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MICROPHONE OF THE MONTH AUGUST 2019

PHILIPS EL 6040 'NUN FRIGHTENER'

 

 

Today, most microphone users do not realize that there was a time when omnidirectional microphones set the tone. The development of modern directional types happened relatively late: it was not until the Fifties and Sixties that the change gradually came.

But even now there are manufacturers, such as DPA and Earthworks, who would prefer to let everyone use omni's. Theoretically, omni's are the ideal candidates for sound recordings: they "color" the sound as little as possible, are not bothered by the proximity effect and can handle high sound pressure.

The Philips EL 6040 was therefore in 1955, presented as the ideal studio microphone.
Its price was hefty: 475 DM, at the time a Neumann U47 only cost 450 DM (although an additional power supply of 250 DM, had to be purchased). But Philips delivered a quality product with a frequency response reasonably similar to that of a good condenser microphone, which did not need a separate power supply, could even be used in the tropics and had a practically unlimited life. The microphone was extremely slim (27 mm diameter) and therefore inconspicuous and thus perfect for TV, artists, sound reinforcement and outdoor recordings.

Soon the slender form earned it the nick-name 'Nun Frightener' or 'Penis'. Director Frits Philips was utterly shocked when he was finally told.

The BBC tested two copies in 1956 and found the EL 6040 to be an excellent successor to the then outdated STC 4017 (mic of the month of February 2019), which was still used for remote shooting with a parabolic dish. The EL 6040 had a much wider frequency range, see the BBC graph below.

Philips was by the way not the only manufacturer to produce long, slender omni's; Electro Voice released their version at about the same time: the EV 654, also meant for TV and studio use. Unfortunately I cannot say who came first here, but they are strikingly similar. Shure followed with their 578 Omnidyne.

These and many more types feature in my book Witnesses of Words. More information about that can be found at www.witnessesofwords.com

wow cover

 

Philips EL 6040
EL 6040 sheet

EV 654

Top: the slender shape of the EL 6040

Middle: Info sheet & the Electro Voice 654

Below: the sound & BBC graph

Listen to the sound of the Philips EL 6040

BBC parabolic curves
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