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STC 4115 & 4104 'LIP MICS'



The STC / Coles 4115 & 4104 are two of the oldest microphones that are stil in production: they have been made and sold since 1951!

The BBC had produced a portable version of their type A microphone (Mic of the Month December 2013), in 1937: a type B which was adapted for use as a close-distance commentator's lip microphone, named L 1. This was smaller and lighter and suitable for outside work.
In 1951, the L 1 was improved and presented in two versions, produced by STC (Standard Telephones and Cables, or 'Stantel'): the 4104 (on the right in the photo), for outside broadcasting work and the 4115, for use indoors, for talking situations where good quality broadcasting and public address speech is required to be reproduced in conditions with high background noise.

Since 1974 they are made by Coles (ex employees of STC).

Both units are bi directional ribbon microphones with a high degree of acoustic damping, fitted into a special case.

The talking distance is controlled, by positioning the bar to the speaker's upper lip, this maintains the correct frequency response at all times. The fixed talking distance also provides most of the noise reduction, achieved through the low frequency roll-off characteristics of the response of the ribbon unit.
BBC research proved: "If the distance between the wanted speech is only 2,5 inches and the unwanted background noise is at least two feet and excessive low frequency response is removed, the corresponding portion of background noise will also be removed. Only the high frequency noise upon the rear of the microphone is unaffected and this is normally too low in volume to cause serious trouble."

The speech quality is good, mainly due to the correct balance being obtained between the nose and the mouth tones - any deficiency of the former gives a 'stuffy' and unnatural speech quality.

The 4104 is further equipped with nose and mouth breath shields for even more damping. The acoustic screens give an isolation so great, that the mic can be used in loud crowds; for instance at a race track, while racing cars are roaring past.

In 2003 these mikes were used in Iraq, by ABC, CBS and, of course the BBC, with wind whipping sand in reporters faces, helicopters whirring overhead and a variety of all-consuming noises of war around them.
At the 2010, FIFA World Cup, in South Africa, they proved to be very useful for sports commentators who wanted to avoid the nerve-wrecking sound of the vuvuzelas.

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

wow cover



4115 sheet

Listen to the sound of the STC 4115

Top: 4115 & 4104

Middle: the original L 1, from 1937, STC 4115 sound, and Coles 4115 spec sheet

Below: lipmics in use

LIPmics in use