Veteran audio techs and musicians might be familiar with the name Teisco, and the company’s subsequent name, Teisco Del Rey. The firm was founded in 1946 in Tokyo, Japan by Atsuwo Kaneko, a renowned guitarist, and Doryu Matsuda, an electrical engineer.
Teisco designed and manufactured guitars, basses, amplifiers, synthesizers, drums and some PA equipment, including microphones. Musical instruments were often rebranded under several names, including Silvertone, Kent, Beltone, Duke, Encore, Kingston, Lyle, Sonatone and Kay, and were distributed at department stores such as Sears and Montgomery Ward.
The guitars are probably most remembered, with many models featuring unusual body shapes and numerous controls like individual pickup switches, polarity switches, and tone and volume knobs. (They’re quite popular with collectors and modern musicians.)
In 1967 the company was acquired by Kawai Musical Instruments, which discontinued the guitar line for export markets a couple of years later and by 1977 in Japan. However, the brand lived into the 1980s, utilized on synthesizers manufactured by Kawai that were also eventually discontinued.
I have a few different Teisco microphones in my collection, but I like the look of the TM-4 so much that out of hundreds of models, it’s one of the 40 that are on display in my office. In particular, I really enjoy this unit’s clean Art Deco styling.
The TM-4 was one of the few switchable impedance mics I’ve seen from Teisco, with a high/low switch mounted under the head with impedance stated as “Hi-50K Ohms, Lo-600 Ohms.” It’s a dynamic design with a cardioid pattern, built-in stand mount with swivel head, and an Amphenol screw-on connector, and it shipped with a 20-foot gray cable that was terminated with an Amphenol connector on one end and unterminated on the other end.
I haven’t been able to locate further specs on the TM-4, and unfortunately, mine is not a working unit so I can’t test it. However, I’ve plugged in many Teisco models over the years and they all sounded “OK to good” in comparison to similarly priced mics of the same era.
A lot of inexpensive mics from that time period that were made in Japan look very similar, with some exactly the same except for the name badge. While it’s clear that Teisco indeed manufactured its own guitars and amplifiers, I’m not sure if the company made the mics or simply bought them from third-party sources and then re-badged them.
For example, I own a Monarch TM-16 that’s identical to a Teisco DM-301, and my Monarch TM-20 is exactly the same as the Teisco DM- 326. Claricon, Olsen, Archer (Radio Shack) and Calrad also have mics identical to Teisco models.
But even though it no longer works, the TM-4 is still a great looking microphone, and as a result, will always have a place on my display shelf.
Editor’s note: Craig Leerman is senior contributing editor for Live Sound International and is an avid collector of vintage microphones. Read about more about his mics on ProSoundWeb by searching “Microfiles.”