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I've been watching with (originally) sum scepticism on the mic mods but I just watched and listened to the MXL Marco swapped the capsule in, and have started to think a bit. The 47 diaphragm the Chinese are making pops up quite often, and in every case - it seems to get positive comment. Going to the Neumann YouTube videos, I've been looking at how they're made and come to the conclusion that maybe, it doesn't sound good because it's Neumann, or AKG or whoever, but simply because the design is good at being nice to listen to? The construction is very straightforward in terms of the mechanics, and really seems to be a backplate designed with holes, then mylar or polycarbonate with a surface coating. They all seem to evaporate gold onto them. they are not tensioned, or need anything other than assembly. They drop the film onto the backplate with a thin separator. They attach a rather basic tag connection to it, then they add a front surround that gets power tooled bolted to it. No sign of anything clever, or white coated glove wearing people with torque screwdrivers. The process looks like the photos of people doing similar assembly in WW2, pre- or post a few years.

A bit of drilling and lathe work for the metal components is needed, and nowadays with CNC this is simple and repeatable, quality wise. There seems little radical, or labour intensive, and simply an assembly project. DO Neumann us better gold, better plastic, or smarter looking screws?

I wonder if the capsule China is producing are just better sounding because they are big and almost identical in manufacture to the German ones. If so - the difference with the MXL (a mic I have always liked) is just due to the bigger diaphragm? I didn't realise the MXL was not quite as big. With electronics being so good nowadays the big difference of the capsule swap totally overshadows any much smaller difference in the preamps - and again, so many mics use quite old and basic designs.

The often quoted similarities in mics using the 47 design, sound wise compared to say the 414 capsule which is a different design might just have convinced me the critical factor is not where the capsule is made, but the design.

Comments

Link555 Mon, 03/15/2021 - 08:55

In my experience, the biggest upgrade to mic would be a capsule change, followed by transformer change, then the electronics. I have tinkered with a few of the APEX 460's changing the capsules to a Peluso CK-12 and the transformers to a Cinemag CM-2480. Along with a few cap upgrades, the mic did sound a lot closer to a C12...

paulears Mon, 03/15/2021 - 13:02

There are some simply terrible videos on the subject too - I watched a guy who spoke like he really knew what he was on about - then he yelled into two mics and they both sounded dreadful, and another fella almost wet himself when he spoke a few words into his new modded mic. I ran it back and forth and there was a slight difference - that's all, but he was almost swooning. Like some of the hifi people do when they change a mains power cable and discover the huge difference in sound (not!)

I'm a sceptic by nature, but the old designs really do seem to be basic, nice sounding and cheap.

Link555 Mon, 03/15/2021 - 13:09

The capsule in the stock 460 has a pretty wide tolerance range. The ones I got play with were pretty bright and had a some serious harmonic distortion above 1k. After the capsule change the harmonic distortion in the mid range dropped about 3db. It was noticeable for sure.

cyrano Sat, 03/20/2021 - 05:41

Neumann did some very basic and very deep research before they came to the form and size of their capsules, Paul.

Even when it seems easy to copy, it isn't. That doesn't stop the Chinese, of course. But things like tensioning of the membrane, glueing or not glueing, or even the material sputtered onto the membrane can't be measured. So the copy is a "best effort" at best.

Add a little lack in the QC department and you have a hit or miss.

That said, prices are so low, you can afford to buy a dozen and select the best ones. Thta's how a lot of harder-to-find Chinese capsules end up on ebay. Rejects from some small-scale mic manufacturer.

However, lots of cheap mics have a few small errors in their design that are easily correctible. Like the Behri ECM8000 measurement mic. There's a mod that gives you +6 dB output.

There's a Chinese fella in Australia that's making his own capsules. Not dirt cheap, mind you. And that's an affordable and easy way to mod a cheap Chinese mic. SE and MXL come to mind.

You still need to know what you're doing, as the connection from capsule to electronics is very, very high impedance. You need to clean that connection thoroughly, if you want to avoid problems later, because of humidity in the air and/or spit from the vocalist.

If you're interested in DIY, subscribe to the MicBuilders list:

https://groups.io/g/MicBuilders

That's where the knowledge is. Some of these people have been designing mics for over half a century, professionally. There's even a recent design for high-frequency mics like the Sennheiser MKH range. And that's one that's too complex for even the Chinese.

There used to be other groups, but they've been wrecked by FB and Google.

cyrano Sat, 03/20/2021 - 05:47

Link555, post: 468187, member: 31690 wrote:
In my experience, the biggest upgrade to mic would be a capsule change, followed by transformer change, then the electronics. I have tinkered with a few of the APEX 460's changing the capsules to a Peluso CK-12 and the transformers to a Cinemag CM-2480. Along with a few cap upgrades, the mic did sound a lot closer to a C12...

The CK12 and one Sony are impossible to copy. There's no capsule on the market that comes close enough. There's the Tim Campbell CT12 that's very, very close. But that one ain't cheap...

http://www.timcampbell.dk/index2b.htm

pcrecord Sat, 03/20/2021 - 06:52

paulears, post: 468179, member: 47782 wrote:
I wonder if the capsule China is producing are just better sounding because they are big and almost identical in manufacture to the German ones.

I think the first reason cheap mics sounds bad for the experienced ears is that the focus is to sell as many as possible to untrained ears. (Newbs)
I'm sure making a hyped mic is a choice they make because boosted high frequencies sounds impressive.
That's why an RK47 capsule that capture less high frequencies is a good choice.. it compensate for the choice the maker made.

Of course changing the capsule won't change other behaviour like noises. This is were we can evaluate how good the design is.. ;)

paulears Sat, 03/20/2021 - 07:49

I've spent a lot of time listening to mic comparisons - real untweaked ones and the tweaked and honed ones and the odd thing is that they all sound different, but I'm not sure they sound better? It seems that some people do sound better on X vs Y, but then you hear another person for whom the reverse is true. I guess it just makes me reinforce my view that mics are really just tools, and you need to pick the right tool, for the right job. I keep looking back in my head to old jobs where I had conflicts. Not enough of the right mics, and the skill, I think was picking the second best ones - where you would like to use X, but that leaves Y for the other subject and you know Y is a bad choice, so you use the second best mic on the other subject leaving the better one for deployment somewhere else.

I don't think I could get excited about mic mods at all - because I know the mics well, and changing a known mic for an unknown sound by doing a mod would wreck my brain, I think.

Link555 Sat, 03/20/2021 - 08:28

That’s the way I like to look at it too Paul. use the tools that you have, but if can improve some of their short comings, why wouldn’t you? That doesn’t mean you going make an exact replica, because quite frankly no two mic’s are ever the exactly the same.

cyrano Sun, 03/21/2021 - 01:56

paulears, post: 468247, member: 47782 wrote:
I've spent a lot of time listening to mic comparisons - real untweaked ones and the tweaked and honed ones and the odd thing is that they all sound different, but I'm not sure they sound better? It seems that some people do sound better on X vs Y, but then you hear another person for whom the reverse is true. I guess it just makes me reinforce my view that mics are really just tools, and you need to pick the right tool, for the right job. I keep looking back in my head to old jobs where I had conflicts. Not enough of the right mics, and the skill, I think was picking the second best ones - where you would like to use X, but that leaves Y for the other subject and you know Y is a bad choice, so you use the second best mic on the other subject leaving the better one for deployment somewhere else.

I don't think I could get excited about mic mods at all - because I know the mics well, and changing a known mic for an unknown sound by doing a mod would wreck my brain, I think.

That's exactly how I feel about most mic mods.

It's also why I only "mod" broken or bad mics. I also don't expect my mods to produce a mic that's even close to the original. Better means less hiss, more signal most of the times. And when I'm lucky, it even sounds better :D

Boswell Sun, 03/21/2021 - 05:35

Here's a link to a 2009 RO thread about a Beyer BMS85 ribbon mic I had just bought cheaply at the time. The "S" in the model name indicates that it has a radio transmitter in the body, which in this particular unit would not have been much use to me as it was set for US frequencies. However, the radio part had stopped working, so I stripped it out and fitted a (wired) pre-amp of my own design, which worked surprisingly well. This was before there were active ribbon mics commercially available from the likes of Royer, A-T and others. The noise was much lower than that of the AT4081 I bought last year.

I now use the BM85 as a test bed for active head designs, both as a hobbyist and (occasionally) in my professional work.

paulears Thu, 03/25/2021 - 05:27

With covid, our core business (as in, what pays the bills, and keeps my wife happy) took a big change in direction, and my accounts indicated that while certainly not rich, I really needed to invest in some equipment - if I don't, next year it will hit me, so I tried to think of something I could use, but wouldn't depreciate as quick as most stuff I buy does. I looked around for B stock U87AI - and found one at a dealer in Germany, who was willing to send it to the UK. After Brexit - this isn't as silly sounding as it appears, and lots of people I have bought from in the US and EU simply don't want the expense and grief of sending to the UK. Described as perfect mic and suspension - small mark on the wooden box. Price wise, a £200 saving on what everyone else is selling them for. I figured I could live with the mark, as it would get far worse ones once I have it, based on past experience. So far, the only test has produced a tone on my voice that I like slightly better than my 414s - but it's small. I have to try it on other things, but while pleased, I'm not dribbling .......... so far!