Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Monocle

Around here, a lot of small improvements are frequently made to products so they will be easier to use, more effective, or just better. Such is the case with Chris Regan's newest insert that goes into the Monocle Mount supplied with every Naked Eye Ribbon Microphone. Chris realized that the old school green cloth that reminded Bob and Hugh of a billiard table was eventually going to wear out, which is unacceptable. So, Chris came up with a design for a wear-resistant compliant polymer bottom pad, and had it embossed with cream-colored lettering in the Albertus font. Very English we think. And he kept that pool table green we liked.

By the way, you can view the Monocle Mount, and the Naked Eye Ribbon Microphone it fits, at more locations now: Long & McQuade in Canada has them in their stores - and, fortunately for us, they don't stay there very long.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Larry Killip's Classic Mics

Readers of this blog may already know that Larry Killip is a friend of ours who has contributed much to the development of Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones.

If you have not done so already, visit Larry's website and you will find more about his interesting collection of old microphones, his wonderfully restored old Jaguar, and even a tribute page to Naked Eye.

While there, watch his latest music vid, "Waterfall".
killip site royer neumann RCA

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The RCA Broadcast Magnifier

I forgot I had this cool magnifier. Today I was searching around for a small jar of carbon nanotubes and instead came across this very nice leather-cased RCA Broadcast magnifying glass. I suppose this could be used to examing minute details of a subject 77DX, or perhaps even for the preparation of some RCA ribbons, in order to be perfectly equipped.

In the background is possibly the last of the Nottingham Raleigh rod brake pads still in their original box. I bought them for the Raleigh 28" wheeled roadster, model DL-1, that I'm working on.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Naked Eye gets PAR 2006 Award

We got an award for Naked Eye.

Pro Audio Review, a magazine that we believe has a good grasp of the newsworthy innovations in the pro audio world, gave Crowley and Tripp ribbon microphones its second consecutive award. Last year in New York, PAR awarded the Crowley and Tripp Studio Vocalist with its Excellence Award, now this year in San Francisco, another award was given to Naked Eye.

See here
for the list of recipients, among which are some very innovative friends, Latch Lake, True Systems, and Little Labs.

compared to royer rca aea neumann microphones telefunken akg sony sennheiser

Saturday, November 18, 2006

SACD is simply great

OK I know that the vinyl RCA Living Stereo versions of Charles Munch and the BSO's performance of Daphnis et Chloe, now 50 years old, represent the pinnacle of stereo recording to some. This two channel representation of the incredibly dramatic work by Ravel has withstood a half a century of critical listening, and it still amazes listeners with its startling realism. Keeping the complex phase of a performance intact can often do that. The human ear/brain knows quality when it hears it.

Perhaps that's why Blumlein recording has had such a resurgence. The magic of the live performance, the sense of being there, the realism and unadorned, unmolested character of the mix, a "less is more" representation but done very well, is quite refreshing.

You can now listen to these historic recordings on SACD, otherwise known as DSD or Direct Stream Digital.

SACD as a format is not exactly thriving despite its advantage of being playable as an ordinary CD in addition to DSD, so you can still listen to it in your car CD payer. DVD audio, which is not as good in my opinion, is winning in some cases. Of course DVD audio is the place for movie and television audio, which is perhaps the more important corner of the music biz today.

In any case, if you happen to go into Best Buy, Circuit City, or other big box mass retailers, you will see SACD capable multiformat players for not much money. Naturally, you can also spend much more. But at least get one, and do plug in your headphones, sit in a comfortable listening position, and experience the excellent and open sound of this format. Warning: You might not care for those MP3s anymore. robert j crowley

Friday, November 17, 2006

MWOW the Cat says mwow to the 77DX

An odd critter, MWOW the Cat is a disturbing papier mache creation from a Biddeford Maine consignment shop, a kind of MOBA-inspired pet suitable for evoking certain anthropomorphic comparisons.

Here he is, oddly regarding the 77DX.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Even more 77DX pictures

We have loads of pictures of the various RCA 77DX mics that we probably won't ever need. Here is a shot of the Studio Vocalist against an old series brass label RCA 77DX and a new series foil label RCA 77DX. Our goal was to have a higher output, lower noise, more useful sound, and greater durability than the best current and past microphones, and the 77DX was one of our benchmarks early on. Each of our mics has some predecessor, for example, the Proscenium was judged against the RCA 44 sound, the Studio Vocalist against very premium vocal condensers, the Soundstage Image against the Fisher ribbon and the Naked Eye against the current US ribbons in the $1000+ range.

Zoom in and check out our Dual 1019 turntable and Sony 250 tape deck, also the JVC Videosphere hanging TV. If you look very closely you can spot our excellent Ethel Smith LP, and on the far right another famous (or infamous) LP from long past.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Studio Bopnique Musique

Now is a good time to visit Studio Bopnique Musique (via myspace) and listen to "She Throws Things". Go for it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Help for Failing Hearts

Here's an interesting new technology that we like: It's a heart assist device that is like a squeeze cup that helps out a damaged heart that's too weak to beat on its own.

The device from Myotech is a revolutionary way to keep hearts going while people wait for transplants, but is also is a way to give the heart some needed rest, so it can recover after a heart attack.

Air is injected through a tube that goes into the chest wall, and this inflates and deflates the heart cup.

Some other schemes to assist hearts, like VADs, use pumps and require the surgeon to cut into the heart muscle. Not so with the Myotech device.

There is an acoustics connection, of course. The sound of a heart beating can be used to track its health. Soundwave Research Laboratories makes ribbon microphones and all kinds of sensors that can be used to listen to the sounds of the human body, look at blood vessels in the heart for blockages, and someday used for diagnosing or locating other diseases too, like cancer, and also for therapy.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Coles 4038 STC ribbon replacement - how to replace the ribbon

Coles 4038

STC ribbon microphone

ribbon replacement

price to replace the ribbon

.6 micron leaf

thin aluminum

coles 4038 ribbon microphone is an older microphone design with a very thin and delicate ribbon. Moving air will destroy it

blown ribbon

how much does it cost to replace the ribbon in a ribbon microphone?

coles electroacoustics

buy price $150-200

high noise microphones


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Findings: RCA 77DX Ribbon Microphone

The RCA 77DX that we took apart, documented, put in Solidworks files and generally examined in minute detail is now back together.

We learned a lot from the investigation of this incredibly historic and iconic microphone. Here are a few of the things we learned:

1. The local field geometry and acoustics around the ribbon determine the character of the sound.The ribbon material makes virtually no difference in sound character, but does affect signal level and noise. The ribbon geometry plays a significant role in output level.

2. RCA's transformers are adequate and are well shielded, but we thought they were a little lossy so we did some more work and came up with this..

3, The shunt reactance method used to tailor bass response is very reliable but is not well understood by users. The method (screwdriver) used to select shunt reactance leads to microphone damage.

4. The rear acoustic loading scheme which is also known as the acoustic labyrinth is effective, but not well understood or utilized in practice. The phenolic used for the labyrinth is brittle and easily damaged. The change in pattern from figure 8 to a "hypercardioid" is effective but drastically changes the overall sound character of the mic, from an open sound to one more blocked. The frequency response changes significantly with changes in the shutter position. The method (screwdriver) used to select patterns leads to microphone damage. An acoustic tube was built and tested which resulted in a somewhat flatter response when the rear lobe is presented with a linear attenuative load.

5. The grille pattern and acoustic properties of the grille are at least partly responsible for the aggressive sound of the 77DX. The "gravel" sound in bass frequencies, noticed on male voice, is possibly also due to some nonlinear movement of the ribbon, which is small and narrow within a relatively large, undamped space.

6. Too many parts are used for a reproduction model to be economically viable product if made in the US. It is also a relatively fragile device compared to what we regard today as a current, professional quality ribbon mic. One very dedicated person has reproduced the 77DX shell and has done a fine job, but it is very labor intensive and expensive.

7. There seem to be significant factory variations between early style and later style 77DX mics.

8. The overall design violates the so-called rule of thirds, yet is nonetheless pleasing and emblematic of all microphones.

9. The 77DX is a favorite of ours, signifying the apex of RCA's efforts in the field of ribbon microphones, and a culmination of many years of evolution. It is an important historic microphone as much for its style which has become an icon for anything having to do with microphones, as it is for the engineering that went into it. Many studios seem to have a 77DX on hand, though a number tell us that it doesn't get used very much. Plenty of 77DX microphones were made so the supply of these mics seems assured for the time being. A cottage industry of people providing restoration parts and services exists today

Still need a couple of more links in

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tell Your Friends and Colleagues

If you enjoy reading this blog, help keep it going by telling others.

This applies to the locals, also those from places like Oslo.

Put this link into your online posts when you talk about what you read here on the message boards, so people will know what you are referring to. Copy and paste this:


Bob Crowley

Pop filters, screens and pantyhose

I have to admit that I dislike pop screens.

A pop screen is a filter that is placed between a sound source, usually a person's mouth, and a microphone.

The purpose of a pop screen or filter is to prevent or reduce plosive sounds produced during speech, which can ruin an otherwise decent vocal recording.

If you listen to college radio (and some pro stations too) and have a subwoofer, you are already too familiar with the unpleasantness of Ps popping. It's just bad mic technique, plain and simple. Most FM stations use RE20 dynamics that incorporate a very agressive pop filter in the housing. They are everwhere. Notice the "blocky" sound you get from that as you drive home today. It's not all the awful sound of the Optimod.

Stage performances and popular culture have made "close micing" the accepted practice. Close mic technique does have its advantages, such as less need for a lot of amplifier gain, and therefore reduced feedback. Close mic technique on voice brings up the bass which is often absent in the sound emanating from the mouth. Bass in a professional singer's voice tends to radiate from the chest.

So the stage performer eventually makes it over to the recording studio, and the sound she is used to is from a stage vocal mic, like some dynamic with a ball on it containing a lot of plosive filtering. In the studio, things are different. Open up any C12 and look at all the dried saliva spattered on the capsule. Gross. I am talking about the usual singer here, not the trained opera voice. So a spit screen is probably a better name for a pop filter.

The studio engineer sets up a pop filter, the usual thing to do. Like I said, it has its advantages. It creates an acoustic resistance which is frequency dependent. This cuts the bass. Some people say it stops the wind. What's the difference? Another advantage of the pop filter is that it provides a target for the singer, and helps maintain the singer's position as a result. This is important, as a microphone, depending on its characteristics, usually has a sweet spot where the balance of tone and articulation sound best.

But pop filters have a downside. Regardless of the material, the geometry and its placement, the pop filter imparts its own sound on the vocal, which may be subtle, or not so subtle.

Microphones are sometimes thought of as being analogous the the ear. While this is not accurate, let's let the analogy stand and imagine listening to someone singing into your ear at a distance of only three inches. If you like the sounds of tonsils rattling, then go for it. Because of this long lasting cultural presentation of the human singing voice, almost everyone has become accustomed to that sound.

I don't like it and I suspect others also do not. This is driving the sale of a lot of vocal mics which is good for business. But I prefer to hear you speak or sing from a safe distance where I can appreciate the natural bass in your voice as it radiates from your face and chest, while avoiding a shower.

P - popping is simply bad technique. Singers should demand recording situations that don't exacerbate plosives. The use of a close mic technique has to be done carefully to avoid plosives and excessive palate and tonsil action. Young female singers in particular often have a lot of noise coming from the vocal chords that sounds like a kazoo, possibly due to the suppleness of their larynx tissue, and the efficiency of their voices, which need little air. Microphone Tizz makes it even worse. You hear that buzz saw voice all the time and it seems to go away as the female voice matures, which is a relief by itself.

Using a microphone that has a pleasant balance of tonal characteristics without needing to be so close to the singer's lips is a big help in all this.

Ribbon mics have a bigger sweet spot that extends a greater distance from the mic. This "reach" is also prized for hall and ambient recordings too. Professional singers, I mean the real pros, and the opera singers and stage vocalists who have to project their voices well already know this and you can find plenty of pictures of these artists at work, often with the mic a foot away.

A pop filter will not cure bad vocal technique. It will get the singer to back off, at least, but at the expense of bass, which is why the mouth was so close to the mic to begin with. A better way is to educate singers, have them learn good recording technique and how it is different from stage technique, listen to their voices at a bit of a distance to hear if there is any worthwhile chest in there. This will reduce plosives, palate clicks, gurgles, get rid of that "blocky" character, and keep your mics dry too.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Catheter Extravaganza and Drug Coated Stents

So last week I was in the audience at TCT 2006 - a large interventional cardiology meeting held every year in DC where people in the audience watch live cases from hospitals around the world in an interactive session.

Here we see a case from England being performed by Martin Rothman MD, on the right. Martin is a fine fellow, an avid motorcyclist and inventive, pioneering cardiologist. The audience got to see all this as it happened in England, and also in Italy, Israel, Tokyo and Rio, and a moderator talked with the remote cases and took questions from the panel who you can barely see at the bottom of the image.

An interventional cardiologist is one who intervenes, using a technique where wires and catheters are snaked up from the groin to the heart where there may be blockages in the arteries that feed the heart muscle.

If the arteries get blocked slowly, you become short of breath, gradually lose your strength, and eventually expire. If the artery blocks suddenly, you probably don't have to wait.

Well, the makers of drug coated stents found a way to prop open clogged arteries and keep them open for years without having to crack the chest open, which can be a pain. Instead they use a wire mesh tube that expands and props the artery open, and keeps it open. The drug prevents the artery from growing cells that would block the stent if left alone. The human body tries to heal and cover up foreign objects, like stents, which is what you don't want in this case.

So now 95% of the stents are staying open for a long time. This allows for 1% to clog up in a hurry - a condition caused by an acute coronary thrombosis - we know it as a blood clot. ABC News picked up on this and concluded that drug coated stents are killing people by causing blood clots. This has people scared and it even scares the doctors who put in the stents - negative news is hard to deal with, even if it is wrong.

ABC News failed to mention the other 99% who avoided open surgery and are out and about living their lives. That's not news.

Soundwave Research was there because we develop transducers used for 3VUStm, which is 3rd generation Vascular UltraSound, which is an improvement to IVUS, which we also developed. These transducers are like tiny microphones that travel into the heart and take pictures of blockages, so that the stents can be put into the right places.

This is post number 150