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Microfiles: Olson M-191, A Triumph Of Aesthetics

A hybrid metal and plastic unit that has a style all it’s ow

By Craig Leerman September 10, 2012

The Olson M-191 microphone

The Olson M-191 is one of the more interesting-looking microphones I’ve run across, a hybrid metal and plastic unit that has a style all it’s own.

Olson Electronics may not be a familiar name.

Started by Sid Olson in Akron, OH in 1961, the company grew into a large retail chain that carried a wide variety of consumer electronics, including stereos, CB radios, TV antennas, parts, tubes, batteries, and car audio equipment.

Olson Electronics was sold in the late 1960s to the conglomerate Teledyne, which also owned the home stereo loudspeaker company Acoustic Research.

Teledyne continued to operate the Olson stores into the early 1980s.

Like many other electronic resellers, Olson stocked microphones manufactured in Japan that were badged with its own name. I have several mics in my collection that were made at the same Japanese factories, all literally identical except for different branding on the switch plates, along with some minor cosmetic differences in a few cases.

The perforated grill on the rear allows sound to enter. (click to enlarge)

The feature sets and specifications across these brands are the same.


The look of the M-191 is unique. The hollow steel tubular body has a black grill at both ends and is surrounded by a black plastic “grill cage” that conceals an additional large port that encircles the body.

The diaphragm cartridge sits right behind the front grill and includes two small ports that allow sounds from the rear and side body ports to enter the capsule, enhancing pattern control.

As with many mics of that era, the M-191 has a built-in stand mount, but an advertisement states it has a “comfortable hand held design.” When held in the hand, the plastic grill cage does keep the side port unblocked, but comfortable it is not, because the mic is quite bulky and has a lot of sharp edges.

The M-191 is almost exactly the same as a model I found in a Lafayette Radio Electronics catalog from the early 60s that bears the catalog number 99-P-4641. The only difference is the name on the switch plate and grill.

Can you see the slight differences between the Monarch (left) and Olson models? (click to enlarge)

I also own a similar model called the Monarch TM-29 that has only minor cosmetic differences – a plain black front grill with no name, a switch plate with a slightly flatter curve at the top, four recessed decorative lines cut into the body tube that run lengthwise from front to rear, and six small recessed cuts in the front. 

Because the switch plate is slightly different, I suspect that the Monarch was manufactured at a different place than the Olsen and Lafayette models, and it might be a “copy” – it wasn’t uncommon for these sources to copy designs from competitors.

All three mics use a screw-on 3-pin connector, with an ad from the Lafayette catalog stating the mic was supplied with “10 feet of 2 conductor shielded wire (balanced type).”

With its limited frequency response and relatively high price when new, it’s no wonder that the M-191 didn’t become a staple of stage and studio. But it sure does look cool!

One more look at the M-191. (click to enlarge)

Olson M-191 Specs
Transducer Type: Non-metallic diaphragm, dynamic
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Response: 90 Hz – 10 kHz
Sensitivity: N/A
Nominal Impedance: Switchable 600 or 50K ohms
Size: 4.5 x 2.25 inches
Net Weight: 30 ounces
Price for a new one in 1963: $21.50

Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor of ProSoundWeb and Live Sound International. Check out more Microfiles from Craig here.

About Craig

Craig Leerman
Craig Leerman

Senior Contributing Editor, LiveSound International
Craig is Senior Contributing Editor at Live Sound International magazine and and Owner of Tech Works, a production company based in Las Vegas.


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