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Microfiles: The Kent DM-17—“Exacting Workmanship…Excellence Of Tone Production”

For a low-cost unit (even at that time), the DM-17 is well made, designed for live performance vocal applications.
The author's Kent DM-17 microphone.

You never know what you’ll come across at a yard sale – a few years ago, I found this little beauty, a Kent DM-17 microphone.

Kent was a brand established by Buegeleisen & Jacobson musical instrument distributors, which was based in New York City in the early 1960s. It was known primarily as a guitar brand, with some of the early guitars made by Guyatone and Hagstrom. In addition to guitars and basses, the Kent name was on amplifiers, guitar pickups and a few microphones.

As with many mics produced in Japan in that era, this same model was available from several companies and importers, with the difference being only the brand name. I’ve seen this particular mic branded as a Phillmore DM-17, an Aiwa DM-17, and a Calrad DM-17. This model is also listed in a Lafayette Radio Electronics catalog from the 1960s under the Argonne name.

Early Kent logos featured the name in block lettering, and the guitars had a large K on the headstock. Later the company switched to a script logo for all products.

Mixed Messages

The model I own came with a small desk stand base that looks like it was designed to be used with a radio transmitter, but the cover of a Kent catalog I have from the mid-60s clearly shows that the mic was intended to be used in live performance vocal applications, with drawing of a female vocalist using the mic. It has a standard 5/8-inch thread and can be used with any stand.

The cable is hard-wired, extending to the mic through the body.

The catalog lists the DM-17 as being supplied with a 20-foot detachable shielded cord that terminated in a standard 1/4-inch phone plug. My model has a hard-wired cable, as did the only other model of this mic I’ve handled (a Calrad version I saw at an antique store that was priced way too high). All models have a cable strain relief located at the bottom of the yoke, leading me to believe that the catalog had a misprint, and the mic was available hard-wired only.

My Kent may have been repaired at some time, or adopted for use with a radio system, because it only has about six feet of cable attached that terminates to a 1/4-inch plug. While this model looks similar to many “pill” shaped mics (i.e., the classic RCA 77), it’s a lot smaller and is an end-address dynamic design rather than a side-address design like most standard pill shaped ribbons.

The dynamic element sits at the base of the grille where the body and grill meet, facing the end of the mic. Advertising at the time stated that the mic features a “swirl ridged aluminum diaphragm completely sealed and gasketed against high humidity and temperature conditions.”

Obviously, no expense was spared on the catalog cover art.

Worth The Effort

For a low-cost unit (even at that time), the DM-17 is well made, with a cast aluminum body painted in gun-metal gray and a perforated aluminum grille painted silver. The support yoke is rugged and includes an adjustment knob on each side that uses rubber gaskets to provide the friction to keep the mic in position when the knobs are tightened.

More marketing copy, this time from the Kent catalog: “For modern design… Exacting workmanship… Excellence of tone production… Recommend Kent Microphones.”

While I don’t advocate replacing any of your modern stage mics with a DM-17, I do recommend hitting some yard sales to treasure-hunt for interesting audio pieces of the past.

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