Widget Of The Week
Eagle Prop80 Paging Microphone, 1989?
Leave one of these sitting around and as sure
as eggs are eggs, someone will go up to it and utter the immortal words ‘Kevin,
clean up aisle five’, or, ‘The 1155 to Basildon has been delayed by leaves
on the line’, or if they’re of a certain age, ‘Come in number nine, your
time is up’. Admit it, you would… The Eagle Prop80 Paging Microphone
is not exactly exciting, rare or, in this case, especially valuable, but that’s
not say it doesn’t deserve it’s three and a half minutes in the dustygizmos
The Prop80 and its many cousins are the behind
the scenes heroes of the public address (PA) biz. They are so much more than
simple microphones; they’re the primary interface between humans with something
important to say and all the electronic gubbins and loud speakers that deliver
those vital announcements.
To be perfectly honest it mostly is just a
microphone; a Dynamic Unidirectional type to be precise – we’ll come back to
that shortly – but it’s the bits and bobs it’s attached to that makes it
somewhat different from your everyday mikes. In this case it’s a flexible
gooseneck stalk, mounted on a heavy metal base, with a switch that the operator
presses when they want to say their piece. Inside the base there’s another
minor oddity and that’s a small transformer. This delivers what’s known as a
balanced output, which means the microphone can be connected to an amplifier by
a long cable, without the signal significantly degrading.
Back to the Dynamic tag and essentially means
it’s a speaker in reverse. The cylindrical capsule has a thin plastic diaphragm
facing towards the user, which vibrates in sympathy with their voice. The
diaphragm is attached to a small coil that moves around (or inside) a small
permanent magnet. Occasionally it’s the other way around with the diaphragm
attached to the magnet. Either way the movement of the coil (or magnet) in
relation to the magnet (or coil) generates a tiny voltage that eventually ends
going to the amplifier’s input socket. Fancier Eagle models based on this
design have featured lockable talk switches and indicator lamps to show the
mike is ‘open’ and there’s space for more switches for routing the output
signal to more sophisticated PA amps with multiple speaker networks.
Unidirectional simply means the microphone is most sensitive to sounds in front
of it, which helps to cut down interference in noisy environments.
This particular model has been around for a
very long time. It’s difficult to say exactly how long and the manufacturing
date is a bit of a guess. Suffice it to say the design has changed remarkably
little over the years and they were still being made until comparatively
recently, suggesting Eagle got it right pretty much from the get-go. That’s not
to say it is perfect, it’s not. Build quality is, well, somewhat casual. The
balancing transformer’s is, not to put too fine a point on it, a lash up. It’s
wired into the mike’s output cable, and flops around inside the case. The only
thing stopping the connections coming into contact with the metal case is a
layer of sticky tape. Speaking of which, the case is an alloy moulding, and
quite a rough one at that, or maybe this particular specimen missed its
appointment with the finishing sander, as the surface is quite bumpy. Overall,
though it feels quite sturdy, the switch is still positive, the gooseneck
hasn’t gone floppy and with little else to go wrong it should be good to go for
another few decades.
In case you are wondering this one was the only
highlight at an otherwise disappointing car boot sale in Kent a few years ago.
It was priced at £10, quickly haggled down to a fiver. Due to it being
borderline vintage at the time it ended up in the ‘give it a while box’, to
allow it time to mature and increase in value. I’m still waiting…
What Happened To It?
Part of the problem with nailing down the
Prop80’s date of manufacture is Eagle International’s annoyingly low profile.
They have been around for ages, since the early 1960, when they became moderately
well known as distributors of Japanese made electronics products. The story
actually began a decade earlier with electronics engineer Gerry Adler designing
and building test equipment for valves. That came to a grinding halt when he
learned that Japanese companies were making them for around half the price he
was charging. This prompted him to commission a Japanese company to build some
of his designs, which he sold in the UK, and later, around the world, under the
Eagle brand. Gerry made frequent visits to Japan, learning the language and
immersing himself in the social and business culture.
Over the years the Eagle name appeared on an
extraordinarily wide range of electronic products, from audio and PA to test
equipment, intercoms and amateur radio, earning the company a generally good
reputation for value for money and performance. Eagle International, as was,
seems to have all but disappeared off the map in the last 10 years, along with
any substantial record of Gerry Adler and the company’s more recent history so
any clarifications and corrections are very welcome via the usual email address
As for PA and paging microphones, comparatively little has changed and there
are scores of models on the market, the majority broadly similar to the Prop80.
Changes in the workspace over the past 20 years and a variety of more recent
messaging technologies have, however resulted in it becoming an increasingly
niche market. There are undoubtedly bargains to be had so now might be a great
time to get in on the ground floor and start a collection.
Original Price: £20 – 30?
Value Today: £10.00: now discontinued but NOS models currently selling for £50 - £60
Dynamic uni-directional microphone, press to talk switch. balanced audio
output, flexible gooseneck stalk, heavy metal base with non-slip feet
255 x 110 x 160mm
Made (assembled) in: Japan
Hen's Teeth (10 rarest) 8