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Although the dynamic microphone had been a German invention, it was an American version, developed by Bell labs. that made history:

The WE 618 was a breakthrough: the first professional dynamic microphone.

Made by Western Electric in 1931, it was a very portable microphone, even more so because it did not need a bulky external power supply, like the carbon and condenser microphones of that time.

It had excellent quality, was reliable and only 3,5 inch in diameter. Soon they were used everywhere, by reporters on location, and in the studio.

US President Roosevelt employed them for his 'fireside chats', on Nationwide Radio. During the Second World War this type of microphone was also made in the US by other companies as part of the War effort; the American Co., Turner and Webster produced them.

The English version, the STC (Standard Telephone and Cables, a UK division of Western Electric) 4017, from around 1933, was used by the BBC for more than twenty years. Churchill spoke his uplifting war speeches in them to raise the moral of the people of the UK during WW 2.
Mounted on and facing a parabolic reflector disc, they were also used on top of recording trucks, to pick up sound over great distances (at least 75 feet).

In the ribbon era, these dynamics were often used as 'spot microphones' (very close to the sound source).

In the US, Paramount Film Studios, combined the WE 618 with a bundle of tubes, progressively different in length, and nicknamed the result 'the machine gun mic'.
These microphones were almost indestructible, and many are still functioning today. Their main problem was the cable connector, which easily fell of. STC decided to change the design into three individual terminals. where the cable could be screwed onto directly. The WE 618 in the picture has been fitted with a Cannon XLR connector; a more modern solution and these days the industry standard.

This is one of the many types that feature in my book Witnesses of Words, more information about that can be found at

wow cover


WE 618
WE 618 back side
Orson Welles

Listen to the sound of the WE 618 in this vintage style recording of Big Bo playing 'Back Water Blues'

Above: WE 618 back view & Orson Welles records War of the Worlds for CBS radio

Below: schematic diagram of the WE 618

WE 618 schematic