Tuesday, November 06, 2007
RCA Gas Pedal - Rear View - MI-6203-D "LO" Version SK-50 Varacoustic
I like to refer to the improbably named RCA MI-6203-D, "LO" (or is it really M1-6203-0/), aka, the SK-50 Varacoustic variable pattern ribbon microphone, utterly forgettable either way, and homely as can be in the American connotation of the word "homely" as THE GAS PEDAL.
This highly unpopular yet ubiquitous device has almost the exact same motor unit as the famous and most desirable 77D and 77DX ribbon microphones. The Pedal sports a rear mounted, spring tensioned pattern selector, dubiously marked " PU12V", which performs the exact same function as the luxurious rotary nautilus shutter cam of the more wonderful 77DX, but in a far far less exciting way. The oft-mentioned RCA style acoustic labyrinth, filled with a combination of jute felt, horse hair and paraffin-soaked to get just the right amount of attenuation, is lovingly stuffed into a squarish, nondescript black bakelite block in the base of this beast.
The dynamic lines and Art-Moderne streamlining of the MI-6203-D "LO" version and its somber, almost funereal color scheme, plus the aforementioned lyrical "PU12V" nomenclature, cannot make up for its sheer lumpiness and uninteresting aspect. Such a thing could hardly sound good, so unbeautiful as it is, you might think.
But not so! The sound of this toad is probably at least as good as any Ningbo-ribbon mic of today, and far more versatile, with its springy thing, allowing for various pattern changes, all which make a ribbon sound like a dynamic, save the figure 8 position. So save yourself some money, go on ebay, and scoop up one of these lumpen objects, at a very good price. The one I have comes with its own "Microphone Stand Model K5-4A".
One wonders what happened to K4-5A, or if there ever was a "4B" model - certain to pique collector interest I'd presume. Such minutia is of interest to no one except the terminally nerdy, a special club in which I confess membership.
Product naming is an art. RCA got lucky with the 77DX. 7 is a lucky number used in lots of high end products, such as finicky BMWs, and DX has all kinds of mysterious connotations from the broadcast and radio art, the main one being "long distance". Even today, hams call a long distance contact "DX". But letters and numbers can get confusing, or worse, generate an aversion which prevents anyone from remembering let alone mentioning letters-numbers-letters type names, unless the company is very careful. You may hear "I used a 77" and know what that means. You could also know for certain what's under the hood if it is a "V8". But what about the very unlucky MI-6203-D "LO"? Not too likely you'll hear that one thrown out at a cocktail party, or even at AES.
Ever wish the US media would stop saying "went missing" or "gone missing"? If you think this sounds like something Jethro would say to Jed, you are not alone. Amazingly, we can blame the British for originating this insult to the English language. Somehow, the term "went missing" when spoken with a proper English accent, sounds nearly acceptable, yet anyone from the Deep South who utters the phrase might be mistaken for an illiterate. It just ain't so!
Posted by Bob Crowley at 10:53 AM