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.