Bullet Microphone Collection

I have been collecting, restoring, re-building, and customizing vintage bullet microphones for myself and other harmonica players for over 20 years, and I have accumulated quite a collection of these microphones over the years (many of them years ago). The majority of my collection is made up of variations of the two most popular “bullet-style” microphones used by harmonica players – the Astatic JT-30 style microphones, and the Shure 520/707A bullet-style microphones. My plan is to add or “archive” one microphone a week (from my collection) here on the website. Doing it this way will take me several years to finish, but at least I finally got the ball rolling!

“Why?” is probably the question that people ask me the most when they see my collection. Well, being a blues & roots harmonica player who enjoys playing amplified is one reason. There IS a difference in microphones from one to the other, especially the bullet microphones. Certain model microphones (and certain types of elements) have particularly good tonal qualities and characteristics when held in the hand with a harmonica by a player who has good playing tone and technique on the instrument, coupled with a good gripping technique on the microphone. Don’t let all the nay-sayers fool you…the microphone DOES INDEED make a difference. Of course, some people just don’t care enough about it, and/or their ears aren’t paying attention to the difference(s). And just like old amps, guitars, cars, etc…the old mics all vary greatly, even mics of the same kind, style, model and age.

The other reason is most of them are so cool-looking! Even non-musicians and people not particularly into equipment or vintage items seem to get excited when they see cool old microphones. Maybe it’s the chrome (not many things are cooler than chrome, you gotta admit), or the art-deco/space-age styling of some of these, but there is no doubting their visual appeal.

Now, it should go without saying (although nothing goes without saying anymore, thanks to the internet and the myriad of self-proclaimed “experts”) that the value for any of these microphones is a result of three main factors: the cosmetic condition of the microphone, the rarity of the model, and  (are you listening Antique Dealers & eBayers?!?)  the “practical” working condition of the microphone, which is different than “working condition”. By “practical” working condition, I mean specifically how well the microphone can and will sound when used by someone who knows how to play harmonica, with a harmonica and through a decent harp-friendly amplifier. Many of these vintage microphones still in existence “work”, but the majority of the crystal and ceramic style microphone elements have aged/deteriorated/been abused/etc…to the point where they do not have a usable output, or do not have tonal characteristics suitable for use and/or will not endure the pressure that comes from playing while cupped in the hands. I cannot tell you how many microphones I have been asked to “re-build” or “modify” over the years (and still counting…) because players have been told they are buying a “working condition” microphone, and it either does not work well at all, or the tone is completely unsuitable and makes the microphone basically useless for practical purposes for any player who wants to be heard and/or have a decent sound.

Having said all that, let the archiving begin! These are all part of my personal collection (and are not for sale), although I do occasionally have harmonica microphones for sale from my collection, or from my personal arsenal of usage. Note that there will be many “duplicates” of some models in the collection, since there are many variations including ID tag differences, model # differences, body style/shape differences, color/finish differences, etc. The microphones will be added to this online archive/collection in no particular order, just to keep it interesting…

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* * * Astatic JT-series * * *

This is one of the (if not THE) most popular of the vintage bullet-style microphones used by harmonica players since the 1940′s (the other most popular model would be the Shure 520 “Green Bullet”). There have been many variations of these made over the years, and a vast variety of voluminous variations of this vintage valuable make up approximately 1/3 of my bullet microphone collection! Some other model variations will be under the Astatic “JT-style” section immediately below this section.

(#10) Astatic JT-30

This is one of the earliest versions of a model JT-30 from Astatic. Dark grey body & grille, serial number w/no prefix, wide-slot/shorter body, Astatic Microphone Lab rivet label (notice the wider spacing between the model number & serial number), chrome “bullet” screws, with original all-grey stand {circa 1940}

(#22) Astatic 30

This is one of the earliest versions of an all-brown “JT-30″ style I have seen. Some early “JT” series models don’t have the “JT” prefix, and it wasn’t a color-scheme factor, as I have grey and chrome models as well from this era that don’t have the prefix. All-brown, “Y” series serial number, normal style body, Astatic Microphone Lab rivet label, with original all-brown stand. {circa 1941}

(#7) Astatic JT-30 (TT)

This is one of the earliest versions of a grey & chrome JT-30. Grey body (not the later “Hammertone” grey), chrome grille, “A” series serial number, “wide-slot” or “shorter” body (notice the wider screw slot indents in the profile, and the slightly shorter and more tapered length of body), Astatic Corporation pre-logo rivet label, with original box & stand (“TT” stands for two-tone grey & chrome, original stand base is wood, not metal) {circa 1942}

(#16) Astatic JT-30

This version is still called a JT-30, but has a brown shell, with the usual chrome grille. Rivet label with lightning bolt logo, centered “Made In USA”, flat-top 3, B-series serial number, “wide-slot” body, with original E-5 base and stand {circa mid-1940′s}

(#1) Astatic JT-30

This is one of the more common variations you will see of the Astatic JT-30 style microphone. Hammertone Grey, chrome grille, “B” series serial number, regular body, Astatic Corp lightning bolt logo rivet label (“Made In USA” in center), “flat-top 3″, with the original box and stand {circa late mid-late 1940′s}

(#34) Astatic JT-30

This is another one of the more common variations you will see of the Astatic JT-30 style microphone. Hammertone Grey, chrome grille, “B” series serial number, regular body, Astatic Corp lightning bolt logo rivet label (“Made In USA” on right), “round 3″, with the original stand {circa late 1940′s/early 1950′s}

mic34a mic34b mic34c

(#13) Astatic JT-30

This is another more fairly common variation of the JT-30. Hammertone Grey, chrome grille, silver border adhesive label, original stand {circa early 1960′s}

(#25) Astatic JT-30

This is Canadian version of the fairly common variation of the JT-30 above. Hammertone Grey, chrome grille, silver border adhesive label with stamped “JT 30″, original box and stand {circa early 1960′s}

(#19) Astatic JT-30-C

This is the most common of the Ceramic versions of the JT-30 microphone (“C” stands for Ceramic element, as opposed to Crystal). Hammertone Grey, chrome grille, regular body, “black adhesive” old logo label, with original box and stand {circa mid-1960′s}

(#4) Astatic JT-30

This is another of the more common variations you will see of this model. Hammertone Grey, chrome grille, regular body, “black adhesive” old logo label, with original box and stand {circa 1970}

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* * * Astatic JT-style variations * * *

Just as the above section, this is one of the (if not THE) most popular of the vintage bullet microphone styles used by harmonica players since the 1940′s (the other most popular model would be the Shure 520/Green Bullet). These are some of the odd model numbers manufactured for various other uses or applications, other than standard issue. The vast variety of voluminous variations of this vintage valuable make up approximately 1/3 of my bullet microphone collection! The more standard model variations of the JT-30 microphones will be under the Astatic “JT-series” section immediately above this section.

(#31) Astatic A

This is one of the earliest variations of the Astatic JT-style models. “A” model with brown shell, chrome grille, “Astatic Microphone Lab” rivet label, M-series serial number, normal shape body, with original  stand {circa 1939}

mic31a mic31b mic31c
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(#28) Astatic W-80

This is one of the more common variations of the JT-style models. “W80″ model with all-brown shell, rivet label with lightning bolt logo, non-centered “Made In USA”, big “80″, B-series serial number, “wide-slot” body, with original  stand {circa mid-1940′s}

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* * * Astatic T-3 * * *

This Astatic chrome model is one of the earliest “bullet”-style designed microphones. Being a crystal microphone, it also happens to make a great harmonica microphone with some modification. With an applied patent in 1937, this basic shell design was used for the model T-3 series microphones, as well as the early & rare Astatic UT-series bullet microphones.

(#20) Astatic T-3

This is one of the early variations of the T-3 model. All-chrome, sloped elbow connector, “B” series serial number, Youngstown Astatic Corporation rivet label (pre-logo), flat-top 3, with original stand {circa 1943}

(#5) Astatic T-3

This is one of the more common variations of the T-3. All-chrome, sloped elbow connector, “B” series serial number, lightning bolt Astatic logo rivet label (“Made in USA” on right), curved “3″, with original box and plug adapter {circa early-1950′s}

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* * * Astatic 30 “Biscuit” * * *

This Astatic microphone model was mostly manufactured to be used in conjunction with home recording machines in the early 1940′s. There has been slight cosmetic variations with these, but mainly they have been brown, with either a brown or a chrome grille, and incorporated a crystal element. Some players find these easier to hold compared to a bullet size, due to the shorter depth of the microphone body. However, the diameter of the microphone is slightly larger than the Astatic JT-series…just about the size of the larger Shure bullet style.

(#15) Astatic 30 Biscuit

This is one of the more common variations – no ID tag on it, with a chrome grille on the brown body. With original stand. {circa 1941}

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* * * Astatic 200-series “Velvet Voice” * * *

This Astatic microphone model also has a “bullet” shaped head, but has the handle permanently attached as part of the microphone itself. These have been commonly modified to be used for harp players by chopping off the handle, although I have known and seen some players use them with the handle still attached. They usually came with a crystal or ceramic element, but just like other models, commonly don’t work well when found nowadays. There have been several variations of this model for use with recording machines from the 1940′s & 1950′s as well. The diameter of these microphones is about the same as the bigger-size Shure bullets, which is slightly larger than the JT-series shell.

(#8) Astatic 200-S

This is one of the more common variations of the 200-series microphones. Gold color, chrome grille, “B” series serial number,  lightning bolt Astatic logo rivet label (“Made in USA” in center) on back-bottom of handle, with on/off switch (the “S” in 200-S), with original box and base {circa early 1950′s}

(#24) Astatic all-brown (Velvet Voice series)

This is one of the more common variations of the 200/Velvet Voice series made for use with third-party recorders. All brown in color, protruding grille, no ID tag, with original base {circa late 1940′s}

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* * * Shure 9800-series Small Bullets * * *

Before Shure started making the “Green Bullet” microphone, it made plenty of other bullet-style models, and they mostly incorporated crystal elements. Up until the late 1940′s (close to 1950), all of these Shure bullet microphones were a slightly smaller size, and have proved to be more popular for harmonica players over the years due to the size difference and lighter weight. It isn’t a big difference, but to someone who is familiar with the feel of a model 520 Green Bullet, it will be noticeable. Of these earlier small bullets, there have been many different models, and this section covers models in the 9800-series. Certain models Shure made to market on their own, as other models were made to be sold under other manufacturer’s names, or with their products.

(#9) Shure 9822A

This is one of the more commonly seen Shure “Recording” Bullets. Brown shell & brown grille, Shure “Specially Designed For Recording” tag, with original stand, base and box {circa 1942}

(#17) Shure 9824A

This is another of the more commonly seen Shure “Recording” Bullets. Brown shell & brown grille, Shure “Specially Designed For Recording” tag, with original stand, and base {circa 1942}

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* * * Shure misc. Small Bullets * * *

Before Shure started making the “Green Bullet” microphone, it made plenty of other bullet-style models, and they mostly incorporated crystal elements. Up until the late 1940′s (close to 1950), all of these Shure bullet microphones were a slightly smaller size, and have proved to be more popular for harmonica players over the years due to the size difference and lighter weight. It isn’t a big difference, but to someone who is familiar with the feel of a model 520 Green Bullet, it will be noticeable. Of these earlier small-bullet microphones, there have been many different models, and these are various odd models that either Shure made to market on their own, or other models were made to be sold under other manufacturer’s names, or with their products.

(#23) Shure/General Electric Brown Bullet

This is one of the lesser-common models of the older Shure Brown Bullets made – obviously sold under the “General Electric” name, most likely for use with a recording unit of the day. Identical to the 9800-series brown bullets, with a Shure crystal element, but with no ID tag at all. Just a cool “General Electric” decal on the original brown base/stand {circa 1940}

(#35) Shure Brown & Chrome Bullet

This is one of the more common models of the older Shure Brown Bullets made – a small-shell brown bullet with a chrome grille. Most likely for use with a recording unit of the day. Same size, but a lighter brown paint compared to the 9800-series brown bullets, with a Shure crystal element, but with no ID tag at all. With the original brown base/stand {circa late 1940′s}

mic35a mic35b mic35c
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* * * Shure 520 “Green Bullet” * * *

This is the OTHER most popular bullet-style microphone used by harmonica players for decades (aside from the Astatic JT-series microphones). Coming into production approximately 1949, there have been several variations of the Shure model 520 “Green Bullet”, as well as other microphones with the same or similar bullet-shaped Shure bodies (as you see here in this “Shure” section). Variations of this and other Shure bullet microphones make up more than 1/4 of my microphone collection.

(#14) Shure 520

This is one of the earlier variations of the popular Shure “Green Bullet” model 520. Green paint, brushed grille, Controlled Reluctance, same color green Chicago tag, with original box {circa 1950}

 

(#2) Shure 520SL

This is one of the most common variations of the Shure Green Bullet microphone. Green paint, brushed grille, Controlled Magnetic, bright green Evanston tag, “SL” model (comes with base and grip-to-talk handle) – {circa mid 1960′s}

   
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* * * Shure 707A * * *

This is another popular bullet-style microphone made by Shure, sometimes used by harmonica players. Unlike their more popular 520 “Green Bullet” microphone model that uses a Controlled Magnetic or Controlled Reluctance cartridge, this Shure bullet microphone incorporates a crystal element. This model started out in the 1940′s with a slightly smaller body/shell (similar to the other small Shure bullet models), and then took on the same slightly larger size of the 520 “Green Bullet” model around the time the 520 was introduced in the late 1940′s.

(#6) Shure 707A

Here is one of the most common variations of the 707A. Light grey/silver body, larger shell, bright blue “Chicago” tag, with original box and stand {circa 1952}

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* * * Shure 440 * * *

This is another bullet-style microphone made by Shure, sometimes used by harmonica players. Unlike their 707A “Silver Bullet” microphone model that uses a crystal element, this also incorporated a Controlled Magnetic element, similar to the model 520 Green Bullet. This model started out around 1960 and has a screened cutout filter in the bottom of the microphone shell, which will change the response characteristics. Very similar to the 520 Green Bullet, aside from the color and the cutout.

(#26) Shure 440SL

Here is 440 SL model. Light grey/silver body, larger shell, green “Evanston” tag, with original grip-to-talk Shure stand {circa 1961}

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* * * Shure misc. Big Bullets * * *

After Shure started making the slightly larger bullet-style model 520 “Green Bullet” microphone, it still made other various bullet-style models, and they mostly incorporated either Controlled Reluctance or Controlled Magnetic elements. Of these various odd models, many were manufactured with the Shure name, but some have no ID tag, or even another company/manufacturer’s name on it. This section covers odd models, and models made for other manufacturers.

(#29) Shure Brown Bullet (big)

This is one of the lesser-common models of the bigger Shure Bullets made – obviously sold for another manufacturer (no ID tag attached at all), and incorporating a crystal element inside. Almost identical to some of the early brown bullets, but lighter in color, and with the slightly larger shell style. With the original brown base/stand {circa early 1950′s}

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(#32) Shure CR41

This model is one of the more sought-after standard size Shure bullet microphones. Manufactured with the highly-regarded black label Controlled Reluctance element inside, this “sky blue” colored bullet is one bad microphone. Same “brushed” metal grille as most of these standard size Shure bullets, dark green Chicago ID tag, and original desk stand. {circa early 1950′s}

mic32a mic32b mic32c
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* * * Turner “Challenger” Bullet * * *

Here is another common vintage bullet microphone used by harmonica players. Made by the Turner Co., the “Challenger” model came in both brown (“B” series) and brushed chrome (“C” series), with the choice of either a crystal element (“X” models) or dynamic element (“D” models). With it’s very cool space-age aesthetics, it is definitely one of the cooler looking bullet microphones made. Some people, such as myself, like the size (a little smaller in diameter than a standard bullet mic) and think the that “fin” on top helps when holding onto the microphone. Some other players tend to think it can get in the way, but either way, it adds to the cool look of the microphone.

(#3) Turner BD “Challenger”

This is an example of the brown version of the Challenger, with a dynamic element – model “BD”. The dynamic elements are obviously a little cleaner sounding, but still sound great for amplified harp if you have good cupping technique and a good amp. This shell has the curved cut-out in the back, and the original stand and tag. {circa late 1940′s}

(#21) Turner CX “Challenger”

This is an example of the “brushed chrome” version of the Challenger, with a crystal element – model “CX”. The crystal elements are not as “clean” sounding, typical of a crystal, and work great for amplified harp – when you find a good working one that is! This shell has the pointed cut-out in the back and the original tag. {circa mid 1940′s}

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 * * * Turner “22″ Bullet * * *

Here is another cool-looking vintage microphone from Turner, with space-age aesthetics, thanks to the “fin” running along the top of the microphone. I have used one myself in the past, and have seen a few in use, but due to the larger size & heavier weight, I don’t know many players who use them. They sure look great though! The 22-series microphones came in either a dynamic model (usually specified by a “D”), a crystal model (usually specified by an “X”), and later a ceramic model (usually specified by an “C”).

(#11) Turner S22X

This is an example a Turner model 22 with an On/Off switch integrated (“S”), and a crystal element (“X”). Some models had an On/Off swictch on the side as opposed to the front. {circa mid-1940′s}


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 * * * Turner 211 Bullet * * *

Here is yet another stylin’ vintage microphone from Turner, with space-age aesthetics, and elongated body, which really makes this the limousine of bullet microphones! I have used one myself in the past for a short while, but due to the longer size & heavier weight, I don’t know many players who use these. The 211 microphones came in a dynamic model, with either the standard “satin chrome” finish, or a drark grey finish.

(#33) Turner 211

This is an example a “satin chrome” Turner model 211 with the circular logo emblem on the front. Some models had an On/Off switch on them as well. {circa late-1940′s}

mic33a mic33b mic33c
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* * * Miscellaneous Bullet Mics * * *

In this section I will include some of the one-offs, oddballs and various obscure models of the bullet microphone kingdom. Many of these will be Japanese made, but there will be plenty of others as well.

(#27) RCA M-12016 G

This RCA microphone style is definitely one of the cooler-looking bullet styles, but due to the fragile grille and slightly larger size, I don’t see many people use them. The protruding grille also gives it more of an “egg” shape, which I always thought was cool, but doesn’t necessarily make it more comfortable to hold with harmonica – especially for people with smaller hands. This model is of the later M-12000 series, and there were also other models in the 6200 series with the same style shell, but with a different element and/or characteristics. With original stand, tag and box. {circa mid 1940′s}

(#36) AMERICAN RC Biscuit

NEWEST ADDITION!

This biscuit-style microphone was made by the American Microphone Company, which also made some cool bullet-style microphones. This model RC was sold on it’s own, and as part of some recording units. These models have a crystal element, and are a nice small size when held in the hand. I have seen these with various finishes as well…this one with the typical dark brown body, no labeling, chrome grille and original plastic stand and base {circa 1945}

mic36a mic36b mic36c

(#12) Lafayette PA-42

Here is another one of the coolest looking vintage bullet-style microphones, the Lafayette PA-42. This was also branded with several other model #’s and under other manufacturer names (as many of these vintage Japanese microphones were). Very lightweight plastic body, intricately detailed grille, and bold colors make this a joy to hold & gaze upon. Incorporating a crystal element, a good one can sound real nice, although many of these aren’t close to the tone or warmth of the American-made vintage crystal elements {circa early 1950′s}

(#18) Kent M-20

Here is a variation of the cool Lafayette PA-42 style microphone. As you can see, it’s the same basic design, same kind of materials (very lightweight), but with a slightly different grille and different color scheme. Also a crystal microphone. {circa 1950′s}

(#30) Argonne AR-54

Here is another cool- looking Japanese crystal bullet microphone, the Argonne AR-54. This model has been made in a few colors, with mainly two different styled grilles, and under many manufacturer’s names. The Argonne AR-54 is one of the more common variations, but you will see others listed here as well. With original (albeit aged) box.