MOTM: Shaftesbury Velodyne Supreme

As you may know, I study quite a lot of vintage ribbon microphones. In general these are simple devices, with just a ribbon, motor, magnets and output transformer . The details and quality of the parts may vary, but most have the same mode of operation. But just once in a while something surprising comes along. Like this Shaftesbury Velodyne Supreme microphone, which is a ribbon microphone with a twist.

The output of a ribbon mic will scale in proportion to the length of the ribbon, at least up to a point. The idea behind the Velodyne was to give increased output by using a super-long ribbon. Normally that wouldn’t give you as high an output as it should, because of ‘rippling’, or other incoherent vibrational modes. But by fixing the ribbon in multiple places they claim to avoid this problem. The microphone was sufficiently novel at the time for the inventors to apply for protection. 

Well that’s the theory. In practice the microphone has one giant ribbon that goes round corners, and each length of ribbon has a ‘node’ in the middle, so in total it has 8 elements, each at 45 mm x 4 mm. So 360 mm of vibrating ribbon!

What is more, the microphone has no transformer! I guess the designer thought it had enough impedance already and did not need one.

I wonder how well it worked? Sadly we may never know. The ribbon is broken in many places, and is glued down, so it will net be an easy thing to replace. I’m still struggling over whether to try and get this working or not. I suspect it really ought to be left in its historic condition, but I am curious about how it would have sounded.

Postscript: History shows that this design was not a success. Whether this was for sonic or economic reasons, we can only speculate, but Shaftesbury appear to have abandoned the concept. Their later ribbon microphones were a much more conventional affair, like this Shaftesbury RT model – ribbon, magnets and transformer.