The phrase “vintage microphone” usually prompts images of a beveled, rectangular device with a radio or TV station's call letters emblazoned on its top or side. These are the big mics Bing Crosby sang into, or that Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre on the Air used to scare the bejeezus out of millions of people with their broadcast of "The War of the Worlds" on October 30, 1938. Microphones, good ones anyway, make things real.

In fact, realism is exactly what a German electrical engineer named Georg Neumann was striving for when he came out with his bottle-shaped CMV3 condenser microphone in 1928. In 1932 he upgraded the mic by releasing the CMV3a, which allowed users to swap out the mic’s heads to pick up sounds from a single-direction (as in a cardioid microphone), two-directions (sometimes called figure-8s) and all directions (omni). After World War II, Neumann rebuilt his Berlin factory and by 1949 he’d released the U47, which was distributed internationally by Telefunken and favored by recording engineers throughout the 1950s and ’60s. Artists as varied as Frank Sinatra and The Beatles used the U47 in the recording studio.

While Neumann was pushing microphone technology in Europe, RCA was doing the same in the United States, especially during the 1930s, the golden era of radio, when it released a number of bi-directional ribbon microphones, including the Photophone and Velocity models. These ribbon microphones take their name from the .0001-inch thick piece of corrugated aluminum (the ribbon) that’s placed between the ends of a horseshoe-shaped magnet. Another iconic ribbon microphone of the prewar period was the BBC-Marconi Type A, which was designed by a BBC technician named Dr. Alexander and manufactured by Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co. of London.

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Recent News: Microphones

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Inside New York's Most Hidden Recording Studio
Vanity Fair, April 17th

J. Ralph invited Vanity Fair for an exclusive tour of his studio, a divine museum dripping in cast iron and velvet, and full of vintage microphones and custom instruments. Explore it for the first time, below. By Mary Alice Miller Photographs by Mark...Read more

Making Noise: The Suitcase Junket and Sidecar Radio guaranteed to be atypical ...
Press Herald, April 9th

In front of him, a vintage microphone into which he sang in a gnarled, bluesy drawl about a woman he wishes gave a damn about … herself. Midway through the song Lorenz does this throat singing thing that riddles the song with stinging nettles. To be...Read more

Guitarist Jesse Cook plays at The Cap
Tampa Bay Newspapers, March 31st

The result is a captivating 14-track album recorded on a pair of vintage microphones – microphones for which Cook exhaustively searched so he could authentically replicate the mood of recordings from the Miles Davis era. Sound is of the utmost...Read more

Reverend Horton Heat brings news songs to Strummer's show
Fresno Bee, March 27th

He researched the needed equipment and started building a collection of vintage microphones. In the middle of the whole process, the band inked a deal with the indie label Victory Records, which released the album in January. There was a learning curve ...Read more

Steve Dawson makes Music City home
The Province (blog), March 26th

It's an album of instrumentals, little more than Dawson, his variety of acoustic guitars and a vintage microphone. “It's what I do,” he explains. “My album is such a simple production it was no trouble to do. “It's kind of taken pressure off me...Read more

Music makes my world go 'round
Kansas City Star, March 22nd

Credit for that exceptional 60 minutes goes to Lenexa sound engineer Don Miller, the subject of today's cover story (see Page 6). Hanging out in his studio with his collection of vintage microphones sent me into the closet where I keep my music. I...Read more

Oldies but goodies: Kansas City's history echoes through a collection of ...
Kansas City Star, March 22nd

The Kansas City Star Magazine · Oldies but goodies: Kansas City's history echoes through a collection of vintage microphones. By CINDY HOEDEL, photos by TAMMY LJUNGBLAD. Updated: 2014-03-23T16:13:14Z. March 22. By CINDY HOEDEL, photos by ...Read more

Behind the microphones: Collection captured the sounds of Kansas City audio ...
Kansas City Star, March 19th

TAMMY LJUNGBLAD — The Kansas City Star Don Miller, a voice artist and sound engineer, displays a few of his vintage microphones including (from left) RCA 77DX microphone (left) from the 1960's and a RCA 77DX microphone from the 1950's, the RCA ...Read more