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cooney
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#1
7th April 2012
Old 7th April 2012
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MCA SP-1 Mod Procedure

I have a MCA Sp-1 in the mail and am attempting my first microphone mod ever. I
am trying it on this one because from what I have gather this seems to be one of
the cheapest, and most beneficial mics to mod/learn circuits on. I will be doing
this mod along side my construction technology teacher who has a background with
robotics and soldering. I have acquired more than enough caps, resistors, diodes
ect. to do the mod and am just on the final stages of what to actually do. Below
is the general outline of what I was planning on doing, any input of what is
correct/incorrect is appreciated. Again this is my first time!

1) Replace 0.022uF caps. with Mylar, or 1uF Mylar to increase the bass response

*possibly remove D1/D2 and C1/C2

2) Replace the 2sk170 fet with a fast j305
- replace the output transistors with bc559cs
- change the 1k resistor with new ones
- change 240k/270k to 330k/680k resistors
- remove one of the 1k resistors and 1nF cermaics

3) Replace the 2 1n4148 diodes with UF4001's

4) Replace the 6.2v zener diode with either a 7.5v or 8.2v zener diode
- check DC converter voltage at the UF4001's and try to achieve ~60vs

5) Replace the capsule wiht a rk47

6) Remove one layer of inner mesh from the headbasket
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7th April 2012
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This is a well known mod; I'm in the process of finishing out my own SP-1 with an RK47 capsule and some new capacitors.

You'll be so excited when you gut this mic and see how easy it is to work on!

Hopefully one of the local mod kings, Jim Williams, will chime in. He helped me out with my SP-1 mod. At his suggestion, I'm also adding a switch to my K47 capsule that will toggle it into omni mode. So sweet. I got the capsule here:

RK-47 Microphone Capsule | K47 | Microphone Parts

Below is a quote from Jim in another thread, about some of the mods he performs on this mic, which is also close to the MXL903:


"The caps to lower the hf response are fitted across the two 150k resistors off the output transistors' base. They come with 1000 pf on the MCA SP-1 and MXL 990. They are missing on the 603/604. Add them across those resistors on the rear of the pcb. I also replace those 150 k resistors with 100k. That lowers the noise a tiny amount and raises the cap's roll-off point 1/3.

In my 15 MCA SP-1's I have several with CK12 and K47 capsules. They have Rel Cap polystyrene's and MIT multicaps across the 1 uf stacked mylar film caps for air. All resistors are Dale CMF55's and the 1 gig ohm resistors are Mini Mox 200 metal oxides. The 47 uf 50v cap is a Panasonic FR series, 100 uf. The 220 uf caps are now 330 uf Panasonic FR's. I used Kimber silver wire insides."
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7th April 2012
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Just listen to it first. Some of these sound amazing out of the bubble package.

No sense messing with good mics.
unless that is the point, and not just a good sounding Mic.

D

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7th April 2012
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This is a 50$ mic. It's nothing special out of the blister pac, and never will be.

Basically, it's a mod platform, like in the hot rod days, when some smart-ass kid would buy an old clunker jalopy and drop a fat engine into it, then give the rich kid's sports cars a run for their money...

The mods are very inexpensive, excepting a new capsule (but that's the engine, right?!), and require only moderate skill and time. Plus we get to make whatever we want. I wanted my K47 capsule to have an omni switch; drill a hole, cut and resolder a few wires, and there's my own custom feature.
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8th April 2012
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8th April 2012
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Great info here on mods. Been thinking about modding my pair for a long time. About to order another pair (Because I do like how they sound stock) and mod them!
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9th April 2012
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I just finished the omni switch on my modded SP1. It's freaking awesome. This mic sounds great in omni; I'm going to have to get another so I can have a stereo pair. Then I'll need another for kick...

I only did the headbasket mod, replaced the capsule to fet cap, and replaced the capsule. Oh, and added the omni toggle switch. I haven't even gone deep into the circuit path. Still gathering confidence. And the mods I've done have made a huge difference.

If you're replacing the capsule with an RK47, and want to do the omni mod, you can fit a sub mini toggle on the back or front of the mic, at the top or bottom; lots of real estate in there. I was going to wait for a special order sub mini push button, but I opted to just jam a sub mini toggle in, which I could get at my local supplier. Just two terminals to wire.

@obik: try just doing the headbasket mod for starters, and compare it to your stock mics. Some folks remove only one layer of the inner mesh; I removed both inner layers on mine, on the advice of Jim Williams.
Use long needle nose pliers, and heavy snips or electrician's scissors to cut and pry away the inner layer; it's hardest when you just start into it, then gets easier as you free more mesh.
If you like the result, prepare to take the next step and dive into the guts...

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9th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boschen View Post
I wanted my K47 capsule to have an omni switch; drill a hole, cut and resolder a few wires, and there's my own custom feature.
I recently bought two SP-1's because of the favorable comments from Mr. Williams on GS over a few years now. I am still trying to piece together an understanding of what modifications to try out and in which order.

Would you mind explaining or pointing me to the thread that explains what you've done to the K47 capsule and how you did it? And what are you using your SP-1 for that you like?
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9th April 2012
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I like mine as-is in a recorder man setup. I just recorded a (rough) cut of a Good Morning Little School Girl jam with myself on drums and the guitarist and ended up dropping both kick, snare, and both tom mics from the mix; just didn't need them.
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9th April 2012
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That page legato linked to above is a great resource, and has schemos before and after.

If you're just thinking about modding an SP1, here's what I've done, and what I suggest others try as a starting point. This is the pussywillow mod suite, requiring little skill and effort, but yielding very good results. Changing the FET cap requires soldering skills, but it's not very hard. Total cost about 135$, most of it in the capsule.

>Remove the two inner layers of mesh in the basket
>Replace the capsule with an RK47
>Upgrade the capsule to FET capacitor with a higher grade
>Add an omni toggle option for the 47 capsule

I'm going to step up to the full mod suite from Jim's quotes below at some point, but right now I like the way my modded mic sounds, and I'm going to try it out a bit before I mod it more. My mod SP1 sounds great on male vocals and acoustic guitar; I'm dying to try it out on a kick drum, or as a mono room OH.

About the omni toggle switch option; I didn't do anything to the stock RK47 capsule, which comes wired with two leads, one to each side. I soldered both capsule leads to the input on the pcb board, but then I cut the lead to the rear side of the capsule, and wired both sides of the wire to the toggle switch in the above pic. Now I can switch the omni option on and off. It's awesome, even if it looks a bit funky. I couldn't wait for the button in the mail, lol.
If you order a new RK47 cap from microphone-parts.com, get the larger round base mount, which is a few bucks extra. Slice off the plastic nubs on the bottom to make it fit. Don't forget to mount the ground wire to the ring of the capsule, too!

Oh, a correction. In my first response quoting Jim above, in the first paragraph, he's referring to the MXL603, not the SP1, although they share the same circuit, so much of the same will apply.

Here's more of what Jim's had to say about his SP1 mods in other public threads:

Jim Williams QUOTE:

In my 15 MCA SP-1's I have several with CK12 and K47 capsules. They have Rel Cap polystyrene's and MIT multicaps across the 1 uf stacked mylar film caps for air. All resistors are Dale CMF55's and the 1 gig ohm resistors are Mini Mox 200 metal oxides. The 47 uf 50v cap is a Panasonic FR series, 100 uf. The 220 uf caps are now 330 uf Panasonic FR's. I used Kimber silver wire insides.

I'll put these up against any of the top-o-line mics, they are excellent. I have less than $175 invested in each of them including replacement capsules, quite a value.

I'm enjoying the MCA SP-1's. They go for as little as $40. They are Shanghai cardiode mics with a 3/4 " capsule, sized like the U-89. They have a very flat midrange with a smooth shelf lift of about 3 db above 7k hz. They don't have that hard ass gravel tone of the 1" chinese capsules. Low end is thin but can be fixed up with a couple of good caps. The circuit is a Schoeps knock-off that also can be improved. A customer that does location film/video exclusivly with Schoeps couldn't tell a difference, I could, about $1500.

The Mod: I always change the electrolytic capacitors to better caps and change out the film capacitors to Wima. The capsule to Fet is a Polystyrene. I also change some resistor values and matched resistors for better balance in the circuit. All in all I change out 18 components.
/QUOTE
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10th April 2012
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Thanks.

Since you've researched these mods and have recorded using the mods, could you direct me to some sample recordings with them?

Or could you give some comparisons to other mics you've used? I'm trying to get some direction whether to plunk down more $ to try these mods.
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11th April 2012
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@ 2manyrocks,

You can do the simpler physical mods for almost nothing, if you have a few basic tools and a decent soldering iron. A high grade replacement for the capsule to FET capacitor is less than a dollar, and you can do the headbasket mod for free. Those alone make a difference. Just try removing one layer of the inner mesh, and see what that does to the sound of the mic. After that, you will probably want to do more to the insides.

Michael Joly has some clips on the octavamod site of their K47 capsule, which was probably made in the same factory mine came from, but through a different supplier, microphone-parts.com. Michael's MJE-K47 mic also uses the Scheops circuit, so it's probably very similar to the SP1.
Here's a link where he compares his MJEK47 to a Neumann U47.

Award-winning microphone engineering from Michael Joly

I did do a couple of tests with my own SP1 before the mod, so if I can steal a quiet moment, I'll record some new snippets with the modded mic, and with the omni capsule too. My preliminary tests show it does a lovely job of capturing my poorly treated room's sound. I have a KEL Hm7U which is my reference for vocals, and the modded SP1 does very well there too.
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11th April 2012
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@Boschen Thanks for the tips on the mesh. I just ordered my first real solder and a few other accessories. I'm going to mod my pair!
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12th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boschen View Post


Is that a toggle switch? Or is it just happy to see you?
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#15
12th April 2012
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Lol!

That's the 'happy' switch.
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15th April 2012
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OK gang, clips below:

Signal chain is mic > Grace Lunatec digital out> MacBookPro Logic @ 44.1 / 24bit

There is no EQ or dynamics processing. I did make small volume adjustments to try and match levels. I left tape marks for references while I had the SP1 on the bench, and took notes and photos so I could match levels and positioning in the later tests. Still, this is not scientific grade; there were minor changes to the arrangement of the room between the tests, there's some noise contamination in the minimally treated room, and the level matching is hardly perfect. I also didn't do a singing test on the stock SP1, which I regret, and I haven't done much testing with the omni mode on my modded mic either.

However, I think the difference before and after the SP1 mods is a pleasing one, and quite audible. I added the KEL Hm7u as a reference, as it's the best mic I own, and has a similar capsule. I think the modded SP1 gets pretty close. The difference before and after the mods seems most pronounced in the spoken word tests on sibilance, where the stock SP1 has a sort of metallic, harsh character, almost a buzzy quality. The mod rounds that out nicely.

Stock SP1 spoken word:
http://www.boschen.org/SP1 stock word.wav

Modded SP1 spoken word:
http://www.boschen.org/SP1 mod word.wav

KEL HM7u spoken word:
http://boschen.org/KEL word.wav

Modded SP1 song:
http://boschen.org/SP1 mod song.wav

KEL HM7u song:
http://boschen.org/KEL song.wav


Ok, now who can suggest how to wire a pull-down type resistor to my capsule toggle 'happy' switch, so it doesn't pop if I switch it while in use? I was thinking that adding a 1K resistor from the wire terminal on the capsule side to the pcb board ground would work, but my guesses are often wildly off. Anyone?
The switch is a toggle that sits between the wire to the capsule's rear diaphragm and the pcb input. It toggles the rear diaphragm on and off, putting the capsule from cardioid into omni when it's engaged.
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16th April 2012
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Thats a really cool mod! I just got my soldering Iron and a few other tools in the mail yesterday. Working today but hoping to dig into the MCA SP1's next weekend.

Did you ever figure out how to raise the output? I remember you saying you were having a drop in output earlier...
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16th April 2012
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Thank you for posting the samples. The mod obviously smooths things out.

I tried the stock SP1 briefly yesterday. Wasn't expecting much for a $49 mic, and it surprised me in stock form.

Now do I return the Sterling ST77 from GC and buy the RK 47 capsule for the SP1 instead?

Wish I could answer your question about stopping the pop when you change the happy switch.
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16th April 2012
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Thanks all!

Turns out I was mistaken about the output loss; i attenuated the channel I was testing on and forgot to restore the setting in logic. Silly error. Output level is the same as before the mod, or at least very close.

I think this mic will really shine on a kick drum.

What's amazing is how little it takes to mod this mic. You can take it entirely apart with ease, and there's lots of room in the shell for mods. I wish I'd done more testing after modding just the headbasket.
The capsule to FET capacitor is hidden between the pcbs, so you have to remove one from the chassis to replace this cap. You can do this with a larger solder tip if that's all you have, but don't overheat the connections and avoid touching the FET. Discharge static before working and wear a strap ground if you live in desert climate.
You can test the mic live with no shell to see if the new cap is working but the mic may hum without the shell on.
I could hear audible differences after the cap was replaced. The headbasket mod makes a clear impact as well.
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16th April 2012
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Yeah, I have to order some long needle noise pliers to get the headbasket modded. I'll start with that, order the capsule and then work on the circuit.
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17th April 2012
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...just a quick thought...for those GS members who are intrigued by these modded/upgraded $50 mics, but aren't up to snuff with their soldering skills (like myself!), there is an easy alternative...check out the Recording Tools MC-900...it's a solid-state C12-style vocal mic with the exact same capsule as the microphoneparts' RK12 (as a matter of fact, the MC-900 is made by the same manufacturer in China)...but this mic already has some of the circuit upgrades, including WIMA caps...and it sells for $145 (less than the upgraded SP1)...I've got one on order, and I'll follow up once I've tested it out...

...the options just keep getting better and better (and cheaper!)...

Recording Tools

...available in the US here:
Recording Tools

...some of you may recognize the MC-900's similarity to a much more expensive mic from a very reputable manufacturer in Canada...hmmm
Attached Thumbnails
MCA SP-1 Mod Procedure-mc900.jpg   MCA SP-1 Mod Procedure-mc900capsule.jpg   MCA SP-1 Mod Procedure-mc900circuit.jpg  
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17th April 2012
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Nice looking guts!

I followed the other thread (the one after the first got locked) about these mics, and they do look promising. The WIMA caps are nice. Finally someone out East got wise that they just needed to stop shaving pennies on the parts, and they'd see the bump in volume sales.

About the capsules. Shengke, right? I know they supply lots of builders now.
The capsule in my modded mic came from there via microphone-parts.com, and I like the way it sounds.
Nice to have lots of options, but I'll buy the western assembled and QC'd models like a KEL or such for the security of the brand, and to support the builder's business. Recording-Tools may be a German company, but I'd bet the mics were assembled in Asia; the cut in cost has to come somewhere.

Quality capsules are only getting cheaper, and I find the small builders are making quality products at a reasonable price, as well as adding their proprietary elements to the circuits.

I still like to roll my own though... If I could order base parts that were all local I would but no go. So a mod platform like the sp1 remains cheap fun.
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18th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boschen View Post
Nice looking guts!

I followed the other thread (the one after the first got locked) about these mics, and they do look promising. The WIMA caps are nice. Finally someone out East got wise that they just needed to stop shaving pennies on the parts, and they'd see the bump in volume sales.

About the capsules. Shengke, right? I know they supply lots of builders now.
The capsule in my modded mic came from there via microphone-parts.com, and I like the way it sounds.
Nice to have lots of options, but I'll buy the western assembled and QC'd models like a KEL or such for the security of the brand, and to support the builder's business. Recording-Tools may be a German company, but I'd bet the mics were assembled in Asia; the cut in cost has to come somewhere.

Quality capsules are only getting cheaper, and I find the small builders are making quality products at a reasonable price, as well as adding their proprietary elements to the circuits.

I still like to roll my own though...
...yes, these are iSK/Shengke/TongXin mics (they make the microphoneparts RK47 and RK12)...but for those of us who burn more flesh than solder, they're a nice option...nice to know that about $150 gets you some decent sonic quality, whichever route you take...
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18th April 2012
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Yea, I just took a second look at the photo; KEL's been Behringer'd!

I already know that I can get my SP1 pretty close; it's interesting to watch the process happening in the larger world as well.

These mics are definitely a viable option. It would be cool if they'd offer the higher quality guts and capsules in a kit form for tinkers like me. I'd build a Flea47, but the price is out of reach, and that's not exactly what I want anyway. I feel there's a comfortable medium there, or at least I'm looking for it, where there's room for money to flow river-like through the manufacturing chain, designer/ builder, to me, without the oxbows of mad retail markup or exploitative labor. I'd love to see high quality interchangeable kit modules for mics available.
Maybe I'm dreaming.
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18th April 2012
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I'm currently balls deep in this process for my MXL v63ms. Performing the Generic China Mod to the circuit, but I'm also replacing all of the components with higher quality components, with exception to the capsule. I have two 63s, one of them is about 3 years old, the other is only about 1. I'm modding the older one first, then doing comparative samples as a before and after, and then if I like how the mods sound I'll be performing them on the newer 63 to even it out. If I don't like the mods I'll relegate the modded version to room duty and get a new 63, either way I've got reasonable options.
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18th April 2012
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All right; welcome to our little mod circle!
Now with MXL....


post clips as you go!
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18th April 2012
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Might be a bit much to ask, but if you guys could reduce this to a "solder by the numbers" type project on the most simple level, I'd like to try it on the SP-1. My problem is that reading circuit diagrams is about like reading Greek.
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18th April 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kidvybes View Post
...

...some of you may recognize the MC-900's similarity to a much more expensive mic from a very reputable manufacturer in Canada...hmmm
I don't know where this copy of our Song Sparrow comes from or who made it --- though I can guess -- but we have already begun to take action to protect our interests.

I have also found copies of our HM-1x on a couple of Chinese sites.

We are in the process of moving some of our production to Canada now. Which to be honest is what I've wanted to be able to afford to do all along. But that's a discussion for another day.

As for modding the little MCA mic it's easy to do but remember you can go a long long way with good song arrangement, good instruments and mic placement -- even creative mic placement.
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18th April 2012
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18th April 2012
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Quote:
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I don't know where this copy of our Song Sparrow comes from or who made it --- though I can guess -- but we have already begun to take action to protect our interests.

I have also found copies of our HM-1x on a couple of Chinese sites.

We are in the process of moving some of our production to Canada now. Which to be honest is what I've wanted to be able to afford to do all along. But that's a discussion for another day.
Good for you Kelly - best of luck with that. Yes, although the Chinese are very adept at building quality products for great prices, they are - for the most part - equally deficient in traditional business ethics.

Many of the mics touted as groundbreaking here are nothing more than off-the-shelf versions of mics designed by other manufacturers with a new shiny paint / logo scheme - at 1/3rd the price.

While this may seem great for the consumer at first glance, ultimately it hurts us because who wants to spend the time developing a product that will be sold to anyone willing to place an order for 50 units? The answer is very few. And so development and progress gets stiffled.....

A good friend of mine who manufacturers in the high-end auto aftermarket biz tells me that the Chinese are in his booth with camera's and a pack of cigs on the first day of a trade show, and his new innovative product that he's showing is mocked up in prototype form at a competitors booth before the end of a 1 week trade show. They lay the pack of cigs on a product for size, and take snaps from all angles. Voila - instant product for his competitors. He's constantly in court defending his intellectual property, and although he's never lost a case, it does not stop them from selling the company and starting a new one the week after which then goes into production with HIS designs. His only option is to source different parts from different manufacturers, and do final assembly in the US - trying to keep them in the dark for as long as possible. But he is loosing interest in manufacturing the innovations he's brought to that industry quickly.

We're seeing more and more manufacturing move away from China these days for that very reason. The west has a long standing history of competition and ingenuity. We'll see how it shakes out.

And now, back to modding SP-1's....
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