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Mic: To Mod or Not To Mod -- That is the question.
Old 18th October 2013
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Mic: To Mod or Not To Mod -- That is the question.

Ok, I haven't messed with recording for a while and want to get back into doing a home studio for myself not as a profession. A few yrs back I had an ADAT fed by a Tascam M208 mix, Yamaha SPX90II, RAIA Tube pre and most of the recording was done with a 90's AKG C414 ULS.

I want to do more band recording. Live and piece meal. I still have the AKG 414, 3- 57's, 1-58, 1-Beta 58A, 3- EV PL80a, EV RE-10, Senn e835.

All except the 414 are used for playing live and some should be OK for micing instruments but I'd like to get another vocal mic to record with as my new setup is through a DAW and I'd like to have more than just the 414 to record vocals with. Mine and others.

I used to be a tech before I went into the owner/mgr side and have built Guitar tube amps from scratch and rebuilt a number of others and I'm still using them.
I've also done work on SMT components at board level with just a regular soldering iron and a magnifier so I do know my way around a bench.
I also still have a bench setup, that I need to reassemble as soon as my jam room/studio is finished, consisting of a Scope, Audio Gen., 8 Ohm Load, Frequency Counter, AC/Distortion meter, variac, etc....

Sorry for the loooong intro. If I don't want to spend any more than $250 on another mic am I better off buying one of the less expensive mic's and modding it and if so which one? If I had to pick a voice I'd say I'm closest to sounding like McCartney in range and timbre.

There are a lot of choices to mod: Apex 460 and rebrands, Oktava 219 & 319, MCA SP-1, CAD MXL3000, etc.
Then there are the mic's that some say are pretty good out of the box: MXL2003a, AT4033, KEL HM-2D, MXL 960, RE20, MD421 etc.

Of course some of these can only be had for $250 in the used market which is OK by me.

Suggestions?
Old 18th October 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Joeywhat's Avatar
 

I am VERY impressed with the sound I get from my modded Cascade Fathead. I had Michael Joly do the work, however I believe the premise still stands. I've been meaning to buy a few more cheap mics (I really need some condensers...) and send them to him as well. My total cost on the Fathead was $450, and I don't believe I could find another ribbon that sounds any better for that money.

I wish I could do the work myself...be a hell of a lot cheaper. Some of the mics Joly is modding are only $100 or even less retail, and they end up sounding pretty good.
Old 19th October 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 
changeng's Avatar
What did MJ do to your fathead? How much?
Old 19th October 2013
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Joeywhat's Avatar
 

Replaced the ribbon, removed most the extra mesh/other grille material, and swapped transformers (I can't remember to what at the moment).

The parts alone are probably $50 or less...so being able to do it yourself should save a ton of money.
Old 19th October 2013
  #5
Lives for gear
 
edva's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gorquin View Post
Ok, I haven't messed with recording for a while and want to get back into doing a home studio for myself not as a profession. A few yrs back I had an ADAT fed by a Tascam M208 mix, Yamaha SPX90II, RAIA Tube pre and most of the recording was done with a 90's AKG C414 ULS.

I want to do more band recording. Live and piece meal. I still have the AKG 414, 3- 57's, 1-58, 1-Beta 58A, 3- EV PL80a, EV RE-10, Senn e835.

All except the 414 are used for playing live and some should be OK for micing instruments but I'd like to get another vocal mic to record with as my new setup is through a DAW and I'd like to have more than just the 414 to record vocals with. Mine and others.

I used to be a tech before I went into the owner/mgr side and have built Guitar tube amps from scratch and rebuilt a number of others and I'm still using them.
I've also done work on SMT components at board level with just a regular soldering iron and a magnifier so I do know my way around a bench.
I also still have a bench setup, that I need to reassemble as soon as my jam room/studio is finished, consisting of a Scope, Audio Gen., 8 Ohm Load, Frequency Counter, AC/Distortion meter, variac, etc....

Sorry for the loooong intro. If I don't want to spend any more than $250 on another mic am I better off buying one of the less expensive mic's and modding it and if so which one? If I had to pick a voice I'd say I'm closest to sounding like McCartney in range and timbre.

There are a lot of choices to mod: Apex 460 and rebrands, Oktava 219 & 319, MCA SP-1, CAD MXL3000, etc.
Then there are the mic's that some say are pretty good out of the box: MXL2003a, AT4033, KEL HM-2D, MXL 960, RE20, MD421 etc.

Of course some of these can only be had for $250 in the used market which is OK by me.

Suggestions?
The RE20, MD421, and AT4033 are indeed "pretty good right out of the box."
The RE20 is "flat" and "accurate" sounding, OK on a great voice. The 4033 has a unique "EQ'd" sound, interesting hi mid presence, can flatter some voices. Not a bad choice. The 421 is a great all-rounder, a bit hyped in the lows and higher mids, but a nice sounding mic.
The Oktava's can also sound good stock, even better modded. there are mod kits available if you are handy.
A "lush" sounding mic, without much hi or high mid emphasis, but full lower mids.
The Fatheads are decent, but I wouldn't use them on vocals personally. Too dark, and I personally am not a fan of their particular ribbon sound, although can work well on drum room or guitar cabs.
However, for "McCartney" style vocals, of the mics you've mentioned and my experience with them, surprisingly the CAD 3000 might work very well. I've only used the stock version of this cheapie, but on a strong, close-sung vocal at decent but not screamo levels, it worked great. Not the "cleanest" or most "natural" sounding, but did pip that vocal. I believe these can be modded also.
I am not familiar with the KEL or MXL mics. HTH.
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