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The new year is starting just as awkwardly as the life of this month's microphone: the BBC Marconi' Type B'.

Officially it was named the model 8559A; a designation which no one ever used.

This 1937 model should not be judged by its looks; my father kept his fish-bait, worms, in a tin that looked just like it.

But the Type B was purposefully designed for use outside of the studio, Type A microphones were too big and heavy for that, and unsuitable like all other ribbon microphones.

A new kind of alnico magnet (an alloy of aluminum, nickel and cobalt) in a round shape, made a smaller version possible, with a diameter of 'only' 12 centimeters and a weight of 1.7 Kg. Extra internal damping material made the microphone completely suitable for outdoor use.

Engineers had done the utmost to reduce the size of the Type B, but it was bigger and heavier than the standard STC 4017 dynamic omni, with its 8 cm diameter and only 1 Kg weight.

Sports reporters could use it attached to a special chest harness, but Type B remained heavy and clumsy. In that same year, the BBC therefore came up with a better alternative: the L1 lip microphone, a really small and lighter handheld model (270 mm x100 mm x 92 mm, 1.4 Kg, see also STC 4104 & 4115 Mic of the Month 11-2019).

This actually sealed the fate of the Type B, within a year of its birth. Although the model was still used in many BBC studios until the late 1940s, often as a soloist's microphone. Since it was designed for use up close, there was less proximity effect.

It also suited poets and writers, like Una Marson, (1905 – 1965), Jamaican feminist, activist and writer, who produced plays and programmes for the BBC during World War II (in 3rd picture).

The sound quality of the Type B was as great as that of the AXB (the 1944 version of the Type A), but the model is much rarer.

So I was very happy with this find; complete, although non working.

In the United Kingdom, it has been perfectly restored with a lot of love and knowledge, by ribbon microphone specialist Stewart Tavener, of Xaudia. He also provided two beautiful photos of the restoration (5 & 6).

Let's hope it can be used to make great recordings as soon as conditions allow it again ...

Many more types feature in my book Witnesses of Words.. More information about that can be found at

wow cover

BBC Marconi Type B
BBC Marconi Type B side
Una Marson with Type B

Top: the can shaped Type B

Middle: back side and Una Marson & Type B

Below: Types A and B side by side, the sound and Xaudia restoration (pictures by Stewart Tavener)

BBC Marconi Type A and Type B

Listen to the sound of the BBC Marconi Type B

BBC Type B motor
BBC Type B padding