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mystery mic

PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 8:37 pm
by spanoghe
This is probably an impossible question but here goes...

Last year I was playing in the house band at a harmonica festival and someone came up and asked my opinion on a couple of harp mics. They were fantastic - dramatically better than the best I have ever used (Green Bullet included). Very responsive, with a fat, meaty tone, that could be altered radically just by changing hand position.

I told the guy how good I thought they were, and asked him how I could get hold of one. For some strange reason, he would not tell me anything at all. So I am now on a quest!

Both mics were very similar: unusually heavy cast metal bodies, enamelled grey, the grille similar to a Bullet but slightly smaller, and the body curved through 90degrees to quite a long "tail". Volume control under the head of the mic

Anyone got any theories? I've used the same setup for a good few years now - a little amp built for me by a harp specialist, using mostly "new old stock" 50s components, and a 50s tape recorder microphone cased in motor tyre inner tube and tape. But since I heard these mics, and what they did for my playing, I've become dissatisfied ...

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 12:03 am
by jeffl
It's a ghost, baby. Keep practicing and jamming. Those 'shrooms must be good! There ain't no new technology or Shure would have it. If you have the desire, and the capacity, you'll be fine. Keep playin' alot; that's how you get good... unless you've discovered Jesus's son.

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 3:49 pm
by jeffl
BTW, I shouldn't have made the tone of my post so dismissive ( and almost condescending ); My guess is that the mic builder "got lucky" and that it's not something that can be duplicated with the available technology.

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:07 pm
by spanoghe
No sweat, Jeff - thanks for the reply! I've been playng for 50 years and I totally agree with you that the important thing is what you do, not what gear you use. But these babies were really something else! They looked pro-built, too. I guess they could have been by one of those custom builders in the USA. Best, Spanoghe

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:37 pm
by NEONMOONY
There ain't no new technology or Shure would have it.


I wonder why shure isn't making mics for harp with the old style elements, since they are in such demand on ebay and such.

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:49 pm
by jeffl
spanoghe wrote:No sweat, Jeff - thanks for the reply! I've been playng for 50 years and I totally agree with you that the important thing is what you do, not what gear you use. But these babies were really something else! They looked pro-built, too. I guess they could have been by one of those custom builders in the USA. Best, Spanoghe
Maybe the guy who had it knew what he had and didn't want you to ask him to screw the lid off so you could observe what gives him his "edge". There's a coupla harp builders on this site; maybe one of those guys could explain the "directional" capability of that thing. It sounds like what we'd describe as "super hot" around here. I've been playin' for about 45 years and I've gotten a little jaded about mics, due greatly to the fact that I've played alot through SM58s eq'd for vocals when I get up with bands and I still get alotta compliments on my tone; it's not that I'm any great harper either... it's just that around here in Southern Minnesota there aren't many harpers and they haven't heard many veteran players. Otherwise I use either a stock green bullet, or an old fat SM57. I rarely use my blues blaster.. I just don't like the cheap feel of it.

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:25 pm
by Bournio
NEONMOONY wrote:
There ain't no new technology or Shure would have it.


I wonder why shure isn't making mics for harp with the old style elements, since they are in such demand on ebay and such.


I don't know which piece of old style elements you mean?
Ribbon microphone?
Or valve microphones? Or something altogether different...

I blew an G harmonica through a ribbon mic(not cupping it), into an Allen and Heath desk. Got to go back into the studio and add some valve compression to smooth it out a bit more, but that sounded lovely!

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:26 am
by gheumann
"I don't know which piece of old style elements you mean" - I believe he was referring to those treasured by harp players - they 40's and 50's vintage R7 crystals and 99G/H86 Controlled Reluctance elements.

Shure isn't making mics with old style elements because:

1) they cost too much to make
2) The market is TINY compared to the markets they serve
3) the factories, tooling and labor used to make those elements are probably long since "re-purposed."

For a long while (late 40's through the 80's or so) the basic CM mic cartridge was continuously improved and cost-reduced for its purpose, which was VOICE COMMUNICATIONS, not harmonica. Those improvements actually made them less and less desirable as harp mics. But that development in turn led to the modern dynamic element in the 520DX. It wasn't until later that the voice market for mics like that got pushed aside by lightweight plantronics style headsets, and ultimately the only markets LEFT were the vintage HAM radio guys and us. Today Shure markets the 520DX as a harp mic, but that it most definitely not its heritage.

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:56 pm
by NEONMOONY
Yeah, I was speaking of the controlled magnetic elements. I thought I had posted that too but I must have goofed up because I don't see the follow up post. My bad. ( unless of course Rusty or Ric deleted and were chuckling in the background).

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 1:58 pm
by NEONMOONY
I didn't think that they would be cheap, however, plenty of music equipment isn't cheap. There seems to be no limit to the price folks will pay for the elusive "tone".

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 3:33 pm
by Bournio
Ohhh. I see. That makes sense.

NEONMOONY, it's not only the cost, but also the market. I doubt there are as many people after using a vintage style mic for harmonica as there are engineers who LOVE the sound of a Neumann U47 or at least it's more modern equivalent, which costs over a thousand pounds each.

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 4:44 pm
by jeffl
Bournio wrote:Ohhh. I see. That makes sense.

NEONMOONY, it's not only the cost, but also the market. I doubt there are as many people after using a vintage style mic for harmonica as there are engineers who LOVE the sound of a Neumann U47 or at least it's more modern equivalent, which costs over a thousand pounds each.

Gear is still a good buy today compared to the relative costs back in the 60's and 70's. I haven't checked the prices for "custom" harps with vintage elements lately (we have sources on this forum), but I'm guessin' you can still get one built for $250-$500 (U.S.); that ain't bad for a good tool that'll get used. And a good low to mid output harp amp is still dirt cheap... around the same $$$ can find you one of those. Life is good. It's also great that the guys building the mics all love their craft; we're lucky in that respect. :)

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 5:50 pm
by ricochet
NEONMOONY wrote:Yeah, I was speaking of the controlled magnetic elements. I thought I had posted that too but I must have goofed up because I don't see the follow up post. My bad. ( unless of course Rusty or Ric deleted and were chuckling in the background).

Wasn't me!

I don't mess with anything except the occasional spam post that slips through.

Re: mystery mic

PostPosted: Sat Feb 06, 2010 6:35 pm
by NEONMOONY
Nor was I complaining about the cost. I am just saying that they seem to have a steady niche market because they constantly sell the old ones on ebay and such. They are various special use mics that sell for hundreds and more every day. Get that gritty, dirty Chicago blues sound with the new Shure Dirtdevil.