Show 184 – DIY microphones and more

This week we talk about Do It Yourself Microphone projects. Our guest is Mike Sabolish.

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DIY speaker cabinet in a 50’s fridge
Golden Age Project D2 Large Dynamic Microphone

19 thoughts on “Show 184 – DIY microphones and more

  1. Hey guys! I wanted to personally thank you for reading my question on air about my issue with the overhead drums. It’s kind of funny because as I heard Ryan reading my question, I figured it out and realize my errors and was kind of embarrassed on how simple the solution was!!! “Bounce the 2 mono tracks to stereo!!” then use all the plugins as the heart desires! Speaking of plugins, are you two familiar with waves plugins?? In reaper, when you go to choose a plug-in there are two choices for each one and that’s either a stereo or mono. So is it as self explanatory as it seems? You use a mono plug-in for a mono track and a stereo plug in for a stereo track? I just never seen any other plug-ins set up this way and I have a point of plug-ins! Any pointers on this issue or something I might be missing? As always fellas thank you for your services and I apologize for the overuse of the F bomb on my last post because as I’m sure that’s just more work of having to put in a beep sound over it

    • I ment to say “a TON of plugins” I have been using the speech to text on the iPhone 4 and it doesn’t always hear that well. But in its defense I guess I don’t always read that well either! Ha!!

  2. GSAA

    Your show will be the death of me… So ive been convinced that i need a SM7. Now im convinced that i could by an SM7 cartridge and save a few hundred bucks. Now im thoroughly scared that i might follow through with this one. On a scale of 1 to pain in the ass how hard do you think this would be.


    SM7 Schematic:

    On a side note, I have a few tracks that i have some strings and synth pads. the songs are in are in the genre of modern rock. I don’t want them to be to prominent yet i want them there for the added depth. Currently they are in mono straight down the middle and i was thinking i might make them stereo and move them out cause they arent giving the feel that i want. How do/would you put these in the mix.

    Build you own chicken, then ride it with pride

  3. GSAA. And thanks for the diploma šŸ™‚

    Jon mentioned that mid-side micing cannot be done with 3 mics – and I don’t doubt him that it didn’t work when he tried it. But it is theoretically possible, just not recommended. Getting your head around manually setting up M-S with two mics, not to mention making it actually work (with equal signal on both sides of a figure-8) is tough enough. Why would you want to make it harder.

    But there is actually a model of the Zoom H2 handy recorder that has 5 internal mic elements. The 2 on the front are an X-Y pair. The other 3 provide a M-S setup facing opposite the X-Y pair.

    In M-S mode, the far-left & far-right mics are added together out of phase to make a single figure-8. Then this combo signal is added to the center mic twice – once with the phase of the figure-8 combo flipped. Doing it yourself, it would be very easy to get one of the phases wrong. But since it’s pre-wired with matched elements at near-coincident distances, it seems to work.

    (FYI – There’s evidently a version of the H2 with only 4 mics. So M-S capability depends on which model you have.)

    All the best…


  4. Cool show! I definitely want to get into more DIY stuff, and having a custom mic would be awesome. Maybe I’ll give a DI box or a guitar pedal a try first.

    Anyway, I just saw this video and it reminded me of being in the studio.
    If you don’t get a chance to watch it, Jimmy Kimmel brings the iPhone 4s out to the street and tells people it is the iPhone 5. Everyone’s reaction is that it’s better, faster, and brighter.
    This happened to me on several occasions while recording. I was told to fix a part of a song, and without changing anything I played it again. The immediate response from the client was, “Much better!” Of course I’m guilty of this as well, but it’s funny to see how your mind plays tricks on you.

  5. I’m loving the DIY and theory talk. You motivated me to buy a soldering station as I was listening to this episode. I have a question about an old Foxx wah pedal I have. Instead of using the pedal as a wah I simply add it to my pedal chain because it does something unusual to my sound. You know how a tube amp sags all little and gets dirty when it’s pushed, well this pedal does that. I like my clean guitar sound to dirty up just a little bit depending on my pick attack. I’m sure it does this due to the old and possibly damaged electronics, I found the pedal 20 years ago in a tobacco barn. Can you think of any way I could make a pedal that emulates this effect? Is the circuit causing this effect even though the pedal is in bypass mode?

    Ride the chicken like a tay ina when.

    • I want to clarify that the pedal’s sound is not a loose wire crackling or distortion sound, it’s a compressed and lightly overdriven sound. Also you guys should set up an Amazon wish list so that us listeners can donate money for gear that you guys can demo for us.

  6. Hey guys quick Pro Tools question here……

    I had a session the other day and the client wanted me to export all the tracks that were up. (not any of the other playlists) So he could mix in a different DAW. Whats the best way to do this? And why can’t we all just use Pro Tools so I could just give him the session.HAHA

    You guys rock.

    Oh, and a big thank you for your suggestion. I had commented a few shows back, about how I had a orchestral session from the sydney opera house, in which no tracks were labeled, and one of you mentioned emailing the sydney opera house. Within 5hrs I had a email back with an apologie and a word document with all the info……….Wow that was easy, why didn’t i think of that?

    – J. De Witt

  7. Wonderful episode. Can you provide links to the exact U87 clone and the C12 clone, parts list, instructions that you used? Very interested in this. I restored a Hammond C3 and Leslie speaker which I gutted to make a Leslie 122 as my first DIY project so I’m thinking that I could tackle some of these microphone and compressor projects next!

  8. I love this podcast guys! Its about time we get a guest on here and some AC Theory gets thrown around on the show! OH..I am talking about the high frequency feedback of the capacitor section of the conversation( capacitors act like a short dealing with high frequencies and an open with low frequencies)….glad MIKE noticed that in the circuit!! by the way….

    Ryan and Jon, you guys should jump into Mic building, if you need help, give me a call, or send it to me, I’ll build it for yah!

  9. just got around to this episode and got very interested in doing something with my SP-C1. but, Mike’s site is undergoing a transition. give us a shout when it’s up again. thx!

    • For those trying to reach Musical Sparks…indeed it is down at the moment. I maintained my old site in iWeb and alas…we all know what has become of that.

      I am busy cutting and pasting from original text and Word documents into WordPress so I’m still in the process of doing that and getting the format happy. Once I get a few of them complete I’ll bring the web site back up and continue adding articles again. But at least there will be something for everyone to read if they want.

      Until then, I will be receiving another LDC tube mike prototype to play with, so I’m off to whip my iron out, tin the tip, get it fluxed, then find some tubes to heat up.

      (You’re welcome Ryan).

  10. Hello again guys…

    Long time listener, 3rd time commenter… That is, at least, if my previous comments actually made it through… (Smart phone’s been glitchy) but moving on.

    Re show 184…

    I consider myself a “quasi-DIYer”. I’ve yet to build my own gear from scratch , but I’ve been working Kijiji (local version of Craigslist in our area) and before that the “Buy&Sell” magazines for years…

    Id seek out gear that was selling for significantly less then avg used prices that had some disclosed “problems”. With the intent to fox it…

    8/10 times, all I had to do was rip it open, clean the damn thing (god bless DeOxIt) and I was golden…

    I’d often use it for a while until I outgrew it and would then resell it for a respectable profit… And go again…

    My best score was a Mint Mackie 8Bus mixer for 900 bucks.. I then found a cheap meter bridge.. Then in tripped over a 24 channel expansion chassis for less then 200 bucks.
    The Seller said that just less then half the channels are about 80% Lower, and noisier then the others.. so it was scrap… My thoughts were, for 200bucks, it was a spare power supply, and parts…

    When it arrived, I ripped it apart, I spent a few days just cleaning the thing and noticed that a lot of the xlr connectors had a loose or disconnected wire… I simply resoldered each one, put it back together, as SCORE!! It worked 100%..

    I then scored a meter bridge for the expansion chassis (from Neil Zaza who bought it on eBay by accident) and then tripped over yet ANOTHER expansion chassis…. Again, being sold for parts..

    The seller said that Half the Mute switches send a POP when u hit them… Dangerous if your system is turned up loud.. So I bought it, for less then 200 (it cost as much in shipping) but was happy to finally have some “parts” as I grew to love the 8 bus, and wanted the back up parts..

    as for my existing units, even though each has an A/B channel, I instead set it up so that one bank of 24 channels was for live sound, and the other side for playback… It looked as sounded REALLY cool!

    While I was waiting for my “parts unit” to arrive, I mentioned it to a buddy who said “Ah! I had the same problem with an old soundcraft mixer once, it was just the Caps on the mute switches!”

    Now, I’ll admit… I’d likely have Never figured that out on my own, but when it arrived, Instead of storing it away for parts, I ripped it open, cleaned it, found where the Caps were located for the Mute switches, and thought rather then testing them, I’ll just replace them ALL!! I took pictures of them before I took them out, took a few in my pocket to the local electronics store… Asked “the dude” to hook me up with 30 replacements (in case I screwed up a few in the reinstall) and recapped the whole console… And again, when I hooked it up to my system, it worked and sounded like brand new…. SCORE!!!

    While I’m not a fan of the low end Mackie CFX boards at all, I do like the newer onyx series and the new iPad unit looks really cool, but I strongly believe that 8Buss was the best product they ever made in that price range…. Great pres, very usable EQ’s, and endless routing options for an analog board… But I digress

    I paired it with an M-Audio 2626 and 2 Presonus Digamax FS and that was the system that got me stated and making money in audio…

    I didn’t need the 2nd side car at all, but I hooked it up anyway to, well, show off!!! 72 channels, faders, etc, (Double of you count the A/B) and, well, it just looked as cool as it sounded…

    Anyway, my point, and I did have one, is I eventually sold the whole system for a tidy profit when I upgraded to the Tascam DM4800, but I kept buying, cleaning and doing Basic repairs and reselling gear for years and while I don’t have much of that stuff left in my rack now, my system was mostly financed through these progressive Kijiji trades….

    I don’t pretend to understand a lot of how this stuff works, and why… And what i do is pretty basic, But I’ve come to believe in the value of DIY repair and maintenance… And while I don’t do DIY builds myself, I respect those who do.. And just wanted to say Kudos to all the DIY build folks out there, but for the less “tech” inclined, there are lots of basic repairs you can start with that are a great place to start…

    Now that im actually busy working in the business, I don’t do that much anymore… Partially because I don’t have the time, but also because as I’ve grown in my skills, I’ve also gradually upgraded the quality of the gear that I am using, From ART to API, and so on… And I find there is less of the higher level gear for sale locally vs the entry level stuff, But I could not have built the studio I have now without my previous buy/repair/then trade and sell regime.. I’ve also built my own acoustic treatments and agree that there’s a great sense of pride when you sit back and can say: I did that!!!

    Anyway… Great show as always… Just wanted to say that DIY can not only be fun and SAVE you money , it can be profitable!

    Rob out.

    Insert chicken joke here:_________

    Ps. At my current rate, I’m just a few days away from catching up to handing heard EVERY episode! How do I get a one of those Diploma’s!!!!

  11. Thank you for this show and all the other almost 200 shows.

    Since listening to this show I swapped out the stock capsule on my Bluebird microphone, took out a transformer in an SM-57, and have ordered the circuit board and components for building a U-87.

    By just switching just the capsule in the Bluebird it went from being my brightest mic to the fullest and smoothest mic I have. It was my first mic mod project and it took only about 30 mins and I just had to solder 2 wires. Changing the capsule also completely eliminated sibilance, not just reduced it, there’s no harshness in the high end even after radical hi shelf boosts.

    I’ve listened to this segment (show #184 DIY mics) about 3 times already and I’m still finding things I’ve missed. There’s so much awesome stuff in that episode and it really inspired me to start DIY’ing mics. I’m going to try and leave it just to mics to avoid going down the DIY rabbit hole too far. Keep up the great work!

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