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DIY Mic - which and where to buy

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by pcrecord, Jan 24, 2016.

  1. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Hi Guys,

    My mic locker is not so bad as it is but I'm missing a vocal mic that will fit narrow and mid voices (like mine)
    Most mics I have, will give a proximity effect in the 200-500hz and I'd like to have one that will give better lower frequencies responses. (80-200hz if that exist)
    I was minding myself to try every mic between 900$-1500$ (CAD) which meens 700$-1300$ USD but I wonder if I could find a DIY kit that overpass the quality range that I'm expecting with the price I want to pay.

    I already have 2 KSM44, KSM32. Studio project C1 (which sounds the best of the bunch for my type of voice)

    So the question is, Which type of clone should I buy ? U87, U47, C12, Fet, Tube etc...
    And where can I buy (quality wise)
    I've been looking at microphone-parts.com with interests. I just don't know how good they are and if they are worth it.

    Thanks for the help !!
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I've never built a mic, pal, so I'm not the one to ask... but it would seem as though like anything else, the components are going to play a big factor... ( that's assuming that the build itself, which is controlled by you, LOL is done well). ;)

    Have you visited any of the well-known DIY sites and looked for testimonials, or inquired about the company providing you with references?

    If they can provide customer references, I'd definitely contact them, and I'd be asking a number of specific questions; assuming that the schematics and instructions were well written, and obviously the quality of the parts, but other things too, like, did the kit come with parts missing; were extra parts provided in case you were to accidentally make a mistake; were substitutions made for any components without your knowledge, or that weren't documented as such on the order or kit package, etc.

    And finally, was the build worth the effort relative to how the mic sounds... in other words, did you actually save money and get a great sounding mic for 50% less than buying a new model of what you are trying to copy (or even getting one pre-assembled), or were the results less than stellar...

    I think most guys who have the talent and skill to build their own gear do end up with a higher quality, because they can control that part of it. Those kinds of guys also know how to "modify the mod", to perhaps make it even better by using certain components of their choosing.

    I guess if it were me ( which it wouldn't be, because I don't have the skill, or the hands, or the eyes anymore, either) I'd be surfing some of the DIY audio gear forums, and checking with the members as to what they'd suggest.
    Good luck with this; I've always wanted to try it, but alas, me no smart enough. Let us know what you find out.


  3. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I'm checking http://microphone-parts.com/ and they seem interesting enough to make a try..
    They've recreated classic design like U87, U67, U47, C12, and offer some interesting missmatch capsuls-circuitry combination : transformerless JFET (Schoeps style), transformer JFET (KM84 style), transformer tube (ElaM 251 style).
    But a big part of my question is which one ?? I haven't try any of those in the flesh you know...
    My mic collection is ok for most vocals but I'd like to add one for more nazal or missing LF vocals.

    Without know anything about those designs, my instinct would go with their Km84 design with a C47 capsule (for a vintage sound) or the ELAM251 which is their Tube-Transformer design with a C12 capsule..
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Oh and building it is not a problem, I'm good with soldering ;)
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    well, C12's and Elam's are wonderful microphones; as are SD's like Schoeps and Neumanns...

    If it were me, and I could afford it, and I had the talent, skill and manual dexterity, based on past experience, I'd probably personally go for the Elam... but I'd love a C12 too, so... ;)

    Maybe you need to do a little research and take a look at frequency charts for starters... as we all know, those don't tell the entire story; different mics are more complimentary on some singers and less so on others... although speaking of either of those two mics, I can't believe you'd be disappointed in any way.

    I can tell you that the time I worked with a real Telefunken Elam 251, on a female singer who was similar to Celine Dionne in tone and character, (and knowing how inherently nasal-sounding and mid range "thick" that Dionne can be )
    I was knocked out by how smooth the mid range sounded on the Elam. It's kinda tough to describe, but it's almost as if it "carved out" just the right amount of unwanted mids by just the right amount. It was so smooth on her voice, and the high's were silky, almost ethereal... BUT... again, that's gonna depend a lot on the singer and their own inherent timbre.

    How much is the kit for the Elam and the C12, Marco? Just curious. ;)
  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    The Elam clone kit goes for 539$ and the transformerless C12 at 299$
    They actually sell already buildt mic. The tube mic with a C12 capsule is 849$

    Of course they don't pretend to make exact replica with exact sound. But they do say a 300$ kit will be as good as 1200$ mics..
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I wish there was a way you ( we) could hear them. And as far as the kits claiming to not sound exactly like their namesake - well, there were a lot of those real mics that didn't sound exactly the same side by side, either, although there was always a great level of sonic response and quality all the way around regardless of the subtle differences. I;ve used the ELAM only once, so I can't compare it to any other ELAM; but I've used various real C12's over the years at various studios I've worked at, and they always sounded great, although I wouldn't say they sounded precisely the same - but then again, different vocalists, different pre's, different rooms, all add up to different character even on the same model of mic, right?

    I dunno pal, I guess all you can do is to build one yourself and see what you think... even if it turned out to not sound like the originals that its's intended to copy, I can't believe you still wouldn't have a very nice mic to add to your locker, and for not a whole lot of money...

    I wish I could be less wishy-washy in my advice to you.

    Let us know what you decide to do. I'll certainly be following your experience with a high level of interest. ;)

    PS... you may want to consider keeping a video record of the build... not just for yourself for future use, but also as a way to maybe make a few bucks on the side as a kind of video instruction for sale. ;)
    Just a thought...
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Okay...so ....

    I did do a little research and found out something interesting about the AKG C12 VR - which is the reissue of the original C12 from the 50's that many people consider to be one of the "Holy Grail" tube mics, and that is that the newer C12 VR
    ( I'm assuming that "VR" is "Vintage Reissue") does NOT use the original CK12 brass capsule that AKG discontinued after the 414 EB Series in 1980. It's not using the P48 Nylon version, either, but is instead using a TLII capsule.

    So, you might want to see which capsule comes with this C12 DIY kit. I would doubt that it's a CK12 Brass, especially as this kit is priced, because I've seen just the CK12 capsule alone selling for over $1000 used, and the reason that AKG dumped this gorgeous sounding capsule to begin with was because of the difficulty and expense in building them and keeping the cost of the mic reasonable. This is where they started using the P48 as a replacement, which had a nylon/teflon ring around the diaphragm, and after they did that, the 414 did NOT sound the same. It didn't sound bad... but it did not have the same lush character of the various AKG mics that used the original CK12. In fact, I recall that AKG took a lot of heat for that change at the time.

    Recent pro reviews of the newer C12 VR from AKG have actually been less than stellar; and those who have had the privilege of using both an original C12 and the newer re-issue, have apparently voiced their disappointment in the re-issue model, claiming that it's much 'darker" sounding - some are even describing it as "wooly sounding" and that the silk, sparkle and the warmth of the original C12 aren't there anymore, and that for the most part, it's now just a glorified 414 with nine polar settings and a tube ( although they have kept the original 6072 tube from the C12 in the re-issue model); some have claimed being able to get much closer to the sound of an original C12 by using an older 414 with a CK12 capsule through a nice tube pre; claiming that doing this sounds much closer to the original C12 than the actual C12 re-issue model from AKG itself does.

    So... before you pull the trigger on the C12 clone kit, you might want to do some research and find out if you are building a clone of the original C12 Tube, or if you are building a clone of the reissue, which is a clone of the original itself, and by many accounts, not necessarily a very good one, either.

    I can't personally attest to this, pal... as to my recollection, I've only ever used original C12's, and never the newer C12 VR. I have used several AKG mics with the original CK12 brass capsules though, and I can say that there is definitely a reason that they are as sought after as they are.

    Anyway... Just thought I'd give you the heads up on this. ;)

  9. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    http://microphone-parts.com don't offer exact clones. Their mics are more frankensteins versions taking parts and designs from many mics.
    Their C12 like capsule is different from both C12 versions.
    I kind of like the idea that they do not pretend to reproduce, but their mics are more inspired by.
    So you get a C12 like without transformer or tube and one with a transformer and then the elam 251 (more expensive) gets a tube and a transformer...

    What I just don't get for now is what combinaison they offer will be the best for what narrow or nazal voices.. or of course for most vocals..
    I honestly kind of lean for their T47 which as a U47 like capsule and a KSM84 like circuit with a transformer. I didn't order yet but the it seems like a good idea to go for a more vintage design and sound... Even if it doesn't match my vocal, it'll give me a very different sounds as an alternative to those I already have
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Thanks for clarifying the DIY mic kits, Marco; and that they are more "similarity" based mics - as opposed to exact replicas. I kind of thought so; as the prices you mentioned were so reasonable... I was suspicious of how a DIY Kit Maker could offer "exact" replicas of those mics at those prices, because the original components to actually achieve that would be so bloody expensive. ;)

    That's not to say that this isn't still a great idea, and a very intriguing option, especially for you, since you have the talent and skill required to do the build. One of these "Frankenstein's" you build for a few hundred bucks just might end up being a really sweet -sounding mic, that others would be envious of, and that you'd end up treasuring and holding onto for dear life for the rest of your days. ;)

    The "nasally voice" comments you've made have me thinking, though... and I'm only throwing this out there as a thought... is it possible that you are maybe putting too much emphasis on that being a concern? With the quality of EQ/Filters we have these days - some being even "surgical" in detail, are you sure that this isn't something that can't be taken care of using modern digital processing filters? I totally understand the attraction to getting the sound you want as close as possible at the source, pal... and if this nasal-timbre is a concern, then you'd certainly not want a mic that would emphasize or color that timbre even more... but I'm thinking that with any good sounding microphone, there would always be a certain amount of correction involved if the tone is something that bothers you to that extent. I guess I'm suggesting that I'm not sure that there is any mic that would automatically make that sound better...

    I guess I would suggest that in searching for a mic that might "soften" that nasal range, that at the same time, you don't ignore the other tonal characteristics of a nice mic as well; things like silk, sparkle, presence, warmth, richness, resonance, full bodied, etc. - and realize that some correction will probably always be necessary with your voice in that 600-900hz region ( just estimating the frequency range where that "nasal" sound might reside), if it bothers you that much.

    On that note... are you sure you're not just being hyper-self critical of your voice... as we can all be from time to time?
    Yours wouldn't be the first voice to have a nasally sounding timbre; Joe Walsh, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Roger McGuinn, hell, even David Bowie - who had a variety of voices over his career - had his nasal sounding voice as well...
    So in the end, you might want to consider that your voice is your voice, and embrace it... or, add "another" voice to your repertoir. Many singers do... myself included. ;)

  11. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    It's very true ! What I'd like to have is a mic that empasis LF a bit more than those I have. Thing is if a frequency isn't there, you can't correct it. (add more or remove)
    I don't think the nazal is a problem, I just hope I could have a mic that makes it not so obvious.

    I should have said so, I'm not talking only about my voice. I have a customer doing videos with me these days that is hard to work with.
    The first limitation is that he refuses to be close to the mic, so I can't capture any proximity effect that could help him.
    Here's the last video we did. Vocal chain was Studio project C1, ISA preamp, RME FF800 converter.
    The result is not so bad, but I worked hard to get there, (multiband compressor and drastic EQ that I don't like to use..)
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Hmmm.... I can hear what you're talking about... but I don't think it's a deal breaker. My first kneejerk reaction, if I was working with him, would be to have him move closer to the mic, to catch more of the lower frequency proximity of his voice, making it sound richer, fuller, less thin, and by doing so, kind of evening out the nasally sound he inherently has.

    When you say he "refuses"... how adamant is he? Does he know that when you ask him to something - like adjust his position on the mic - that it's because you want him to have the very best sound/ final product possible? He needs to learn to trust you, your experience, your ears.

    If it's just a case of mic shyness, Is there anything you can do to make him more comfortable while he's singing?

    I know what you're talking about with having to do all sorts of processing to get a 'passable" sound, and it's frustrating, too. - because it doesn't have to be that way. We all have tools we can reach for, but it's always so much nicer ( and easier, and more natural sounding) if we can accomplish that at the source...

    Have you thought about maybe using a Variable D dynamic on his voice instead of a condenser? Something like an EV RE20, which is designed to counter/avoid proximity effect, and which, as long as he's not standing off axis too far, will provide a more "even" and consistent tone, if he decides to back up or come in on the mic ? Just a thought...

  13. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    It's not a shyness really, I think that for him, he feels he is in prison. He moves a lot when he plays and sing so I can understand that being close to the mic would be a problem.
    I was able to make him test it closer but with all the mic I have, I only got more 200-500hz which is not flattering at all for his voice. An 80-125 boost is what helps his voice the best.
    Maybe there is nothing to do, but if I had a mic with fuller LF maybe it could help.

    In the end, even if I don't succeed with him, I know having a better male vocal mic will be a good addition to my Tools.. ;)
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Like I said... I think you should build the mic. Absolutely, You have the skill, the knowledge, the dexterity... of course you should!

    Even if the mic you build turns out to be no more flattering on his voice than any other, you've still got a very nice mic to add to your locker, one that will certainly suit some application, or sound great on someone's voice at some point...and in a very nice way, too.

    And, you'll have the pride in craftsmanship, knowing that you built it yourself.

    I can't think of any higher level of "quality control" than that, Mon Ami'. Can you? ;)

    To me, microphones are mission-critical. If you want to change the source sound of a recording, nothing will be more effective at that than using different mics - not even preamps will offer as much character or specific and noticeable sonic changes as a mic will; and even when using the same mic - move it as little as an inch in any given direction, and you can get a completely different tone out of the exact same mic.

    Mics are the very first link in the signal chain, they are the front line of quality and fidelity. It all starts there... if we use mics to record a source, everything we do starts with the mic as the benchmark of sonic quality. Sometimes it's to insure the accuracy and the integrity of a source, while at other times we may choose to color that source a bit ( or a lot). Our mic choices reflect that choice.

    I'm not telling you anything you don't already know - I was mentioning this more for those who might be doing an internet search on the subject, and who might not have your knowledge and experience.

    I'm not saying that preamps don't matter; of course they do. But you're already pretty nicely set in that area... and, speaking for myself, if forced to choose between one and the other, I'd much rather have a well-stocked locker of many different mics using just one nice preamp, than I would to have just one or two mics and a rack loaded with a bunch of different pre's... ;)

    IMO of course.

    pcrecord likes this.
  15. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I've decide to go with this one : http://microphone-parts.com/collections/microphone-kits/products/t47-microphone-kit
    This is the quick description :
    Transformer-coupled JFET with a RK47 capsule

    We've recreated Neumann's KM84 circuit, then optimized it for large-diaphragm capsules. The result is a spectacular vintage-circuit microphone with an extraordinarily simple signal path and a ton of texture. Choose this for vintage vibe.

    I'm gonna wait at least a week and monitor the exchange rate between USD and CAD.. It is 1,40$ CAD for 1$ USD right now, makes it expensive...
    But I look forward hearing this mic. ;)
  16. Matt

    Matt Active Member

    Damn dollar...
  17. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

  18. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Heres' an interesting read from a few days ago about microphoneparts.com in sonicscoop where they build the T-12.

    I don't know if you have come across it yet Marco.


    Their kits get a pretty good rap.
  19. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Thanks Sean, it was an interesting read. I did read a similar article about the T47 which is an identical kit but with a pseudo 47 capsule.
    I am getting more confident about this as they seems to have only good press.
    The only thing that is making me wait is the dollar value. Let's not forget that I also have 8% custom fee calculated on the CAD$ and taxes to pay to get it here.
    I estimate that if I order today, it would cost me around 600$ :(
    Even at that price, I'm sure it's worth it.. but, I'm gonna let at least 2 weeks pass to see if it's getting better.
  20. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    You know Marco, your post got me thinking and I'm contemplating whether to look at one of these kits myself, although I have'nt really built a kit since I was about 13 building Radioshack electronics kits as a kid, apart from soldering a few wires here and there... (- is it solder or sodder??????)... lol

    I think if I took my time, and kept my fat fingers off the capsule I may just be OK...but the kit may just cost me a little more with our Aussie dollar recently dipping to around 71 US cents:(:mad:

    I'd be keen to follow your progress and see how your build comes about...maybe it would make a great thread here on RO.

    I'm going to see if there are any vids on the net that have some sort of home-built mic shootout / review of these kits...must be something out there, surely.
    pcrecord likes this.

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