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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Isn't it time you tried a REALLY different microphone?

 You've tried all the usual microphones and are tired of their sound? Why not try something that is really over the edge...

By David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

If you're into microphones then you might have noticed that there is a certain 'sameyness' about the standard models.

You might choose to use a dynamic mic, a ribbon, a small- or large-diaphragm capacitor, or a tube mic, maybe even a vintage model.

Each type of mic has its own characteristic sound, but within types they sound quite similar. Yes there are differences between large-diaphragm capacitor mics, for instance, but they are not huge differences, like the differences between mic types.

So to get a sound that is really different, perhaps it would be an idea to choose a mic that stands out from the crowd.

And of course we have an example - the Coles 4104 commentator's lip mic. We saw this example in this eBay auction (bear in mind that this page on eBay will be removed at some point after the auction closes). At the time of writing, the auction is still open so you could buy this very one. Here are some more tasty photos...

Coles 4104
Coles 4104
Coles 4104
Coles 4104
Coles 4104

By the way, we don't have any connection with the seller other than we asked his permission to use the photos. The auction closes (or closed, depending on when you read this) on October 19, 2008.

The Coles 4104 is a noise-canceling microphone. It subtracts sound arriving from a distance while leaving sound immediately in front of the microphone untouched.

This makes it ideal as a sports commentator's mic, where there is likely to be a lot of background noise. The mic is held with the upper guard piece touching your top lip. This makes it a no-brainer for a non-technical person to use the mic.

You could try noise canceling for yourself with two directional microphones - place them back to back and flip the phase of the rear mic. Speak into the front mic from a close distance. Since background noise arrives at both mics more or less equally, flipping the phase of the rear mic makes it cancel out to a significant degree. But since the sound of your voice is much stronger in the front mic, it hardly cancels at all.

But the Coles 4104 has another trick - it is very good at handling the pops and breath noise that you get when a mic is used close to the mouth. It's a design that other manufacturers might consider taking a look at.

Oh, and there's one more feature - this mic is insensitive at the sides. This means that two commentators can sit next to each other and leakage will be minimal.

You have already heard this mic on many occasions on TV. Even beyond the realms of sport it is useful for outside broadcasting in general.

As well as its useful features for its intended purpose, this mic has a characteristic sound all of its own. You won't find another microphone that sounds like it.

The sound is amazingly clean considering how close to the mouth it is used. You couldn't say that it is an accurate sound, but it's something that could be used in many contexts as a contrast to the standard mic sound.

There's another use for it in live sound - you know that you occasionally hear a song that features a distorted vocal, either all the way through or in segments? (Can we blame John Lennon for starting that?).

Well if you use a distortion effect on stage you will find that the high gain involved increases the risk of feedback significantly.

But if you use the Coles 4104 for this purpose, then since it rejects the sound coming from the speakers, it is very robust against feedback.

In summary, this mic is excellent for its intended purpose. But it also has an interesting sound that might find a place in your studio, or perhaps even live.

As they say on eBay - Happy Bidding!

Note: This auction is now closed. The winning bid was £217 UK pounds.
 Publication date: Sunday March 22, 2009
Author: David Mellor, Course Director of Audio Masterclass

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