I have been collecting, restoring, re-building, and customizing vintage bullet microphones for myself and other harmonica players for over 25 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, starting from what I had on my previous version of this site (from my collection). Doing it this way will take me several years to finish, but at least the ball is 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 vintage 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 microphones for sale from my collection, or from my personal arsenal of usage. Note that there won't be any “duplicates” of any models in the collection, but there will be many microphones that look the same but have variations of ID tags, model numbers, body style/shape, color/finish, etc. The microphones will be added to this online archive/collection in no particular order, just to keep it interesting…