Monday, December 31, 2007

Just a memory, this worried gingerbread guy with the logo on his belly was promptly consumed. A delicious treat made by Des.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Best Microphonium Posts of 2007

I look at 2007 as a transitional time when our mic biz started to get even more interesting as we introduced a number of innovations, some minor, and some possibly important.

The blog has been a way to toss out ideas and remarks about any aspect of microphony, and it has been fun to see the reactions to some. The top post of 2006 was "The Myth of the Ribbon Microphone" which concluded the year in a bit of useful controversy, and now it's time to choose the best (or worst or most significant) of 2007.

Here are my picks:
This one is about "the gas pedal RCA". I like the picture more than anything.
This one is about optical and audio illusions. I think I was on to something when I suddenly made a sharp left, and the post turned into a rant.
An early favorite is this shot of an old magazine, and the humorous juxtaposition of "elements".
The search term "testing" results in a good selection, maybe because we do a lot of that.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

EV V1A Ribbon Microphone Explosion

The Electrovoice V1A ribbon microphone is not one of my favorites, but it is a handsome mic with some interesting die-cast and fabricated parts.

The screens are formed somewhat like an RCA 44; two halves are held in place by edge clamps shaped like small wings which you can see in the upper right.

The magnet is this cylindrical job connected to a pair of parallel pole pieces seen at top center. The black thing is the magnet, which appears to be an old voice coil magnet with a hole for a screw that holds the pole pieces in place. Electrovoice made many loudspeakers through the vintage era, and probably had plenty of cylinder-shaped magnets, which they put to use here.

The yoke, mid right, and the two bottom halves, and the surrounding support for the pole pieces, upper left next to the screen, are all made of die-cast potmetal. I cannot figure out why they thought it was necessary to cast the two long plates where the steel pole pieces go, as they would have been held perfectly well with the four screws.

That transformer is a real gizmo that defies conventional ribbon microphone construction, as it is wound as an autotransformer. This device would render any aluminum ribbon to shreds if connected to phantom power, as there is a direct DC path to the ribbon, which is highly unusual, to say the least! I've commented on the sound of this microphone in other posts here. All in all, a handsome collectible mic to place next to the Argonne AR-57, or to be used for Ham Radio applications where nostalgia trumps performance.

Click on the image for an explicit view of the parts.

Compact Fluorescent Bulb's Appeal Dims

Recently I made some comments about lighting and my dislike of so-called "compact fluorescent bulbs".

I am not in favor of compact fluorescent bulbs for the following

1. They do not put out sufficient light for many tasks.
2. The stated "equivalent" light output is overstated. If I take a 60W incandescent and the labeled "equivalent" and put them side by side, the incandescent wins by a wide margin.
3. Compact fluorescent electronics are more complex and more likely
to start fires. The miniature electronics are highly loaded and stressed. An an incandescent bulb has none of these components.
4. The RF radiation of compact fluorescent bulbs is many hundreds of
times greater than incandescent bulbs.
5. Compact fluorescent bulbs do not provide a full spectrum of light
6. Compact fluorescent bulbs flash at a rate of 60 cycles per
second, and cause headaches and eyestrain.
7. The electronics in compact fluorescent bulbs produce interference to radios,
and other over the air systems, and create RF pollution.
8. Compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, a known neurotoxin
9. Compact fluorescent bulbs do not save enough energy to offset the
10. Proper use of incandescent lighting can be energy efficient, better for the
environment, health of users, and provide a higher quality of illumination. Like any technology, they can be senselessly used, and many are. Better fixture design, turning them off when not needed, and proper wattage selection will preserve the environment. Legislation to eliminate incandescent lighting is a knee-jerk reaction and a statutory "solution" to what is a technical, education, and consumer-habit problem.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Made in USA and Assembled in USA Claims

We get asked about this when customers spot a claim of "Assembled in USA" and want to know if this is the same as "Made in USA". It isn't, and according to the FTC, companies must not make an unqualified "Assembled in USA" claim unless there is substantial transformation of the product.

Here is the exact language from

Assembled in USA Claims

A product that includes foreign components may be called "Assembled in USA" without qualification when its principal assembly takes place in the U.S. and the assembly is substantial. "For the "assembly" claim to be valid, the product’s last "substantial transformation" also should have occurred in the U.S. That’s why a "screwdriver" assembly in the U.S. of foreign components into a final product at the end of the manufacturing process doesn’t usually qualify for the "Assembled in USA" claim.

Example: A lawn mower, composed of all domestic parts except for the cable sheathing, flywheel, wheel rims and air filter (15 to 20 percent foreign content) is assembled in the U.S. An "Assembled in USA" claim is appropriate.

Example: All the major components of a computer, including the motherboard and hard drive, are imported. The computer’s components then are put together in a simple "screwdriver" operation in the U.S., are not substantially transformed under the Customs Standard, and must be marked with a foreign country of origin. An "Assembled in U.S." claim without further qualification is deceptive."

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas from Larry Killip

Best to all, my one size fits all card attached.
A nice end to this year for me, I have just found my song "Never Going Back" from my new album has entered the "Underground Top 40" at (Independant Artist Company)

Iac Music is the biggest independant artist site on the net, Billboard magazine use this site to rate indie artists. If you go there you'll see the link to the "Undergorund Top 40" in plain view top 3rd column, their other chart is the "KIAC big 50". UT40 is more for eclectic songs as against the KIAC big 50 for straight up Rock/Pop/Alt. If you look top right you'll see how many people have hit the site in the last hour or so. It's pretty huge.
The IAC site changes background everytime you visit, nice feature.
I currently sit at number 37 in the Underground Top 40.

Merry Christmas

Nanotechnology Business Soars

Nanotech products got a big boost in recent times - el Diablo was one of thousands of new, nano-enabled products that grew sales of nano well past the $50 billion mark. And it is all just starting. Here is one report.

Naked Eye Ribbon Microphone Review - Japan

Another superb review of Naked Eye -Click on the image


That's what it says: THINGAMAGOOP!
Curious devices from Bleep Labs. Click on the image to enlarge it.

From our terrific dealer, 2nd Staff, in Japan.

Apparently, the weak dollar is helping OUS sales quite a lot. The Euro, the Yen, even the Chinese Yuan, have all gained ground vs the greenback. Right now the Canadian dollar is about the same as the US dollar. This is good news for our US business as it makes us even more competitive with the Chinese Yuan, both here and outside the US.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Vintage HP Test Equipment for Ribbon Mics

In several of our website and blog images there are scenes with some of our old HP test equipment, and I have had a couple of people ask what they are. Click on the image for a larger view.

On the left, an HP 334A Distortion Analyzer, null type, which can be used up to 600 KHz. It is in pristine condition and works very well.

Center is the familiar and ubiquitous HP 651B Test Oscillator, famous for its stability (except at the lowest range) and boatanchor aspect.

On the right is the less-common HP 4800A Vector Impedance Meter, lamp bridge type, with the correct 4801A Balanced Direct Plug-In. This is a far better impedance analyzer than the Hickock or B&K, as it smoothly tunes through the audio band and effortlessly reads Z with very little power actually going into the DUT (Device Under Test). It gets used every day. You can see an EV 635A sitting upright in the test fixture, which has a built in XLR connecter at the base, and a socket sized to fit our larger mics. I'm not sure why that '635 is in there, but it is one of the dozens and dozens of mics floating around here. I use an EV 635a on the air through my Johnson Valiant,,which only passes up to 8 KHz audio.

Above it you can spot another important piece of analog test gear, the highly desirable Panametrics 5052UA Ultrasonic transmitter, stepless gate, and receiver, good up to at least 60 MHz and an essential tool for IVUS or any single transducer test application, especially water-coupled types. With a spigot of gated RF right at the front, the 5052UA can perform pulse and spectral analysis all at once. These were very expensive when new - somewhere in the $3-5K range, but this one was a bargain, bought at the Deerfield Hosstraders many years ago as surplus. I was there with Jim Koger and we both spotted it - I cautioned him to not look too excited: "How much for the box with all the knobs?" I asked. "Twenty" was the reply and I responded. "Take ten?" "OK" he said. That unit got used at Boston Scientific in Watertown, where present-day IVUS was invented, for years, and was this exact pulser that proved that we could make a short pulse, low noise 30MHz ultrasound transducer with nearly zero ringdown, and that led to IVUS as we still know it, 20 years later. And that Panametrics pulser keeps doing its thing too, now with 3VUS, which is the next generation of IVUS.

That little thing on the upper left is a B&K audio and RF sweep generator that I picked up for $5 at a hamfest, and it has its uses.

Chris Regan at the controls.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Shooting Ribbon Microphones

Taking pictures of mics can be challenging, made all the worse by highly reflective and shiny surfaces. About the only thing worse than a chrome finish (this is not a chrome finish) is a dull black one. Here is a shot of a shot in the making: The image of the Proscenium that you see in all of our web and print ads was shot in this setup, complete with that reddish highlight running up and down the body. That stripe is an intentional warm accent suggestive of the equally warm sounding Proscenium ribbon microphone. Check out the finished shot here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spot the Blooper

Astatic is an old and highly venerated microphone company that virtually invented the communications microphone industry. Its D-104 Microphone is emblematic in a way that only mics like the RCA 77DX and very few others have attained.

Here is a link to more about the Astatic D-104, with further links to the history of this fine company.

Sometimes errors occur. In the October 2007 issue of Sound Communications is this advert for Astatic's neat variable pattern lectern microphone. These slim devices are the preferred transducer for businessmen and women who want a no-nonsense and inconspicuous device at the speaker's post. The small electret condenser type microphone with its easily EQ'd flat output is nearly ideal for this application, where high intelligibility, low noise, and high RF rejection are key selling features. Other makers advertising such ware include Sennheiser and beyerdynamic, with nearly identical ads, each showing a threatening, RFI-emitting cellphone in near proximity. These companies know all too well the importance of aggressive RFI shielding which has become even more difficult with multiple frequency personal communications devices only inches away. You see, even when not being used, cellular phones "poll", which is a term used to send the identification number to the cellular system, to let it know it is there. That way the system operator can keep track of who is in the particular cell of the network and automatically route calls in to that cellphone. This can happen many times per minute, and the on-off nature of digital RF devices produce plenty of pulse-type emission, some which can be detected by poorly shielded microphones.

Astatic, Sennheiser, and beyerdynamic (no capital letter needed, I was politely informed) have apparently solved the problem. That's good, because it suggests that some of the high end makers of studio recording mics may have solutions available to them, since, unfortunately, not all RFI ingress problems in studio recording have been completely eliminated.

Monday, December 10, 2007


I had never heard of which is apparently like 3dbAudio where a forum stems from a business of some sort.

Someone sent me this link to a discussion about a Studio Vocalist, and some Telefunken and Brauner mics in a side-by-side comparison on vocals and drums. It is of course pleasing to read posts such as this which seem to confirm our view on the sound of the Studio Vocalist when compared to large diaphragm condensers.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Talk to the Hand

I like the name "Acousticon". Like RCA's Radiotron, I suppose. This is an "accessory", a bit of fashion jewelry, to be worn and shown.

Friday, December 07, 2007

New Release: "Wild Way" - John Cate & the Van Gogh Brothers

John Cate is well known to us. Actually, I met him in 8th grade. Since that time he played in Mother Zamcheck's Bacon Band, Zamcheck, and now John Cate & the van Gogh Brothers. Tonight they are playing at Toad, in Porter Square Cambridge.

John's roots rock has developed a following and a growing fan base, and his new release "Wild Way" is, according to John, his best material to date, and I believe him, though it will be tough to beat "V" and his eight or so other gems.

Check out John Cate here, and if you are in the Boston area, go see John Cate & the van Gogh Brothers live.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Art of the Unseen World

While I was surfing for SEM services a while back I came across all kinds of analytical labs, and as an art collector and sometimes visual artist, I have always been fascinated with photomcrography as a possible art form. I recently spotted this on a linkback to the microphonium blog, in a post about Roswellite in Electrical Audio.

Much of what you see presented by Nikon, for example, as art, is certainly art of the pretty picture category. Only occasionally very colorful or with too-intense fluorescent greens and reds, the Nikon site is stunning.

But I think this is more interesting: Here is a picture of Renee Robbins and Ben Meyers flyer from last year, thumbnailed. Strangely, the link didn't work when I tried it, but a design company does, so I linked the image to Ben Myers site, which has more related images. Not to make comparisons, but I think the top image reminds me of Pavel Tcheletchew's "Hide and Seek which is in the permanent collection of MOMA. I want to see more of these and the monochrome, landscape-like nano images.

Here is a link to their flyer announcing this show.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Andrew Collins: On the Recordist Ensemble Stereo and Foggy Hogtown Boys

Got this nice note from Creaking Tree's Andrew Collins (other interesting things about him here)

Hi Bob,

I thought you might like this pic. I'm in the middle of recording
another band that I play in called the Foggy Hogtown Boys. We're a
straight ahead bluegrass band. Notice the room mics in the middle
of the semi-circle. The room that we were playing in sounded really
great. The recordist pair did a great job of capturing the natural

I'll be sure to get a copy of the album to you once it's done.

Best regards,


Thanks! Can't wait.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

LPFM: FCC Rules in favor of Low Power FM Licenses

Just for the record, and elsewhere, as this story has importance to all of broadcast, music dissemination, and public access to the airwaves. See this post about what recently happened at the FCC.

Check out for a lot of broadcast-related news and opinions.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Naked Eye - What They Say - User Reviews in Gearslutz

Here is a link to a thread about Naked Eye, and some of the other popular ribbon mics for use with electric guitar.

Free shipping offer on Naked Eye ordered through our website if you mention this blog post in an email along with your store order. Free shipping to anywhere in the US including Alaska and Hawaii, also Guam, Kwaj, Midway, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands. (sorry no free shipping to Guantanamo Bay)

This is post number 400 on Copyright 2007 Robert J Crowley. Please feel free to llink to this site. Please do not copy images, pictures, lines of text, and put them in your website, ebay listing, or other publication without permission. Permission is granted to authorized dealers of Crowley and Tripp Microphones to use materials, images, text and content of this blog for legitimate promotional purposes.

Karyadi makes the Grammy List

Not quite a nominee, yet, Karyadi Sutedja of Studio Bopnique, we have been told, is on a short list of potential nominees for his engineering the latest Collective Soul CD "Afterwords". Karyadi works with producer Anthony Resta who we have featured here in the past.

From their blog:



Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lafayette Desk Dynamic

The Turner "Plus 2" microphone was one of the more popular CB mics of the early 70s, and this Lafayette Desk dynamic mic, with a momentary push-to-talk switch and a hold or lock button, is designed to look a lot like the prized Turner. In place of Turner's Mohawk fin, Lafayette chose louvers on each side of the streamlined, windswept capsule, mounted on a tilted stanchion not unlike the outboard engines of the USS Enterprise.

The body of this mic is made on one large die casting, plus a die cast, chromed grill, and a bottom plate. It is unamplified, and unmarked! I would have to look through my old Lafayette catalogs to come up with a model number. This is a favorite of mine since I collect anything radio or microphone related with the Lafayette name on it. They made some very colorful and stylish, but cheap, microphones. This one with the odd exposed pin mic connector used on the HE20-T, and who knows where else.

Crowley and Tripp Microphones

RFI - Radio Frequency Interference Warning: Sears DieHard Battery Charger No. 2871219

Just what I thought I needed to keep the battery in my 1998 ST1100 charged this Winter: The Sears charger shown here even comes with a set of handy connectors (lead, connector, alligator clip), and at $32.99, I thought it was reasonable. This is a relatively new product sold by Sears, and is made in China.

I brought it to the lab to check it out, and I was shocked by the intense level of severe RFI it generated, terminated or unterminated. The interference this device produces would have interfered with all of my ham radio equipment from 160 through 2 meters, according to the measurements I quickly made here using an HF receiver and an ICOM R7000, shown on the right. I have not measured the total radiation levels, but believe they are unacceptable.

We are always on the lookout for RFI, as it tends to get into audio recordings and can be very problematic, so when such a gadget is found, it sets of alarms. In my opinion, this device falls under the category of an "incidental radiator" and its use is prohibited by the FCC when it produces harmful interference to a licensed service, which it does. Fair warning! This polluter of the airwaves is going back.

The Sears 2871219 should, in my opinion, be labeled with an FCC type 15 warning at the very least. These warnings read:

This device complies with Part 15 of the FCC Rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) this device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.

Of course, that would be for devices that were properly checked and tested. I don't believe this ever has been, nor do I think it would comply with the rules had it been properly tested. The bare circuit board is in an unshielded plastic case with no bypassing or other measures to reduce interference. People are going to leave this device plugged in for extended periods of time in their homes and garages; it produces considerable current and has no visible fuse, and I think is built more like a toy than a proper shop tool. As an "Unintentional Emitter" aka Incidental Emitter, Sears can claim that devices such as light bulbs, battery chargers etc. are exempt from the FCC rules, leaving it to the consumer to find out on his own, and be subjected to the consequences. Still, the FCC is clear on the labeling of devices, and the rules governing interference from consumer electronics. See this for further information.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hitachi LOVE Pendant Transistor Radio

36 or 37 years ago, Hitachi wasn't a very well known brand in the US. But the psychedelic era led to some creative product opportunities, including this lavender and white Hitachi LOVE pendant radio. Pendant radios were the portable fad of the time: Usually a 6 or 7 transistor, 9 Volt battery AM set, capable of bringing in medium wave signals, and usually tuned to Drake Top 40 stations of the time like Boston's WRKO 680 AM.

Pendants were electronics that could be worn, on a strap. An accessory, a fashion statement, hung on the doorknob, or over the bean bag chairs near the beaded curtain. You are looking at the advent of portable electronics as Fashion, a trend continued today, presently (and fleetingly) with the iPhone.

Pendants were often "not rectangular". The sphere, the disk, ovoid, egg and other more modern and less rigid forms were in vogue during this time of free love when everything was possible and consequences seemed few. Notice the apple motif - perhaps a reference to The Beatles label, Apple Records, which was extremely popular at that time, (but not the Capitol/Parlophone release of "I am the Walrus" that I heard first through some tinny two inch speaker. John Lennon's nasal, restricted and telephonic voice fit perfectly into this band-limited medium of the time, a logical precursor of the equally maligned MP3 format.)

Look at that dial! The pointer moves under a clear plastic window, housing a balloon like, exaggerated psyhedelic style font. Click on the image to zoom in on the very special, detailed pointer. This is Japanese plastimania at its peak, and is a treasured object among my 200+ transistor radio collection.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Heads Down and Bottoms Up

A strange sight I admit: Two of our ribbon microphones, one apparently an el Diablo Mercenary Edition, being given a quick check in the box for RF noise. That old Compaq is a prolific and nasty RF source, which has been known to get into a signal if the wiring is wrong or in the event of a cold solder joint. This rarely happens and we have other RF testing, including strong HF RF field measurements used for the CE mark, but this is so easy!

Most of the time we hear nothing, which is what we want. Putting the mics upside down in the box knocks down the room noise, which is often low to begin with. It's just convenient, and fast, which is important nowadays!

Sometimes we hear things that are amazing:

"When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world, and you knew exactly who they were. It was us vs. them, and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they're there." George W Bush

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Typical "20 to 20" response curves

You see a lot of curves shown so the response looks fairly flat. Here is one of them. I see that the numbers are a little hard to read. The bright vertical bar on the right corresponds to 10kHz. As you can see, both mics tend to drop off a bit after that point. There are other ups and downs at the lower end of the spectrum too. What we are looking at is the compared response curves of the Proscenium vs a Cardioid microphone. The red curve is the Proscenium, our most rolled off mic, and the blue is the cardioid. (more about that) (even more about that) The point of this post, however, is to show the "typical" Y axis steps, which are compressed. We have in our printed specifications chosen to "uncompress" them a little, in order to show the detail as we see it. That makes the mics look even less "flat". But it doesn't change their sound.

Amplitude and frequency plots tell too little about the way a mic or any transducer sounds. The process of receiving, converting and sending acoustic signals as electrical signals is surprisingly complex, even for the most simple forms of transducers, and
tone color,
field patterns,
impulse response,
acoustic impedance matching,
acoustic resistance,
electrical load,
transformer design,
housing design,
transducer orientation,
electrical contact quality,
noise shielding,
ohmic resistance,
magnetic shielding,
flux leakage
and many other factors predominate tone and affect the application of a particular device.

Here is a link to a gearslutz thread relating to this post.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mounting a Defense Against Unwanted Noise - A Preview of Things To Come

The usually wiggly suspension mount is about to be improved, thanks to this new proprietary design utilizing tensegrity - a term coined by R. Buckminster Fuller - to create a high mass, tension/compression structure with a very low resonant frequency.

Apparently, not a lot of thought has gone into the lowly mounts you see all over, and that's not s surprise since most of them are given away for free. Then there are the best mounts starting at

$250 and up. "There has to be a better way and a middle ground" we said to engineer Des Fyler, who has the benefit of Solidworks on a high powered worktsation here at the lab, and knows how to use it.

Her elegant, "Fulleresque" solution: A combination of things (isn't that always the way?) Heavier compression arms, optimized angles, calculated tension, rigidity where it should be, compliance where it is needed to shunt unwanted vibrations that may travel up the mic stand column. Such a simple thing, yet so overlooked. Until now, and soon to be offered with a premium microphone, due out soon.

Sorry for the tease, sometimes it just has to be done. BTW, the distinctive angled "Rectilinear Bridge", "Four Square' style mount is copyright 2007, Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wood types used in ukuleles

It seems we have more than one blog visitor engaged in the ukulele arts. This smallish, friendly instrument is associated with the Philippines, and with Hawaii, of course. Arthur Godfrey, Tiny Tim, and Paul McCartney can be found to have played ukuleles. I have two of them, both modified by me, and I want another, after I get done (some year) with getting the American Beauty Mandolin up and running.

There are some really cool ukes out there. The more expensive ukes tend to use the really fancy curly koa from Hawaii. Koa is a scarce species, and the use of the material is controversial. Fortunately, many expert uke makers including Raymond from Island Ukulele in Kauai, have found that very successful ukes can be made out of several types of wood, including maple.

We were in Kapaa and stopped into Larry's Music of Kapaa, and spotted a number of Island Ukuleles on the wall. Very impressive I must say, especially the tone of one particular ukulele that had a body shaped more like a dreadnought than a traditional uke. "Chladni" I said to myself, "would have predicted this". Also, Larry can definitely play a uke!

It is not the material in many cases as the shape that defines the sound. Now obviously a steel guitar is going to sound drastically different than a wood guitar. I don't mean completely different materials. But material categories, for instance, wood, have a range of values that tend to behave the same, or similarly, mechanically.

Check out Island Ukulele.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Medical Imaging and 3vus Activities at Soundwave Research Labs

Here's a shot of our work in Intravascular Ultrasound, showing a technician tuning up a modded IVUS console, for "3vus" which is our Third generation intraVascular UltraSound program.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

el Diablo Reviews and Update

Now that a bunch of el Diablos are "out there" and being used, we expect to get a lot of user feedback, comments, revelations and discoveries, plus people asking for demo units, review units for magazines, and for other purposes.

The magazine reviews take a lot of time to make it to print. The writer has to do his homework, write the piece, then the editor has to put it all together, check it, then the publication date is set, the files put together, the magazine gets printed, and finally makes it to the newsstand or the mail. A year can pass.

We don't have time for that.

Here are the comments that we are getting from users, and here and there, my comments on the comments.

"Works as advertised"
Believe it or not, this is the one we worry about sometimes. Once you send a product out, no matter how well or completely you test it, something unexpected goes wrong. Nothing has.

"Very Versatile"

"Surprisingly high output"

"I don't like the look."
Order a stainless steel version

"I like the look."
Buy this one

"looks great in person"
Yellow and black shown here next to Mercenary's colors. Fire up the Harley.

"Stupendous bass response"
The high excursion ribbon is nothing like the old "foils" in this important area.

"A bit expensive"
Well, what do you want? You know how much Roswellite cost to develop?

"There is nothing else like it on the market today" ver cable was sold through guitar center

"What will happen to the old foil mics?"
This is perhaps the most intriguing comment of all.

Stay tuned for more.....
crowley and tripp ribbon microphones not royer RCA

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Optical and audio illusions

The diagram on the right is a pretty common optical illusion (LINK TO IMAGE OWNER"S SITE) that very convincingly demonstrates that we perceive things in a way that is not strictly objective, or sometimes even remotely correct. So much parallel processing goes on to produce our visual perception that there has to be some shorthand somewhere. Most of the time the brain does OK but when faced with more difficult information, it sometimes fails terribly.

Such is the case with the image above: ALL of the lines are perfectly straight and rectilinear. There are no angles that are not right angles, and all the rows are columns are perfectly straight left to right, and up to down.

Music is not so "parallel", is it? We have two ears and the information is presented to us serially, for the most part. Right? Wrong. Music, unless presented as a single varying tone, is indeed a complex illusion. Chords and tones blend and are perceived in rather complex ways, which is why it is easier to listen to and understand when presented with a beat and some repetition. The beat gives the mind a chance to do its shorthand and the organization it provides permits attention to details without having to re-perceive that part of the music. The rhythm section is so important, moving the mind along through the course of the song. We are fortunate that our brains follow it well, as without it, much music would appear far too complicated to listen to without learning it after multiple listening. In jazz and classical music, there are plenty of examples of much more "challenging" music that does not depend on the well worn path of beat-driven simple structure, so multiple listening sessions and some active mental processing are needed to get comfortable enough to appreciate certain arrangements, such as Pharaoh's Dance by Miles Davis. If you know the Davis vernacular, you might get it on the first listen. Many readers here are jazz sophisticates. But for the average listener, it takes some practice to hear it. There are even fewer familiar elements in the work of Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, or Edgar Vares. Twelve bar blues, disco beat, Sousa marches, and now even the math of Mozart, once learned over years of listening, still have illusion and the natural working of the human brain, to thank for their relatively easy continuity. Now that TV and all other media sources have so much musical content, everyone grows up with a rich musical vocabulary, and amazingly, they hardly know it. Great musicians and composers tap into this pre-knowledge and when they are successful, they hit that sweet spot of perception, and may even have a hit. At the very least, they have crafted the tones and rhythms already in our heads for the most part, creating the illusion of recognition. Many successful artists do it, and we like it!

Years ago I read Copeland's book "What to listen for in Music" or maybe it was "How to listen to music". He stole the magic from music and revealed how totally manipulative he and other composers are, and he wrote in such a condescending tone that I could not enjoy Copeland for years after. Once I was watching the Carson show and Miles was on, and he was such an ass, and it changed the way I heard Miles for a long time. Look at the image and enjoy it, it's fun to see the patterns and excites the eye and does a little visual dance for you. Its magic is still there, and it is nice to look at.

Invisible Microphone News

Who needs a real one when you have this?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

RCA Gas Pedal - Rear View - MI-6203-D "LO" Version SK-50 Varacoustic

I like to refer to the improbably named RCA MI-6203-D, "LO" (or is it really M1-6203-0/), aka, the SK-50 Varacoustic variable pattern ribbon microphone, utterly forgettable either way, and homely as can be in the American connotation of the word "homely" as THE GAS PEDAL.

This highly unpopular yet ubiquitous device has almost the exact same motor unit as the famous and most desirable 77D and 77DX ribbon microphones. The Pedal sports a rear mounted, spring tensioned pattern selector, dubiously marked " PU12V", which performs the exact same function as the luxurious rotary nautilus shutter cam of the more wonderful 77DX, but in a far far less exciting way. The oft-mentioned RCA style acoustic labyrinth, filled with a combination of jute felt, horse hair and paraffin-soaked to get just the right amount of attenuation, is lovingly stuffed into a squarish, nondescript black bakelite block in the base of this beast.

The dynamic lines and Art-Moderne streamlining of the MI-6203-D "LO" version and its somber, almost funereal color scheme, plus the aforementioned lyrical "PU12V" nomenclature, cannot make up for its sheer lumpiness and uninteresting aspect. Such a thing could hardly sound good, so unbeautiful as it is, you might think.

But not so! The sound of this toad is probably at least as good as any Ningbo-ribbon mic of today, and far more versatile, with its springy thing, allowing for various pattern changes, all which make a ribbon sound like a dynamic, save the figure 8 position. So save yourself some money, go on ebay, and scoop up one of these lumpen objects, at a very good price. The one I have comes with its own "Microphone Stand Model K5-4A".

One wonders what happened to K4-5A, or if there ever was a "4B" model - certain to pique collector interest I'd presume. Such minutia is of interest to no one except the terminally nerdy, a special club in which I confess membership.

Product naming is an art. RCA got lucky with the 77DX. 7 is a lucky number used in lots of high end products, such as finicky BMWs, and DX has all kinds of mysterious connotations from the broadcast and radio art, the main one being "long distance". Even today, hams call a long distance contact "DX". But letters and numbers can get confusing, or worse, generate an aversion which prevents anyone from remembering let alone mentioning letters-numbers-letters type names, unless the company is very careful. You may hear "I used a 77" and know what that means. You could also know for certain what's under the hood if it is a "V8". But what about the very unlucky MI-6203-D "LO"? Not too likely you'll hear that one thrown out at a cocktail party, or even at AES.

Ever wish the US media would stop saying "went missing" or "gone missing"? If you think this sounds like something Jethro would say to Jed, you are not alone. Amazingly, we can blame the British for originating this insult to the English language. Somehow, the term "went missing" when spoken with a proper English accent, sounds nearly acceptable, yet anyone from the Deep South who utters the phrase might be mistaken for an illiterate. It just ain't so!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Panavision is a Model of Innovation

I've always admired Panavision. If you simply read the history of Panavision you will appreciate the steady, focused, almost relentless innovative force the drives this very successful and unusual company. Dolby Labs parallels Panavision in some ways. Sometimes I wonder if there will be a future audio analog of Panavision.

More about Roswellite and Ribbon Microphones

If you are interested in some of the background info on Roswellite, you might want to listen to this interview I did with Lynn Fuston at Tape Op last June.

Zenith Diplomat Transistor Hearing Aid

A close look at this early 60s Zenith Diplomat hearing aid is interesting, as it shows how far electronics and transducer technology have advanced since that time.

The system consists of the following major parts:

The input and gain parts: A microphone which is at the top and has a little brass tube on the end.This is connected to
an amplifier and power source, probably two stages of bipolar transistors, in a simple circuit
seen here as a green PCB, single layer with discrete transistors, rotary potentiometer, and on-off switch.

The output: A transducer that is inside of its own little container to prevent feedback to the microphone, and connected to the audio tube, which in this case is a piece of tubing, not a glass audio tube by any means! Finally a fitted earpiece complete with residual earwax. designed to fit tight and deliver all the energy the little battery limited amp can produce.

The gain curve in a hearing aid is of interest. The idea is to help people overcome nerve deafness which is most prominent at the higher frequencies. Hearing loss prevents people from easily understanding normal speech and carrying on a conversation, especially in a noisy environment. In order to boost intelligibility, the makers emphasize the midrange. Nothing much below 300 Hz and nothing at all about 8 or 10 KHz.

Some day, implants will be able to restore hearing. Here is a link to work at UC Irvine, where small nanotube arrays are being looked at for future cochlear implants. Notice on the same page there are stories about resonant nanotubes, another area our lab pioneered.

IEEE and microphones from the 50s

I am a dues paying member of ieee and usually have some issues with their publications, though I appreciate and read them with interest.

Here is a link to their write up about microphones, which bothered me a bit.

Below is a note that I emailed to ieee about that write up on their site:


I am pleased to see the history of technology and electronics in ieee. I do
however have to point out that the article on microphones is quite out of date
and fails to even acknowledge the numerous improvements to microphone and
transducer devices since the 1950s. It would appear that the author is a fan of
old microphones -I am too - but they hardly represent the state-of-the-art, and
the assertion that microphones somehow peaked in the 1950s is erroneous.

Might I suggest looking at the following links

among many others, for an up-to-date view of modern microphones, how the use,
character and value of microphones have changed, and contributed to the ever
expanding lexicon of sound, well beyond that of mere specifications. In
addition, areas such as S/N, human tailored response, and spatial techniques
have changed radically, since the 50s.


Robert J Crowley

FWIW that's what I sent them. Hey, I'm from the 50s too! A lot of good stuff was going on then, like this innovation, which allowed concealment of the microphone and electronics.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Eastern Seaboard Satellite Loop

I look at this all the time in order to predict the weather. If you just watch it for a minute, you can easily figure out what to expect over the next 24 hours.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Notice via UPS

We get a UPS bill nearly every day. No other company on earth bills as frequently as UPS. Obviously we are not going to write a check every day for each UPS bill and prefer to pay it once per month, which is customary. This does not deter UPS from sending their many bills which we pile up among other less frequent bills such as insurance, machining, plating, materials and other supplies.

Here, Chris Regan seems to turn the tables with a mass UPS mailing of offers of licenses to virtually every microphone maker on earth. Good to our promise, and just like we said, we would offer Roswellite around the time of its commercialization. This was a lot of work! Not only that, each letter had to be individually addressed and signed, which gave me a mild case of writer's cramp, something I haven't suffered since my last college finals, way way back.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

El Diablo - nuevo micrófono de cinta

El Diablo - nuevo micrófono de cinta
Publicado 6/10/07 actualidad , hi fi , investigación , marketing , micrófono , tecnología 0 Comentarios
Tags: Crowley and Tripp, Mercenary Edition el Diablo Ribbon Microphone, micrófonos de cinta, Roswellite, Supermatter

eldiablo-mic.pngBob Crowley y Hugh Tripp están presentando un nuevo micrófono de cinta, fabricado a partir del desarrollo de un nuevo material, Roswellite, producido a partir de la manipulación a nanoescala.

El Diablo se presenta como el primer micrófono de cinta que puede ser metido dentro de un bombo, aplastado contra el amplificador de una guitarra o usado por un cantante en vivo. El Rosswelite revoluciona el campo de los micrófonos de cinta, deja de lado las preocupaciones, y puede ser usado en cualquier parte del estudio, en interiores o al aire libre.

Algunas características de este micrófono:

* Soporta grandes cantidades de presión (SPL), y se puede usar para grandes masas sonoras (como un bombo), o para sonidos más tenues, como una voz o un instrumento de cuerda.
* Color característico de los micrófonos de cinta. Este tipo de micrófonos presentan un sonido muy parejo, sin distorsiones.
* Respuesta en frecuencia simétrica.

Recordemos que los micrófonos de cinta son un tipo de micrófono electrodinámico de gradiente de presión, cuya membrana es una cinta corrugada tensada por dos abrazaderas. Son micrófonos muy utilizados en los estudios de grabación, porque ofrecen gran calidad, no obstante, presentan grandes inconvenientes porque son muy sensibles a las vibraciones producidas por su manipulación. Además, es muy común el romperlos al enchufarlos a una consola con phntom power.

Todo esto parece haber quedado atrás, gracias a los desarrollos de Crowley & Tripp, quienes devolvieron los microfonos de cinta al campo profesional.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Aiwa Rochelle Salt Crystal Microphone

The crystal microphone is an orphan. I cannot think of any air coupled crystal mics in production today, though there are many piezoelectric transducers, mainly contact or water coupled, or ultrasonic, out there for sale.

The crystal mic as you see it here was a typical Japanese style lapel mic, sometimes called a "spy" mic, because it could be concealed, and was supplied with numerous inexpensive 3" reel to reel tape recorders. The assembly is simple and consists of a two piece steel can with the element within. A conical perforated disc protects an aluminum foil diaphragm with a center pin attached internally to a piece of Rochelle salt, which is a piezoelectric substance. Rochelle salt generates a lot of voltage when deformed, and this type of mic has quite a good output. Its tinny sound is more a product of the packaging and the diaphragm than the inherencies of Rochelle's matter. In fact there are many Rochelle salt crystal earphones of the Japanese type still out there and working today, and if you have a chance to listen to one you might be surprised and how smooth and deep the bass from one of these gadgets can be. You can make your own Rochelle Salt! Here is the recipe!

But Rochelle salt has a problem or two: It is heat sensitive, and past some temp near boiling it is ruined. Even more important, the material is hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water easily, rendering it inoperative. Despite these limitations, the cheap crystal elements produced in the millions by Japan inc in the 60s keep transducing away. Perhaps it is time to revisit the Rochelle salt design, and see if it has any advantages over the conventional microphone of today.

BFI - The Dragons

I must admit that when I first heard Dragons BFI, shown above, that I thought it had to be some neo Pizzicato Five 60s reincarnation, or maybe the soundtrack to an Austin Powers genre film. I certainly had never heard it before, yet I already knew it well: The lush melodies of the Age of Aquarius, blended with acid moods and groovy beats, sort of like the album Spirit - an old fave - and also Something, Anything, in its eight track sensibilities and innovative tone.

It turns out that BFI was an old tape that was shelved after the band members failed to find a label to release it. 1970 was a transitional time, with the hippies already fading and the Vietnam war cynicism rising, which was out of phase with BFI's optimistic and upbeat idioms, psychedelic cliches, and nicely flanged drum solos. This was not guitar rock: The Hammond and the Leslie, the bass and harmonized vocals more reminiscent of R&B taken with a dose of Hair and The Fifth Dimension, hopefully embraced in '67, hopelessly out of date and square by 1970.

But now it barely matters. Three years of fast change in music are put in trivial time perspective now, among the many innovative and radical introductions to music an art that made the 60s such a Renaissance, a trove for culture historians.

Dragons were the Dragon brothers, one of them became "The Captain" of "The Captain and Tennile" who still play disco in Vegas for baby boomers on a gambling vacation. They did session work along the way, and all were, or are, excellent, competent, albeit slightly square, musicians and engineers, which is the way we want them - they summarized a Warhol-surfaced period in time when the moon rose among the flower children and they danced the dance of lives to come, except nobody knew it then, or cared particularly.

Until now: Get BFI the Dragons, only if you are old enough! Like MOBA, the cheesy and the trite are taken as equal elements of art. Its luxurious hole-in-the-middle stereophonic multitrack presentation with glorious analog tone will bring you there, or bring you back, or maybe somewhere else!

Read this review on Amazon, too.

Starrett Steel used in Ribbon Microphones

Just any old steel won't do. We use Starrett tool steel for several components in Crowley and Tripp mics.

If you do not see "Made in USA" on a product, you can assume it isn't made here. Some manufacturers go to great lengths to maintain the Made in USA mark, since in Europe, Japan and Oceana, the country of origin adds value to the product. Just like Fender guitars, the ones made in the US sell for a much higher price than one made in the Far East, reflecting the differences in quality that are very apparent in side-by-side comparisons.

XLR Mothership

If you want to make absolutely sure that you have a firm, solid mount for your XLR fitted mic, this is what you need.

Actually, you probably don't need a microphone cup like this one, built by Hugh Tripp, but we do. There are a number of tests and experiments that call for a precise and perfectly shielded connection as there are many external factors such as noise and the powerful AM radio station nearby that can get into the signal and interfere with our careful measurements of noise floor and self noise.

We are pleased to report that the self noise of all of our mics is near or at the theoretical level determined by the output impedance. Since our maximum output Z is no more than 200 Ohms at any frequency, we can safely say the self noise is in the 9dB range, which is indeed very, very low!

That orange button is a genuine Catalin plastic knob machined by Hugh out of old plastic stock we found at an antique radio show. Catalin is sometimes erroneously called "Bakelite", but is a different species of thermoset polymer resin. Bakelite the material is a thermoset powder.

Ribbon Mics, and how things have changed

You might go back and read this article and decide about its validity yourself. I won't comment anymore except to say that the ribbon mic proponents and makers share a common interest in the acceptance of ribbon mics, so we may not want people to think they should shy away from them for technical reasons.

Here it is.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dangerous Microphones sold at Crazy Clark's

A dangerous microphone was being sold at retailer Crazy Clark's that could interfere with air navigation systems that operate on the same frequency as the microphone. The illegal devices, which have been pulled from the shelves, operated on the 108-132 MHz band, which is allocated exclusively for air-to-ground and air-to-air communications worldwide.

"Why a company would put air travelers in jeapordy this way is hard to believe" said an official from the agency that regulates the airwaves in Australia, and is similar to the FCC.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

El Diablo Chime Charm a Bit of Voodoo at AES

A couple of weeks ago I showed some cut up chimes and asked you to speculate on their probable use. One reader told me he thought they were memorial chimes for a deceased ham radio guy W2VJZ who used to drive everyone crazy with his wind chimes while he talked endlessly. Nope. Another reader suggested that they were to be acoustic reference objects for lab testing. Close.

We made them to give away. A total of 88 little el Diablo dolls equipped with harmonically tuned high frequency chimes, and a tinkly bell, were given out by us at this year's AES exhibit. They were so popular that we are going to have to make another bunch to give to those who wanted them.

Chimes like these resonate at 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, etc. kHz and can challenge the ability of many microphones, especially any microphone with the dreaded tizz, shzzz thing happening, which not so coincidentally includes many low and high cost large diaphragm condenser mics. But not ribbons! The beauty of the simple, mode-restricted ribbon element, so elegantly predicted by Ernst Chladni, comes though loud and clear on high toned chimes, which we demonstrated live to people who visited our booth.

Then we sent them over to listen to the chimes on some very famously named microphones. Our customers and others went over and shook this little devil at the competition for us! Naturally, we knew what the outcome would be before we did this stunt - We've got el Diablo in us!!

Friday, October 19, 2007


A visitor to the Crowley and Tripp booth at AES, Nick Balsamo, KG2IR, of NBC, is one of the many hams who inhabit the pro audio space. Here Nick and I have a short QSO about ribbon microphones. W1XYZ is a real callsign, issued to me by the FCC in 2001. It had been "reserved" since the FCC was formed, and had never been issued.

el Diablo Ribbon Microphone with Roswellite Gets PAR Award - Third Consecutive PAR for Crowley and Tripp

This year at AES, the people at Pro Audio Review were kind to us again. In our first year, we got a PAR for the Studio Vocalist, and we were quite pleased. The second year resulted in another PAR for Naked Eye. Great! we said. So we weren't really expecting a 3peat.

This year's award motif, in various brown and russet tones, seems to go well with the el Diablo in its missile silo-like case.

CD Launch Friday the 26th at the Aucklander Bar - No Cover! See you there.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Too Weird to be true: China regulates Reincarnation

From VOA News:

"The Dalai Lama says his successor could be chosen among a group of senior monks, rather than through the centuries-old tradition of reincarnation.

In an interview with VOA, the Tibetan spiritual leader said his successor could be chosen like the Pope, or he may decide to declare his own successor while he is still alive.

Chinese authorities issued a new regulation in July 2007 that requires all reincarnations - including the Dalai Lama - to be approved by the government."

The Dalai Lama's microphone of choice appears to be a Shure wireless mic, though I'm not certain.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big Mic Nuts for Big Mic Nuts

"In our efforts to rethink every aspect of mic stand design, we felt that microphone jam nuts have been shortchanged by every stand manufacturer in the world."

Those poor ordinary nuts!

Jam Nuts, made by LatchLake Music from Minnesota eh, are our kind of thing. Big, strong, plenty of meat, and made to last a long time. Knowing this, people like Jeff Roberts tend toward the humorous, their legacies assured by the fact that their excellent product will be around well into the next century. (I mean 2100) But it takes serious thinking to look at what is out there and say "hey, that old way is a piece of crap, and I know how to do it better" and then actually make it and sell it.

Jeff Roberts does that.

You want to see a mic stand made to last? Go here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Halloween Tendril Suspension Mount for Naked Eye Pumpkin Ribbon Microphone

Here's an interesting color and design exercise with a black Naked Eye, a pumpkin orange grille, and a pumpkin vine tendril shock mount. This fantasy microphone does not actually exist as it looks here, but instead is partly the result of some image manipulation. A few of these mics around some cobwebs and and tombstones would have a nice look, I think. Who knows what sounds they might pick up in the moonlight?

Fall is definitely in the air here in Massachusetts today. The Red Sox dominated Cleveland last night and I am afraid that the ALCS is going to be a bit of a snooze.

Barking Pumpkin Records was Frank Zappa's label during his later years, long after the Verve era, Bizarre and DiscReet labels. Frank has been gone for over a decade, a victim of prostate cancer. His influence is still felt and the spirit of Zappa's music, which has a lot of angles to it, even showed up recently in Sean Eldon's "El Diablo" theme song. Pumpkin seeds were once thought to contain a substance that promoted prostate health.

"Call any Vegetable" is a favorite of mine, and a fairly paradigmatic Zappa composition.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Would you buy a microphone from this guy?

Late in the day after the 120th mic demo looking a bit ragged, I appear to be plotting something - perhaps a coup of the microphone industry, or just peering at one of the well-dressed trade show ladies who were in attendance - hard to tell which.

Marco Granados - Music of Venezuela CD now on YouTube and CDBaby

"Un Mundo Ensemble" is formed by a group young, virtuoso Latin American musicians banded together to bring forth the excitement, passion and energy of the beautiful music of Venezuela. This music is filled with happy, joyous and fun filled rhythms that always leave audiences wanting for more. Venezuelan music is characterized by the use of fast melodies, complex rhythms and well as jazzy harmonies, giving it a flavor that is truly a blend of tradition with sophistication. A lot of the arrangements are virtuosic in nature, giving the performers ample opportunity to display mastery on their instruments and the styles performed represent the typically forms most commonly enjoyed by the Venezuelan listener.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

el Diablo in the Wires

This is not a real test setup - just a quick shot of an el Diablo mockup sitting atop a low resistance tester that appears to have been made sometime around WW2. A mockup is the term for a thing that looks like a product, but isn't, and in this case is just a black shell with stick on lettering. Not much at all like the finished mic in detail, but accurate in form. This picture was taken quite a while ago.

I am wiped out from AES. It was a very successful show for us. All of the mics had high interest and the Recordist, el Diablo, Naked Eye and Studio Vocalist owners and owners-to-be told me a lot about applications. We had one person come to the booth who owns three Prosceniums, and he proceeded to rattle off the serial numbers of each one!