I recently did a session at the BBC Hall at Swansea Metropolitan with Dunvant Male Choir, recording a version of Rev. Eli Jenkins Prayer (based on the opening section of Under Milk Wood). Now, as any fule kno, the original 1954 Richard Burton recording of Under Milk Wood was recorded in the very same building we were in, allegedly in the smaller studio upstairs that we now call ‘Studio 1’. Anyway, forging a link between that original session and ours in 2012, one of the choristers—Richard Vaughan—brought along a BBC AXBT microphone that, legend has it, was actually used on that 1954 session.
The AXBT is the final development in a series of ribbon microphones made for the BBC by Marconi. It is both huge and incredibly heavy: totally over-engineered. Needless to say it’s still working perfectly.
How did it sound? Smooth. Very, very smooth. I had a look at some spectrograms of the recordings we did and there’s not much above 10kHz. If you want an instant-fix of that thick and creamy BBC Radio announcer sound, using an AXBT is how you do it…
For those who want to take this further, there’s a good site here with an excellent illustrated history of the BBC microphones.