Tannoy Ribbon Microphones Part 1


This is my attempt to round up and discuss the various ribbon microphones that were made by Tannoy. I have split this survey across two posts, with part 1 describing Tannoy’s figure-8 microphones and part 2 focusing on their attempts at cardioid ribbons. Finding firm dates and model numbers is a little tricky as they are rarely marked on the microphones themselves, and so there is a certain amount of educated guesswork involved. If you know more, please get in touch!

Update 8th March 2015
Several kind and knowledgable readers have sent in links and articles with dates and model numbers. I have added these where possible. Thanks to all!

Figure-8 ribbon microphones
Over the years Tannoy produced three main models of bidirectional ribbon microphone, with some variations around those types. I have called these types 1, 2 and 3 in order of production.

Type 1
The BBC technical team reviewed this mic in 1947 and applied their usual exacting standards, rejecting the mic for broadcast use. But as usual the benchmark mic for comparison was the BBC Marconi AX model, which cost many times more, and in fact these mics can sound warm and rich, with an overtly vintage tone.

These mics are heavy with a cast body and large cylindrical magnet. I have come across mics with different output impedances, usually 50 ohms, 600 ohms or high impedance.

Type 1 variant
In response to the BBC comments, extensive changes were made to the motor design, although the body remained the same. The magnet structure is completely changed, with what looks to be a single cast magnet. I have never actually seen one of these on the bench, but Seth at the 2 Track Mind blog has written a nice post about his microphone here.
Type 2 – MR425
The Type 1 mic was succeeded by the type 2 or “Pitchfork” model, which is much smaller and has a completely new motor design. This model seems to date from the early 1950s and was available in different colours with different mounting options.

Most of these models have a 600 ohm output, and give a full well balanced sound. This is my favourite figure-8 Tannoy, partly because this was the first Tannoy mic that I owned, but also because it has a good response and a very usable signal / noise output.

The type 2 motor is simple but nicely made, with two tapered magnets either side of the ribbon, and the adjustable pole pieces allow one to set the ribbon tension.

Update – this model has been identified as the MR425, and it was briefly mentioned in Wireless World in May 1952:

Type 3 – Slendalyne
These mics are smaller again and use a lot of plastic in the body, which can be prone to cracking. The grills are stamped metal, and the connector is a simple DIN plug without a locking ring. They are a lot less common than the types 1 and 2, although perhaps not as rare as has been suggested by some sellers.

The magnets in these mics are made from a ceramic material which allows a smaller, lighter microphone than its predecessors.

Update: This microphone has been identified as the Tannoy Slendalyne model which appeared in Wireless world in June 1962:

In my next post I will describe Tannoy’s cardioid ribbon mics.
Stay tuned!

Very early tube ribbon microphone inspired by the RCA PB17

Ev of Vashion Island sent in these pictures of his wonderful tube ribbon microphone and has kindly agreed to share the photographs and description on this blog. The mic is a little bit of a mystery as it appears to be similar to an early Marconi design and the RCA PB17, yet has no maker’s mark and is different in many details.

The mic is clearly influenced by Harry Olsen’s design as described in his 1932 patent and the magnetic field for the ribbon is provided by an electromagnet, which is very rare and only usually found in the very earliest ribbon mics; this approach became redundant very quickly as strong permanent magnets became available.

As I have not inspected this microphone myself I will use Ev’s description and photographs – Ev’s comments are in italics:

“The outside diameter of the cylinder is 4.75 inches or 210mm. The  cylinder is aluminum. the top end cap and plate are machined aluminum. The hemispherical bottom cap is also machined aluminum.

The yoke mount is steel flatbar (I believe the PB17 yoke mount is made of cast metal).

There are three transformers including the one for the electromagnet.

Instead of having three UX864 tubes it uses two unknown tubes, one has 5 pins with a wire attached to the top, and the other is 6 pins. 

The resistors are made by Morrill, Germany. The transformers and capacitors have no makers marks that I can see. Whoever made this microphone obviously knew what they were doing. I wonder if this was a prototype made by RCA, or perhaps it is European (because of the German resistors)?

The bell…. is definitely cast aluminum. The inside plate at the connector end of the mic is also cast. The acorn nuts at the connector end fit a 7/16″ SAE wrench perfectly and the bolts with the wing nuts are US threads. 

Note the tiny piece of threaded stainless steel pipe bolted to the plate (to the left of the connector in the picture). I thought it might be a jack, but I think it is only a pipe. There is what appears to be a ground wire soldered to it inside the mic.

The number 13 etched beneath the bottom right connector blade corresponds with the number imprinted on the connector itself inside the mic.”

If any of our readers recognise this microphone or have any more information, we would love to hear from you.