A few months ago I was trying to find some thread adapters for a customer with an old RCA junior ribbon microphone, who wanted to use it with a modern standard 5/8″ microphone stand. Most suppliers were charging around $25 dollars, plus post and the inevitable import and handling duties.
So we decided to make some.
These fit most of the ‘big’ vintage RCA microphones, including the 44, 74b and 77 ranges, and also are perfect for Sony professional mics, including the C38b, FV300 and C48 microphones. They also fit Syncron AU7A / Fairchild F22 microphones, and several other American and Japanese microphones with a large thread.
This unusual Sony microphone (left) looks like the younger brother of a C38b (right) or maybe a C48 condenser mic, and shares the same high build quality and some hardware components with these mics. But in actual fact this is a high quality cardioid pattern dynamic microphone, model F-V300.
Inside, the microphone is very simple, with just a capsule in the top compartment, and the on/off switch and transformer wired to a printed circuit board below. The fixed grey output cable looks to be the same type as found on the C38b.
The capsule is suspended from 8 small springs to act as an internal shockmount, which seems to work well, in conjunction with the yoke, to acoustically decouple the microphone element.
This example has some traces of foam around the element, indicating that an internal windshield has at some time been removed.
The label states that the mic is nominally of 1kΩ impedance, although in practice seems lower than this and it has no problems driving standard low-Z microphone preamps. The output is strong and clear across the range, and the output is similar in level and detail to a healthy EV RE20, although with a more pronounced proximity effect.
As far as we know, this microphone was only marketed in Japan, but if you have any information to confirm or deny this, or in fact any information about this mic at all, please let us know!
UPDATE 22/2/11 This microphone has become a bit of a favourite for guitar cabs – it seems to have just the right amount of proximity boost for that application, giving clear and solid presence to the lower end. It also makes a decent tom mic.
Microphone ribbons are generally made from very thin metal foil, and aluminium is the ideal material as it is very light but also very conductive. The output of the microphone is inversely proportional to mass, and so a thicker, heavier ribbon will give a lower output, and a thin light ribbon will be more sensitive. Many manufacturers use something typically around 0.0001 inch or 2 microns in thickness. The ribbon is also typically corrugated either along the full length to prevent lateral motion, or at the ends to give a ‘piston’ style of ribbon. Well, that is how it should be.
However, ultra-thin aluminium is hard to get hold of, and the non-specialist may be tempted to make repairs using materials that are more readily available. Here are some things I have found inside microphones masquerading as ribbons – needless to say they were all replaced with good quality aluminium foil of an appropriate thickness!
1. Cigarette Paper.
This microphone actually worked, to an extent! It at least made a sound. The ribbon was made from an old fag packet.
Cigarette packs used to come lined with paper-backed foil – I’ve never been a smoker so I don’t really know why, but I imagine for freshness or something. The foil is thin and already textured – it just needs to be separated from the paper. Actually this last part seems to be optional, and sometimes bits of paper are still attached, making the ribbon heavy and noisy.
1.b I’ve heard that chewing gum wrappers were also used for redneck ribbons, if you want a minty fresh microphone.
1.c Here’s a lovely example of cigarette paper being used for a ribbon in an old GEC microphone.
2. Kitchen Foil
Kitchen foil is easy to handle, yet much too thick to make a decent ribbon. But that doesn’t stop people trying. This is a common ebay trick… the ribbon looks in good condition, but when the mic arrives the output is low and sounds crunchy.
3. Sweet Wrappers
Plastic coated foil or metallised plastic, like that found in sweet wrappers is an interesting innovation, but is generally too heavy and has too high a resistance to make a decent ribbon. Also the plastic doesn’t conduct. This microphone gave almost no signal, and it isn’t hard to see why.