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MICROPHONE OF THE MONTH OCTOBER 2017

RAULAND UNI-VEL W 1248 L

 

 

Few microphones can compete for the title of 'most beautiful model ever made', but this month' microphone is certainly one of the contenders for first place.

It is a ribbon type, made by the Webster Company from Chicago, in 1940, and probably produced until 1947. The information that can be found on the internet is uber scarce; the companies' 1940 catalog (nr. 140) describes it in detail, but so far I have not been able to find it. Readers who want to share their copy are more than welcome.

What I do know is that this is the best microphone ever made by the Webster company, their other models were all simple crystals. In fact Webster made two of these majestic models: the Uni-Vel and the Duo-Vel, but apart from the type shield they look identical. They were based on technology from Bell labs, just like the ribbon element inside the Western Electric 639, from 1939.
The Duo-vel may have been fitted with two ribbons, or perhaps one ribbon of which half was used as a velocity transducer and the other half as pressure transducer, to create a directive pattern, the technique RCA used in their 77 B model from the same era.

It is also possible that the Uni-Vel was dampened at the back, making it 'Uni' directive, and the Duo-Vel was not dampened and thus bi-directional. To me this seems more logical, but it is just a guess. Oddly enough Webster deemed the Uni-Vel 'dead at the rear', but if you listen to the recorded sound this is obviously not true.

The size of the microphone is as big as the RCA 77's and larger than Shure's 55 'Fat Boy', the base and top are made of Bakelite, which is of course very fragile.

Although I am not aware of any microphones ever designed by Raymond Loewy, this certainly oozes his beautiful Art Deco style. The Dallas Museum of Arts, which has a Uni-Vel on display links the design to the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition (1933-34) ; a World fair with the motto: 'Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Adapts'. They are probably right, then again they think that the sleek rounded of shape was just to please the eye, but I think it must reduce the negitive influence that microphones have on the soundwaves they record.

My copy was imported into Holland shortly after World War 2 and never left the store; I bought it unused. Unfortunately the Bakelite is cracked, damaged by the force of the washers that secure the microphone in position on its stand. A small design flaw of an otherwise perfect product.

In 1941 the Webster Company merged some of its divisions with the Rauland Corporation; another Chicago based audio company that made mostly tubes and amplifiers. The label on the ribbons changed into 'Rauland'. After WW2 Webster became popular for their wire recorders, until tape recorders took over for home and office use. Webster changed its name into Webcor after which the company slowly faded out of sight, Rauland still exists.

Usually vintage microphones that fetch high prices are popular because they can be put to good use in studios, but this great 'studiomicrophone' could best be used for P.A, but is still very expensive if ever offered second-hand; at a Sotheby's 2016 auction it was probably sold for the highest amount ever.

Many types of microphones feature in my book Witnesses of Words, which was recently released. More information about it can be found at www.witnessesofwords.com

wow cover

 

Rauland uni-vel Rauland uni-vel
Rauland uni-vel label

Hear the sound of this microphone

Uni-Vel back Uni-Vel front
Webster news 1940
Webster sold at Sotheby's

Above: 1940 introduction of the Uni-Vel. Left: ridiculous price at auction. Below: the 1941 merger

webster Rauland merger

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