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David Silberberg

Vega model 01-0003-03 Wireless Mic on eBay

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Ok history buffs, gear geeks, collectors and curators:  there's an antique on eBay right now that I've been tripping on.

It's Vega model 01-0003-03 wireless lav mic from the early 1960's. It appears to be in good shape.

It's one of the very earliest wireless lav mic systems commercially available- and the first to be patented.

 

I won't buy it- I've got too little space for it and it should be in a museum or proper collection. Here's some details to enjoy:

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Vega-Electronics-Wireless-Microphone-System-Model-01-0003-03/153610399560?hash=item23c3e4af48:g:5LgAAOSwNnxc4vvl

 

Also here is a page from Ray Litke's patent for the device: Litke patent drawing p.2.tiff

Also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_A._Litke

 

Also here's a YouTube link to Jackie Kennedy giving a White House tour to  ABC News in 1962. She is wearing this type of mic- with a neck loop antennae- though it may possibly be a different brand.  If you look for it, you can see that her pearl necklace is concealing the black wire of the neck loop antennae. You can also hear quite a bit of clothes rustle during "walk and talk" sequences. But even with the noisy Kinescope soundtrack and clothes rustle you can hear her audio is quite good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-ZyLJvXQQo

 

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Oh, fun!  I had the (maybe) next generation of Vega mics in a quad pack.  Man, did I hate those mics.  They were almost as unreliable as the first generation Audio Ltd. (silver duals) mics that I had right before I got the Vegas.  The Vega mics lost me a job (well, them and a massive amount of inexperience in general) and I got rid of them, some where, and bought a quad box of Lectro 185s.  The best money I ever spent in my entire career.  :)

 

Funny.  I can not find a single instance of a photo of either the Audios or the Vega Quad Box on the internet.  Must be some photos somewhere.

 

D.

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A trip down Memory Lane!   I owned 4 of those and used the hell out of them.  4 9v batteries burning in each RX!  You could run either a full 1/4 wave steel whip (and risk having it poke your eye out when you had the RX in the pouch of a Nagra) or the shorter helical "rubber duck" antennas (and have even less range).  When these were current the range was ok, usable, just.  We had the old Swintek antenna splitters and sometimes put out a few dipole or directional antennas, or had someone "walk the shot" with a log periodic or even with the RX themselves just out of the shot.  It was often faster to just park the RX as close to the action as you could safely get them and run audio cables to them.  For all you young 'uns: these are FIXED FREQUENCY wirelesses --you picked a freq, laid your money down and hoped for the best.   (It was a MUCH quieter world then, RF-wise!)  Not-great sounding, although I actually preferred these to the later versions (brown/beige RX) as noisy as they were.  I found I had to have these tweaked for freq accuracy TX vs RX pretty often when I was working them a lot--they drifted off -freq pretty fast.  I was not sorry to see these go when I got my Lectro 185s....!

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Yep.  You know?  The picture you linked seems to be one of two or three on the whole WWW.  I seem to remember that my four units were beige.  I know the quad box was beige and it took, I think, ten D-cell batteries, maybe 12, to run it.

 

They really sucked for reliability. "Not great" is a serious understatement.  I used to have my boomman walk just out of frame on long dolly shots that tracked the actors in a wide shot.  Ugh!  150' of four-pair snake to make the shot happen.  And still dropouts.  That quad box was heavy as well.

 

When I used the Audio Ltd. dual receiver, just pre-Vega, it would work great through rehearsals.  Not any problems.  But as soon as the camera turned on, it would all go down the dumper.  Like almost every time.  I was doing this shot at the end of a cold all-nighter.  Maybe the last shot.  Sun was coming up.  Cold as a mo-fo that night.  The Audio receiver was about 7 feet from the actors, both on the Audio wires.  Got through a rehearsal or two.  Roll the camera, a Panavision Platinum IIRC (It shot 35mm film.  Google it youngsters :) ) and so many drop outs.  I went over to the apple box that the dual receiver was perched on.  Calmly unplugged all the connections, and then hurled it at a nearby brick wall as hard as I could throw it.  Then calmly went over, picked up the remains and told the boomman that we were on him for the rest of the show.  It was a remembered performance around the NY scene for a few years.  I bought the Vegas soon thereafter.

 

D.

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I spent MANY late nights in the middle of jobs in Bill Ruck's shop trying to squeeze every bit of range out of these things I could--cost me thousands of dollars in service over those years, probably.  When the Lectro 185s and so on came out Bill told me that they kind of put him out of the radio-mic maintenance biz, they were stable enough that they didn't need frequent tweaks to get the most out of them (and the RX were half the size and ran on 1 9v!).   I tried out some of those Audio Ltds, I guess whatever freqs they were on wasn't good for my area even in those simpler times--they would not stay dropout free even in the same room!  

There were several commercial wirelesses before The Vega 66/77B, my boom op had an even earlier Vega that had an RX that ran on a flock of AA batteries!.  I had a Sony hybrid system from many years before that, with a "solid state" TX and a tube-driven RX about the size of an old table radio (which it resembled), that had a "cat's eye" tuning meter and a small speaker in it (mid-60s).  There is the famous Rex Harrison "Never Let A Woman In Your Life" scene in My Fair Lady  (1964) which had a TUBE tx in Rex's tie, that the article I read said the studio had rented from a TV station that used it for anchor-remotes, and the Sister Rosetta Tharp Manchester train station concert video from the same year, probably the same gear or similar.  The Vegas were among the first totally solid-state receivers (along with Swintek).  The latter is an interesting story--a company that only made wireless gear for law-enforcement and "black" ops decided to make a pro-audio version for a few years, went through about 3 revisions and then went back to black-ops only again.  One time when I was in their shop in Sunnyvale having my systems tweaked (often), they showed me a "fat" transmitter, much bigger than the ones I had, that had far greater range.  I had just gotten my mouth open to ask about how I could get some of those and they gave me the "you didn't see this, we didn't show it to you, we don't make this, now go away" speech...

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And now it seems, the RF world has again become a nightmare, certainly in the good ol' USA.  Glad I don't own a single wireless mic these days.  Got out just in the nick of time, and sorry for the expense and aggravation to all of you guys having to dodge the FCC bullets.  God bless!

 

D.

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On 8/25/2019 at 11:19 AM, Philip Perkins said:

A trip down Memory Lane!   I owned 4 of those and used the hell out of them.  4 9v batteries burning in each RX!  You could run either a full 1/4 wave steel whip (and risk having it poke your eye out when you had the RX in the pouch of a Nagra) or the shorter helical "rubber duck" antennas (and have even less range).  When these were current the range was ok, usable, just.  We had the old Swintek antenna splitters and sometimes put out a few dipole or directional antennas, or had someone "walk the shot" with a log periodic or even with the RX themselves just out of the shot.  It was often faster to just park the RX as close to the action as you could safely get them and run audio cables to them.  For all you young 'uns: these are FIXED FREQUENCY wirelesses --you picked a freq, laid your money down and hoped for the best.   (It was a MUCH quieter world then, RF-wise!)  Not-great sounding, although I actually preferred these to the later versions (brown/beige RX) as noisy as they were.  I found I had to have these tweaked for freq accuracy TX vs RX pretty often when I was working them a lot--they drifted off -freq pretty fast.  I was not sorry to see these go when I got my Lectro 185s....!

I got tired of burning thru nine volts so I built a battery pack the same size as the receiver and loaded it with C-cell batteries with the same amount of voltage.  I was able to get a few days if I remember correctly.  That is if I turned off between set ups.  The lav of choice then was Tram.  I eventually sold both of my Vega sets to a production company I worked for occasionally after getting a staff job.  They were still in use a good five years later.

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Yes--Trams for these.  Short life-span those lavs had--they would start sounding weird after a few years of use.  I like your ext. battery idea, but would not have welcomed the extra weight and bulk in my Nagra bag rig!   They lasted a decent amount of time on 4 Alk 9vs.  I made my own quad-box for them with antenna and DC distro and powered them off a custom AC supply I had made by the redoubtable Steve Balliet (now of Reflection Audio: super-hi-fi stereo preamps etc).  Remember taping safety pins to the long flexible TX antennas, to get them as straight as possible on the talent?  Another big plus for the VHF Lectro TXs: no antennas!

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17 hours ago, Philip Perkins said:

Yes--Trams for these.  Short life-span those lavs had--they would start sounding weird after a few years of use.  I like your ext. battery idea, but would not have welcomed the extra weight and bulk in my Nagra bag rig!   They lasted a decent amount of time on 4 Alk 9vs.  I made my own quad-box for them with antenna and DC distro and powered them off a custom AC supply I had made by the redoubtable Steve Balliet (now of Reflection Audio: super-hi-fi stereo preamps etc).  Remember taping safety pins to the long flexible TX antennas, to get them as straight as possible on the talent?  Another big plus for the VHF Lectro TXs: no antennas!

No bag for me in those days.  Both rx were as close to set as possible and cabled back to our "control area".  We were recording on one inch video with ccu control of the camera.

 

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Oh me too, Sony BVH500!   Take a super heavy super fragile ultracomplex recorder, attach a handle to the top and call it portable!    Those Vega RX spent a lot of time velcro'ed to the top of Shure M67 mixers in those days--hard wired back to the BVH 500.

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OMG!  I hated those BVH500s as well.  What were the cassette recorders called?  BV110 or something?  Those and an Iki camera was about the best in the day.  I took a BVH500 to Barbados once to do a show with then NY Mets player Keith Hernadez.  The only really good thing about that trip was a Bajan woman I met there and we had a pretty good time in the evenings after we got done shooting.  Well, that and I loved the guys I was working with.  But carrying that damned recorder around the beach with its shitty shoulder strap and a 10' boom pole in my hands was no fun.  Don't recall any wireless but if I had them, they would have been Microns.  Fat 8-pin Lemos for lav connectors!  Good idea, Jake.

 

D.

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