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Ribbon Microphone Upgrade for MXL 990

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by guitartoys, Jan 16, 2016.

  1. guitartoys

    guitartoys Active Member

    Hello, I’m beginning my personal little crusade in the Ribbon Mic arena.

    To start, I’ve created an Instructable, to upgrade an MXL 990 condenser mic with a ribbon element from http://www.diyribbonmic.com/parts

    I created some 3D printed parts to hold the ribbon element and transformer.

    But I think one of the key things is I also created a 3D printed ribbon alignment jig. It makes it really easy to replace and re-ribbon the element.

    I’ve already gotten a ribbon alignment jig designed for the MXL R80 and MXL R144 mics. I’ve re-ribboned the R144, and replaced the transformer, and it sounds a billion times better. I have re-ribboned the R80, and redesigned the element placement and holder (to make it symmetrical) along with a new transformer as well. Very pleased with that too. I will post these updates to Instructable and Thingiverse shortly

    In the meantime, please check out my instructable, and parts on thingiverse.

    http://www.instructables.com/id/Ribbon-Microphone-Upgrade-for-MXL-990/


    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1271932


    Thanks.
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm going to leave this post where it is for now - after visiting the links you posted I've seen that it's not spam, as you aren't actually selling anything, and I think that there are those here who own and use ribbon mics who might find this information useful...

    (Although this ultimately needs to pass our forum leader's criteria).

    Personally, I'm okay with it - but I'm only one of several mods. ;)
     
  3. guitartoys

    guitartoys Active Member

    Hey thanks. I realize this is my first post here. I'm primarily active on the Cubase forums. But overall, not a huge presence on the forums.

    It's my 1st foray into Ribbon Mics, and also 3D printing some stuff for it.

    I found it kind of cool that Instructables chose to give it a feature in Technology.

    I'll have a couple of updates soon, as I also made ribbon alignment jigs for the MXL R80 and R144. The R144 was a ribbon change, along with a transformer swap out.

    I changed the R80 mount entirely, and 3D printed a replacement to the circuit board, and mount the ribbon motor with 3D printed flex corners. It make the mic symetrical, whereas it normally is asymetrical.

    Also, have out in the wings the idea for an arduino 3D tool to tune the ribbon, designed around using all of the same ribbon alignment jigs. So my idea is to create a suite of ribbon alignment jigs that are all interchangeable in the tuning rig.

    But right now running out to Goodwill to try an find an old slide projector, as I need a light source for a cloud chamber I'm building.

    Peace

    Michael
     
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Michael...

    I'm personally fine with your post, as I think it's informational and could be useful to members here.

    We have more than just a few ribbon mic fans among our ranks ( myself included) as well as people who do the DIY/Mod thing - with all kinds of gear.

    The only thing we ask is that you don't post spam, or post links to other forums in an effort to do "membership drives", although referencing articles, or certain topics of debate at other places is okay...

    Gear and software reviews are welcome, as long as you're not selling anything, and that you're willing to accept intelligent and respectful contrary opinions from those who might have had different experiences with what you are posting...

    Oh, and welcome to RO. ;)

    -donny
     
  5. guitartoys

    guitartoys Active Member

    Thanks. Now working on the R144 re-ribbon and transformer swap.

    Also, starting on a resonant tuner. Plan on Arduino based. Pick the resonant freq you want to use, and it will drive a stepper to adjust the tension automatically.

    3D printed components for that. But this will take a while, so I just want to get some ribbon alignment jigs out there, as man I tell you, they make re-ribboning so much easier. Way better than clothespins.

    Thanks.

    Michael
     
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm nowhere near skilled enough to mod my own mics, but I know that there are guys who are, and many people do choose to have their cheaper ribbon mics modded ( and condensers and dynamics, too).

    I have an MXL 860 that sounds "okay" - it ain't exactly a Royer, but it still sounds very nice when used on a guitar amp, paired with a 57 or 421 ;) - and I've spoken with Michael Joley, who has a mod for it ( as well as for many other mics of all types) that includes swapping the stock XFO with a Lundhal ( I think it's a 1538) and doing either a ribbon re-tension, or replacing the ribbon entirely. According to interviews I've read with Joley, he's said that at least half of the Chinese ribbons on the market he sees coming to him for modding suffer from improper ribbon tension, mostly sagging - and he's referring to brand new models right from the factories, too.

    The price he gave me to mod my 860 was in the neighborhood of $350 (without replacing the ribbon) and around $500 for doing the standard mod plus a full ribbon replacement.

    At some point - depending on the price of the mod, of course - you have to ask yourself if doing the mod is going to end up costing you as much as it would to just buy the mic you want your mic modded to sound like...

    Most of the time, the mod prices are less expensive, some times quite a bit cheaper than buying the model you desire yours to emulate; but some are only a little bit cheaper; and you have to determine for yourself if the price is close enough that you need to decide if you want your mic to sound like a Coles for $ 1200 ( or whatever, I'm just throwing out an arbitrary price, and on top of what you paid for the original mic being modded), or if you'd just be better off buying a real Coles 4038 for $ 1500.

    I respect guys who can do mod work. It's a craft I wish I was smart enough ( and manually nimble enough and had the eyesight) to do. ;)

    -d.
     
  7. guitartoys

    guitartoys Active Member

    Yeah, I've found both of my MXL ribbons in terrible shape right out of the box. One was so sagged I couldn't believe that it actually worked.

    But the metal motor (element) itself is a pretty resonable design, and has pretty decent magnets.

    And in all fairness, re-ribboning and a new transformer would make it sound like a $1K mic.

    That's in part why I've made these ribbon alignment jigs. It makes it so much easier to re-ribbon the mic.

    I've also found that the ribbon mounts on the MXL's are not wide enough to stay put. I've 3D printed some replacements. What happens is, when you start to tighten up the ribbon, the screw makes the little mount twist, and it f's the whole thing up. It's only a piece of phenolic PCB 1mm thick, with a little strip of copper on it. But when you make them wider, they get locked into the metal frame of the motor, and don't twist. Way easier to re-ribbon. Of course, I'm using PLA plastic, which is fine, but am using copper tape, and when you solder to it, it melts a bit. But they've been working perfectly so far. I'd use some PCB, but the common PCB is 1.6mm thick, and you need 1mm thick so the ribbon stays centered in the magnets. I just need to find a source for some 1mm thick PCB.

    I should have the Instructable up tomorrow for the R144. Re-ribbon, and an OTA transformer from Rick. They sound great.

    A Lundhal runs about $120. The ribbon material is about $25 a sheet, and using my cutting guides, you can probably make 40 of them from a sheet.

    Thing is, putting 0.8 micron ribbons makes them sound awesome, but also a bit more fragile. I've been removing lots of grille material, which also improves them, but also makes them more susceptible to blowing them out. I've always got them covered when moving them, or when stored. I'm nervous to ship them.

    I really haven't been resonant tuning them yet. But in all fairness you can get a great sound just making sure they aren't saggy (easy to see, they droop), or too tight (you pull the corrugations out of them). Resonant tuning is important to having for example matched pairs.

    It really isn't terribly difficult to do if you have the right tools. Which is why I did the cutting guides, and the 3D printed alignment jig.

    I suspect the 860 probably has the same motor in it as the 144.

    Tell you what. I'm trying to expand my ribbon alignment jig catalog. If you want to send it to me, I'll design a ribbon alignment jig for it, re-ribbon it for you (1.2 micron ribbon, I'm out of 0.8 micron at the moment), and send it back to you with the ribbon alignment jig, and a couple of spare corrugated ribbons. If the motor is dramatically different from what I expect, and it's too had to make an alignment jig, I'll just send it back unchanged. It would probably take me 2 to 3 weeks to do. (I'd have to CAD and then print the jig, which usually takes a few revisions.) If you want the lundahl, you'd have to buy it separately and send it along. But you might want to wait on the Lundahl until I'm sure I can make a jig for it. But you'd need wait at least a month before I could get round to it.

    Just a thought.

    M
     
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    You've got yourself one guinea pig Michael. ;)

    email me your info; Donnyair@hotmail.com

    and thanks! (y)
     
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    PS... what do you think about alternative XFO's, like Edcore RM's or Lundhal 2912's? Or is there even another alternative to the 1538 that you like?

    Also... I have an ADK AP1 mic pre in which I can "pop and swap" out Transformers and Opamps ... one of my input XFO's is a Lundhal 1538XL.... so would I get the same improvement in sound just by using the mic with that tranny in the pre amp? Or would the current internal XFO in the mic make that pointless? ( I don't know what XFO is in there now, whatever came stock from Marshall)
     

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