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OrthodoxBluesSep 07, 2009 8:10 PM GMT
I bought an old Argonne M131 microphone from a guitar player. These mics were made from 1959-70 in Japan, although they have more of a 30s-40s "Buck Rogers" look. Their claim to fame was that Big Walter played through one. They were sold under many names in addition to Argonne, including Calrad, Fentone and Primo. As it turns out, mine did not have an element when it arrived! I took it to our local amp and PA repair person. He found an old element and put it in. He didn't identify the element.
I'd love for it to be the Shure R-7, which is the replacement crystal element for the old 707A mics. According to greenbulletmics.com, those elements ceased production in 1970, and this one is dated 1971. It clearly is marked R-7. I know that Shure has been in Chicago, then nearby Evanston, then nearby Niles, and this one is marked "NYC."
Soundwise, it is quite nice, with a Chicago sound, but more treble and definition than my (beloved) hotrodded Shure Green Bullet with a CM element. It does require more amplification than that mic.
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<a href="http://s307.photobucket.com/albums/nn282/drewross/?action=view¤t=DSC_0001_2.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://i307.photobucket.com/albums/nn282/drewross/DSC_0001_2.jpg" border="0" alt="Argonne NYC"></a>
The photo is not appearing below, so I tried again.
Cool grille, although it is a close copy of an older Astatic, to my eyes.
While it is nice to have something rare and valuable, I had trouble imagining a crystal element making it here in the tropics. I have some relief that it probably is not a rare crystal element. It might even be from a telephone. I found eBay listing300322454916 which lists several telephone elements that have Western Electric, ITT or NYC labels. It might be from a phone ... I'm laughing ... but it really sounds pretty good.
I don't know what it is but it isn't a Shure R7. It looks to me like a telephone handset element. But not sure.
Still laughing ... I've been doing that old Lily Tomlin routine where she was a telephone operator back in the day ... "one ringy dingy, two ringy dingy ...
Well, the same person who had the eBay listing I noted below has number300312774328, which consists of some telephone receiver elements that are NYC part number R-7. Perhaps some transmitter elements had the same part number, or is it one of those crazy things where you can rewire a receiver to be a transmitter? I contacted that seller, since she seems to know everything about phone parts. Looks like I've got a phone element in there ... it might become a new trend because it sounds rather good!
Well, I heard from the people who sell phone elements, and it looks like this is one. Any way to tell whether it is carbon or ceramic? Something the tech said made me think it may be ceramic. I think that carbon elements weren't too great for music, but ceramic ones might be better. I'll do more testing, but this thing really doesn't sound bad.
Joe -- Pretty nearly all of this stuff is new to me. This wonderful page (http://www.jt30.com/jt30page/howmicswork.html) on jt30.com appears to indicate that ceramic elements are different than condensers. The tech who put this together said it was a "piezo" element. If I understand correctly (and if he was accurate), that would mean a crystal or a ceramic element. As I've read that the phone elements changed from carbon to ceramic in the seventies, my guess is that I have a ceramic phone element. Of course, I may be very wrong! My hypothesis would explain why this mic sounds rather good ... ceramic elements have been used for harp playing, while carbon usually is considered pretty bad.
Joe -- I bet you're right, because the tech said that the element came from a "bullet" mic. He may not have been using the word "bullet" the way we would, but I don't think that he was lying outright.
I'm hoping to put together a soundclip or two, hopefully comparing it with one or two more usual mics under the same conditions.