Zvex TB-1 Tea Ball Microphone
Introducing the model TB-1 Tea Ball Microphone by ZVEX Effects, designed for specialty use
on stage and in the studio. The special circuitry of the TB-1 causes it to reject sound from
sources that are further than an inch or so away from the grille. This allows the mic to be placed
on stage in a loud environment and plugged directly into a guitar amp that’s turned up to a level
that would cause any normal microphone to squeal furiously. In the studio when recording a
guide vocal track in a live recording room, the TB-1 will reject the amplifiers and drums. This
way the guide vocal can be used for rough mixes without fear of hearing other instruments or
room ambience loudly in the background.
Why is it called the Tea Ball Microphone? It’s actually built inside a stainless steel tea ball, the
kind of device used to make a hot mug of goodness from a tin of loose tea. The clip that holds
the tea ball shut is used to open it up to change two CR2032 batteries. These have a life of
about 100 hours and presently cost less than $10 for 20 units on Amazon (Sony CR2032). The
mesh on the tea ball will never chip your teeth like an SM58 because it’s quite springy. That’s
important because the best sound from this mic comes from putting your mouth right up against
it. The entire mic disassembles easily by unplugging the electronics and lifting out the internal
foam windscreen which can be washed in soapy water. Be sure to dry it before reassembling.
The mesh ball is suspended inside a thick copper hoop using three springs for a look like
something from the early part of last century.
The TB-1’s output level is similar to that of a guitar. It has a 1/4” female jack that runs smoothly
parallel to the microphone stand. The mic is powered up by being plugged in and turned on with
a switch on the back. When the mic is unplugged, the battery will not drain no matter which
position the power switch is in. When the mic is live, an LED gently glows near the switch,
visible from FOH so that the sound engineer can be sure it’s working. Enjoy!