The British Broadcasting Corporation Type AX Marconi Ribbon Microphone
Talks producer, author, and journalist Nina Consuela Epton, BBC North American Service, with a BBC-Marconi microphone in a photograph dated September 21, 1951. Ms. Epton produced and took part in the BBC’s daily contributions from London to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Actuality Review, a French Canadian Radio Newsreel. After ten years, Ms. Epton left the BBC for a writing career.
Nina Epton was born in London of a Scottish father and a Spanish mother. A French education helped to create an early interest in the different ways people have of expressing their emotions. Brought up at first on self-control and hockey in England, she was delighted with the discovery of French modes and manners when she was sent to a French lycée, and later to the Sorbonne to attend lectures on French literature and history of art. During this time she took singing lessons with a gay teacher in Montmartre and signed a music hall contract when she was under age, which luckily was not valid.
Since her years in Paris Miss Epton has traveled widely in remote places, always primarily interested in people and the origin of their frequently strange customs. Her wanderings have resulted in brilliant travel books with a flavor all their own, including Saints and Sinners (Morocco), Grapes and Granite (Galicia), and Navarre, the Valley of Pyrene.
From the dust jacket on Love and the French, 1963
All microphone-related information on this page was thoughtfully provided by Mr. Roger Beardsley of Lincolnshire County, UK. Along with the photos of Ms. Epton and those of the Marconi Type AX ribbon microphone, Mr. Beardsley has kindly provided us with an audio excerpt from a 1974 BBC program episode of On Key, in which one of these fine old Marconi microphones is actually used during the broadcast. Please click the button below to hear the excerpt.
Mr. Peter Byrne, staff presenter at BBC Radio Leeds, can be heard conversing with Mr. Beardsley, who adds these comments about the broadcast: The programme was On Key and broadcast live every Wednesday 12:15 to 1 p.m. It was a music magazine programme and I joined the presentation team after that first programme. A couple of years later it changed title to become Oasis but was very similar. Later still it changed transmission time to Sunday evening and became Concert Pitch. By then it was recorded, which was a shame—I loved live broadcasting. We used to have musicians in the studio to talk about the concerts in Leeds (lots then as now). We’d report on music festivals, concerts and other music goings-on. Great fun! Then we would end up in the bar at Broadcasting House for a beer or three!
Mr. Beardsley has also provided scans of pp. 66-68 of the 1942 Engineering Division Training Manual published by the BBC, as well as pp. 66-83 of the Microphones Engineering Training Manual written by BBC Engineering Training Department staff members. Both excerpts are available for downloading as PDFs.
Mr. Beardsley comments: The microphone is strictly BBC-Marconi and was designed by the BBC’s Dr. Alexander (the origin of the “A” designation perhaps, although there was a “Type B”). The one in the photos is a Type AX. The original Type A used an aluminum ribbon with a vicious resonance and was quickly replaced by a much thinner ribbon. That was then designated the Type AX. In 1943, the internal wiring was altered to reduce interference from electromagnetic fields and became the Type AXB. (Shades of the UK version of the RCA 44?) By 1944, the magnet assembly was changed to a Ticonal type with a 6-dB increase in output. This was the final version and was designated Type AXBT. That version had a large “T” on the side of the casing.
Mr. Arthur Johnson shares his comments from his home in the United Kingdom. I was interested to see that the AX in your photograph bears a Z1/ZA number on the maker’s plate. Since I worked for the UK Defence Ministry for some years, I recognise this as an Army stock number. Perhaps that one came from BFBS, the forces broadcasting service. Rather odd.
A fine specimen that once belonged to Mr. Arthur Johnson.
A fully functional AX owned by Mr. Ron Streicher, being held here by Stan Coutant.