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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
The Vintage Knob
Jim's Antique Radio Museum
The Radio Attic's Archives
Phil's Old Radios
Clubs & Associations
- Antique Wireless Association
- Southeastern Antique Radio Society
- New Jersey Antique Radio Club
- British Vintage Wireless Society
- California Historical Radio Society
Other Great Reference Sites
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Recent News: Microphones
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Dollhouse brings Lolipop Records tour to Savannah's Hang FireSavannah Morning News, September 10th
At their homebase in Los Angeles, Lolipop's retail space is joined to an all-analog recording studio, outfitted with a full collection of vintage gear, including enough tape machines, tube compressors and vintage microphones to make gear nerds and...Read more
Butch Vig Talks 'Sonic Highways': Foo Fighter's 'Epic' New Album And HBO ...93XRT Radio, August 30th
They laid down the first track on the album at Steve Albini's studio Electrical Audio which Vig noted as having an impressive microphone collection and being 'not posh or super fancy, but really well appointed.' Other stops on the recording tour did...Read more
Sennheiser Helps Houses Of Worship Get Pristine Audio With Praise Pack ...Live Design, August 26th
The new Praise Pack is a great way for small churches to begin realizing clear and crisp audio for either music or spoken word. It is also a great way for mid-sized churches to increase the breadth and quality of their microphone collection with four...Read more