Thursday, May 25, 2006

World's firstt phantom powered ribbon microphone


Boston based recordist, engineer, music critic, and generally interesting person Micha Schattner (WGBH, WBUR, BAS, NPR and many others) stopped by the lab with his ultra rare Cambridge Microphone ribbon mics which he uses quite often. Cambridge Microphone was created by inventor Charles P Fisher in the late 1960's and his innovations, which include the tapered pole piece arrangement and tapered adjustable ribbon, resulted in US Patent 3,435,143. These were built in the mid 70's and used a +48VDC supply.

By the way, where the heck is Charles P Fisher? Anybody know?

It is quite unusual in design, and has a transformer coupled amplifier/emitter follower powered by a split 15V external supply. All of the electronics except the supply are in the body of the mic.

The mic in the picture has a stretched ribbon, which is common in all aluminum ribbon microphones. We're going to replace this ribbon, make some measurements, and get the mic back in service this week.

7 comments:

Larry said...

Crazy mic, love the adjustable side towers. So simple.

Bob Crowley said...

It is very elegant. I am impressed with the flatness of this mic and it has a sound that I also like.

Bbob

Peter S said...

If I am correct this is one of four microphones Charlie fisher made for me, and which I sold to Micha. They are not phantom powered. The mics included an amplifier in the microphone, designed, I believe, by René Jaeger at DBX. It had an unbalanced output nominally at around -20dbu.. There was a power supply box near the mixer. Mic cables were special, with at least four leads (maybe 6) including separate leads for audio and power. I believe the audio output from the supplies was by RCA or Din connectors. This was an excellent and dead reliable system. I could run 150' cables, and never had hum or rf detection including recordings at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, next to the WRC television tower (Handel Messiah, Smithsonian Collection N 025). If you want to hear what these mics sound like, I suggest Sound Dreams by Irwin Bazelon on New World records (NWCRI). It is easily available. This music has a wide dynamic range and a broad range of tone colors. The recording was made in the MFA Boston Contemporary Gallery with two mics and a modified ReVox A-77 with DBX. It was originally published on LP by CRI but it is quite beyond the vinyl of that time. Quite a few recodings made by these microphones have been published including the Cambridge Records catalogue starting in the early 1960s. Other possibilities are Harbison's Mirabei Songs or Ellen Zwillich's Passages with Boston Musica viva both of which have been published on CD. If you have questions, you may contact me. Peter Storkerson peter@communicationcognition.com (I don't read my gmail account)

Peter S said...

I forgot to add, When I knew Charlie, he lived in Framingham Center (north of route 9) on the corner of Belknap Road and Grove Street. If he is alive he must be in his mid 90s. One might try for Carole Bogard, his wife. He made the mics on his Bridgeport in his basement. He pounded ribbons and had a magnetizing coil. When I had the mics they spec'd at about -3db at 10K (re 1k) and-5 at 15.

Bob Crowley said...

Cool! Thanks for the info. Yes, many people have a semantic problem with "phantom powered" in older equipment. Despite not being strictly true with respect to the way power is supplied, the idea remains to have an on board amp. I think Olsen had the first. The XLR is just a means to an end.

Bunn E said...

Charles Fisher passed away in 2013. A grueling 15 second google search lead me to the obituary of this amazing man who seemed to be well liked throughout his life and accomplished more than most.

Here is a link to the obit:

http://www.skinnerinc.com/news/blog/charles-paine-fisher-american-silver-antique-furniture-decorative-arts-auction/

Bob Crowley said...

The article incorrectly states that he invented the ribbon microphone. Of course we know that Fisher invented the first phantom powered ribbon microphone. I looked around for Mr. Fisher in the 2006-2009 period but perhaps he was elsewhere.