Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wollensak Microphone

Because with a little patience, a little soldering and a complete disregard for electrical standards amazing things can happen. The above mic probably belongs to a Model 1580, a 4-track dual speed stereo recorder. More here. The device is stylistically similar to the rest of the 1500 series back to the 1500 itself which was only a 2-track recorder. While those are usually white, mine (above) is black. You can see a similar one here. Note that mine has a 3M logo and theirs does not. The back of mine also reads "3M Revere camera company." For that reason I date it to the early 1960s. Wollensak bought Revere in the 1950s, which in turn was bout by 3M around 1962. So it muse have been made after that date but before any branding was dissolved in order that it bear all three company names.

Regardless, all these mics were manufactured for Wollensak by Shure as model B-162-4. These 3M/Revere/Wollensak microphones didn't use standard 1/4" plugs. They were a bit short, and maybe a hair too narrow so they make proper contact for use with other devices. I resolved this by hacking off the original plug and soldering on a standard plug.

Wollensak was manufacturer of audio-visual gear, mostly portable tape recorders and video cameras. Their reel to reel tape recorders are very collectible among audio nerds which is why I wanted to see if mine worked. (obviously it does.) The company was founded in 1899 by the brothers Andrew and John Wollensak to produce camera shutters. Andrew was previously a machinist at Bausch &Lomb starting in 1882. He was skilled enough to be involved in shutter design which is probably how he and his brother had the gumption to start up their own company.

 The company was based in Rochester, NY. John died in 1933 and Andrew just three years later but the company continued on.  It peaked around 1958 with over 1200 employees. After their passing the company was owned by a number of companies including Revere and 3M among others. It's final owner Anson Instruments bought Wollensak in 1974 and ceased all operations in 2001. They continued to make tape recorders until about 1978. Surplus Shed presently owns the trademark. But it was under 3M that it really got into audio. 3M used the Wollensak brand name on numerous tape recorders including at least one line of 8-track recorders.