Saturday, July 29, 2006

Special Guest - Sandy Pearlman

Producer, poet, futurist and friend Sandy Pearlman drove down from Montreal for his second visit to the lab, and to pick up a Naked Eye ribbon microphone. We spent considerable time chatting about our own critical theories of society, and having a review of our take on the RCA Camden recordings, oil reserves (especially Canadian oil) and of course, ribbon mics. Sandy, who you probably know named and produced Blue Oyster Cult (Don't Fear the Reaper), and produced the likes of The Clash, The Dictators, collaborated with Patti Smith, coined the term "Heavy Metal Music" and on and on.  Anyway Sandy is an RCA BK5 aficionado, a mic that we did a deep dive into in the past, and he had yet to try the Crowley and Tripp Naked Eye.

Sandy is often at McGill University in Montreal where the world's first PhD program in music production and engineering is offered. He spends part time there as a visiting scholar and then makes his way back to San Francisco, apparently collecting a lot of frequent flyer miles.

Here he is at the test bench, next to our beloved analog H-P audio test gear. A Videosphere hangs in the background over a UA 1019. An ST70 can be seen up on the rack.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Smallest Microphone

I've written about carbon nanotubes, calling them the next big thing, and about how we can use them to detect waves (like sunlight, or acoustic waves) of various types. In order to do that, you have to have a way to connect to the nanotubes. That's done by actually growing them on a junction instead of trying to place them there, which is very difficult. The image shows a 1mm X 6mm silicon wafer that has a forest of carbon nanotubes grown all over the surface in a specific pattern, which helps separate the nanotubes, keep them from shorting each other out (unless that is what you want) and even allows each nanotube to act like a small capacitive whisker that can move when perturbed by, say, a soundwave.

All the colors are caused by diffraction of light. Diffraction occurs on a CD. Extreme diffraction is what we get in this case because the rows of nanotubes are closely spaced - on the order of light wavelengths - and also very small at about 1000 nanometers tall.

That's small. 1000 nanometers is one micron. To put that in perspective, typical ribbon mics use an aluminum ribbon that is about 0.6 micron to about 2.5 micron thick (or thin, as we would see it).

Now since our silicon wafer can also be an amplifier and have other circuits etched or made in and on it, we think we can make a complete amplified sound sensor on a chip. The interesting thing is that the bandwidth, or frequency response, of carbon nanotubes on silicon, is thought to be length dependent. That means that various heights of nanotubes can pick up certain parts of the audio spectrum (and RF spectrum too). Adjusting the heights of the tubes can allow us to tailor the frequency pickup. That's the idea. Away we go, off to get it done.

Tubes rule.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Arm the Reactor, Fire the V1

A while back I wrote about a custom curve device that we supplied to a customer.

Here is a picture of it. This is the V1 Reactor, an inline device that is designed to recreate the bass cut of an RCA 77DX when set to the V1 position. It's not an attenuator or a cold war relic, just a useful tool for cutting a bit of bass from a signal, like when close talking a ribbon microphone, or any dynamic microphone, hence the use of the letter "V". We've been making these in luminous candy apple red for our more experimentally-minded customers who like the fact that you can see that it is plugged in from ten paces.

Anyway the customer who got this one loved it. I do like that red and gold color scheme, and the rocket-like and very formal verticality of it all. Sort of statuesque. Of course, it's the size of an XLR connector, only longer. One thing I worried about at first was RF immunity (I always do) but the V1 didn't pick up any bad signals from the ether, and the noise floor is still low with the V1 in line. I tried it on an SM57, an R-121, an AT 25-something dynamic, an EV-635A, and some other ribbon mics lying around, and the result was consistent.

Crowley and Tripp, V1 Reactor, and the "bikini" logo, are trademarks of Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc.

Monday, July 24, 2006

RCA 77DX for a Dollar

That's the starting bid for one of the several 77DX reference objects made so famous here and in our lab. I live in constant fear that it will get knocked off the table or somehow damaged since it is so original and mint, and we never use it anymore. So go look on ebay. Starting bid is a buck.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Of course after making remarks about how the musique automatique music box was so simple, I ran across this instruction booklet for a cartridge that plugs into the Commodore 64 called "Music Machine". The Commodore 64 was an early home PC that came with 64 kilobytes of memory. That was all you got in the machine, which is not even enough for one decent thumbnail image.

Yet the Music Machine cartridge had a number of functions as described in the booklet:

"The cartridge has been designed with flexibility in mind. Rather than having the variety of musical tones being one of a number of preset selections, there are a number of parameters you can mix and match, allowing you many combinations of sound type, special effects, and keyboard playing style."

Music Machine had three voices, was produced around 1983, (23 years ago) and could be used with Commodore's Single Disk Drive, a 5 1/4" "floppy" disk. Floppy disks were an old data storage format that consisted of what was basically a disk-shaped piece of recording tape in a protective sleeve.

I have to be on the road for a couple of days so check back later in the week.

Visit Casionova - a home keyboardist extremist blog - where someone actually uses Music Machine on the C64.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Music Break - Make Your Own

A little change of pace this time. Not an artist's site, but a link to Musique Automatique where you can get a groove going on your own. It's fairly limited but I have to admit I spent a half hour experimenting with the several voices, melodies and rhythms assigned to buttons you can select.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Distortion ain't all harmonic

In the audio world, including the subset of microphones, the term "distortion" is often talked about, written about and mentioned in the context of "something that has gone wrong". Sure, makers of amps, transducers, speakers, converters and whatever want to be able, at least some of the time, to achieve the ideal transfer function, that linear nirvana, that graphically perfect depiction of what goes on inside the "thing".

But it isn't all that simple. Distortion has many forms. Some are readily "measurable" and I put that in quotes because even these can be prone to errors of quantification and interpretation. Other forms of distortion are very subtle, too subtle for the best instruments to identifiably quantify. But the human ear, if it is trained or connected to the highly adaptive brain, hears and knows about many forms of distortion that aren't on the specification sheets of any products or test instruments.

The particular type of distortion that most often gets reported is Harmonic Distortion. According to Fourier's Theory of Trigonometric Series, which among other things states that any arbitrary waveform is comprised of one or more sine waves that are mathematically related, we are able to measure the artifacts that occur when a transducer, for example, is excited by what we presume to be a pure sine wave. It can be a valid way to measure "fidelity". But, there are a lot of things that can get in the way of this measurement and that can even mask the results, like averaging, which can "restore" a sharp square wave, for instance, round it off, and make it look more like a sine wave.

Very precise, calibrated equipment is needed to make good distortion measurements, in the less-than 0.1% range, and all parts of the circuit must be fully characterized and in most cases compensated for their own contribution to distortion.

The typical setup is to use a calibrated distortion analyzer and a signal generator and calibrated loudpeaker. A sine wave is generated and pointed at the device under test, in our case, a microphone. The assumption that the sine wave shape will be perfectly preserved is then put to the test by some comparison method. In the case of the H-P gadget in the picture, the original sine wave is notched out, and the remainder is measured, and called harmonic distortion.

You might be one step ahead here and wonder if that loudspeaker might also contribute to the distortion measured. Yes it can. And also the coupling, the placement, the room, loudness, reflections and standing waves, the sensitivity of the pickup device (a sensitive microphone is more prone to detect, correctly, the ambient distortion than a less sensitive microphone) the stand, the mount, the just about anything that can be moved or that changes the way the mic picks up the sound. All of these can and do contribute to the overall distortion.

But you know that. Mics have to be placed, sometimes quite precisely, for just the right sound. And loudpeakers are very frequently driven to "saturation" (distortion) in the production of music, especially for electric guitar.

Audio distortion and tone may be perceived with instruments, or with your ear-brain setup. If you need numbers, a graph might do. If you need a sound, the ears usually win.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Endless Summer (Of Production)

Summertime is when a lot of manufacturing companies get caught up on various aspects of their production capabilities and tend to stock up on parts. Here at Soundwave Research Laboratories, where we manufacture Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones, we tend to run "batches" of parts for the different models based upon a sales forecast that attempts to predict the number of each model that will be sold. If this is done correctly, we will have on hand just enough inventory throughout the production cycle to cover all parts needs for all models, without a lot of excess parts in inventory. Having a lot of parts sitting in stock, doing nothing, isn't necessarily bad, but it is hardly efficient.

Being new to most people, our sales prediction is based upon an upward curve that takes into account the number of dealers, promotions, last month's sales, and seasonal variations that affect all sales of music gear. The curve is steep because we are apparently just getting the word out. To us, it seems like it has taken a while, but to others, it seems like we've just arrived.

Time dilation is an interesting phenomenon. The inventor Itzhak Bentov, who wrote "Stalking the Wild Pendulum" and in his basement started what became Boston Scientific Corporation (BSX-NYSE) with fellow futurist John Abele, wrote about time dilation and showed that you can make time stand still by meditating upon the sweep second hand of a clock. If you practice according to Bentov's instructions, you will amaze yourself that indeed, the second hand seems to stall and stop momentarily, even though you know it can't. (can you be sure?) It is an interesting window into the mind that demonstrates to even a skeptic that time, at least as we watch it, does not always move smoothly along, beat by every beat.

Of course, if you have ever taken a redeye from SFO to BOS, you already know how to make time seem endless.

Factoid: The world's largest producer of ultrasound imaging probes is Boston Scientific.

Another factoid: Larry Killip wote a song with the title "Stalking the Wild Pendulum".

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The end of the aluminum ribbon?

It's not quite time to do away with aluminum as the moving element for good quality ribbon microphones. Or is it? Aluminum has been the traditional material used in virtually all ribbon mics since the beginning. It has good conductivity, is relatively low in mass, and can be formed into thin sheets, which is essential. Nearly all ribbon mics made today use aluminum leaf about 1/2 to 2 1/2 microns in thickness.

But aluminum isn't an ideal material. Its mass is still considerable, and that contributes to inertia in the ribbon assembly. Although it has good tensile strength, it tends to bend easily and lacks an ability to return to its desired shape after being deformed by pressure, wind blasts, and other forces.

With Roswellite fast becoming the ribbon of choice, I think the writing is on the wall.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

TEA\Nanoribbon Ribbon Microphone

This Transducer Engineering Assocates TEA/Ribbon-ONE (also TEA/Nanoribbon) is a unique "mule" and the first of our mics to use a motor unit with some attention to voicing, or tuning, of the timbre, of the mic. Though rudimentary, the use of 1/4 wavelength matching principles (as a series matching sections) to tilt the response for higher voice articulation, is patterned directly from the response curve of the Shure SM57.

Of course this is a ribbon mic, so it doesn't sound at all like an SM57, but it does bring a vocal track forward. Since everyone seemed to be familiar with this response, and comfortable enough with it from stage experience, we decided to adapt it to the Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist ribbon microphone, which recently got an excellent review in Recording magazine.

This is where the development of high output ribbon mics that compete against tube condensers got started, by offering high vocal articulation but without nasty tizz, fizz and shzz of an LDC. (see Chladni post about multimodal effects on a tympanic membrane to better understand tizz)

We keep this mic in our museum as part of the permanent collection.

Friday, July 14, 2006

FTC Policy on Made in USA claims


Federal Trade Commission

December 1997


The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC" or "Commission") is issuing this statement to provide guidance regarding its enforcement policy with respect to the use of "Made in USA" and other U.S. origin claims in advertising and labeling. The Commission has determined, as explained below, that unqualified U.S. origin claims should be substantiated by evidence that the product is all or virtually all made in the United States. This statement is intended to elaborate on principles set out in individual cases and advisory opinions previously issued over the course of many years by the Commission. This statement, furthermore, is the culmination of a comprehensive process in which the Commission has reviewed its standard for evaluating U.S. origin claims. Throughout this process, the Commission has solicited, and received, substantial public input on relevant issues. The Commission anticipates that from time to time, it may be in the public interest to solicit further public comment on these issues and to assess whether the views expressed in this statement continue to be appropriate and reflect consumer perception and opinion, and to determine whether there are areas on which the Commission could provide additional guidance.

The principles set forth in this enforcement policy statement apply to U.S. origin claims included in labeling, advertising, other promotional materials, and all other forms of marketing, including marketing through digital or electronic means such as the Internet or electronic mail. The statement, moreover, articulates the Commission's enforcement policy with respect to U.S. origin claims for all products advertised or sold in the United States, with the exception of those products specifically subject to the country-of-origin labeling requirements of the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act,(1) the Wool Products Labeling Act,(2) or the Fur Products Labeling Act.(3) With respect to automobiles or other passenger motor vehicles, nothing in this enforcement policy statement is intended to affect or alter a marketer's obligation to comply with the requirements of the American Automobile Labeling Act(4) or regulations issued pursuant thereto, and any representation required by that Act to appear on automobile labeling will not be considered a deceptive act or practice for purposes of this enforcement policy statement, regardless of whether the representation appears in labeling, advertising or in other promotional material. Claims about the U.S. origin of passenger motor vehicles other than those representations required by the American Automobile Labeling Act, however, will be governed by the principles set forth in this statement.


Both the FTC and the U.S. Customs Service have responsibilities related to the use of country-of-origin claims. While the FTC regulates claims of U.S. origin under its general authority to act against deceptive acts and practices, foreign-origin markings on products (e.g., "Made in Japan") are regulated primarily by the U.S. Customs Service ("Customs" or "the Customs Service") under the Tariff Act of 1930. Specifically, Section 304 of the Tariff Act, 19 U.S.C. § 1304, administered by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Customs Service, requires that all products of foreign origin imported into the United States be marked with the name of a foreign country of origin. Where an imported product incorporates materials and/or processing from more than one country, Customs considers the country of origin to be the last country in which a "substantial transformation" took place. A substantial transformation is a manufacturing or other process that results in a new and different article of commerce, having a new name, character and use that is different from that which existed prior to the processing. Country-of-origin determinations using the substantial transformation test are made on a case-by-case basis through administrative determinations by the Customs Service.(5)

The FTC also has jurisdiction over foreign origin claims in packaging insofar as they go beyond the disclosures required by the Customs Service (e.g., claims that supplement a required foreign origin marking, so as to represent where additional processing or finishing of a product occurred). In addition, the Commission has jurisdiction over foreign-origin claims in advertising, which the U.S. Customs Service does not regulate.

Where Customs determines that a good is not of foreign origin (i.e., the good undergoes its last substantial transformation in the United States), there is generally no requirement that it be marked with any country of origin. For most goods, neither the Customs Service nor the FTC requires that goods made partially or wholly in the United States be labeled with "Made in USA" or any other indication of U.S. origin.(6) The fact that a product is not required to be marked with a foreign country of origin does not mean that it is permissible to promote that product as "Made in USA." The FTC will consider additional factors, beyond those considered by the Customs Service in determining whether a product is of foreign origin, in determining whether a product may properly be represented as "Made in USA."

This statement is intended to address only those issues related to U.S. origin claims. In developing appropriate country-of-origin labeling for their products, marketers are urged also to consult the U.S. Customs Service's marking regulations.


The Commission's authority to regulate U.S. origin claims derives from Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act ("FTC Act"), 15 U.S.C. § 45, which prohibits "unfair or deceptive acts or practices." The Commission has set forth its interpretations of its Section 5 authority in its Deception Policy Statement,(7) and its Policy Statement Regarding Advertising Substantiation Doctrine.(8) As set out in the Deception Policy Statement, the Commission will find an advertisement or label deceptive under Section 5, and therefore unlawful, if it contains a representation or omission of fact that is likely to mislead consumers acting reasonably under the circumstances, and that representation or omission is material. In addition, objective claims carry with them the implication that they are supported by valid evidence. It is deceptive, therefore, to make a claim unless, at the time the claim is made, the marketer possesses and relies upon a reasonable basis substantiating the claim. Thus, a "Made in USA" claim, like any other objective advertising claim, must be truthful and substantiated.

A representation may be made by either express or implied claims. "Made in USA" and "Our products are American made" would be examples of express U.S. origin claims. In identifying implied claims, the Commission focuses on the overall net impression of an advertisement, label, or other promotional material. This requires an examination of both the representation and the overall context, including the juxtaposition of phrases and images, and the nature of the transaction. Depending on the context, U.S. symbols or geographic references, such as U.S. flags, outlines of U.S. maps, or references to U.S. locations of headquarters or factories, may, by themselves or in conjunction with other phrases or images, convey a claim of U.S. origin. For example, assume that a company advertises its product in an advertisement that features pictures of employees at work at what is identified as the company's U.S. factory, these pictures are superimposed on an image of a U.S. flag, and the advertisement bears the headline "American Quality." Although there is no express representation that the company's product is "Made in USA," the net impression of the advertisement is likely to convey to consumers a claim that the product is of U.S. origin.

Whether any particular symbol or phrase, including an American flag, conveys an implied U.S. origin claim, will depend upon the circumstances in which the symbol or phrase is used. Ordinarily, however, the Commission will not consider a marketer's use of an American brand name(9) or trademark,(10) without more, to constitute a U.S. origin claim, even though some consumers may believe, in some cases mistakenly, that a product made by a U.S.-based manufacturer is made in the United States. Similarly, the mere listing of a company's U.S. address on a package label, in a nonprominent manner, such as would be required under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act,(11) is unlikely, without more, to constitute a "Made in USA" claim.


Based on its review of the traditional use of the term "Made in USA," and the record as a whole, the Commission concludes that consumers are likely to understand an unqualified U.S. origin claim to mean that the advertised product is "all or virtually all" made in the United States. Therefore, when a marketer makes an unqualified claim that a product is "Made in USA," it should, at the time the representation is made, possess and rely upon a reasonable basis that the product is in fact all or virtually all made in the United States.(12), (13)

A product that is all or virtually all made in the United States will ordinarily be one in which all significant parts(14) and processing that go into the product are of U.S. origin. In other words, where a product is labeled or otherwise advertised with an unqualified "Made in USA" claim, it should contain only a de minimis, or negligible, amount of foreign content. Although there is no single "bright line" to establish when a product is or is not "all or virtually all" made in the United States, there are a number of factors that the Commission will look to in making this determination. To begin with, in order for a product to be considered "all or virtually all" made in the United States, the final assembly or processing of the product must take place in the United States. Beyond this minimum threshold, the Commission will consider other factors, including but not limited to the portion of the product's total manufacturing costs that are attributable to U.S. parts and processing; and how far removed from the finished product any foreign content is.

A. Site of Final Assembly or Processing

The consumer perception evidence available to the Commission indicates that the country in which a product is put together or completed is highly significant to consumers in evaluating where the product is "made." Thus, regardless of the extent of a product's other U.S. parts or processing, in order to be considered all or virtually all made in the United States, it is a prerequisite that the product have been last "substantially transformed" in the United States, as that term is used by the U.S. Customs Service -- i.e., the product should not be required to be marked "made in [foreign country]" under 19 U.S.C. § 1304.(15) Furthermore, even where a product is last substantially transformed in the United States, if the product is thereafter assembled or processed (beyond de minimis finishing processes) outside the United States, the Commission is unlikely to consider that product to be all or virtually all made in the United States. For example, were a product to be manufactured primarily in the United States (and last substantially transformed there) but sent to Canada or Mexico for final assembly, any U.S. origin claim should be qualified to disclose the assembly that took place outside the United States.

B. Proportion of U.S. Manufacturing Costs

Assuming the product is put together or otherwise completed in the United States, the Commission will also examine the percentage of the total cost of manufacturing the product that is attributable to U.S. costs (i.e., U.S. parts and processing) and to foreign costs.(16) Where the percentage of foreign content is very low, of course, it is more likely that the Commission will consider the product all or virtually all made in the United States. Nonetheless, there is not a fixed point for all products at which they suddenly become "all or virtually all" made in the United States. Rather, the Commission will conduct this inquiry on a case-by-case basis, balancing the proportion of U.S. manufacturing costs along with the other factors discussed herein, and taking into account the nature of the product and consumers' expectations in determining whether an enforcement action is warranted. Where, for example, a product has an extremely high amount of U.S. content, any potential deception resulting from an unqualified "Made in USA" claim is likely to be very limited, and therefore the costs of bringing an enforcement action challenging such a claim are likely to substantially outweigh any benefit that might accrue to consumers and competition.

C. Remoteness of Foreign Content

Finally, in evaluating whether any foreign content is significant enough to prevent a product from being considered all or virtually all made in the United States, the Commission will look not only to the percentage of the cost of the product that the foreign content represents, but will also consider how far removed from the finished product the foreign content is. As a general rule, in determining the percentage of U.S. content in its product, a marketer should look far enough back in the manufacturing process that a reasonable marketer would expect that it had accounted for any significant foreign content. In other words, a manufacturer who buys a component from a U.S. supplier, which component is in turn made up of other parts or materials, may not simply assume that the component is 100% U.S. made, but should inquire of the supplier as to the percentage of U.S. content in the component.(17) Foreign content that is incorporated further back in the manufacturing process, however, will often be less significant to consumers than that which constitutes a direct input into the finished product. For example, in the context of a complex product, such as a computer, it is likely to be insignificant that imported steel is used in making one part of a single component (e.g., the frame of the floppy drive). This is because the steel in such a case is likely to constitute a very small portion of the total cost of the computer, and because consumers purchasing a computer are likely, if they are concerned about the origin of the product, to be concerned with the origin of the more immediate inputs (floppy drive, hard drive, CPU, keyboard, etc.) and perhaps the parts that, in turn, make up those inputs. Consumers are less likely to have in mind materials, such as the steel, that are several steps back in the manufacturing process. By contrast, in the context of a product such as a pipe or a wrench for which steel constitutes a more direct and significant input, the fact that the steel is imported is likely to be a significant factor in evaluating whether the finished product is all or virtually all made in the United States. Thus, in some circumstances, there may be inputs one or two steps back in the manufacturing process that are foreign and there may be other foreign inputs that are much further back in the manufacturing process. Those foreign inputs far removed from the finished product, if not significant, are unlikely to be as important to consumers and change the nature of what otherwise would be considered a domestic product.

In this analysis, raw materials(18) are neither automatically included nor automatically excluded in the evaluation of whether a product is all or virtually all made in the United States. Instead, whether a product whose other parts and processing are of U.S. origin would not be considered all or virtually all made in the United States because the product incorporated imported raw materials depends (as would be the case with any other input) on what percentage of the cost of the product the raw materials constitute and how far removed from the finished product the raw materials are.(19) Thus, were the gold in a gold ring, or the clay used to make a ceramic tile, imported, an unqualified "Made in USA" claim for the ring or tile would likely be inappropriate.(20) This is both because of the significant value the gold and the clay are likely to represent relative to the finished product and because the gold and the clay are only one step back from the finished articles and are integral components of those articles. By contrast, were the plastic in the plastic case of a clock radio that was otherwise all or virtually all made in the United States found to have been made from imported petroleum, the petroleum is far enough removed from, and an insignificant enough input into, the finished product that it would nonetheless likely be appropriate to label the clock radio with an unqualified U.S. origin claim.


A. Qualified U.S. Origin Claims Generally

Where a product is not all or virtually all made in the United States, any claim of U.S. origin should be adequately qualified to avoid consumer deception about the presence or amount of foreign content. In order to be effective, any qualifications or disclosures should be sufficiently clear, prominent, and understandable to prevent deception. Clarity of language, prominence of type size and style, proximity to the claim being qualified, and an absence of contrary claims that could undercut the effectiveness of the qualification, will maximize the likelihood that the qualifications and disclosures are appropriately clear and prominent.

Within these guidelines, the form the qualified claim takes is up to the marketer. A marketer may make any qualified claim about the U.S. content of its products as long as the claim is truthful and substantiated. Qualified claims, for example, may be general, indicating simply the existence of unspecified foreign content (e.g., "Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts") or they may be specific, indicating the amount of U.S. content (e.g., "60% U.S. content"), the parts or materials that are imported (e.g., "Made in USA from imported leather"), or the particular foreign country from which the parts come ("Made in USA from French components").(21)

Where a qualified claim takes the form of a general U.S. origin claim accompanied by qualifying information about foreign content (e.g., "Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts" or "Manufactured in U.S. with Indonesian materials"), the Commission believes that consumers are likely to understand such a claim to mean that, whatever foreign materials or parts the product contains, the last assembly, processing, or finishing of the product occurred in the United States. Marketers therefore should avoid using such claims unless they can substantiate that this is the case for their products. In particular, such claims should only be made where the product was last substantially transformed in the United States. Where a product was last substantially transformed abroad, and is therefore required by the U.S. Customs Service to be labeled "Made in [foreign country]," it would be inappropriate, and confusing, to use a claim such as "Made in USA of U.S. and imported parts."(22)

B. Claims about Specific Processes or Parts

Regardless of whether a product as a whole is all or virtually all made in the United States, a marketer may make a claim that a particular manufacturing or other process was performed in the United States, or that a particular part was manufactured in the United States, provided that the claim is truthful and substantiated and that reasonable consumers would understand the claim to refer to a specific process or part and not to the general manufacture of the product. This category would include claims such as that a product is "designed" or "painted" or "written" in the United States or that a specific part, e.g., the picture tube in a television, is made in the United States (even if the other parts of the television are not). Although such claims do not expressly disclose that the products contain foreign content, the Commission believes that they are normally likely to be specific enough so as not to convey a general claim of U.S. origin. More general terms, however, such as that a product is, for example, "produced,"or "manufactured" in the United States, are likely to require further qualification where they are used to describe a product that is not all or virtually all made in the United States. Such terms are unlikely to convey to consumers a message limited to a particular process performed, or part manufactured, in the United States. Rather, they are likely to be understood by consumers as synonymous with "Made in USA" and therefore as unqualified U.S. origin claims.

The Commission further concludes that, in many instances, it will be appropriate for marketers to label or advertise a product as "Assembled in the United States" without further qualification. Because "assembly" potentially describes a wide range of processes, however, from simple, "screwdriver" operations at the very end of the manufacturing process to the construction of a complex, finished item from basic materials, the use of this term may, in some circumstances, be confusing or misleading to consumers. To avoid possible deception, "Assembled in USA" claims should be limited to those instances where the product has undergone its principal assembly in the United States and that assembly is substantial. In addition, a product should be last substantially transformed in the United States to properly use an "Assembled in USA" claim. This requirement ensures against potentially contradictory claims, i.e., a product claiming to be "Assembled in USA" while simultaneously being marked as "Made in [foreign country]." In many instances, this requirement will also be a minimum guarantee that the U.S. assembly operations are substantial.

C. Comparative Claims

U.S. origin claims that contain a comparative statement (e.g., "More U.S. content than our competitor") may be made as long as the claims are truthful and substantiated. Where this is so, the Commission believes that comparative U.S. origin claims are unlikely to be deceptive even where an unqualified U.S. origin claim would be inappropriate. Comparative claims, however, should be presented in a manner that makes the basis for the comparison clear (e.g., whether the comparison is being made to another leading brand or to a previous version of the same product). Moreover, comparative claims should not be used in a manner that, directly or by implication, exaggerates the amount of U.S. content in the product, and should be based on a meaningful difference in U.S. content between the compared products. Thus, a comparative U.S. origin claim is likely to be deceptive if it is made for a product that does not have a significant amount of U.S. content or does not have significantly more U.S. content than the product to which it is being compared.

D. U.S. Customs Rules and Qualified and Comparative U.S. Origin Claims

It is possible, in some circumstances, for marketers to make certain qualified or comparative U.S. origin claims (including claims such as that the product contains a particular amount of U.S. content, certain claims about the U.S. origin of specific processes or parts, and certain comparative claims) even for products that are last substantially transformed abroad and which therefore must be marked with a foreign country of origin. In making such claims, however, marketers are advised to take care to follow the requirements set forth by the U.S. Customs Service and to ensure, for purposes of Section 5 of the FTC Act, that the claim does not deceptively suggest that the product is made with a greater amount of U.S. parts or processing than is in fact the case.

In looking at the interaction between the requirements for qualified and comparative U.S. origin claims and those for foreign origin marking, the analysis is slightly different for advertising and for labeling. This is a result of the fact that the Tariff Act requires foreign origin markings on articles or their containers, but does not govern claims in advertising or other promotional materials.

Thus, on a product label, where the Tariff Act requires that the product be marked with a foreign country of origin, Customs regulations permit indications of U.S. origin only when the foreign country of origin appears in close proximity and is at least of comparable size.(23) As a result, under Customs regulations, a product may, for example, be properly marked "Made in Switzerland, finished in U.S." or "Made in France with U.S. parts," but it may not simply be labeled "Finished in U.S." or "Made with U.S. parts" if it is deemed to be of foreign origin.

In advertising or other promotional materials, the Tariff Act does not require that foreign origin be indicated. The Commission recognizes that it may be possible to make a U.S. origin claim in advertising or promotional materials that is sufficiently specific or limited that it does not require an accompanying statement of foreign manufacture in order to avoid conveying a broader and unsubstantiated meaning to consumers. Whether a nominally specific or limited claim will in fact be interpreted by consumers in a limited matter is likely to depend on the connotations of the particular representation being made (e.g., "finished" may be perceived as having a more general meaning than "painted") and the context in which it appears. Marketers who wish to make U.S. origin claims in advertising or other promotional materials without an express disclosure of foreign manufacture for products that are required by Customs to be marked with a foreign country of origin should be aware that consumers may believe the literal U.S. origin statement is implying a broader meaning and a larger amount of U.S. content than expressly represented. Marketers are required to substantiate implied, as well express, material claims that consumers acting reasonably in the circumstances take from the representations. Therefore, the Commission encourages marketers, where a foreign-origin marking is required by Customs on the product itself, to include in any qualified or comparative U.S. origin claim a clear, conspicuous, and understandable disclosure of foreign manufacture.


  1. 15 U.S.C. § 70.

  2. 15 U.S.C. § 68.

  3. 15 U.S.C. § 69.

  4. 49 U.S.C. § 32304.

  5. For goods from NAFTA countries, determinations are codified in "tariff shift" regulations. 19 C.F.R. § 102.

  6. For a limited number of goods, such as textile, wool, and fur products, there are, however, statutory requirements that the U.S. processing or manufacturing that occurred be disclosed. See, e.g., Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, 15 U.S.C. § 70(b).

  7. Letter from the Commission to the Honorable John D. Dingell, Chairman, Committee on Energy and Commerce, U.S. House of Representatives (Oct. 14, 1983); reprinted in Cliffdale Associates, Inc., 103 F.T.C. 110, appendix (1984).

  8. 49 Fed. Reg. 30,999 (1984); reprinted in Thompson Medical Co., 104 F.T.C. 648, appendix (1984).

  9. This assumes that the brand name does not specifically denote U.S. origin, e.g., the brand name is not "Made in America, Inc."

  10. For example, a legal trademark consisting of, or incorporating, a stylized mark suggestive of a U.S. flag will not, by itself, be considered to constitute a U.S. origin claim.

  11. 15 U.S.C. § 1451 et seq.

  12. For purposes of this Enforcement Policy Statement, "United States" refers to the several states, the District of Columbia, and the territories and possessions of the United States. In other words, an unqualified "Made in USA" claim may be made for a product that is all or virtually all manufactured in U.S. territories or possessions as well as in the 50 states.

  13. In addition, marketers should not represent, either expressly or by implication, that a whole product line is of U.S. origin (e.g., "Our products are Made in USA") when only some products in the product line are, in fact, made in the United States. Although not the focus of this Enforcement Policy Statement, this is a principle that has been addressed in Commission cases both within and outside the U.S. origin context. See, e.g., Hyde Athletic Industries, FTC Docket No. C-3695 (consent order December 4, 1996) (complaint alleged that respondent represented that all of its footwear was made in the United States, when a substantial amount of its footwear was made wholly in foreign countries); New Balance Athletic Shoes, Inc., FTC Docket No. 9268 (consent order December 2, 1996) (same); Uno Restaurant Corp., FTC Docket No. C-3730 (consent order April 4, 1997) (complaint alleged that restaurant chain represented that its whole line of thin crust pizzas were low fat, when only two of eight pizzas met acceptable limits for low fat claims); Häagen-Dazs Company, Inc., FTC Docket No. C-3582 (consent order June 7, 1995) (complaint alleged that respondent represented that its entire line of frozen yogurt was 98% fat free when only certain flavors were 98% fat free).

  14. The word "parts" is used in its general sense throughout this enforcement policy statement to refer to all physical inputs into a product, including but not limited to subassemblies, components, parts, or materials.

  15. It is conceivable, for example, that occasionally a product imported into the United States could have a very high proportion of its manufacturing costs be U.S. costs, but is nonetheless not considered by the U.S. Customs Service to have been last substantially transformed in the United States. In such cases, the product would be required to be marked with a foreign country of origin and an unqualified U.S. origin claim could not appropriately be made for the product.

  16. In calculating manufacturing costs, manufacturers should ordinarily use as their measure the cost of goods sold or finished goods inventory cost, as those terms are used in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. Such costs will generally include (and be limited to) the cost of manufacturing materials, direct manufacturing labor, and manufacturing overhead. Marketers should also note the admonishment below that, in determining the percentage of U.S. content, they should look far enough back in the manufacturing process that a reasonable marketer would expect that it had accounted for any significant foreign content.

  17. For example, assume that a company manufactures lawn mowers in its U.S. plant, making most of the parts (housing, blade, handle, etc.) itself from U.S. materials. The engine, which constitutes 50% of the total cost of manufacturing the lawn mower, is bought from a U.S. supplier, which, the lawn mower manufacturer knows, assembles the engine in a U.S. factory. Although most of the parts and the final assembly of the lawn mower are of U.S. origin and the engine is assembled in the United States, the lawn mower will not necessarily be considered all or virtually all made in the United States. This is because the engine itself is made up of various parts that may be imported and that may constitute a significant percentage of the total cost of manufacturing the lawn mower. Thus, before labeling its lawn mower "Made in USA," the manufacturer should look to its engine supplier for more specific information as to the engine's origin. For instance, were foreign parts to constitute 60% of the cost of producing the engine, then the lawn mower would contain a total of at least 30% foreign content, and an unqualified "Made in USA" label would be inappropriate.

  18. For purposes of this Enforcement Policy Statement, the Commission considers raw materials to be products such as minerals, plants or animals that are processed no more than necessary for ordinary transportation.

  19. In addition, because raw materials, unlike manufactured inputs, may be inherently unavailable in the United States, the Commission will also look at whether or not the raw material is indigenous to the United States, or available in commercially significant quantities. In cases where the material is not found or grown in the United States, consumers are likely to understand that a "Made in USA" claim on a product that incorporates such materials (e.g., vanilla ice cream that uses vanilla beans, which, the Commission understands, are not grown in the United States) means that all or virtually all of the product, except for those materials not available here, originated in the United States. Nonetheless, even where a raw material is nonindigenous to the United States, if that imported material constitutes the whole or essence of the finished product (e.g., the rubber in a rubber ball or the coffee beans in ground coffee), it would likely mislead consumers to label the final product with an unqualified "Made in USA" claim.

  20. Nonetheless, in these examples, other, qualified claims could be used to identify truthfully the domestic processing that took place. For example, if the gold ring was designed and fabricated in the United States, the manufacturer could say that (e.g., "designed and fabricated in U.S. with 14K imported gold"). Similarly, if the ceramic tile were manufactured in the United States from imported clay, the manufacturer could indicate that as well.

  21. These examples are intended to be illustrative, not exhaustive; they do not represent the only claims or disclosures that would be permissible under Section 5 of the FTC Act. As indicated, however, qualified claims, like any claim, should be truthful and substantiated and should not overstate the U.S. content of a product. For example, it would be inappropriate for a marketer to represent that a product was "Made in U.S. of U.S. and imported parts" if the overwhelming majority of the parts were imported and only a single, insignificant part was manufactured in the United States; a more appropriate claim would be "Made in U.S. of imported parts."

  22. On the other hand, that the last substantial transformation of the product takes place in the United States may not alone be sufficient to substantiate such a claim. For example, under the rulings of the U.S. Customs Service, a disposable razor is considered to have been last substantially transformed where its blade is made, even if it is thereafter assembled in another country. Thus, a disposable razor that is assembled in Mexico with a U.S.-made blade and other parts of various origins would be considered to have been last substantially transformed in the United States and would not have to bear a foreign country-of-origin marking. Nonetheless, because the final assembly of the razor occurs abroad, it would be inappropriate to label the razor "Made in U.S. of U.S. and imported parts." It would, however, likely be appropriate to label the razor "Assembled in Mexico with U.S.-made blade," "Blade made in United States, razor assembled in Mexico" or "Assembled in Mexico with U.S. and imported parts."

  23. 19 C.F.R. § 134.46. Specifically, this provision provides that:

In any case in which the words "United States," or "American," the letters "U.S.A.," any variation of such words or letters, or the name of any city or locality in the United States, or the name of any foreign country or locality other than the country or locality in which the article was manufactured or produced appear on an imported article or its container, and those words, letters or names may mislead or deceive the ultimate purchaser as to the actual country of origin of the article, there shall appear, legibly and permanently, in close proximity to such words, letters or name, and in at least a comparable size, the name of the country of origin preceded by "Made in," "Product of," or other words of similar meaning.

In a Federal Register notice announcing amendments to this provision, the Customs Service indicated that, where a product has a foreign origin, any references to the United States made in the context of a statement relating to any aspect of the production or distribution of the product (e.g., "Designed in USA," "Made for XYZ Corporation, California, U.S.A.," or "Distributed by ABC, Inc., Colorado, USA") would be considered misleading to the ultimate purchaser and would require foreign country-of-origin marking in accordance with the above provision. 62 Fed. Reg. 44,211, 44,213 (1997).

Artery Disease and Ribbon Microphones

Get ready for a tour though a fake artery. Actually this is a plastic model of a heart artery, also known as a coronary artery, that was provided by the drug company that made Zocor, to physicians. Doctors find it helpful to have models and pictures to explain various diseases to their patients.

This is a model of a diseased artery, one that is affected by the disease known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis (say it five times fast) is a diffuse disease that affects the entire arterial circulation system in humans. Everybody has it to some extent. The cutaway shows yellow colored plaque in the artery. Plaque is the term used to describe the buildup of lipid (fatty) material and calcium that can clog an artery and result in obstructive diseases, and cause shortness of breath, starve the heart muscle of oxygen, which it needs, and even trigger a fatal heart attack.

The typical notion is that a blockage or plug of some sort forms inside the artery. Even this model seems to show that, and it also shows a brown material, which is a blood clot inside the artery. Blood clots can form inside an artery and can completely cut off blood flow. That can cause a sudden and acute heart arrest, and death.

But the model is not quite right.

It shows the three layers of an artery - intima, media and adventitia - corresponding to inside, middle, and outside, of a normal artery. That's ok in a normal segment, but it is not what the diseased artery looks like. The medial layer is often gone altogether, and replaced by a pool of liquid, fatty material. The model doesn't show that condition, which is termed Vulnerable Plaque. Ultrasound images show us that arterial disease is more complex than was commonly appreciated, and spreads over large areas of the artery.

Vulnerable Plaque is a real killer
and is more prevalant than many people think. That fat-rich liquid is nasty - it actually causes a clot when the plaque cracks open (which it can do any time) and spills into the blood. Then the clot stops the flow of blood completely, and the heart tissue, starved of oxygen it needs, dies. So too the patient.

Our group developed IVUS, which is a way to look inside heart arteries. We did this in the late 80's and the early 90's and today it is a successful business that is larger than the entire market for music recording microphones. IVUS uses a small microphone-like catheter - a tiny tube that is inserted into the heart - to make a sonar scan of the artery, so doctors can put in stents or decide if surgery is needed.

Now we are experimenting with new microphone materials, and have come up with a more sensitive technology that will eventually be used in studio recording microphones. The technology involves the use of nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes.

We hope to use the same microphone technology as a sensor to detect that bad actor - Vulnerable Plaque. Today, there is no way to detect it. We think that we have found a way to listen for the sound of Vulnerable Plaque so that clinicians can do something about it before it causes a potentially fatal heart attack.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Larry Killip's Custom Ribbon Mic based on Naked Eye

Here's the story about the "Killip Green" ribbon mic we made for Larry Killip: He has a review of the Naked Eye ribbon microphone on his own site, here. Larry is a prolific talent.

During the development of what was to become the actual "Naked Eye" product, we went through many design iterations, listening tests, measurements, tweaks, mods, fine tuning and process development steps. All these things must be done before actually "releasing" a product, in order for it to be consistent. The Naked Eye product is lower in cost and very consistent like our other models.

At various stages of the design process, some prototypes were kept "as is" and others were discarded or modified. There were some that we liked but didn't fit the specification for Naked Eye. (A specification is something that is made in advance of making the product, as the guideline for the development effort. Oftentimes the term "specification" is used when the more correct word is "measurement".) So we had a couple of interesting mics here that weren't destined to become products, and when Larry ordered a released Naked Eye ribbon microphone we thought that he'd get a kick out of seeing one of the early versions that led to it. That green one is not much like the blue Naked Eye at all, but it is cute! To make everything match we hand painted in the logo with green enamel, and it came out nicely.

Custom work is usually done on SPLx models, so this really is unique, and rare ;)

We sent a kit of pieces for Larry to put together that contained this green body and some motor unit parts, all loose. It was all wrapped in Easter wrapping paper, and in a box stuffed with Easter grass. Larry put it all together (he is quite expert at ribbon mic mechanics and we knew he could do it!) and that's the unique "Killip Green" one you see in the picture, above.

Larry demonstrates his vintage gold top Les Paul that he bought new in this video.

Naked Eye, Crowley and Tripp, SPLx, and the "bkini" logo are trademarks of Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Special Guest: Mark Zamcheck

Boston area keyboardist and composer Mark Zamcheck (Mother Zamcheck's Bacon Band, Zamcheck, The Make, John Cate) came in for a visit and a tour, and he even brought pizza. Go to PopFree Records to buy his music. More music is available through Bigfish Media.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dynamic MIcs

Dynamic mics used to be the most common type of mic available until electret condensers were produced in huge quantities for cellphones and other consumer gadgets. I like this image because you can see right in to the ring magnet and part of the moving coil attached to the tympanic diaphragm. You can also see the cylindrical magnet that is in the center however there isn't much to look at. That spiral turbine pleated arrangement must have been designed to keep the coil centered in the gap while allowing adequate in and out movement. It also might be responsible for suppression of lateral modes.

One thing that limits the dynamic is that the diaphragm and coil tend to have a lot of mass. Also, the need to keep the coil, which is made of very fine wire, centered in the gap requires a reasonably stiff drumhead. Yet they work fairly well and are reliable.

The dynamic loudspeaker is exactly the same, just larger. The typical cheap headphone transducer is also the same and in fact you can make a very serviceable stereo recording mic out of ordinary headphones and use it to record concerts. It's done all the time.

Just look for the person in the crowd facing the band who is trying not to move.

I find that a larger speaker such as a paper cone automotive speaker makes a very good communications mic for ham radio applications and very often people prefer it over the EV635 for voice. I send that into either a Collins 32V2 or a Johnson Valiant that has been greatly modified. These are both high fidelity transmitters with over 20 Khz of transmit bandwidth, if needed.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Soundwave Research Laboratories Investigator

Chris Regan at AES Paris investigating mechanical music reproduction apparatus.

Gramophone, Victrola and Diamond Disc systems developed in the early 1900's quickly led to the production of mass market music, the Hit Record, and record deals. Radio didn't take off until the late 20's, so there was at least a decade when record sales comprised the sole channel to consumers.

Chris looks like Patrick McGoohan in an old episode of Danger Man (Secret Agent in the US).

Variable Pattern Ribbon Microphone

Hugh Tripp is shown looking at the distal end of a very promising prototype ribbon microphone that has undergone several modifications. The mic is a ribbon type with an acoustic load placed where the rear lobe (the back of the motor unit) sits. The tube has a tuned acoustic resistance that is designed to match the acoustic Z of the rear of the mic. In theory, this matching eliminates reflections caused by an impedance discontinuity. Then, there is a loss process involved which converts the acoustic energy into heat (not much!) which is ultimately radiated at IR and by convection.

In the background is an old Guild amp Hugh found at a yard sale next to 64 black face Fender Princeton (owned by Chris) and an early MXR Micro Chorus. Also you can see another short ribbon prototype, an early Naked Eye in gloss black, a very playable Yamaha bass, and the edge of an old rebuilt banjo ukelele with a brass nut and Hofner tuners.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fostex and Audio Technica Similarities

Does anyone know if Fostex had or has an arrangement with Audio Technica? I have no knowledge of any connection, but there are some strong similarities in the way the Fostex MS Stereo (not a ribbon microphone, but a so-called "printed ribbon" dynamic mic) and this Audio Technica mic shown here, are made.

The matte black finish, the way certain tapers are machined, the stacked design method, and other details make me think they come from related factories. Of course both mics are from Japanese companies. The Fostex was made in Japan, and is very high quality. I do not know where the Audio Technica mic is made.

One thing that looks like a Feilo (Shanghai website) (USA website) element is that mount with the cast mushroom top and the ring arrangement, and its squarish plastic knob. That does NOT mean that there is any connection between Audio Technica and Feilo. We also buy mounts from Feilo at times and they are of good quality. No suggestion is made that the microphones are made in China or anywhere specifically, as I do not know.

You can't see the powder coated screen from the Fostex but it was identical in mesh and texture to the AT. The AT uses an adhesive label in a groove to mark the mic. That looked good on The Grampian, and it looks OK here, too. The Fostex has a very sublime pad printed mark done in a spectacular subdued robin's egg blue. It glows.

Someone from AT or Fostex please?
July 10, 2006: I've been informed that there is no connection via an email. So I assume these are only aesthetic elements that are common to Japanese microphones. In any case, I admire the quality of the machining and the finish.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Our Ribbon Microphone Transformer

Ribbon microphone transformers are possibly the trickiest type of audio transformer to get right. Not only do we want a frequency response that meets the requirements of the overall design, but it must also be very efficient, not introduce noise and distortion, and be free of magnetic pickup.

Shown here is one of our transformers. All Crowley and Tripp microphones use a high quality transformer similar to this one. The design is our own and is unlike any other microphone transformer. We often like to depart from convention around here. The transformer shown here is designed to be very efficient, and each loss mechanism was studied, and design parameters chosen, for best possible signal preservation. Heavy shielding helps keep the actual noise floor very near that of the thermal noise floor. Naked Eye is double shielded and all of the other mics we make are triple shielded with the transformer oriented perpendicular to the long axis of the microphone. This takes advantage of the magnetic shielding properties of the heavy stainless steel housing used in many of the mics we produce.

Noise come in several forms: Thermal, magnetic, RF, and even mechanical noise can be significant in a sensitive device such as a microphone. Keeping external noise out is half the battle. The idea is to make the mic as immune to interference as possible, as certain locations, such as radio stations, have much potentially interfering RF energy in the studio.

Here's more on other ribbon mic transformers.

"Crowley and Tripp" and the "Bikini Bottom" logo are Trademarks of Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc.