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The Olson M-191 microphone.

Microfiles: The Olson M-191, A Triumph Of Aesthetics

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!

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. Founded 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. It was sold in the late 1960s to the conglomerate Teledyne, which also owned the home stereo loudspeaker company Acoustic Research, with Teledyne continuing 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 feature sets and specifications across these brands are the same.

Stand Or Hand?

The look of the M-191 is unique. The hollow steel tubular body has a black grille at both ends and is surrounded by a black plastic “grille cage” that conceals an additional large port that encircles the body. The diaphragm cartridge sits right behind the front grille and includes two small ports that allow sounds from the rear and side body ports to enter the capsule, enhancing pattern control.

The perforated grille on the rear allows sound to enter.

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 grille 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 grille.

I also own a similar model called the Monarch TM-29 that has only minor cosmetic differences – a plain black front grille 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.

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

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.

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

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