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OrthodoxBluesJan 23, 2010 6:36 PM GMT
I finally remembered how to post photos into these threads. In the last weeks of last year, I went a little wild buying several vintage harmonica microphones. It could be my imagination, but it seems like the harmonica players into mics, as well as the ham radio people into them, all were at the mall buying normal stuff. The skies parted and for a few weeks, prices on some old mics on eBay were ridiculously low. Whatever the explanation, I was able to buy some very cool mics for prices that don't seem to be available now.
The one pictured above is an Astatic Model 30. The first Model 30s had a smaller shape called the "biscuit" (I'm not sure, but I thought that I read that Little Walter coined that term). Then, the name continued with the first mics that have the JT-30 shape. Based on what I can gather from www.jt30.com, this mic was made somewhere in the thirties or forties, but no later than 1946. The original crystal element is dead, and I haven't yet decided whether to replace it with a newer crystal element or a Shure CR or CM element.
It is not quite as pristine as it appears, but it certainly doesn't look 65 years old!
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<a href="http://s307.photobucket.com/albums/nn282/drewross/?action=view¤t=JT30CandyMic.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://i307.photobucket.com/albums/nn282/drewross/JT30CandyMic.png" border="0" alt="JT-30 Candy Mic"></a>
This one has a repainted Astatic JT-30 shell with a Shure CR (controlled reluctance) element from 1954. It has a good Chicago sound.
I don't see my photo above, so I reposted it. Obviously, it is a "hot rod" mic, with an Astatic shell and a Shure element. It also has a volume control.
70's or early 80's Astatic JT-30 which what I believe to be t
he original MC-151 crystal element in it. Crystal elements, to my ears, have more mids and highs than the Shure CR and CM elements, with somewhat less bass and much greater clarity and less of that Chicago grit.
Continuing with Astatic mics, this one is branded Stromberg-Carlson, but it appears to be a DN model by Astatic branded as a Stromberg-Carlson. I'm receiving this one back from the tech (who rewired it) today, so I haven't heard it. I believe it to likely have a dynamic element, so it probably will be at least a decent sound. It sure looks cool. A friend thinks it looks like an old Pontiac car's grille!
Turner mics may have the coolest appearance of all of the old ones, with the "Mohawk" fin on the top of the mic. Many old Turners have crystal elements, but this one is dynamic. It has a great sound, very similar to a Shure CM or CR. It isn't that hard to cup, even with the fin, but it must be at least twice as heavy as a vintage Green Bullet.
Moving on to Shure mics, this bullet is not the famous
520 model Green Bullet, but the crystal 707a model. The mic is from the sixties, and I'm assuming that it has the original element. It doesn't have the grit or bass of a CR or CM, but has great highs, mids and clarity. It sounds very similar to the JT-30 above with the MC-151 crystal element. As I understand it, the very early 707s had a smaller shell, but this one has the same shape, size and grille as the Green Bullet, but it is gray in color.
Last but not least, this 1962 Shure Green
Bullet came to me on the stand. It has now been rewired and removed from the stand. It has that sound we seek from the Shure CM and CR elements, a deep, resonant and somewhat gritty Chicago sound.
Thankj it again. here i am spending my hard earn time writing comments and it get booted out. That was a new one. If I lost my comment when I hit Preview or it get cut short thats a small problem. Now it just kicks me out.. I wonder if its a hint.
Any dude you have some great talent. wish you a lot of luck and joy,.My origninal comment was a lot funnier.
abner (BluEyes )
'Deed I do have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). I may even have it worse than you! It has been very fun to gather these mics, and to compare their sounds with each other and with newer mics. I often think about the days when these were the standard mics used for announcements, PAs, etc. and tube PAs were the standard for that purpose. Also, cupping an old bullet with a broken-in harp just feels right ... and sounds perfect!
Now I want to read your funnier comment! I noticed that I needed to go back and forth between "preview" and "edit" or something like that, to get the photos in this thread to show. If I just posted it, I'd get it to look like the first comment above, the one that doesn't show the photo.
How are things going with your playing and gear, Abner? Is your wife still having fun watching you get better and better at playing?
@Ortho, re: the 707, "As I understand it, the very early 707s had a smaller shell, but this one has the same shape, size and grille as the Green Bullet, but it is gray in color."
You're right - they came in two sizes. One easy way to spot the difference is that on the older, smaller shells, the grill screws were top and bottom. On the newer ones, as well as 520 series shells, the screws are on the sides.
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Yes, G.A.S. is a very hard desease. I already have about 100 harps and waiting for one more. I got 14 or 16 stompboxes (not use them at the same time) and I want five more ((: Instead of OrthodoxBlues I found the mikes I like and the only one I want is Ultimate 57. I usually got less than $500 a month and still buying me new stuff. I need a doctor or some endorsment contracts.
Thanks, Greg. I had the shell thing right with the 707a, but it is cool that the screws are in a different position, that will make it easier to spot the smaller shell ones, not to suggest that I have any chance of buying more ... but I could!
I have about 20 harps, mostly because I only play diatonic, and tried different styles, but found that I feel most at home with Special 20s. I have at least thirty pedals, but most are for guitar. Only one is purely for harmonica, but the harps maybe "own" about four or five. I have about seven amps, all shared with guitar. I now have around fifteen microphones, maybe one is more for vocals than harmonica.
I guess it would be better if I had a desire for more harmonicas rather than microphones, since the harps generally are less expensive, although I did buy some of these for the price of a Special 20!
' A friend thinks it looks like an old Pontiac car's grille!
I think it looks like the other nasty robot in 'Lost in Space'
Very Very cool collection. At least they wont go down in value if you look after them. The Special 20's will.
Thanks, Chris! It does look like a robot, but I only can remember the one that went "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!" Was there another one on that show?
I have no intention of selling them, although one or two may go to a friend. It is nice to know that most or all are worth more than I paid right now, and are quite likely to be worth more in the future. Most importantly, I love the sound of old bullet mics.
I've noted that players have different addictions. One buy bunch of harps and no worry about mics, amps and pedals, other have one good set of harps and buy bunch of mics. Some have favorite harps and mic and change different amps. I have the same amp for last five years, I think I'll trade it only for Harpgear. I'm mostly pedal freak. I bought 2 sets of 16 harpkeys set of mainly used harp and I like it. So I hope I'll stop buying pedals sooner. ((:
We do seem to get hooked on getting certain things, and I love these old mics, the workmanship, finding out how old they are, comparing the sound. It feels like something of an honor to use something so old. They also sound terrific, many have that sweet Chicago sound.
Joe (Harpaholic) --
I love the history of these mics. Thanks for the information. I don't have a small shell Shure (say that ten times fast), but I'd love to at least hold one and see how it feels. The oldest Shure one I have is the RCA branded one from '48. My old Astatic Model 30 may be older, but I need to crack it open and date the (dead) element.
Being careful about price, I've continued to add a few to the collection.
Another Astatic DN series branded as a Stromberg-Carlson. I believe that the other one may be medium impedance and this one is high. It is a big mic, not the easiest to cup.
Astatic 10-DA, a dynamic element. It has a good harp tone, not quite as strong as a hot Shure CM or CR, but more than respectable, and
the all-chrome look is cool.
Astatic of Canada R-3 (although some sources on the internet label it otherwise). Dead element, about to get a new one, the mic is lovably small and easy to cup, and from 1941.
Radio Engineering Labs mic from 1942. I picture it being in a plane during the war, but what I know about military history and equip
ment is less than the length of this post. Anyone know what type of element is pictured? I should have a working cable for this one soon, and I can see if the stock element works, and how it sounds.
Sorry for the huge size of some of the photos. I can't seem to see what size they are before they go in.
What I expect to be the star of the bunch ... a late 1949 Shure Green Bullet with an original and wo
rking early black label CR element. A previous owner cut a (working) switch into the back of the mic, probably long ago. I chatted with Dave Kott (who hosts www.greenbulletmics.com) about this mic. The person who sold it to me probably cleaned the grille with steel wool without removing it from the mic. The element could have been damaged by steel wool dust. Dave removed all of the dust, rewired the mic, and it is on its way back to me.
Having a bit of trouble posting photos, so they will follow.
The switch is clear here. We convert desk models to loose ones for harp. I think a ham radio person converted a loose one to desk use and added t
A clearer shot
I believe that the gray stuff to the right of the element is steel wool dust.
Tons of steel wool dust visible here.
That's pretty unusual element you have there. I've never seen a 99B86 black label. However I have seen 99G86 and 99H86 elements in both black and white labels - making it even more confusing, you can find 99H86 elements that are CM, not CR. Oh yea here's another. 99S556 - dual impedance CM. 99T556 - single impedance CM.
If there is some sort of logic to Shure's element numbering system I surely do not know what it is (other than the date codes.)
Should be a great element if you can get the steel wool dust off. Use a strong magnet, perhaps?
It is an unusual element. Dave Kott said that he's seen many from 1949 but all were 99A86. He hadn't seen a December, 1949 one before, so he assumes that Shure changed the model number then. I know that they went back to 99A86 later, I think several times later (maybe white CR then CM?). He also said that this mic is the oldest 520 mic he's seen with the metal tag on it.
Dave Kott saw the steel wool dust in the photos I sent him talking about the mic, and he agreed to have me send it to him. I'm not sure how he got it out, but he may have used Q-tips and compressed air. He didn't have to take the element apart, thankfully.
For those who may not be into the details of these mics as much as Greg, Joe (harpaholic) and me, Dave Kott has a great history at www.greenbulletmics.com
The short version is that the Shure 520 Green Bullet mic is one of the most associated with harmonica playing. These mics were first made in the middle of 1949, but other mics with the same and similar shapes were made by Shure before that. The first few years of these mics had elements that looked like the photo of mine here -- a square covered in black tape. These elements and the mics holding them have become the most prized Green Bullets for many players. The elements were called controlled reluctance, or CR. So this mic has a black label CR. After a few years, the elements had a white label on them, and these were the white CR elements. A few years later, the name changed to controlled magnetic or CM. Whether the black CRs were better than the white CRs and the CMs is a never-ending controversy that may come down to the condition of a given element, and what you want to hear!
I finally received that mic back, the one with the black label CR element ... and it sounds great. Just the right raspy, low end, blues biting tone. Love it!
I have a really hot MC151 with the hugest bass response of anything I've run across. I'd like to sell it, if you need it for one of the shells in your collection please contact me. It doesn't have the mid-rangy-squawky response of the Shures, it has a dark sound.
Joe -- It sounds cool. I'll send you a message.
Resurrecting this old thread to show off this beauty:
It is a Shure 52. For those who don't know, two years before the launch of the famous Shure 520 Green Bullet, they made the Shure 52 for one year only (1947). It came in a brushed nicket shell and had a huge dynamic element inside.
I had heard that these were monster harp mics, but very rare. I scored one on eBay, and it is monstrous. It has a huge boomy low end.
The photo is from the seller.
Here's the whole collection.
Hi Ortho. It's a beautifull mic collection. I too am starting to collect some mics and they all have a different sound and feel. I learned most of what I know about mics and ampsfrom Greenbulletmics.com. I have bought a few mics and mic parts from Dave Kott. He is very honest and knowledgeable. I wouldn't hesitate to buy anything elsefrom him
Cool, Bronto. I've had a long e-mail conversation with Dave Kott. He did a great job with my '49 520. He knows so much and really helped me learn my way along.