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The author’s Aiwa DM-51 from his collection.

Microfiles: The AIWA DM-51, Reflecting The Design Ethos & Styling Of The 1970s

An omnidirectional dynamic model that while more traditional looking than many earlier Art Deco designs still has a "mid-century modern look" all its own.

The AIKO Denki Sangyo company was founded in Japan in 1951, initially manufacturing microphones. The name was changed to Aiwa in 1959, and the company went on to specialize in manufacturing consumer audio products such as stereos, radios, tape players, etc., from the 1970s to the 1990s.

In addition to audio, the company also produced consumer video goods like TVs, VCRs, DVD players, and even marketed Japan’s first boombox, the TPR-101, in 1968, as well as the first cassette deck, the TP-1009. In 1980, Aiwa created the world’s first personal stereo recorder, the TP-S30. as well as computer items and general goods like humidifiers.

Sony acquired a controlling share of the company and in the 90s, Aiwa struggled as competition grew in the consumer electronics marketplace. Sony fully purchased the company in 2003 but by 2006 Aiwa-branded goods were no longer sold.

In 2015, Dormitus Brands acquired the trademark rights for Aiwa in the United States and partnered with Hale Devices (which changed its name to Aiwa) to launch consumer audio products that include Bluetooth speakers and earphones that are still around to this day.

I owned some Aiwa audio gear in my youth, including a portable cassette deck that I used in my first van, a 1971 Ford Econoline that only had a radio. I had no idea the company manufactured mics until I started collecting and doing research.

My collection of a lot of mics but not many in the factory packaging, so one reason I want to feature the Aiwa DM-51 is to show how it shipped. As with many in-house brands, the mics were manufactured in Japan and the same models were rebadged for different companies.

As you can see in the photo below, my Allied model M-3311 is exactly the same and uses the same packaging but differs only in name and model number. Other companies also offered this mic under their own house brands.

Identical except for the brand name.

Unique Styling

The DM-51 is an omnidirectional dynamic model. While more traditional looking than many earlier Art Deco models or the “space age” units popular around that time, it still has a look all its own. A designer friend of mine calls it the “mid-century modern look.”

The mic is very rugged with a zinc die-cast metal “two-tone” body, the lower half being natural metal and the upper half painted a matte black. There’s an on/off switch mounted low on the natural metal part.

The front “business” end of the DM-51 sports a metal grille surrounding a black wire mesh insert, and inside the grille is a fabric filter to help reduce plosives. The mic connector on the rear is a two-conductor screw-on type.

The included spec sheet states, “It’s of solid quality, compact size, high fidelity and excellent mobility and features many other advantages. So versatile that it is used for almost every purpose and enjoys a high reputation as a superb high-quality microphone.”

At left, the on/off switch that interestingly is positioned low on the body of the mic; at right is the two-pin screw-on rear connector.

I’m not quite sure what the other advantages are but thankfully we can use the mic for almost every purpose!

The DM-51 was sold in a single kit complete with stand adapter and desk stand. Also available were double kits that included two of each item, housed in a reusable plastic storage case.

The desk stand is very short, and the microphone clip is an integral part of the stand’s riser, so you can’t put the clip on a floor stand. The included cable (for both the Aiwa and Allied versions) is also very short at only five feet, so a performer would have to buy a longer cable or get an adapter and extension cable to actually use the mic onstage.

No matter the name, the Aiwa DM-51 microphone and its clones are good-looking examples of the “modern” design of the 1970s.

DM-51 Specifications:
Type: Omnidirectional dynamic
Frequency: 50 Hz – 15 KHz
Impedance: 10 KOhms
Sensitivity: -65 dB
Price in 1969: $19.95

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