Wednesday, July 31, 2013


     Is there any mellower microphone than a good ribbon?  These velocity mics are strikingly different to most other transducers -- for one thing, the ribbon is operating above its resonant frequency, rather than below it.   No other microphone works that way and it's part of their warmth and lack of "proximity effect." "off mic" sound even at fairly large distances, as long as the speaker is on-axis, facing one of the wider sides. (I was wrong earlier, ribbon mics actually have a lot of up-close bass-boosting proximity effect. I never worked one very closely, they're very sensitive to plosive sounds.)

     A long time ago, I owned an RCA 44BX, the iconic broadcast microphone.  I fell on hard times and sold it (hoping to buy it back some day) and the mic subsequently had a hard life (damaged ribbon, some sort of plating job, paperweight) until I lost track of it.  So when a "baby brother" (about half-size) made by Indiana's own Electro-Voice* turned up for just over $100 at an antique mall, I bought it on sight.
"After."  The base is not original.
     Of course it was dead.  Responded slightly to a fingernail tapped on the frame but not at all to sound, which is a sure sign the ribbon is against a pole piece, or jammed up with lint.  Close examination showed the ribbon well out of alignment and crumpled.  I wrapped it up and set to one side, thinking some day I'd nerve up to try rebuilding it--

     Fast-forward a couple of years; browsing for a microphone for work, I stumbled across AEA, who still make classic RCA microphones.  They're quite expensive and worth every cent.

     They're also beautiful.

     If you look carefully at their home page, you'll see a "repair form" link.  And not just the RCA types; they sell and support the STC/Coles mics made in the UK, too.   So I called and asked their ace service guy (fixing ribbon mics is the darkest of Dark Arts, combining watchmaking, ship-in-a-bottle skills and fine-arts-grade audio talent, and that's just for a start) if he'd consider fixing an Electro-Voice V-1?

     "There's a V-2 on my bench right now, so that'd be a yes."

     I filled out the form and dithered for several weeks.  This could be costly!  On the other hand, while there are several firms making ribbon mics these days (with varying degrees of success. AEA is the gold standard they aspire towards), repairing them is a much scarcer skill and very nearly died out once already.  Shipped the mic and crossed my fingers.

     Several weeks later, at the Dayton Hamvention of all places, my celphone rang.  AEA:  "Hey, what's that weird connector on your V-1?  We haven't got anything that will mate with it!"

     I had to laugh.  "Sorry, I forgot it's only 1937 in my basement.  It's an early hi-Z connector, used on mics and test gear through the 1960s.  You've called me at the one place where I can be sure of finding one; I'll make up an adapter and send it to you."

     The V-1 uses a "spot" connector.  All later E-V ribbon mics were selectable-impedance and had either an unterminated cable or one of the early multi-pin connectors.

     About a month later, they called with my bill.  New ribbon, new magnets, new rubber shockmount, alignment and test, bench time--  I braced for the bottom line.

     About $150.   Well under what I was anticipating.

     Mind you, by their standards, the little E-V is a fairly undemanding repair and the cast-zinc base prevents much cosmetic refinishing (zamak is unpredictable stuff and only gets more so the more you mess with it).  The end result looks better than it did when I bought it, with the grill all clean and shiny, and sounds great.  Output's not very high -- that's a small ribbon, after all -- but well within what a decent mic preamp can deal with.

     I'm tempted to ask them if they'll look at my Amperite ribbon mic:
     These were, shall we say, built to a price.  This one hasn't suffered a lot of zinc-alloy creep, but it's seen entirely too much knocking around and the guy I bought it from, despite his assurances to take exceeding great care, packed it for shipment like you'd pack a brickbat: no padding at all.  ...I think maybe I'll wait a bit before sending this in.  And maybe bake some cookies to send along with it by way of apology, too.

     Electro-Voice V-1: good mic, back in service.
     AEA: They've made me even more of a fan than I already was!
* E-V started out in South Bend, eventually jumping the border for Buchanan, Michigan.  They've built good mics since Day One, if you ask me.


  1. That is sweet! Can't say I'm a microphone geek, but still appreciate good old equipment. And EV, for that matter. Back when I was a sort-of rock vocalist, everyone was using the Shure SM-58, except for one guy using an SM-57, and I with my EV PL-80.

    Every now and then I browse sound equipment. Not that I have any reason to set up a home studio, or own PA gear. Just idle musing, I suppose, though I imagine I'd have fun with a digital audio workstation. Seems to be a lot of emphasis on condenser mics these days. Not that there's anything wrong with them as such, but there seems to be a huge proliferation of them.

    Nothing against the SM58 either; I just tend to gravitate away from whatever it is that everyone else is using.

  2. Well, from at least 1938 until the mid 1970's, when I traded my climbing gear and soldering iron for a different set of tools, that connector was universally called a "Cannon Connector."

    In fact, most of them were branded with the Cannon logo, and they were used on everything from RCA and Heathkit VTVM's, oscilloscope probes, Stancor and Bogen amplifiers, and a host of other apparati.

    They were good connecters up to a KV or so; but tended to carbon track above that. I do not know whether ITT Cannon still makes spares, but someone does.


  3. I've got several E-V mics here for my boat anchors.

    My favorite is my 664 "Buchanan Hammer" with the 419 wrinkle-finish base.

    Sounds absolutely *killer* with my Drake TX4-B.

  4. Stranger, FWIW in my line of work, the three-pin, detent-locking mic connector is known, nearly universally, as a "Cannon connector," and it is used interchangeably with "XLR." The first is historically correct, Cannon (connector-maker to the motion-picture industry) did develop them; but generally only Cannon-made connectors are "type X, Locking, Resilient," the final letter referring to the material in which the contacts are mounted. A "spot" connector has only two terminals and one of them, the outer, is always ground.

    Dr. Jim: the 664 is a good mic. The EIA-connector variant, the 666 (!!!), was what we used at one station I worked for the news booth mics. Uses the same transducer.

  5. Do you think your V-1 might end up hooked to your Challenger? Or is it too fine for such mundane tasks as calling CQ?

  6. Hello there!

    I am just wondering if you have any idea where I/my family could sell and old V-1 microphone. My father passed away and he has a TON of old audio equipment and what not and the microphone is one of the pieces he had. It's in really good condition and I have some photos of it, but I am just not sure where to post anything about it. I did check around for pricing and looked on ebay, but am still not sure where to post it. Any thoughts?

  7. Hi!

    EBay is one option. How much were you hoping to get for it, and do you know if it is working? :)

    "Old audio equipment" can cover a very wide range but please know that older high-end vacuum-tube audio amplifiers, portable-sized mixers and professional processors (compressors, limiters, EQ) in good shape can command *very* high prices on eBay and elsewhere. It may be worth you and your family's time to list it on eBay.

  8. Laurence S. BakerMay 23, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    I have a V-2, connector needs work, paint in back peeling, front looks pristine, would like to sell it for whatever it is worth to someone, long as it finds a good home. Not sure where I got it, but had it for years.