Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
The blog has been a way to toss out ideas and remarks about any aspect of microphony, and it has been fun to see the reactions to some. The top post of 2006 was "The Myth of the Ribbon Microphone" which concluded the year in a bit of useful controversy, and now it's time to choose the best (or worst or most significant) of 2007.
Here are my picks:
This one is about "the gas pedal RCA". I like the picture more than anything.
This one is about optical and audio illusions. I think I was on to something when I suddenly made a sharp left, and the post turned into a rant.
An early favorite is this shot of an old magazine, and the humorous juxtaposition of "elements".
The search term "testing" results in a good selection, maybe because we do a lot of that.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The Electrovoice V1A ribbon microphone is not one of my favorites, but it is a handsome mic with some interesting die-cast and fabricated parts.
The screens are formed somewhat like an RCA 44; two halves are held in place by edge clamps shaped like small wings which you can see in the upper right.
The magnet is this cylindrical job connected to a pair of parallel pole pieces seen at top center. The black thing is the magnet, which appears to be an old voice coil magnet with a hole for a screw that holds the pole pieces in place. Electrovoice made many loudspeakers through the vintage era, and probably had plenty of cylinder-shaped magnets, which they put to use here.
The yoke, mid right, and the two bottom halves, and the surrounding support for the pole pieces, upper left next to the screen, are all made of die-cast potmetal. I cannot figure out why they thought it was necessary to cast the two long plates where the steel pole pieces go, as they would have been held perfectly well with the four screws.
That transformer is a real gizmo that defies conventional ribbon microphone construction, as it is wound as an autotransformer. This device would render any aluminum ribbon to shreds if connected to phantom power, as there is a direct DC path to the ribbon, which is highly unusual, to say the least! I've commented on the sound of this microphone in other posts here. All in all, a handsome collectible mic to place next to the Argonne AR-57, or to be used for Ham Radio applications where nostalgia trumps performance.
Click on the image for an explicit view of the parts.
I am not in favor of compact fluorescent bulbs for the following
1. They do not put out sufficient light for many tasks.
2. The stated "equivalent" light output is overstated. If I take a 60W incandescent and the labeled "equivalent" and put them side by side, the incandescent wins by a wide margin.
3. Compact fluorescent electronics are more complex and more likely
to start fires. The miniature electronics are highly loaded and stressed. An an incandescent bulb has none of these components.
4. The RF radiation of compact fluorescent bulbs is many hundreds of
times greater than incandescent bulbs.
5. Compact fluorescent bulbs do not provide a full spectrum of light
6. Compact fluorescent bulbs flash at a rate of 60 cycles per
second, and cause headaches and eyestrain.
7. The electronics in compact fluorescent bulbs produce interference to radios,
and other over the air systems, and create RF pollution.
8. Compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, a known neurotoxin
9. Compact fluorescent bulbs do not save enough energy to offset the
10. Proper use of incandescent lighting can be energy efficient, better for the
environment, health of users, and provide a higher quality of illumination. Like any technology, they can be senselessly used, and many are. Better fixture design, turning them off when not needed, and proper wattage selection will preserve the environment. Legislation to eliminate incandescent lighting is a knee-jerk reaction and a statutory "solution" to what is a technical, education, and consumer-habit problem.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Here is the exact language from FTC.gov
Assembled in USA Claims
A product that includes foreign components may be called "Assembled in USA" without qualification when its principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial. "For the "assembly" claim to be valid, the product’s last "substantial transformation" also should have occurred in the U.S. That’s why a "screwdriver" assembly in the U.S. of foreign components into a final product at the end of the manufacturing process doesn’t usually qualify for the "Assembled in USA" claim.
Example: A lawn mower, composed of all domestic parts except for the cable sheathing, flywheel, wheel rims and air filter (15 to 20 percent foreign content) is assembled in the U.S. An "Assembled in USA" claim is appropriate.
Example: All the major components of a computer, including the motherboard and hard drive, are imported. The computer’s components then are put together in a simple "screwdriver" operation in the U.S., are not substantially transformed under the Customs Standard, and must be marked with a foreign country of origin. An "Assembled in U.S." claim without further qualification is deceptive."
Friday, December 21, 2007
Curious devices from Bleep Labs. Click on the image to enlarge it.
From our terrific dealer, 2nd Staff, in Japan.
Apparently, the weak dollar is helping OUS sales quite a lot. The Euro, the Yen, even the Chinese Yuan, have all gained ground vs the greenback. Right now the Canadian dollar is about the same as the US dollar. This is good news for our US business as it makes us even more competitive with the Chinese Yuan, both here and outside the US.
Monday, December 17, 2007
In several of our website and blog images there are scenes with some of our old HP test equipment, and I have had a couple of people ask what they are. Click on the image for a larger view.
On the left, an HP 334A Distortion Analyzer, null type, which can be used up to 600 KHz. It is in pristine condition and works very well.
Center is the familiar and ubiquitous HP 651B Test Oscillator, famous for its stability (except at the lowest range) and boatanchor aspect.
On the right is the less-common HP 4800A Vector Impedance Meter, lamp bridge type, with the correct 4801A Balanced Direct Plug-In. This is a far better impedance analyzer than the Hickock or B&K, as it smoothly tunes through the audio band and effortlessly reads Z with very little power actually going into the DUT (Device Under Test). It gets used every day. You can see an EV 635A sitting upright in the test fixture, which has a built in XLR connecter at the base, and a socket sized to fit our larger mics. I'm not sure why that '635 is in there, but it is one of the dozens and dozens of mics floating around here. I use an EV 635a on the air through my Johnson Valiant,,which only passes up to 8 KHz audio.
Above it you can spot another important piece of analog test gear, the highly desirable Panametrics 5052UA Ultrasonic transmitter, stepless gate, and receiver, good up to at least 60 MHz and an essential tool for IVUS or any single transducer test application, especially water-coupled types. With a spigot of gated RF right at the front, the 5052UA can perform pulse and spectral analysis all at once. These were very expensive when new - somewhere in the $3-5K range, but this one was a bargain, bought at the Deerfield Hosstraders many years ago as surplus. I was there with Jim Koger and we both spotted it - I cautioned him to not look too excited: "How much for the box with all the knobs?" I asked. "Twenty" was the reply and I responded. "Take ten?" "OK" he said. That unit got used at Boston Scientific in Watertown, where present-day IVUS was invented, for years, and was this exact pulser that proved that we could make a short pulse, low noise 30MHz ultrasound transducer with nearly zero ringdown, and that led to IVUS as we still know it, 20 years later. And that Panametrics pulser keeps doing its thing too, now with 3VUS, which is the next generation of IVUS.
That little thing on the upper left is a B&K audio and RF sweep generator that I picked up for $5 at a hamfest, and it has its uses.
Chris Regan at the controls.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Taking pictures of mics can be challenging, made all the worse by highly reflective and shiny surfaces. About the only thing worse than a chrome finish (this is not a chrome finish) is a dull black one. Here is a shot of a shot in the making: The image of the Proscenium that you see in all of our web and print ads was shot in this setup, complete with that reddish highlight running up and down the body. That stripe is an intentional warm accent suggestive of the equally warm sounding Proscenium ribbon microphone. Check out the finished shot here.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Astatic is an old and highly venerated microphone company that virtually invented the communications microphone industry. Its D-104 Microphone is emblematic in a way that only mics like the RCA 77DX and very few others have attained.
Here is a link to more about the Astatic D-104, with further links to the history of this fine company.
Sometimes errors occur. In the October 2007 issue of Sound Communications is this advert for Astatic's neat variable pattern lectern microphone. These slim devices are the preferred transducer for businessmen and women who want a no-nonsense and inconspicuous device at the speaker's post. The small electret condenser type microphone with its easily EQ'd flat output is nearly ideal for this application, where high intelligibility, low noise, and high RF rejection are key selling features. Other makers advertising such ware include Sennheiser and beyerdynamic, with nearly identical ads, each showing a threatening, RFI-emitting cellphone in near proximity. These companies know all too well the importance of aggressive RFI shielding which has become even more difficult with multiple frequency personal communications devices only inches away. You see, even when not being used, cellular phones "poll", which is a term used to send the identification number to the cellular system, to let it know it is there. That way the system operator can keep track of who is in the particular cell of the network and automatically route calls in to that cellphone. This can happen many times per minute, and the on-off nature of digital RF devices produce plenty of pulse-type emission, some which can be detected by poorly shielded microphones.
Astatic, Sennheiser, and beyerdynamic (no capital letter needed, I was politely informed) have apparently solved the problem. That's good, because it suggests that some of the high end makers of studio recording mics may have solutions available to them, since, unfortunately, not all RFI ingress problems in studio recording have been completely eliminated.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Someone sent me this link to a discussion about a Studio Vocalist, and some Telefunken and Brauner mics in a side-by-side comparison on vocals and drums. It is of course pleasing to read posts such as this which seem to confirm our view on the sound of the Studio Vocalist when compared to large diaphragm condensers.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
John Cate is well known to us. Actually, I met him in 8th grade. Since that time he played in Mother Zamcheck's Bacon Band, Zamcheck, and now John Cate & the van Gogh Brothers. Tonight they are playing at Toad, in Porter Square Cambridge.
John's roots rock has developed a following and a growing fan base, and his new release "Wild Way" is, according to John, his best material to date, and I believe him, though it will be tough to beat "V" and his eight or so other gems.
Check out John Cate here, and if you are in the Boston area, go see John Cate & the van Gogh Brothers live.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Much of what you see presented by Nikon, for example, as art, is certainly art of the pretty picture category. Only occasionally very colorful or with too-intense fluorescent greens and reds, the Nikon site is stunning.
But I think this is more interesting: Here is a picture of Renee Robbins and Ben Meyers flyer from last year, thumbnailed. Strangely, the www.ai-gallery.com link didn't work when I tried it, but a design company www.aigallery.com does, so I linked the image to Ben Myers site, which has more related images. Not to make comparisons, but I think the top image reminds me of Pavel Tcheletchew's "Hide and Seek which is in the permanent collection of MOMA. I want to see more of these and the monochrome, landscape-like nano images.
Here is a link to their flyer announcing this show.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Got this nice note from Creaking Tree's Andrew Collins (other interesting things about him here)
I thought you might like this pic. I'm in the middle of recording
another band that I play in called the Foggy Hogtown Boys. We're a
straight ahead bluegrass band. Notice the room mics in the middle
of the semi-circle. The room that we were playing in sounded really
great. The recordist pair did a great job of capturing the natural
I'll be sure to get a copy of the album to you once it's done.
Thanks! Can't wait.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Just for the record, and elsewhere, as this story has importance to all of broadcast, music dissemination, and public access to the airwaves. See this post about what recently happened at the FCC.
Check out http://tenwatts.blogspot.com for a lot of broadcast-related news and opinions.