In our series of articles on microphones, to this point, we have focused on “broadcast-quality” mics. Microphones, of course, are used in many other applications such as public address, paging systems, ham radio, CB radio, home recording, telephones, computers and many more uses.
This time we’ll turn the “Microphone Man” spotlight on one of Shure Brothers lower cost mics that was popular from the ’40s clear through the ’50s…it’s the Shure 708a. I’ve always thought that this mic had one of the most snazzy, art deco, modernistic styles around, in fact Shure called it the “Stratoliner”. This model was an expensive looking unit that had a very affordable price.
Originally Shure offered the Stratoliner in both a crystal and dynamic models. The crystal unit was labeled the 708A and the dynamic was the 508 with A, B and C models. The A model had a rating of 50 ohms, the B was 250 ohms and the C model had a high impedance output. The 708A crystal was, of course, a high impedance…all the Stratoliner models were what Shure called “semi-directional” but actually would be classed as “omni-directional”. All 4 models of the Stratoliner looked exactly the same externally. Shure used their standard swivel stand mount “stud” that was equipped with a 5/8-27 stand-mounting thread as well as a three pin locking connector…the same mounting Shure used on the much more expensive 55-Unidyne. The mic body itself had a fancy “wrap-around” grill like a lot of the cars of the 1940s plus a set of four fins to the rear.
Sometime in the ’40s Shure decided to drop the dynamic units but continued the crystal model to 1958. The 1952 Allied Radio catalog offered the model 708A at $16 as compared to the famous Unidyne model 55 which sold for $42. I always wished I could have bought a 708A back in the ’50s but never did…just recently I was able to obtain one in beautiful condition but had to pay a lot more than $16!
Here is an audio demonstration of the 708a Stratoliner microphone:
So there you have it, the story of the Shure Stratoliner, one of the sharpest looking and good sounding general purpose microphones of the mid-20th century! During this period Shure billed itself as “Microphone Headquarters” and Shure was beginning to make a name for itself that has continued to the present day.