2017 Resolutions – Top 10

I thought I would make a New Year’s Resolution for 2017.  Ten thoughts which I could follow over the year.  Sometimes I get too busy to remember, or a soft spot in me forgets what I should do.  Here tis…

  1. Start the 2017 Christmas Card Letter on 1/1/2017, so on 12/20/2017 you’re not thinking “Crap, I forgot the letter, again!  What should I say?”
  2. Continue weight loss regiment.  50-60# is the goal by December 2017.
  3. Remodel the home studio and workbench for the LAST time.
  4. Upgrade F.C.C. license.
  5. Get amateur radio antennas up in spring, try new modes, and relearn old modes.
  6. Time to “purge” old equipment.  If not used in 7 years, sell or recycle it!
  7. Don’t waste time interacting with caustic or disrespectful people.  Solution: Ignore them.
  8. Ignore any partisan posts on Twitter/Facebook & mark offensive.
  9. Some people need to fail to learn.  Don’t be their safety net otherwise they won’t try to learn.  Besides, they don’t appreciate your help.
  10. Learn new things to do with machining.

We’ll see what I can tick off the list as DONE on December 31st, 2017.

Memories of a Friend

J. C. Simon

J. C. Simon

Yesterday I lost a good radio friend. J.C. Simon passed away in Las Vegas after a prolonged illness. Unless you knew the Michigan radio scene in the 70s, or were one of his many friends in Las Vegas, you may not have heard of him.

J.C. had many interests which included JC’s Place, and he was a stealth promoter of Las Vegas, as well as his hobby of cigars with his Las Vegas Ash group. If you were one of his Twitter friends, you always found out about some of the latest and greatest information about cigars. He’s also mentioned on several Detroit pages including the Detroit 2006 Reunion.

I can only speak about our days running a small radio station in Michigan. I’m sure his many friends in Las Vegas have their memories, but let me tell you about forty years ago.

I met J.C. when I was hired by the father of a fledgling radio station owner in Michigan. The station was an AM daytimer, and FM class A. Other than a local religious station, we were the only station in the county, which was surrounded by Flint, Port Huron, and the 800# gorilla, Detroit, to the south. The station was losing business, much in part to the owner taking liberties to trade out everything for his home. I was hired by the father who knew of what I did from a friend in Port Huron radio. I was hired to keep the son out of trouble, and make the station successful. I had just returned from the west coast, having worked in San Diego radio, and was looking for something “interesting” and challenging.

If you remember the show “WKRP in Cincinnati”, there was that moment when the existing staff, and Andy Travis (Gary Sandy), realized the old days were gone, and something exciting was going to happen. I had finished up cleaning up the old program director’s office, which had been shuddered for years, when J.C. came in. He was quizzing me about what might happen and if his job was safe. I had a feeling I could trust him, so I presented my plan.

The station, (due to an obvious ignoring of business), had a format of “whatever a DJ wanted to play”, so mornings were sort of Motown, mid-day was sort of county, afternoons were rock, and nights on the FM were progressive rock. BTW, the FM was mono, and only broadcast till 11PM because the owner said nobody in the county was awake after 11.

As I presented my plan I could see J.C. was very interested and excited. Being a Detroit kid, he was raised on some of the best radio had to offer, Keener-13, The Big 8, WCAR, WXYZ, and even some of the smaller stations like WJLB, WEXL, WPON, and other which graced the airwaves. J.C.’s father owned a shop down on Jefferson Avenue, so he lived the music and knew what was hot. As I recall, he had many of the surveys from stations at both his father’s store and his.

J.C. was very adamant that there were two factors in playing music on radio. One was “you had to know what to play”, and the other was “you had to know what NOT to play”. Although he followed the music charts, it was not unusual for him to play a GOOD deep track from an album, and usually it was something which would eventually album chart in Billboard. Although he worked with the record reps, he would often take chances and program a song, and I would say he was about 99% right in his choices.

Knowing what was hot in the music business was his skill. After we set up an office for him as the official music director, I encouraged him to have talk with record reps and other station’s music directors. I remember him “debating” with another music director over a new Steely Dan song which he said would chart big. The other station’s music director said would not. We were the first to play “Peg” and “Deacon Blues” before other stations. We also charted many other songs and artists in late 1977 ahead of other stations, including some local artists. J.C. knew what was good.

Before he came to the radio station he had owned a record store in Detroit. After he moved from Detroit, he opened up a new store in Imlay City, Michigan, called “Good Vibes Records”. After I found out about his place I must have dropped at least a couple thousand dollars there getting albums. Again, his musical knowledge had all the best and late breaking artists at the front door ready for sale. But, he always knew the older stuff, too. I can remember asking him about some Temptation’s songs and he walked right back to a bin in the back of the store and pulled out the album with all the songs I was talking about. It didn’t matter if it was rock or country & western, he knew them.

J.C. also was a man of pride. I recall at one Eastern Michigan Fair, (in Imlay City, MI), a famous country crossover artist refused to do an interview with us because in her words we were a “bunch of small market goat ropers”. Her songs were pulled from the air, and it was well after we both had left that anyone ever played one of her songs again.

He was also a trickster, who could do an imitation of a cricket. When I would be on the air he would come in, make the sound, and then look around as if he was trying to find the cricket. He had me going for about 3 weeks before I figured out it was him doing the sound. There were other instances of insanity, too many to mention, where someone would crack up on the air, or a clueless co-worker would get pranked. He got one of the sales guys pretty good by leaving a phone message on the guys desk, (one of those little pink sheets), asking the salesman to return a call to Mr. Lyons. When the sales guy called the number, it was the cat house at The Detroit Zoo.

Other stations in the area were also his foil. I remember him telling the radio audience to call a number and say something about our station. As it turned out, the number was one of our competitors in the next county.

We also conspired a lot on promotions, many of which were outrageous for a small station. His “Thumb Card” idea was based on the concept that our region of the state was known as “the thumb of Michigan”. The plastic card was given to listeners who could go to sponsors of The Thumb Card and get discounts or free things from advertisers. In turn, when presenting the card at an advertiser, they knew where it was coming from. This gave the salespeople at the station an “in” to tell our clients, “see how well radio works for you”. J.C. also gave out the cards at his record store, so we really gained popularity with advertisers who enjoyed the large number of people coming in their stores.

Being from Detroit’s inner city, J.C. knew that it took more than just music to make a station. He would often tell some of the kids we had as DJs what to say, what not, and he would play them airchecks of DJs in Detroit showing them how to talk up records, and how to backsell properly. His pet peeve was when an announcer would stammer on saying nothing important, or talking up a song and just rambling to hear their own voice in their headphones. He would “take them to school” on using long intros to read weather or PSAs. He also made it painfully clear that jocks had to follow the clock, and play only what was approved.

As the two of us built up the station, turning it from deeply in the red to positively in the black, there were demons brewing.

For me it was the owner, (smelling success), who wanting to take over the programming, music, and promotions. He eventually did, and ruined a great station. For J.C. it was a wife problem, and subsequent issues at the music store. He left first, then I. The station retreated back into its shell, and finally was sold at a loss. For the station and the remaining people it was tragic. For the two of us it was motivation to a new chapter in our lives. He went west to Las Vegas, and I went south to Ohio.

J.C. and I would hook up when I had the opportunity to get to Las Vegas. The last time was when he was music director of KFMS-FM 102. I would always bring him some Faygo pop, Better Made potato chips, and some cassettes of Detroit radio. The demands on our life and jobs kept us away in the past few years.

J.C. was preceded in death by a brother, John G. Simon, and his long-time soul-mate, Cathy, who was stricken by cancer. I’m sure if there is a radio station in heaven, God has him programming the music. And if you need a cigar in heaven, look up J.C. He has the best of them all. RIP J.C. You WILL be missed.

Review: Aukeys BM700 mic.

BM700 Microphone

Aukeys BM700 microphone, microphone clip, cord, and wind protection.

Recently I purchased an Aukeys BM700 microphone on the web site Aliexpress.

The microphone looks like a Neumann TLM102, but for $19.18(US) I was not expecting it to perform the same as a Neumann. The price of the microphone varies depending on the day with a high of $21.13 and a low of $18.10.

Another seller has the same microphone on sale except with a silver grill and a yellow foam filter. The thing which is confusing in some of the ads is the statement NO NEED phantom power mic when it’s sold as a Pro DJ and studio recording electret condenser microphone. I don’t think you can have it both ways.

The Aukeys BM700 looks good (physically) on the web site, so I figured if it was not a good sounding microphone I could take out the microphone element and replace it with something else.

I purchased three microphones as I wanted to provide a fair review of the product, averaging test results.

Testing was performed in my home studio using a Sony MZ-R70 digital mini-disc, bench testing with a Dayton audio analyzer, and Potomac AA-51/generator and AA-51A/analyzer with a preamp. The preamp was swept prior to the test for flatness, distortion, and noise.  Room calibrations were performed with the speaker and analyzer prior to measurement. Audio recordings were performed in the same location and setting. Sound files were recorded at 44.1 24 bit mono, and converted to 320kbps MP3 files for playing on the web.

The microphones were purchased on June 3rd, and arrived via China Post on June 11th, which is remarkable as the shipping was free! There was no trauma to shipping bag or contents. However one microphone did not appear to be in the original foam shipper. This microphone turned out to be dead.

Seller was contacted about the dead microphone on June 13th, and responded back with questions if I could determine why the microphone was dead. I responded the same day and told the seller since I had purchased three, and it was easy to determine the microphone was the dead and not cables or connectors. On June 16th the seller agreed to send a replacement. As of June 21st I’m still waiting for the replacement.

BM700 Mic

Description of product as seen on the Aliexpress web site.

The microphone pattern seems to be more of a narrow cardioid, and listening to the pickup on headphones as I turn the microphone left or right, up or down by at least 30-degrees, a drop off in level and frequency response is noted.

When the microphone is turned 180-degrees, (speaking into the back of the microphone), the level is louder that the sides, however the high frequency response is shelved from about 360 HZ upward.

When speaking into the microphone from eight inches away, without the foam wind protector, you will notice popping. Once the wind protector is on it limits the popping significantly.

The ad states, Overload-protection switch (-10 dB) minimizes distortion from loud sound sources. There is no such switch on the microphone.

The ad also states, Bass-reduction switch reduces room noise. There is no such switch on the microphone.

One would assume that a microphone with 3-pin XLR would be a balanced microphone. But the BM700 cord has a XLR at one end, and 1/8″ mini-phone plug at the other end.  There is no documentation on the wiring. Specifications claim 150-ohm.

3-pin XLR which comes on end of cord.

3-pin XLR which comes on end of cord furnished with BM700 microphone.

On the XLR end; pin 2 is the hot wire, while pins 1 and 3 are shorted together with the braid of the shield of the cable. On the 1/8″ connector side; ground is the shield, while tip & ring are the hot side, connected to pin 2 of the XLR. This seems to work well on my Sony minidisc recorder. However, since I could not find a way to take the microphone apart, verification of a balanced 150-ohm output from the microphone can not be verified.

BM700 Specification Sheet

BM700 Specification Sheet

The specifications state that the buyer receives a “user manual”,  In reality the manual is one sheet of glossy paper printed single side.

Specifications state frequency response of 20 Hz to 16 KHz, with a sensitivity of -38 dB, +/-2 dB.  The stated output impedance is 150-ohms, with a load of approximately 1,000 ohm.  In looking at the graph at the bottom of the sheet you can see the stated pattern of the microphone, as well as the claimed frequency response.   This response is somewhat misleading as I found depending on the azimuth and elevation of the microphone, with respect to the sound source, different values would peak and fall. For the most part I found the BM700 provided a boost in an octave centering around 5,300 Hz. You can hear the difference when compared to an Electrovoice RE20 microphone.

BM700 microphone grill

BM700 microphone grill

The microphones appears to be well made and machine tooling is clean. The gold grill of the microphone is especially bright and clean. The barrel is a non-reflective dull black. The male XLR is recessed into the bottom of the microphone with only 3/16 of an inch of silver connector showing. The pins for the XLR connector appear gold in color.

When looking into the grill I can see the microphone element which appears to be about one inch in diameter. There is no silk or cloth between the grill and the microphone element to prevent dust or foreign objects to come in contact with the microphone element or to prevent pops from speech. If I could take the microphone apart I would add this to the inside of the screen to prolong the life and usefulness of the microphone.

Examining the microphone body I can find no screws or indication how it’s put together. For the moment I’ll assume it’s either a tight threaded barrel or press fit.

BM700 Side View

Side view of microphone with microphone mount.

The microphone comes with a mic stand holder. The microphone is slid in, (somewhat tight), up to the grill ring, and is held in place by friction.

The tooling of the stand mount will accept both the U.S. standard microphone stand and European. Standard US mic stand thread is 5/8-27. The smaller European-style thread is 3/8-16. An adapter for the smaller European mount is furnished.

The microphone mount is not made out of metal, but it appears to be a hard ABS plastic with stretch strings to cushion the microphone. An adjustable wing-nut allows for positioning of the microphone in a range of 190-degrees up and down. I did notice some “slop” in the mount when the wing nut is loosened for elevation adjustment. It appears the hole for the screw is oval, rather than round. It does not impede the use of the mount, nor make it unusable, but it could have been machined better.

TESTING

Testing the microphone was very difficult. Depending on the axis of the mic in relationship to the test speaker, I would get different results.

The mic claims to have a response of 20 Hz to 16 KHz, but I found the low end lacking in many cases, and the high end rolled up 2 dB starting around 2,300 Hz.

Signal to noise ratio claims to be 78 dB, but my tests had it more in the range of 66 dB.

How does it sound?  Let’s compare an Electrovoice RE20 microphone, (broadcast standard), to the Aukeys BM700. When recording these files I did not make any changes to the sound level, or equalization.

  1. Speaking into the front of an Electrovoice RE20.
  2. Speaking into the front of a BM700.
  3. Speaking into the side of a Electrovoice RE20.
  4. Speaking into the side of a BM700.
  5. Speaking into the back of a BM700.
  6. Pop filter test of BM700.

CONCLUSIONS

This is by no means a “broadcast” or “professional” mic, nor would I use it for crucial sound recordings.

For the cost, $19.18(US), I would find it useful for my computer, recording speech on my mini-disc, or perhaps with an interface it could be a nice microphone for my amateur radio transceiver.

As you can see by the pictures the microphone is very good looking.

The price is justified for the body of the microphone. If I can find a way to take the mic apart, I think I’ll replace the microphone elements with my own professional ribbon or dynamic elements.

I’ve had a difficult time communicating with Aukey to get a replacement or refund on the microphone. This is not unusual when dealing with a seller who does not speak English as their primary or secondary language.  Based on the seller’s web page I also felt they could be a seller or general merchandise, and not someone familiar with electronic equipment, (such as professional microphones). Just be aware of this when you make your purchase.