coast Recorders and I have to sadly report that it is not as awesome as the example I have had for years… Anyway, the Model 10 seems to have been a replacement for the 500/510 series…  there is a super-rare Model 11 (likely the ‘selected’ hi-fi version of the Model 10) on eBay right now for really cheap…  might be a good purchase for anyone looking for more interesting dynmics mics…

AKG_D124_1972Above, the AKG D190 and D124!  Finally some info on the D124…  these turn up in my old 70s AKG catalogs (most of which you can download here on PS dot com), and I actually use this as the console talkback mic at GCR, but I had not realized that it was the replacement for the D-24.  The D-124 is an amazing little piece of engineering, very nice smooth sound and incredibly small in size.  D-190s are much more common, I tend to see these on CRList quite often.

Shure_SM5_1969Above: Shure SM5 circa 1969.  I love the similar SM7, use it regularly, it seems to have become somewhat of a standard-bearer vocal mic these days…  artists actually ask for it in the studio the same way some will ask for an 87 or 47 or 58….  The SM5 is much less common, no longer made, and consequently extremely expensive.  Are any of y’all using SM5s for music or vocal recording these days?  Thoughts?

Sony_Mics_1969Above: Sony ‘Superscope’ branded C-77, C-37, and C-55 circa 1969.  A C-37 or C-37 Fet is very high on my wish-list…  Never used any of these models.. anyone?

EV_RE55_1969Above: the Electrovoice RE55 is introduced (1969).  Interesting to see that the RE55 was the successor to the 655.  I have a pair of 655 at GCR, very very old pair circa 1950, and wow they sound great.  Fairly high self-noise for a dynamic, but for drum overheads it’s never a problem.  Anyone using the RE55?  Seem pretty uncommon…

AKG_C412_mic_1972Above: The AKG 412 circa 1972.  Seems to be the final evolution of the C12 prior to introduction of the still-standard 414.  Anyone using a 412?  Is it significantly different than a circa 70s 414?

Vacuum-Tube Output Stage for Shure Level Loc

Many of my regular readers will be familiar with the Shure Level-Loc.  For those unfamiliar, the basics:  the Level-Loc is a brickwall limiter made by the Shure microphone company for public-address-system use (podium mics, specifically) in the 1960s.   It uses discrete transistors and transformers in the signal path; it offers balanced mic-level i/o and an unbalanced consumer-level 10K ohm impedance output as well.  There is an input-level control (simply a pot that follows that secondary of the input transformer) and a switch marked ‘distance selector,’ which seems to me to be a threshold control.  That’s it for control.  It is fairly noisy (full-bandwidth noise), even after a recap,  and the transformers are not especially well-shielded.  It runs off of a 9V battery.  For more information on the Level-Loc, you might want to start here.

Anyhow…seems like a toy/piece-of-junk and maybe it is, but these things have become highly coveted for use in recording rock drum performances.  How much so? Well, how many other prosumer PA-system pieces are currently available as a plug-in, an API-500 series module, and a boutique re-build? (image source for above)

I recently picked up a clean Shure Level-Loc for a few dollars at a yard sale; after the aforementioned re-cap (and we’re talking about 20 capacitors here…), it was sounding like it was probably operating within its original design parameters.  I was intrigued, and figured it might be worth getting it into the racks at Gold Coast Recorders to see what it could do.   GCR is a big, live-sounding room, so there’s plenty of sound to get out of it with a squashed compressor.  The only potential problem: the Level-Loc offers only mic-level or low-level medium-impedance output.  I like to run my mic preamps directly into the Lynx convertors; so for the most direct signal, I would need a bridging amp to bring up the level and lower the impedance of the Level-Loc.  It would be nice to have an output level control too, and I wanted the piece to be as physically small as possible so that it could sit directly next to the Level-Loc on a 2RU rack shelf.  Here’s what I did to solve all of these problems and fold the Level Loc into the studio alongside all the other outboard mic preamps.


Most of the RCA Receiving Tube manuals have a schematic for some sort of ‘audio input amplifier’; I wanted one that would provide about 20db of gain as well as a very low-impedance output so that I could drive a 15K:600 output transformer easily (I used an NOS UTC Ouncer to save space).  Based on this i selected the circuit above RCA manual # RC-24.  One 12AU7 tube.  Simple, easy.  The physically smallest plate/filament transformer that I had on hand was an NOS Stancor 120v:120V/6.3V, so I used the voltage-doubler B+ supply circuit as-found in the Altec 1566 and 438:  here is that schematic via Tangible Technology:

power_2b  For once i actually did not bother wiring up a DC filament supply, since the gain of the unit is pretty low.  This was the right choice, as i can hear no hum at all in the finished unit.  I added a 500K pot at the input jack and voila.  The whole thing fit inside one of those aluminum Bud Boxes that some folks use for DIY’ing guitar effects pedals.  I left the power transformer bolted outside the unit on the rear; it’s always a good idea to keep power transformers away from audio transformers if you can.   Here’s the interior of the unit:

…and below you can see the finished piece.  Not my finest piece of industrial design but it does the job.  I put the 1/4″ TS input on the front of the unit so that I can use it as a DI input for Keyboards ETC if the need arises.  The circular grill on the top surface of the piece is a heat-vent positioned directly above the 12AU7 tube.

The unit performs well, especially considering that there are only two stages of filtering in the power supply.  I always use four stages of filtering in the equipment that I build for customers, with at least one choke; I was curious this time to see how the basic Altec B+ scheme worked, though, and it seems just fine!  People love their 1566s and 438s so fukk it.  Good enough is sometimes good enough…

Above, the two units side-by side.  So how does it sound?  TW and I were putting down live drums on a track at GCR and here’s the result we got.

First, the drumbeat: close-mics only: CloseOnly

Here’s the same mix, but with the Level Loc signal added: in this case, the Level Loc was amplifying a figure-8 ribbon mic 20 feet from the kit, with the null of the mic facing the kit; the waveform was then re-aligned to eliminate some of the delay: withLevelLoc

And finally, the Level-loc signal only: LevelLocOnly

The Level-Loc is aptly named.  Regardless of what you put in – a baby’s breath or an atomic blast – you get the saaaaame level out.  Zero dynamics.  It’s pretty uncanny.  And a great sound for heavy rock drum beats.  This is the 2nd track that I have used it on in a week and I think it will continue to get a lot of use at the studio.   The output of the balancing amp is a little low – even with the input attenuator all the way open it cannot quite get to full level via the Lynx convertors.  It’s good enough, but it could stand to put out a few more DB.  If you build one of these devices for use with your Level-loc you might consider using a 15K:60K interstage transformer at the input to get a little bit more level out of it; or re-bias the two stages in order to use a 12AT7 instead of the 12AU7.

The Mics of ’42

Download a four-page catalog scan of the microphones of offer from Allied Radio in 1942:

DOWNLOAD: Mics_Of_1942

Models covered, with photos, text, and some specs, include: Astatic T-3, JT-30TT, GT-3, N-30, and DN mics; Shure 708-A, 750-B, 730A Uniplex, 55c, 55a, and 555 Unidyne, Shure 7A, 705A, and 70H Crystal microphones; Electrovoice 630, 640, and Cardax dynamics, and V-2, V-1 ribbon mics; Amperite PGL Dynamic and RBHK and RBMK ribbon mics; RCA MI-6205 Aerocrystal Microphone; Bruno WS, SS, and HS high-impedance ribbon mics; plus more.

Bruno Microphones Circa 1942

Astatic Crystal Microphones Circa 1942

Electrovoice and Universal Crystal Microphones of 1942.   The most primitive of microphones.  I recently got the chance to use my ancient Lifetime Model Six Carbon mic on a contemporary vocal session.  It actually worked out great.  This is ATLANTIC CITY, my studio project with T.W.  LISTEN: Ten Past Midnight

Electrovoice and Amperite Ribbon Mics c. 1942

Shure Cardiod Mics c. 1942

PA systems of the Seventies

Gibson GPA-100 PA system circa ’73

Seems like ‘100 watts’ was the likely answer to all yr PA system needs in the seventies.  I can’t imagine how folks were using SVTs and Twin Reverbs side-by-side with 100 watts for vocal reinforcement but i guess you use whatcha got!  Old guitars amps, keyboards, pedals, guitars…  they all seem to become ‘collectible’ or ‘vintage’ eventually.  Old PA systems… not so much.

Shure Vocal Master.  Goddamn they made a lot of these things.  Some are still in use.

Ovation IC One Hundred PA System

Randall RPA-6 PA system. 

The Yamaha Ensemble Mixing system.  Model is EM-90 I believe.  I bought one of these for $100 at a guitar shop in Hollywood about a decade ago.  It’s a powered mixer/PA head with a built-in analog beatbox and a great-sounding reverb tank.  The high-impedance instrument inputs also distort pretty nicely.  AKA the-KILLS-in-a-box.

Shure Unisphere Microphone

Mick and Keith on a lone Unisphere

The Shure Unisphere was the predecessor to the ubiquitous SM-58.  It’s basically a dual-impedance SM-58 from what I can gather.  Check out these 40-year old adverts for the Unisphere and consider that despite all we’ve experienced in audio-technology in the past four decades, we’re all still basically using the same vocal mic on stage.  Pretty incredible…

Rod Stewart with the Shure Unisphere

The Fifth Dimension with Shure Unisphere