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Widget Of The Week

Panasonic RP-8135 Stereo Microphone, 1976

Microphones are everywhere and these days a great many of them are unseen or concealed, and quite possibly listening to every word that you are saying. Isn’t that right Alexa, Siri and Google? And if you’ve recently downloaded some malicious software on your laptop could be earwigging on your private conversations. But not so long ago microphones were a lot less discrete, and some of them, like this National Panasonic RP-8135 stereo dynamic mike was definitely meant to be seen. It first appeared in 1974 and originally marketed as an accessory for home recording enthusiasts.

 

It certainly stands out -- no pun intended -- and that brushed aluminium T-shaped holder is an eye-catching combination of form, function and classic 70’s styling. There’s another clever touch. The right and left channel mikes are removable modules, either of which can be inserted into a supplied stick adaptor, for hand-held use or used with a stand in a two mono microphone desktop setup. Each module has one metre’s worth of cable terminated in standard 6.3mm (1/4-inch) mono jack plugs. Later versions had 3.5mm jacks and the outfit included a couple of 3.5mm to 6.6mm jack adaptors.

 

The microphone capsules are of the dynamic or moving coil type. Inside there is a thin diaphragm attached to a small coil that fits around a permanent magnet. Sound vibrations cause the diaphragm to move the coil within the magnetic field that surrounds it. This generates a tiny current that’s fed, via the cable, to an amplifier or recording device. Essentially it is a speaker in reverse, and capable of excellent quality. Dynamic mikes have a Cardoid response, meaning they are most sensitive to sound at the front and sides, and least sensitive at the rear. They are also rugged, reliable and simple to use in that they do not need fancy wiring or a separate power supply. In short they’re the workhorses of the microphone world and the type of mike most frequently used on stage, for vocals and louder instruments.

 

The RP-8135 capsules have no markings but knowing a little about how Panasonic operated in the 70s and 80s, they tended to avoid cheap components and it is possible they were sourced from one of the leading manufacturers. That’s born out by contemporary reviews and comments from users which suggested it was suitable for serious and semi-pro applications 

 

The RP-8135 you see here came from a local car boot sale a while ago and was another lucky find. The cardboard box looked a bit tatty but the National Panasonic branding and logo pointed to what might be lurking inside could be a good age (National was dropped from the name in the early 80s). The contents of the box didn’t disappoint and the £1.00 asking price was too low to haggle over so the deal was done. It had been hardly used and may have lain undisturbed in the box for at least the last 10 years. The clue was smears of the polystyrene packing bonded to the vinyl-covered cable. It’s evidence of the very slow chemical reaction that occurs when the two materials are in contact with one another over a period of several years. Fortunately, if caught in time it’s not permanent and the residue scrapes off fairly easily, leaving the surface of the cable undamaged. All of the metal parts cleaned up well and with some gentle polishing it now looks like it just rolled off the production line. Luckily it had been stored in a dry atmosphere and the twin microphones produced a crisp, clean, well-rounded sound that I’m guessing wasn’t too far off what it was like when new.

 

What Happened To It?

Sub miniature electret microphones are used in the majority of today’s gadgets and devices. They are basically variants of the condenser or capacitance principle that has been around since the year dot. The key features of modern electrets are that they can be made to be very small and sensitive; the tradeoff is quality and they’re not really suitable for music or complex sounds. Larger electrets can be designed to sound a lot better and they have made inroads into the desktop mike market. But where quality really matters, in radio and recording studios and so on, traditional condenser and ribbon mikes are the only way to go.

 

Vintage microphones have become highly collectible and very expensive, especially if they have an association with a particular artist, institution or event. The RP-8135 is not in that league, or anywhere close, but it does have some value. It’s not especially rare and two appearing on ebay recently were priced at £15 and £100, and both were being sold as possibly faulty or in need of attention. A more realistic £30 was the Buy It Now price for two boxed and claimed working examples. That would be a fair amount to pay for something that can potentially out-perform most of the USB type desktop mikes currently on offer, though be warned, being entirely analogue in nature, connecting it to a PC or laptop can be a bit of a palaver.      


DUSTY DATA

First Seen:         1974

Original Price:   £14.00

Value Today:     £25.00 (0419)

Features            stereo dynamic microphone, 500 ohm impedance, ‘T’ shape desktop stand, handle adaptor, 1 metre connecting cables, 6.3mm mono jack plugs

Power req.                     n/a

Dimensions:                   168  x 80 x 92mm (assembled)

Weight:                          220g

Made (assembled) in:    Japan

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest)   6



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