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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Mics
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6891 posts
Feb 02, 2021
2:55 PM
Years ago I bought a quite unimpressive crystal mic on eBay. It was a JT30-style shell, but not an actual Astatic shell, painted some kind of ever so slightly sparkling dull brick red. The element was a Turner, and output was low and thin.

Someone later I was offered a NOS MC151 for $160AUD and I took a deep breath and bought it. It was from the last few years of production.
I knew it was a gamble, and the odds were probably not in my favour.
I took great care soldering it into the shell.
It worked fine but I wasnt really very impressed. However, I did start to appreciate the characteristics of a crystal element compared to a dynamic.

One particularly warm day, I arrived at rehearsal in a real lather after striding a mile uphill to my car-shaped sauna and then driving same 20 minutes to the studio which turned out to be at around 35 Celsius. While connecting a lead to the mic, it slipped from my sweaty hands and headed for the floor. I made a desperate grab but only succeeded in getting fingertips under the mic, which resulted in flicking it across the room to crash into the wall before hitting the floor.


When I retrieved it, it seemed broken. I was convinced it rattled. I connected it and found it made a sound but not a good one.
I retired it. I looked briefly for a replacement element but they all seemed even more expensive than the one I'd just destroyed.

A couple years passed and for whatever reason I hooked the mic up again one day and was surprised to find it seemed fine. I don't know what I'd heard before but suspect the problem was somewhere else in the signal chain and I just assumed it was the mic because of the fact I was expecting to find i had broken it.

So yesterday I had a gig, only the second since Covid killed the live scene for local bands.

In the afternoon I got the Sonny Jr out to make sure it was all good, and then I started swapping a few pre-amp tubes and trying various mics. I kept finding that all the dynamic mics seemed too easy to break up to a harsh sounding distortion but with the crystal it was much smoother. The Sonny Jr 2 is a fairly gritty sounding amp. I tried a Shure 533, Ev930, a couple of CM/CR mics, but the crystal just seemed to work best. I think part of it was about the slightly lower output.

There's another aspect to this, which is that it's probably high time I have the SJ2 serviced, but that's another story.

I still have no idea whether this is a "good" crystal. There are not many around here with which to compare. Maybe they get a lot better than this. I really expect that is likely.

I thought I was over all this.
3315 posts
Feb 02, 2021
4:46 PM
I fried my first. Had no idea how fragile it was.

I swapped for another, in a custom ruskin shell, and it was really fine. why I let it go I still don't know. Especially through my replica '59 Bassman it was the bomb. Which I also let the Bassman go it was too big and I was not making any $ with it at the time.

I've had a couple of pretty smooth CM elements. I use mostly these days, an EVm43u military issue mic which I had Greg Heuman mod for me to hi z and add a volume pot. It will probably survive the apocalypse. Tough little unit. I have as well, a couple of Shure 585 dynamic mics which are very nice for mids and do break up when wanted. Since they were designed as vocal mics I plan to try one through a tube amp for that purpose while the other will be my harp mic.

I do wish I'd just mothballed the Ruskin. I doubt we'll see the same quality crystals as we used to.
Music and travel destroy prejudice.




111 posts
Feb 03, 2021
3:42 AM
You should consider a ceramic element. They are more weather resistent, and a tone similar to crystal, but they are not cheap nowadays. The Astatic 332 and "Voice of Music" are good sounding mic and not so expensive. EV630 is a good crystal model too, but you should consider EV605 (dynamic), shure 545 and 585 that do not break up so easy like CM/CR does.

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