Coles 4038

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The Coles 4038 is a ribbon microphone produced by Coles Electroacoustics. The microphone was designed and patented by the BBC in the 1950s[1] and was originally known as the STC 4038.[2] The sound of the microphone has been described as "British" with a "BBC politeness",[3] and its appearance has been likened to that of a waffle iron.[4] It is used in both sound recording and radio broadcasting.[5]


The microphone was designed by the BBC in 1953 and the prototype was assigned the model number BBC PGS/1.[6] It was designed as a result of the BBC's request for a strong and affordable microphone that was smaller than previous models[7] (such as the Type A). The 4038 was an improvement on the Type A's frequency response, and was described as "less obtrusive".[8]

The microphone was produced by Standard Telephones and Cables[9] before their manufacturing was transferred to Coles in the mid-1970s.[10] Since its design in the 1950s, the technical specifications of the 4038 have remained unchanged.[11]



In recording environments, the 4038 is often used as drum overheads and on brass instruments.[3][12] The microphone became a favourite of British recording engineers in the 1950s and 60s, but did not receive widespread use in the United States.[12] The microphone was described as recording sounds "bigger than life" – such as drums or amplified guitars – some Beatles and Led Zeppelin recordings featured 4038s as overhead microphones on the drum kit.[13][14]

In a 1994 interview, Steve Albini said that "if [he] owned one mic, this would be it".[1] Albini has also commented that "really nothing beats them as an overhead on a drum kit".[14]


At one point, Bush House (home of the BBC World Service) used the 4038 almost exclusively.[15]


The 4038's frequency response is flat, with a range of approximately 30–15,000 Hz.[16] The attenuation of high frequencies reduces sibilance on vocals, but also reduces detail.[3]

The microphone uses a bi-directional polar pattern.[17]

The microphone is connected using a Western Electric jack connector designated 4069, which adapts the microphone's 3-pin output to a standard XLR connector.[18]

Sensitivity (at 1,000 Hz Open Circuit Voltage)
-65dB re: 1 Volt/Pa[19]
300 ohms



  • Coles (2002a), 4038 Studio Ribbon Microphone, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire: Coles Electroacoustics Ltd., retrieved 5 May 2011
  • Coles (2002b), 4038 Studio Ribbon Microphone Technical Specification, Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire: Coles Electroacoustics Ltd., retrieved 5 May 2011
  • Coutant, Stan (2009), STC Brochures, Drums, PA:, retrieved 5 May 2011
  • Cotton, Jon (2007), Ribbon Mics On Test, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Sound on Sound, retrieved 5 May 2011
  • Dooley, Wes (2006), Coles 4038 Studio Ribbon Microphone (PDF), Pasadena, CA: Audio Engineering Associates, retrieved 8 May 2011
  • Electronic musician (2005), Electronic Musician, 21, New York, NY: Penton Media, retrieved 5 May 2011
  • Fuston, Lynn (2008), "Coles Electroacoustics 4038", EQ Magazine, Recording Hacks, retrieved 25 September 2011
  • Hi-Fi News (1997), Issues 1-6, 42, Poole, Dorset: Link House Publications, retrieved 8 May 2011
  • Institution of Electrical Engineers (1961), The Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers Part 2, 108, London: The Institution, retrieved 8 May 2011
  • Leonard, John A (2001), Theatre Sound, Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, ISBN 0-87830-116-X
  • Owsinski, Bobby (2004), The Recording Engineer's Handbook, Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, ISBN 1-932929-00-2
  • Schultz, Barbara (2000), Music Producers: Conversations with Today's Top Hit Makers, Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard, ISBN 0-87288-730-8
  • Shaw, Alan A (2008), BBC Monitors 1922-1960, Haywards Heath, West Sussex: Harbeth Loudspeakers, retrieved 5 May 2011
  • Shechmeister, Matthew (11 January 2011), Relics Reborn: Ribbon Microphones Rally for Vintage-Audio Geeks, San Francisco, California: Wired Magazine, retrieved 8 May 2011
  • Standard Telephones and Cables (1961), 4038 Ribbon Microphone (PDF), London: STC, retrieved 5 May 2011
  • Streicher, Ron; Dooley, Wes (1997), Coles 4038 Studio Ribbon Microphone User's Guide (PDF), Pasadena, CA: Audio Engineering Associates, retrieved 5 May 2011
  • White, Paul (2010), NI Abbey Road 60s Drums Sample Library, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Sound on Sound, retrieved 8 May 2011

Further reading[edit]