The first Stromberg-Carlson microphone I ever saw was attached to a PA system in an office of a school. It looked like a Shure model 55 and even carried the company’s iconic “S” logo on the front, but the badge below said differently.
Later I found out that it was indeed a re-badged model 55, as Stromberg-Carlson (S-C) didn’t actually manufacture mics. Shure, Electro-Voice and Turner all produced units for the company, and in many cases, the only change was the nameplate and model number.
During a visit to an antique store, I came across the MD-56CS shown here. It’s clean lines and simple red accent make it stand out.
While not a household name today, S-C has a long history in communications electronics. The company was founded in Chicago by partners Alfred Stromberg and Androv Carlson in 1894, the year Alexander Graham Bell’s patent for the telephone expired and many companies were vying to make their way in that growing market. In fact, S-C eventually grew to become one of the largest suppliers of phone equipment in the U.S.
The company relocated to Rochester area of New York State in 1902 following a failed takeover attempt by rival Western Electric, and expanded its product line to include a variety of consumer electronic goods, including radios. “There is nothing finer than a Stromberg-Carlson” was the slogan in advertisements.
During World War II, S-C manufactured electronic parts for the U.S. military and was also one of three companies that produced the ubiquitous BC-348 high-frequency radio communications receiver for the U.S. Army Air Force, the predecessor of the U.S. Air Force. The BC-348 worked so well that the Soviet Union came up with a copy that was in service well into the 1970s.
The hole pattern in the grille. (click to enlarge)
After the war, S-C added television sets to its product line, in addition to numerous iterations of home radios, intercom systems, and public address equipment, in addition to owning and operating several commercial broadcast stations in New York. In 1955, the company was purchased by General Dynamics, which sold off the various divisions by 1982. Remnants of the brand survive to this day.
My MD-56CS dynamic-type is a re-badged Turner S95D, a public address and general purpose mic that was Turner’s best-selling model in the mid-1950s.
Designed in the late 1940s, it was included in the catalog until the mid-1960s. Turner offered two models, the 95D and the S95D, with the difference being the “S” version came equipped with an on/off switch built into the stand mount base. (Both versions were also available from S-C.)
Stand-mount threading and Amphenol screw-on connector for high impedance use. (click to enlarge)
An advertisement of the time stated that the MD-56CS had a wide response range and outstanding sound characteristics that made it well suited for any public address use. The mic was available in a low-impedance 200-ohm version or a high-impedance version like mine.
It features a die-cast alloy housing and built-in stand mount. Unlike most mics of this style that can swivel up to 90 degrees in relationship to the base, the MD-56CS only swivels about 40 degrees forward and 20 degrees to the rear. The business end is simply an end cap that is punched with holes to allow the sound to reach the cartridge.
Each MD-56CS shipped with a detachable cable with an Amphenol MC1M connector for the high-impedance version or an MC2M connector for the 200-ohm version. The cable was 20 feet long and un-terminated at the amplifier/mixer end.
The MD-56CS is very well built, so a catalog description of the time wasn’t stretching the truth in calling it “rugged and dependable.” Both my S-C and Turner models still work after 60-plus years, and they still sound good to boot.
A catalog listing with the MD-56CS as a component in the Signet 33 Assembly PA system.(click to enlarge)
Stromberg-Carlson MD-56CS Specs:
Transducer Type: Non-metallic diaphragm dynamic
Polar Pattern: Omnidirectional
Frequency Response: 100 Hz—10 kHz
Sensitivity: -58 dB
Nominal Impedance: Low or high
Size: 8 in x 1 in
Net Weight: 18 ounces
List Price In 1960: $41
Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International and is an avid collector of vintage microphones. Read more of his Microfiles here.