DIY custom recording gear

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Cucco, Feb 14, 2005.

  1. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Okay, so there's no doubt about it, as classical recordists, we are as out of place in the recording world as a Mercedes at a Kia dealership. (Not equating rock recordists to Kias - though they are some of the best backed cars in the world :cool: )

    Have you ever gone into your local music store or guitar center and asked for something that you need to do your job only to get "the look?" :?

    For example, go to Guitar Center and ask for a 16' boom stand, or a 2 mic adapter with a 3 foot spread, or a custom cable... you get the point.

    Through the years, I've found myself making custom stuff just cuz no one else makes it, or I can make it cheaper, or sometimes I get the companies to make me custom stuff. As classical engineers, I'm assuming we're mostly in the same boat.

    I'm curious to know what stuff you couldn't find on the open market that you either custom engineered or had made for you.

    So far, I've made reference to my custom snake and my customized Sabra mounts. (Which, btw, someone asked a question about and I could never find the question again - I believe the question was - "how do you keep it from resonating sympathetically with the music?" My answer: Drop-hardened steel. It's heavy, but relatively inert when presented with frequencies within the audible spectrum.

    Of course, other items on the list would be numerous cables, my PC, my modified pre-amps, various custom carrying cases. FWIW, (here comes the shameless plug...) anytime I need custom stuff, I can usually call my rep at Sweetwater or Cascade Media and it gets done. I love it when companies do things right!

  2. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    My talkback system is homebrewed, incorporating a loudspeaker, telephone, and red light. Neumann used to make a light bar, but it was many hundreds of $$ back when that was real money.

    My larger stereo bars are also homemade.

  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    yep, I know that "Stare" quite well. There was a time I'd actually get angry with the lameness of many of those stores, but then I began to realize it's just the way those stores work....rarely having any serious stock on the good stuff - the things I usually need. Nowadays, I often deal with just ONE particular rep, and I usually plan early and order specifics well ahead of time.

    I've got a few custom built items as well, including a new stereo bar. (Getting to the point where I need more than one.) My latest frankenstein is put together from some solid iron bar, and a dis-assembled smaller adjustable mic bar that's readily available at Sam Ash or GC. I use the cobbled parts for the side mic mounts, and they swivel as needed. There are nylon bushings as well, so they remain captive and stay fairly tight.

    Actually, i'm thinking about making a few more of these bars if this one works out. (Anyone else making their own stereo bars?)

    My session "Talkback" rig is in a constant state of flux, as well. I've used everything from JLB Contol 10's to computer speakers, to whatever's handy & right for the situation. I'm not above using that Radio Shack push-to-talk paging/chimes microphone from time to time; for the $, it's a perfect little item for desktop VOG mic.

    My only rules for home-made stuff is that it looks reasonably professional, and of course does the job reliably and repeatedly.
  4. Sonarerec

    Sonarerec Guest

    The few jobs I have produced in the UK I used Philip Hobbs as engineer (does most of the stuff for Scottish audiophile label Linn Records) who brings all the gear. This includes a recording light that is almost pathetically endearing in its utter lack of class and looks-- just a small bulb dangling st the end of the wire!

  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I made my own Decca Tree Rig from parts I scavenged from various sources including an electronic surplus store and an industrial salvage yard. It looks great and works great. The clamps for attaching the crossbar to the microphone stand were made for the telecom industry and are very sturdy (they were used to mount microwave dishes to poles for temporary use) . The crossbar was from an old pole that was used to extend wiring from the ceiling of an office to the desktop of employees. The front bar was from the salvage yard and was a piece of 1.25" thick wall aluminum conduit. The whole rig is a bit on the heavy side but works GREAT! This is the third such rig I have constructed. The others are still with me in case we are doing a couple of gigs at once.

    My talkback system was designed and constructed by me and uses as a base a McMartin paging amp with build in relay for talking while killing the background music in its original configuration. I made up a box with a PTT switch and a microphone which sets on the desk while all the parts sit underneath. The speaker is from an old KLH portable record player and the whole thing fits neatly into a long box I purchased at the local salvage yard. I had to add an additional relay that mutes the speaker when the microphone is not being used as the McMartin is fairly noisy.

    I have three recording lights. The Neumann which has red and green lights and a remote switch box which I use for chamber groups. A normal tally light for slightly larger groups and I just constructed what I call (thanks to Mackie for the idea) my RUDE tally light that I use for larger groups. It is made for some industrial process and has about 30 bright red LEDs in it and you can see it from across the room in a brightly lit room. It is for when I am doing large choral or orchestral groups when I need to get their attention all at the same time. The last group I recorded remarked that it was an "instant attention getter"

    I also contructed a custom headphone amplifier which allows me to select the source and levels for three different outputs of my board and to send that feed to the performers. Most of my recording equipment has been modified by me to do what I need it to do.

    My local GC is not a good place to get equipment that I need and I rely on places like Sweetwater for most of the Pro Gear I need. The GC near us has lately been on GCs @#$% list and they are not getting any of the new toys and have not been getting them for some time. Most of the stuff they sell is Behringer or worse. The Sam Ash store is somewhat better but they too have fallen on hard times and are not getting any of the new play toys to sell. Both Sam Ash and GC were good places to get some good cheap rack mount chassis (after tossing the electronics) to make into other things but even that has dried up lately.

    I assume others on this list know of AEA and all the great stands and mounts they make. There is also a really great microphone shock mount made by SamraSom. Here is the link

    Good topic!!!!!!
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member


    Do you use any of Wes' mic stands? I've thought about getting one or a few, but I've had so much bad luck with everybody's stands, I've just given up and bought cheap ones that I don't mind throwing away from time to time.

    I'm real interested in his 15B stand. 15' high, lightweight, folds up small and has a great price tag!

  7. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    This IS indeed a creative group, in many ways. Maybe we should all submit pics of these custom built devices to show off. :cool: I have at least one of the Sabra-som stereo mic bars in one of my kits. (The 20cm version.) The 30cm version looks like it might come in handy someday, too. Here's a good example where GC probably doesn't stock that size, so I'll order ahead.

    I've gotten away from the "recording light" for several reasons.. (aside from letting the OUTSIDE world know there's a recording session going on - we just post signs on all the doors now.) My logic is this: The red light creates stress and anxiety for some people, and I find it's calmer to work without it. I tell them that once the session is underway, we're recording ALL the time, so there's no need to worry what the machines are doing. (Tape is cheap, so is HD space nowadays.)

    If the session is being run by the music director, I let him/her work at their own pace, announcing movements, retakes or sectional work, and I often just take notes as we go (dropping markers in along the way, of course). I stress that it's not the end of the world if someone blows a note or two; if the take has the right feel, we can always go back and fix a bad note or section. Many times, we'll get the outline of the work in a 'good' take, and fix the few mistakes later. It really takes a load off their minds working that way, and there's no embarassment among the players; no one gets accused of "Blowing" an otherwise perfect take.

    One of my better choral directors knows the drill QUITE well, and often has his "trouble-spots" clearly laid out, so he'll do several retakes ahead of time, deliberately getting the stuff he'll need for repairs later. (I wish they were ALL that together!!!)

    I usually tell the music director that unless I let them know otherwise, assume we're recording it ALL, and they needn't worry if the tape was rolling or not. Of course, I pause the system for coffee breaks, bio breaks, smoke breaks, etc., whatever they might need. But stopping/starting the system for each take is just not worth it anymore, and hard on the electronics, IMHO. (Besides, its' just as fast/easy after the fact in the software to snip out the lulls and make a temp CD of all the takes. Saves a TON of time that way, too.)

    I announce that we're "Rolling!" more as a reminder or affirmation that we're "hot," rather than as a signal for an entirely new event. The ID markers do that.
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Our local photoshop was selling some really nice Chinese knockoffs of Bogen light stands. They were 50 dollars for 12 feet and 60 dollars for 15 feet. The neat thing about them is that they are easy to carry and the place we purchased them from had a little adapter that converts them into microphone stands. We took them one better and got an Atlas stand extention 5/8X27 about three feet long and stuck it on top of the light stand (the stand's tubing is just the right size for the Atlas stand to fit into) The place we purchased them is Loomis Camera in Elyria, OH here is their address and phone number :

    Loomis Camera Co
    (440) 322-3325
    413 Broad St
    Elyria, OH 44035

    They also carry Nylon bags to carry them in.

    As to AEA stands. I have a good friend who seems to have deep pockets and he as a whole collection of AEA stands and likes them very well. I have seen the workmanship and it is all CLASS A. Wes Dooley is a GREAT person and lots of fun to talk to and seems to know what people are wanting and needing before they do.

    Some of my taller stands are made from speaker stands with adapters down to microphone stand sizes with adapters. They work well and a good friend of mine made up some amazing adapters that have a knob on them for attachments and are very easy to setup and tear down.

    If and when I get the chance I will post some pictures of the home made stuff.
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Sounds great, Tom; what color are the Bogen knock-offs from Loomis? (Silver? Black?) I might give them a call and get a few of 'em at that price.
  10. zemlin

    zemlin Well-Known Member

    By day I'm a mechanical engineer with a fairly high electrical aptitude. I come from a long line of wood workers and spent several years working as a machinist.

    Making stuff is part of what makes this recording business the enjoyable challenge that it is.

    I have some take-down frames I use to support furniture pads when I need them - made from conduit, pvc pipe and fittings. I have some small Klipsch speakers I use for talk-back or playback, or sometimes even stage monitors - I have small platforms that fit on top of straight mic stands to support those. cables, cables, cables - I'm always finding some other cable I can use to plug futzawhatzit in to the thigamawidget. I'm still operating on the low end - I use an A&H mixwizard 16:2dx on most of my gigs (I have a 4 channel Sebatron that I'll run a few key mics through) - but I needed a case for the mixer. I didn't want heavy, or too big, or expensive. I bought a large rolling suitcase on eBAY for $40 - gutted it, used 1/4" plywood, rigid craft foam, and 1" "high density" foam from the craft store and made a nice mixer case.

    For a small gig, the pockets on the suitcase can often hold the mics and cables I need.

    I also made some small acoustic baffles. I'm thinking about making a Jecklin disk, but I don't have any good mics to use with one.
  11. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    I seem to be always making little custom hanging and suspension bars for mics, ie like:

    This is an AKG clip attached to a kite fitting with some carbon fibre kitespar and fishing traces for the triangulation.

    I am on a mission to create the most unobtrusive high quality suspension system for live concert recording. Thinking about a radio controlled winch and fishing line cable dispensers for the ceiling 20m up.
  12. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member


  13. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Gotham/EMT/Neumann made a winch system for just such a purpose. When I worked at the college we were thinking of installing just such a system for our main concert hall but the price was over $5,000.00 and that was in 1983. It had servo motors and a control console that you could take up the slack on any of three cables seperately or all together so you could position the microphone almost anywhere in the front of the auditorium and swing it sideways if needed. It would have be great for our main microphone which was a Neumann SM-69 in the M-S mode.

    I think there is a real need for something like you are discribing and I am sure that if you could keep the cost down you could sell quite a few to colleges and universities for their recording department.

    We always used mono filament line for flying our microphones. The person I replaced used some type of black thread that was always giving us problems because it kept breaking.

    Keep up the good work......Let me know if you are going to get serious with your invention.
  14. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    There are soooooooooooo many things that I have built over the years to make my life easier when it comes to remote setups. A couple of years ago TOA made some really nice stands for small speakers which I purchased. The also made some mating hardware for attaching to the bottom of the speakers and some extentions. We have used those stands for everything from speaker stands (imagine that) to microphone stands to rigging up a horizontal bar that would go across the aisle in churches so that the group could still process UNDER the main microphone which was attached to the bar held up by the two stands. We also used their hardware for other purposes and they have worked well. I have a good friend who is a machinist as well as an audio engineer and he has helped me realize some of my really crazy ideas. I also have a good friend who is an organ builder and he too has been very helpful when it came to fabricating some devices.

    I did want to bring to everyone's attention that there is a case company that does beautiful custom work - their name is Caravan Cases and here is their web address They do work for the U.S. government, the Cleveland Orchestra and Medical equipment suppliers so they really know what they are doing and can build the most BEAUTIFUL cases for any use. Needless to say all but one of my road cases were built by them. I also wanted to mention that the Electronic Surplus store in Cleveland just got in a whole load of used, but not abused road cases in all sizes. Their web address is and if you call them ask for Gary. There is also one other place to know about and if you are building custom equipment this is the place. It is called HGR and here is their web address: They have everything you could want from watch screws to a 60 foot long plastic injection moulding machine for sale and they are open to the public. I get most of my raw material from them but have also gotten a great computer desk and a couple of very comfortable office chairs.


    Hope this helps :!:
  15. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    I have a couple pictures of my custom monitor case up at I mounted a monitor inside an anvil-style case with a lid under half of it where I store my Benchmark DAC-1, keyboard and mouse. My computer I use in the field is a shuttle PC. We also designed a case for the next generation of the SequoiaDIGITAL portables, but I don't have one...

    Some of the gig photos there also show my speaker cases that also double as speaker stands for my Genelec 1031s in the field... The lid was constructed without any parts to get in the way so I could place the speakers on top...

    I came up with a microphone hanger that is rather different than Davids- These aren't great photos, but it uses the cable and the tieback as lever points and the mic slug always hangs vertical. These pictures are of the first prototype... (also under my yahoo photos page- look for "Hanger")

    The company I use here in LA is also excellent for case work:

  16. recordista

    recordista Active Member

    Are the monitor cases standing on those big white cases?

    BTW, what are those big white cases?
  17. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Big White Cases? I don't have any big white cases...

    The computer monitor sits in the anvil case that is sitting on top of my DA-78

    The speakers are sitting on the black avil cases on either side of the console. Everything else that is white is some sort of a table.... is from before I had my computer... Speakers on the speaker cases, DA-78, Panasonic digital mic pres and HHB CD burner to the right of me. O1V used for digital routing and monitoring.

  18. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    There's another good place for hard-to-find, little parts that few places have, you can get their catalog from them, or browse online, too: GREAT stuff there, if you're really into tinkering.

    I've built a lot of stuff over the years mainly out of necessity (and no money!). Nowadays, there's a lot of stuff available arleady, but it's still really satisfying if you can build someone on your own that looks good, works the way it's supposed to, and doesn't self-destruct after a few uses.

  19. recordista

    recordista Active Member

    The three big white box-like shapes underneath the mixer tabletop.
  20. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Oh those... The table was missing its legs so I found some boxes in the room and set the table on top of them... Those are definitely not mine...


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