Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More on the Oktava Transformers

Here is a little diorama of the Oktava ribbon mic transformer from the bunch we bought from Oktava. Quite a long time ago, Oktava ran out of aluminum ribbon material so we sent them some for free so they could restart production, and they sold us some of these transformers as part of the deal, in case we liked them. In retrospect it appears that the material source went to China from Oktava - at least that's the way it looks to me when I examine one of the Alctron "Cosmetic Case" double ribbon microphones, which has a ribbon motor that looks like it is straight out of an Oktava ML52.

That mumetal "can" is something to behold; not very pretty, but functional, and that stacked silicon steel toroid with about 55 layers is another interesting solution.

We always purchase what we take apart and expect that others will do the same. This needs to be said because we occasionally get other manufacturer's gear in to check out which we do not disassemble.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Many Oktava Transformers

And speaking of bunches, here are some Oktava ML52 ribbon microphone transformers we came across in our searchings a while back. These are quite interesting if not primitive forms of the toroidal transformer art, and they have a certain Soviet look and feel unmatched by anything from the Far East. I've been to Russia in the past visiting various companies and universities and have come to know "Russian Design" as meaning robust, overbuilt, heavy, and not very expensive. These fit that description, as they are large transformers as microphone transformers go, and because they are large, are relatively efficient. Compared with Jensen, Lundahl and Sowter in the total efficiency department, the Oktavas win easily.

The construction is odd: a telescoping shell of mumetal, inside stacks of silicon steel discs held in a cool 60's looking plastic bobbin, and of course many turns of fine gage copper for the secondary which was wound over the primary with layers of wound plastic film. Definitely hand made by the people of Okatava, and staked into place after assembly with a hammer and punch.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Chicago Surplus - Bunches of Shure Microphones

I go to a lot of hamfests. This weekend was the Boxboro MA hamfest and ARRL convention where a lot of ham radio types congregated to buy and sell various bits of gear, tubes, parts and other technically related items.

Inside I found this company selling all sorts of Shure microphones and parts. SM57s and SM58s galore, SM10s, wireless systems, mixers, monitors, shotguns, 55S - all Shure and nothing but Shure. I bought a dozen SM58 ish windscreens for about $10. Don't ask me what I will do with them, but I just had to have them.

Anyway Chicago Surplus, 11304-260th, P.O. Box 161, Trevor, WI 53179 is the address on his orange da-glo biz card, and 262-862-2517 voice/262-862-6376 fax are his numbers.

Might be a good place to get carloads of SM57s with gaffer's tape still on them.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Recordist Ensemble Stereo Kit

The Recordist Ensemble Stereo Kit consists of two matched Recordist Ribbon Microphones finished in low-key gunmetal grey, a pair of low diffraction rotary mounts, appropriate hardware, mast, all supplied in a handy Pelican case.

This image makes the grey look a little lighter and shinier than it actually is. In person the pair are intentionally subdued, serious, and formal. You can take these to the opera without trepidation.

Same size as Naked Eye but have a very different ribbon motor with extended top end, and a reach designed for front-of-stage and other distant and semi-distant recording jobs, and The Recordist has a very strict, symmetrical response which is important for Blumlein and also M-S Stereo applications.

I love the sound of Blumlein stereo - the apparent realism can be quite startling! Use with low noise clean preamps such as True Systems, Grace, Great River etc., or, straight into your high quality field recorder. A naturally high output and low noise make that easy.

We'll be showing this at AES San Francisco. Here is the press release in Pro Sound News.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Order of the Emblem

A collection of various Crowley and Tripp microphone emblems. Some standard and some custom. Starting clockwise with the blacked out emblem:

1. All black stealth emblem
2. Spare for a custom mic
3. V! Reactor emblem in red clear over chrome. Note the greater curvature.
4. Recordist Ribbon Microphone (not yet released)
5. Large one, all glass
6. Another real glass AKA cloisonne
7. Unused blue
8. Naked Eye

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Lab Visit: Darron Burke

It's August and the time when things tend to be a little quiet around Ashland. The school buses haven't started clogging the streets yet and people are still on the Cape.

Not so this week at Soundwave Research Labs, where things are getting busy ahead of "the season". Today we have Darron Burke, proprietor of Makeshift Studio in Hyde Park MA, over for a visit and to listen to some mics and get the scoop of the latest goings-on.

Here he menacingly waves an EV 635A at me.

Darron's website is not to be missed, and includes many fun things to do, plus a song he recorded of U.V Protection that is sure to get your attention.

But that's not all: Darron sometimes inhabits the Plough & Stars in Cambridge and beyond, performing with
Blanketeer. Definitely worth a listen!

The Fly

Or at least the wing of a very small fly, seen here in through the eye of the microscope, attached to the end of a cantilever sensor.

The insect wing has had plenty of time to evolve into an efficient air coupling device, and it is low in mass, very strong for its size, and has important directional properties for use as a sound sensor. Like some airplane wings, a spar comprises the leading edge of this device, terminated in a ball and socket arrangement, which sadly for the fly, is easy to remove.

The trailing edge is also wonderful: it almost vanishes into nothing and yet captures the air without being too soft or floppy. And in fact the structure is amazingly stiff, yet lightweight.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Studio Bopnique - Anthony Resta

The talented and eclectic Anthony J Resta seen here at the Studio Bopnique Wall of Many CDs. Click the image to enlarge it. Virtually all of the images at can be supersized.

Last night I visited Studio Bopnique in Chelmsford, MA to see producer and musician Anthony Resta, (AJ AKA Ajax) who uses Crowley and Tripp Soundstage Image, Studio Vocalist, and Proscenium ribbon microphones in his studio. A recent article talks about Anthony's doings with Perry Farrell's new release which is due out in September, and one of the songs he produced with Collective Soul is charting at the moment, so Anthony is, shall we say, in a very productive mode these days, with even more happening.

Check out NYC music artist Christine Hagan's website to see and hear some of her latest collaborations with Anthony at the studio helm.

Anthony is an enthusiast of the Optigan, an arcane, insane sort of optical organ from the 70s' that plays samples recorded on 12" floppy clear plastic disks, which can be inserted upside-down, if you want, for even stranger sounds. The Optigan has its following, which you can read about here.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Crowley and Tripp Review in Recording Magazine

In the July issue of Recording there is an excellent review of the Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist ribbon microphone . Reviewer Scott Dorsey talks about his success recording alto female vocals and as a spot mic for instruments such as the violin.

click here for more about the review

Friday, August 11, 2006

Recorder/Shakuhachi Conversion 3

click on the image

Here is the "Rakuhachi" in near final form. You can look into the utaguchi, see the angle of it, also some hollowing out was done on the mouthpiece, which flares nicely, almost like a bamboo joint.

Now the tone is sweeter, more varied, easy to bend, easy to modulate, and even though the embrochure is touchy, I think all that's needed is some practice with this new instrument. There are a lot of major scale pieces that are going to be very easy now.

This is post number 100 on archived by The entire blog and its contents, original images and materials copyright 2006 Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc. 72 Nickerson Rd. Ashland MA USA. Rights to many of the original photographs used in this blog are available by contacting us.

Recorder/Shakuhachi Conversion 2

So it was with some reservation and fear that I cut off the bulb.

Here it is after the excision of that whistle top and some sanding of the area to the front of the "utaguchi".

Lucky for me that I have a nice angle saw, which gave me the correct angle, same as a real shakuhachi.

Read what happened in the end

Recorder/Shakuhachi Conversion

The recorder is a fine old instrument, easy for beginners, no tricky embrochure, and has its roots well back in the pre-Renaissance. This major scale Kuiper recorder was found at a yard sale for a dollar. Being a lover of flutes and other similar wind instruments such as the shakuhachi, I simply could not pass it up. I gave the lady four quarters.

But I was so disappointed with the sound. Like a shrill whistle, and not even that nice. I thought that little skinny aperture at the bottom of the bulbous proximal end was bound to make the most whistly sound, since that's what happens when you tighten your lips down too far on the "utaguchi", or the knife edge, of a shakuhachi.

Sacrilege is the violation or the injurious treatment of a sacred object. I tend to regard any musical instrument as at least minimally holy, even a one-dollar Kuiper with a bad whistle.

Read what happened Next...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Music Break - Marco Granados

Flutist extraordinaire Marco Granados is the subject of today's music break. Marco is seen here at the Crowley and Tripp booth at the last AES, and tried out the Proscenium ribbon mic.

Marco gave us an excellent CD entitled "Luna", on which he and guitarist Aquiles Baez perform a fine collection of instrumental tunes, some written by Baez, and other Latin American love songs.

Marco Granados was nominated for a Grammy and has other works available on his informative site which I urge you to visit. His unique blend of incredible technical virtuosity, and his broad, classical/Latin/world-based repertoire are stunning, and we've gotten to know Marco for his unending quest for just the right tone and nuance.

When he isn't creating and recording in NY, Marco travels the world, performing and teaching.

Naked Eye Mount Review by the Numbers

The Rotary Mount shown here at the top of a stand (the image is rotated 90 degrees but that doesn't matter) showing the several positions available. The idea behind the mount was 1. keep it away from the pole, 2. provide plenty of swing so the mic could be put in any position, and 3. be able to rotate the mic on axis through 360 degrees, 4. be able to lock everything in place easily, 5. make it modular so that it can stack for Blumlein and other application requiring two or more mics, and 6. avoid diffraction, cavity effects, phasiness which occur with ring type mounts around the body of nearly every other mic out there.

The trouble with rings and structures close to the opening (capsule, ribbon motor, diaphragm, what-have-you) include 1. knife edge diffraction, 2. cavity resonance, 3. impedance transformation as a function of distance, and 4. shading.

"Naked Eye" ribbon microphone is a trademark of Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blumlein Mast

The Blumlein mast allows two figure 8 microphones to be placed "nose to nose" for stereo recording. Blumlein stereo listened to through headphones is very satisfying and realistic, and ribbon microphones exhibit good "classical reach" without loss of bass.

The Mast ($39.00 + shipping) is also available for those who already have Naked Eye ribbon microphones, as it accepts the same low diffraction rotary mount that comes with every Naked Eye mic.

You don't need to use it vertically. In fact, it seems to be at its best (for my non Blumlein purposes) at the end of a boom, for holding a couple of Naked Eyes turned just so at different parts of the instrument. I play the shakuhachi, which is a traditional Japanese end-blown flute, and that can be a difficult instrument to record, as it can sound too dry, too raspy, too bright, etc. depending on mic placement. The ability to back off a bit, which is something ribbon mics can do because the reach or sweet spot is extended out a distance compared to, say, a 1" condenser, and to aim two similar mics while in the playing position, is a great convenience.

By the way, the mics here are not Naked Eyes, but two new Crowley and Tripp mics undergoing evaluation.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hugh Says:

There are lots of ads in all fields where a person you might have heard of holds up a product and tells you to buy it. This is probably effective on some poeple, since the words are always spoken with authority and a significant portion of the population can be counted on to accept the recommendation of a person in high position. Hugh Tripp, cofounder of Soundwave Research Labs and maker of Crowley and Tripp Ribbon Microphones, is holding up a medical transducer model at the lab, so perhaps he should be wearing a white lab coat, and a pocket protector. It's an example, and a good one, of the type of quality work and imagination that comes out of the lab, an environment geared toward innovation that draws in musicians, artists, scientists and other collaborators who help shape the course of what is yet to come. Hugh Tripp is definitely an authority on the manufacturing of precision devices, having been responsible for over 200 separate product releases at the various Boston Scientific companies, and before that at Acoustic Research.

More on the Shure 55C Dynamic Microphone

The transducer is housed in a cube shaped frame. The transducer surround is made of stamped metal with four screw tabs, and the diaphragm is dome-shaped, and about an inch in diameter. A separate matching transformer is used. Note the black, gauze-like material covering the transducer: it looks just like a nylon stocking, or, given the date, may even be a piece of silk stocking material. Whatever it is, it still has some resilience which we didn't want to test for fear of tearing it.

Here's the transducer inside the suspension frame which is curved to conform to the die cast body of the 55C. Note the use of tension and compression elements. Oval rubber isolators (which became rather brittle over time) are placed over steel tabs that protrude from the U-shaped frame. The curved frame is attached with springs and kept at a distance with more rubber pieces.

The designers obviously thought a lot about the vibration sensitivity of this mic and wanted to make sure that the transducer was well isolated.

Here is the entire transducer assembly and transformer being inserted back into the shell of the 55C. This has to be one of the most elaborate dynamic microphones. Shure engineers were still in the refinement phases of dynamic microphones in general, it seems.

More on Die Casting

Several people have asked me how Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones are made. The answer is that we machine them (or have parts machined at local shops) from solid pieces of steel and stainless steel. Die cast parts,like that seen in this EV V1,2,3 series ribbon case, are not used here.

Machining is a process in which metal is cut until the desired shape is obtained. Typical machining processes involve milling, lathe turning, and drilling and tapping. Machining is often the more expensive process but offers the highest quality and precision. Machined parts may be made to very tight tolerances. We select the machining process for this reason.

Casting and Die Casting are processes by which molten metal is either poured or injected into a mold. The advantage is low cost, good detail (as seen above). Some expensive high quality castings can achieve tight dimensional tolerances. Cheaper die cast parts are often irregular and have poor surface finish and corrosion resistance, and low strength. There are a lot of cheap die cast parts used in some recent mics, and we avoid those types of parts.

Forging is the process in which a piece of heated metal, such as steel or iron, is shaped while in a semi plastic state. Blacksmiths forge materials, like fences and door hardware, by physically hammering the material on an anvil. Drop forging is a process in which a slug of red hot metal, like steel, is put into a strong die, and hammered, usually once, with a very strong press. Typical forged items include wrenches, ratchets and sockets. Drop forging deforms the material and can produce a very strong part which usually must be further finished by grinding, polishing and plating. I have never seen a microphone with a forged part in it.

There are other metal shaping processes used in microphones, such as deep drawing (like for making the bottom cup of a 77DX), spinning, punching, various laser processes, and chemical machining and etching.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Crowley and Tripp Soundstage Image Ribbon Microphone

OK so I have to admit that there is a certain visual color scheme here that seems to resemble the red-behind-chrome look of the 55 series. We put in different color screens for the various models so they could be easily identified, and picked colors that seemed the most appropriate for the intended application. The gold color of the Studio Vocalist meant to evoke some kind of warm quality, the white of the Proscenium, classical and formal, and the red of the Soundstage Image, broadcast, maybe old RCA, and it looks nice.

Screens impart some of the acoustic color, or timbre, to the microphone, so screen materials must be selected with care. In some cases the screen material has to be designed to have the intended acoustic Z, acoustic R and frequency-specific attenuation curve needed for the particular purpose.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Shure 55C Dynamic

Here is an imposing relic and historic mic - the Shure 55C - shown here in restored and rebuilt (as far as we could) condition after being rescued at a ham radio flea market, or "hamfest".

Here is a link to more about the 55C

The 55C is significantly bigger and fatter looking than the present 55S series mics still made by Shure. The 55C was taken apart and found to have lots of internal rubber isolation damping parts that had hardened over the years into a stone-like consistency. We cut new rubber parts by hand, and with some guesswork, because the old rubber crumbled when we took it out. This is an interesting dynamic mic with a large tympanic element attached to a wound voice coil inside a die-cast internal rectangular housing, and with a separate matching transformer mounted adjecent thereto.

I think it looks like a locomotive, or a Hudson Hornet, comin' at ya, and the overhead knuckle mount just adds to the aerodynamic, automotive motif. This, by the way, would not be considered an example of so called "Art Deco", but is I think more correctly categorizable as "Art Moderne" Raymond Loewy style. The mid century modern style, incorporating new materials, plastics and manufacturing methods, and various visual design elements such as those from Bauhaus, artists like Charles and Ray Eames, Saarinen, Loewy and others was and still is reflected in many consumer products.

Shure, Electrovoice and many other manufacturers incorporated dynamic and streamline visual cues such as broad horizontal ribs, inset contrasting colors, shown in this case with the red screen, and rounded off, blended angles which are very nicely represented in the robust knuckle design.

This is made of die cast parts. Die casting is a process in which a molten metal is forced under pressure into a mold. Die casting metals are often a mixture called pot metal, which is comprised of zinc, aluminum and lead. Often the zinc boils and produces zinc oxide, and leaves small holes, or voids. Die cast parts such as this microphone were then chrome plated. The plating often develops pits and flakes as a result of the voids, poor adhesion, and corrosion. Die casting is not used as much to produce decorative items or enclosures today, as plastic injection molding has now become more common, although plenty of die casting is still used where plating and finish are not of primary concern. Die casting has also improved tremendously in recent years. The Japanese bicycle parts manufacturer Shimano, produces high grade, beautifully finished die-cast parts, such as brake levers, that are as strong as single piece machined parts.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pro Audio Review Award: Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist Ribbon Microphone

Pro Audio Review gave us this neat looking trophy. It's in the microphone museum and I thought you might like to see it, fingerprints and all.

The X Mics

Three earliest X series (zoom in to see the X-number) of Proscenium, and Studio Vocalist ribbon microphones. This shot was taken well before the final marking was designed and applied to the stainless steel mic bodies.

This particular trio circulated around for some time and were used for all kinds of on-site demos, recordings and also as reference objects in the lab. We still use them as reference objects.

What do you think of that spidery mount? We thought they took too long to set up and adjust, and I think the ring is just another obstacle that the sound can be reflected or diffracted off. That's why we started supplying a Sticky Lipz mount free with each mic, which is imported, but has the oomph to grab hold of the mic firmly, and keep it there.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

V1 Reactor

$89 plus shipping

See the curve and read about it here

Special Guest - Jim Koger

James D. "Jim" Koger (R) visited the lab a while ago and is seen here discussing microphones with Hugh Tripp. Jim is the originator and inventor of the 1/12 wavelength method of matching an ultrasound transducer to a transmission line. He is also credited with the base theory of composite acoustic backing materials for piezoceramics. In addition, Jim Koger developed the methods used for characterizing acoustic transducer bandwidths, the capacitively coupled moving transmission line, numerous tungsten-based acoustic composites, negative index acoustic refraction focusing of ultrasound beams, and many other highly creative and commercially important innovations in the field of catheter based imaging. Wiith over a dozen US patents issued and probably more to follow, James D Koger is a name to know in ultrasonics.

Jim recently moved back East to Cambridge from his home in Santa Cruz, where he learned to surf.