I started collecting microphones long ago, when at a large flea market, I spotted an Electro-Voice 664. The chrome was pitted, the windscreen was dented, and the guy selling it didn’t know if it even worked.
But it was only a few dollars and it reminded me of my years working tech theater in high school, so I bought it.
From then on, I looked for old mics everywhere, and pretty soon had built a sizable collection. They’re really interesting, not only as examples of the tools that we used in our craft, but because many models are works of art.
My collection is largely made up of live mics, but there are also some recording, broadcast and radio models. While a few pieces have seen some screen time in movies, the majority of my mics have been seen by just a few people.
I’ve decided to change that so everybody can enjoy them, by presenting them regularly here in LSI. Let’s kick things off with one of my favorites. It’s not rare or worth a lot of money, but is very valuable to me as it’s the very first mic I ever bought.
Like many in pro audio I started off on the performing side, and needed a mic to use with my band. While there were a few good music stores near my home in Baltimore, one of my favorite places to shop for things was Lafayette Radio Electronics. The now-defunct chain of stores carried many brands as well as their own, and they also had a great mail order catalog filled with home stereo and electronic stuff, and most importantly, PA equipment and musical instruments.
A look at that threatening grille, and the 4-pin connector and 5/8-27 threaded socket for stand mounting. (click to enlarge)
I didn’t know a lot about specs, but I scoured the catalog and found the beauty you see here, the Lafayette 99-45460. This mic had all of the features I needed, including high impedance, an on/off switch, built-in stand mount – and a low price! It came with a 20-foot detachable cable with a 4-pin plug at the mic end and a 1/4-inch male plug for the mixer.
This mic was great – until I discovered two big flaws. While the grille looks cool, those small prongs of metal surrounding it are sharp and protrude enough to cause me to cut my lip when I swung my head toward the mic to sing.
The other flaw didn’t reveal itself for a while. As a singing drummer, I usually wore headphones for monitoring, but one day decided to switch to a loudspeaker for monitoring – and the omnidirectional pattern of this mic proved to be problematic in close proximity to the speaker. As a result, I repurposed it as an instrument mic, first on a guitar amp and then later as a drum mic, until it was finally retired.
Left to right: Lafayette 99-45460, Calrad DM-21, Lafayette PA-409, Monarch TM-18. (click to enlarge)
While branded Lafayette, I’m not sure who actually built the mic. It’s identical to the Calrad DM-21 and a few others I’ve seen over the years.
Another Lafayette model in my collection, the PA-409, is identical to the Monarch TM-18, as well as the Fen Tone DM800, Midland 22-211, and a host of others, including a unit sold by Radio Shack under the Realistic brand. It’s logical to surmise that perhaps they were all built in the same factory.
The PA-409 is very similar to the 99-45460, uses the same element, and seems to have addressed the lip-threatening grille issues of its predecessor with a redesign.
Lafayette 99-45460 Specs
Transducer Type: Mylar diaphragm dynamic
Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional
Frequency Response: 100 Hz – 10 kHz
Sensitivity: -58 dB at 30 K ohm
Nominal Impedance: Switchable 30 K ohms or 250 ohms
Size: 7.75 x 1.5 inches
Net Weight: 18.5 ounces
Price when new in 1974: $16.95
Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International, and is the owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.
(Find more Microfiles articles by Craig here.)