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Rens Heijnis mic mods
Old 24th July 2016
  #1
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voltronic's Avatar
 

Rens Heijnis mic mods

Since I've noticed several folks here are fans of Rens Heijnis and his Sonodore mics, I went looking around on his site and came across this page where he describes his microphone mods.

There I read some statements which didn't seem to make sense, and I'm hoping the more engineering-knowledgeable folks here could judge the validity of these statements and/or set me straight if I'm missing something in my understanding.

Here are the sections that stood out, along with a few questions:

Quote:
The problem with a SMD board is that the sound quality of the tiny SMD components are much worse than the old
through-hole components. Plus the SMD board is cheap an tiny, so its now possible to use much more components
and that's what manufacturers do.
Result: a circuit board with to much components which has a bad sound quality.
Why would nearly all the other top manufacturers use SMD components if they were so much worse than through-hole components?

Also, why would they purposely stuff more components onto a board than is necessary? I would think that properly designed equipment contains only what is needed and nothing more.

Quote:
What is wrong with phantom power?
Phantom-fed microphones are inherently less suitable for high-quality audio usage since they work as compressors:
when, for instance, high dynamics are required, strong demands are made on the current supply of the phantom.
As a result, the current supply drops drastically and the stereo image and frequency response collapse with it.
Wouldn't the current only drop that drastically if the phantom power supply was of low quality, or if you're using a mic with high current draw that the preamp is not rated to supply?

How would a drop in phantom current affect the stereo image or frequency response? I could see how noise and dynamic range could be affected.
Old 24th July 2016
  #2
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Use proper P48 from a proper mic amp /mixer/recorder
Plenty of juice for a modern sdc.
Old 24th July 2016
  #3
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by voltronic View Post
There I read some statements which didn't seem to make sense, and I'm hoping the more engineering-knowledgeable folks here could judge the validity of these statements and/or set me straight if I'm missing something in my understanding.
Mostly I suspect this is a matter of perspective. You and I are probably seeking a really good value for the money. What the Rens Heijnis level engineers are seeking, is the best possible sound quality. They aren't that concerned with price.

You're familiar with the concept of diminishing marginal returns, yes? Think of sound quality from a microphone as that s-curve. As you put resources into improvement, you rapidly traverse the toe and the straight line portion of the curve. Where Rens is working, is way up on the shoulder of the curve. Where you put in 20% of your resources to get a 2% gain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by voltronic View Post
Why would nearly all the other top manufacturers use SMD components if they were so much worse than through-hole components?

Also, why would they purposely stuff more components onto a board than is necessary? I would think that properly designed equipment contains only what is needed and nothing more.
They aren't "much worse" to the vast majority of the people using the mics. Most people probably have a hard time telling the difference.

But the people who are really attuned to it, not only can tell a difference but they are willing to work to get that difference. To them, the difference can be large. And they are looking at us wondering what's wrong with us that we can't hear such an obvious (to them) difference and improvement.

These are guys who couldn't stand to listen to your 4061s. Or even a pair of Schoeps CMC6-mk2h.

As to adding more chips... There are things you can do to improve performance of analog circuits. These things don't have to be in the signal path either -- regulation of power, for example. You can also use more complicated amplifier circuits that give you better control and regulation of feedback for example. But you can only do this if you have the physical room, and you can afford to build the circuit boards.

And this is what surface mount can do for the product engineer and the manufacturing engineer. The product engineer gets space, the manufacturing engineer can lower the cost of the more complex circuit board.

What this means is that companies like Schoeps, Neumann, Sennheiser, Gefell, etc. are typically aiming to hit that point just under the shoulder of the curve. Where they get the "biggest bang for the buck" as it were.

Rens' complaint is that they aren't pushing up higher and onto the shoulder of that curve as well. The major manufacturers want to maximize their returns on investment. Rens wants maximum sound quality. These are different goals. Neither is wrong. Neither is completely right. Both have their place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by voltronic View Post
Wouldn't the current only drop that drastically if the phantom power supply was of low quality, or if you're using a mic with high current draw that the preamp is not rated to supply?

How would a drop in phantom current affect the stereo image or frequency response? I could see how noise and dynamic range could be affected.
If you're feeding say eight mics from one supply, and the orchestra you're recording (playing, say, Mahler) works it's way up to a major crescendo to a sustained FFF, you could end up starving your mics for power. Slightly. Instead of 48v, you could sag a little lower maybe. This could effect the amplifier circuits (but this is why there's more chips in the SMD boards -- partly to stabilize power, but I digress), which could cause some roll offs and some dynamic range compression.

But would it be to the degree that you could hear it? Maybe. Maybe not. Modern power supplies and modern microphone amplifiers tend not to have much problem in this area. My understanding is that vintage power supplies and vintage mics had considerably more problems, especially the 12v versions.

Regardless, the bottom line here is that Rens isn't wrong. But he is, for most of us, exaggerating somewhat. For effect. And because the effect is larger from his perspective than it is from the normal user's perspective.

Look at it from another direction. Consider you can buy (in the US, in July 2016), a single Schoeps CMC6-mk2h for $1622. Lets say it's 95% of the way up the sound quality curve of diminishing returns. How much will you pay for an additional 2% improvement? It's not going to cost you $35. Lets say it costs you $400. Would you pay it? Interestingly enough, that's about the cost of a Josephson C617 Set, which is a souped up Gefell, with a Gefell MK221 capsule. BTW, it's 200v internal. And you can make the case that the C617 Set sounds a bit better than the CMC6-mk2.

I'm just sayin' that it all comes down to what you value, and what you're willing to pay for it.
Old 24th July 2016
  #4
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tourtelot's Avatar
Yes. A strong P48 supply should be able to supply ALL the current needed to allow the mic to function to its spec. That's BS sales hype, IMHO.

As well, and this is true; most of us follow the 80/20 rule by instinct. Even those of us who are looking to make "high rez" recordings are not typically trying to get to that last 20% at any cost.

Those who are looking always have outlets to spend their time, money and storage space. Just go to the back pages of Stereophile or The Absolute Sound magazines and you will find plenty of places to "invest" your hard earned cash.

Just my $.02 but I put these mic mods in the same drawer as 192k sampling rates, $5000 RCA-RCA interconnects and $150 duplex outlets. Just me. YMMV (I guess)

D.
Old 24th July 2016
  #5
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Plush's Avatar
What you have to know is that Rens Heijnis is not a hi-fi man or a snake oil man. Rens is the legendary Dutchman who makes the best equipment available.

For EURO 295 he will modify your microphone for better sound. That is for 60 volt mod. New P48 electronics are also done by him. Get a few mics done by Rens and hear the new sound. He has done Schoeps and Bruel & Kjaer for me.

Anyone can hear that better sound because it is manifest as better detail, lower noise, better transient response, MUCH better bass, and no harshness.

Take a harsh sounding mic like a DPA 4006 and Rens turns it in to a fantastic usable mic. He told me he admires the Bruel & Kjaer capsules very much. It's just that the electronics are junky.

I bought a very fancy Rens 60 volt mic preamp running on batteries. This thing is incredible.

Anyone can hear the difference in the RENSmods. Many top classical people work with Rens Heijnis equipment.
Old 24th July 2016
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voltronic View Post
Since I've noticed several folks here are fans of Rens Heijnis and his Sonodore mics, I went looking around on his site and came across this page where he describes his microphone mods.

There I read some statements which didn't seem to make sense, and I'm hoping the more engineering-knowledgeable folks here could judge the validity of these statements and/or set me straight if I'm missing something in my understanding.
The Sonodore omnis really are a superior product, and make it easier to make good recordings. Part of the reason is that they use capsules which are smaller than most other high quality omnis, but with a well designed circuitry which keeps the self noise level down. The mics are more omnidirectional than most omnis, and with less character sound.

The DPA 4060 is similar, in that for the small size of the capsule it is state-of-the-art.
Old 24th July 2016
  #7
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tourtelot's Avatar
Yes, sorry. I take that last statement back. I have never heard this man's microphone mods and it was unfair to generally categorize them as I did. Mea culpa.

I do take issue with the quotes from his web site if these are quoted in context. That's fair right?

D.
Old 25th July 2016
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aracu View Post
The Sonodore omnis really are a superior product, and make it easier to make good recordings. Part of the reason is that they use capsules which are smaller than most other high quality omnis, but with a well designed circuitry which keeps the self noise level down. The mics are more omnidirectional than most omnis, and with less character sound.

The DPA 4060 is similar, in that for the small size of the capsule it is state-of-the-art.
My post had nothing to do with the Sonodore mics; only the mods to other brands.

For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that his top-of-the-line mic, the LDM-54, is a large diaphragm omni.
Old 25th July 2016
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
What you have to know is that Rens Heijnis is not a hi-fi man or a snake oil man. Rens is the legendary Dutchman who makes the best equipment available.

For EURO 295 he will modify your microphone for better sound. That is for 60 volt mod. New P48 electronics are also done by him. Get a few mics done by Rens and hear the new sound. He has done Schoeps and Bruel & Kjaer for me.

Anyone can hear that better sound because it is manifest as better detail, lower noise, better transient response, MUCH better bass, and no harshness.

Take a harsh sounding mic like a DPA 4006 and Rens turns it in to a fantastic usable mic. He told me he admires the Bruel & Kjaer capsules very much. It's just that the electronics are junky.

I bought a very fancy Rens 60 volt mic preamp running on batteries. This thing is incredible.

Anyone can hear the difference in the RENSmods. Many top classical people work with Rens Heijnis equipment.
I'm sure he does very good work, and I wasn't doubting the quality of the product. What I was questioning were some of the claims made on the site, which is why I'm hoping someone with audio circuit design experience will weigh in.
Old 25th July 2016
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

I would love to hear a side by side comparison between modified and un-modified microphones. I love the clear transparent sound from my transformer DPA 4006, but my customers usually prefers the corresponding Schoeps, and I can se why, from a "musical perspective".
I do not find my DPA 4006 to sound "harsh" at all.
Old 25th July 2016
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by voltronic View Post
My post had nothing to do with the Sonodore mics; only the mods to other brands.

For the sake of completeness, it should be noted that his top-of-the-line mic, the LDM-54, is a large diaphragm omni.
SMD uses less solder and is less sturdy than through-hole. 60 volt gives
higher spl than 48 volt. Not very compelling reasons to mod a Schoeps
or DPA mic, although technically justifiable.
Old 25th July 2016
  #13
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Plush's Avatar
Current DPA and older B&K omnis with transformer cannot show off the beautiful Bruel & Kjaer built capsule.

In fact they sound not really very good with a harsh top end that is immediately recognizable here.

Don't fool yourself. DPA has loaded junk electronics in to your very expensive mic. The company is run by hedge fund people--do you know it?
They are cost conscious.

Rens will remedy your troubles.

Stop guessing about what your potentially fine mic can really sound like. Difference is night and day.
Old 25th July 2016
  #14
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If there is something you need to modify, Rens is a good guy to approach about it (understatement). For example, he designed mic frequency modification grids for me that I need for recording close to a source
and I use them often. I accept that like any audio tech related person he has beliefs and convictions.
Old 25th July 2016
  #15
Quote:
Originally Posted by aracu View Post
If there is something you need to modify, Rens is a good guy to approach about it (understatement). For example, he designed mic frequency modification grids for me that I need for recording close to a source
and I use them often. I accept that like any audio tech related person he has beliefs and convictions.
Agree. No sense getting worked up over someone else's opinions. And unless you can quantify it in a way where everyone agrees on what's being measured, it's an opinion. I'd sooner argue religion than high-end audio/video/IT/whatever, because at that level it's all belief and faith.

i think Bruce Watson nailed it earlier. There are folks who can perceive (or believe they can) differences that others can't. Both the differences and the folks who can hear them are NOT ORDINARY (and that's not perjorative).

Everyone gets to make their own choices about whether spending additional money is worth the added value. As long as you're happy and if you're working for hire, as long as the clients are happy, that's all that matters.
Old 25th July 2016
  #16
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Has anyone used the pretty mixers Rens makes?
Old 25th July 2016
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
...Stop guessing about what your potentially fine mic can really sound like. Difference is night and day.
Would it be possible, Mr. Plush, to post a couple of very brief sound clips, from modified and unmodified mics, to illustrate this? Perfectly understandable if legal constraints prohibit this.

Thank you.

DG
Old 25th July 2016
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dgpretzel View Post
Would it be possible, Mr. Plush, to post a couple of very brief sound clips, from modified and unmodified mics, to illustrate this? Perfectly understandable if legal constraints prohibit this.

Thank you.

DG
Yes, that would be very helpful. I work with Jared Sacks, the subject of the Channel Classics equipment link posted above, and he's a huge supporter of Rens. He has both his mic mods, and uses Rens' mixers for pre digitization mixing.

When I record with Jared, I use unmodified DPA 4006A and DPA 4041-SP for a ITU alignment surround array, and have the advantage of only needing less than 8 Meters of cable for each to get to the input of my on stage Merging Horus. Jared has a much longer run, at least 100 Meters, to get to the control room where the mixer and monitoring system are located. The Rens 60 Volt electronics and supply may have an advantage in that case, but I can't hear it when comparing the two systems analog inputs with headphones. The power supply of course has nothing to do with the capsule in the 4006 case, since the capsule is self polarized.

So it would be very helpful for Hudson to share examples of both modified and unmodified DPA 4006's from the same event and recording system.

Last edited by tailspn; 25th July 2016 at 09:54 PM..
Old 26th July 2016
  #19
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Plush's Avatar
Tel call to Rens

Sorry, but I don't have any material recorded with modified and unmodified mics side by side.

The reason people do business with Rens Heijnis is to
gain sonic advantages over equipment built to a price or built for a bedroom. Also when one adds up all the small advantages given by Rensgear such as:
Better dynamic range
No interference from mains supply
Better bass definition
Better transient response
a much more pleasant sound without harshness
60 volt operation with power on a separate conductor

All these things added up contribute to a much better sound.

I have offered my opinion. Make a telephone call to talk with Rens. He will gladly discuss and answer questions.
Old 26th July 2016
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
Sorry, but I don't have any material recorded with modified and unmodified mics side by side.
That's unfortunate Hudson. We're recording the Beethoven 1 and 5 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the end of January. If we don't do a binaural in addition to my 5.0 channel surround, I'll hang a pair of unmodified DPA 4006A alongside Jared's Rens modified stereo pair, and share them both here. The only difference will be the 100 + Meters of special 4-wire cable the Rens amplifiers have to drive, verses my 8 Meters, and the Horus verses Grimm AD-1 converters.

BTW, from all the indications I've received from Jared, Rens is a terrific guy to do business with, and stands behind his products 100%. And I'm glad to hear your disparaging remarks about DPA's "junk electronics" are just your opinion.
Old 26th July 2016
  #21
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Hey Plush-

Are there any of these mics in the USA that might be available for a side-by-side demo? I'd be interested in hearing with my own ears, on my own rig, these mics against my usual Schoeps CMC5 or CMC6 amps.

Without some sort of direct comparison, I'd be hard-pressed to spend $500ish (for a pair) plus whatever a PS costs on the chance that they sound better. I respect your opinion, of course, but it remains your opinion without a direct comparison.

I'd be interested in a test, and I'd report back if there are any demos available.

Possible that I could become a disciple.

D.
Old 26th July 2016
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Reader Beware: I am an amateur nature recordist who is an audiophile in the etymological sense only. I treat the forest like some here treat cathedrals -- lovely spaces whose ambient sonic qualities are often best translated with an omni. I do not make my living from recording. I am but a maniac obsessed with recording animals and the spaces that complement their sound.

I had Rens Heijnis modify my 4006 bodies to his latest design -- a +/- 15V system that runs off lithium batteries. I also picked up one of his preamps. When I got them back, I AB'd one of the modded bodies with a one stock MMP-A. My test was simple and limited: I recorded a few ambient suburban scenes and two crystal wine glasses clinking each other at point blank range.

The difference was noticeable: the modified bodies translated the attack transient of the clink with clearer definition, while handling the odd harmonics, that is, the dynamic irregularity of the sustain's overtones, with ease. This bedroom experiment even passed a test by my wife, who could both determine a difference and preference for one over the other. She said the RH mod sounded "better." To be fair, she said she "guessed" the upgrade was worth it -- but that introduces a household economy that gets us off track.

Voltronic et al. are skeptical and rightly so. I think this work and the kinds of claims that back it up need to be tested throughly. While I have not conducted anything near such a test, the experience I have with Rens' equipment is very positive, and I feel that the only thing preventing me from getting a good capture is myself.

For what it's worth, my intuition tells me that this is not simply about more power. For example, Rens' new offering works with fewer volts. Rather, I think the difference has to do with a carefully crafted system: a very well designed, battery powered microphone preampfification unit, better electronics in the mike body and the removal of the stock filter and the separation of audio and power. I believe these and more come together to make up an excellent system for capturing audio.

Incidentally, I was demoing the 4011 (hence the spare set of MMP-A bodies) and didn't hear anything that made me think it would be worth the modification if I were running cardioids.

As you can see, I'm a non-expert and this is merely my opinion. So please feel free to correct me, and I'll thank you for the lesson.

And lastly, a recording of the 4006 with the modification and the RH preamp. It was captured on an island in the middle of a river full of industrial machinary. Save a light HPF, here is an unedited recording featuring a Bewick's Wren.

A wren for Rens.

https://archive.org/download/wrenshe...ijnis_4116.wav

Last edited by weltarm; 26th July 2016 at 06:39 PM..
Old 26th July 2016
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by weltarm View Post
And lastly, a recording of the 4006 with the modification and the RH preamp. It was captured on an island in the middle of a river full of industrial machinary. Save a light HPF, here is an unedited recording featuring a Bewick's Wren.

A wren for Rens.
That is lovely, whether or not it speaks to the quality of his upgrades I can't say. But that does sound lovely. Thanks for posting.

I too wish there were side by side samples, especially recorded in a hall we all could reference, that we could each have identical monitoring setups etc., but we don't. There are so many things as audio engineers we must go ahead on with our intuition, then do our own tests, over time. I am okay with that process.

It has been noted here before that even the best manufacturers of microphones aren't weighted totally towards quality, and so I am interested in making those marginal (say 2%, or whatever) changes in my equipment.

As I said in another thread, I will be upgrading a pair of schoeps amps and getting the Rens power supply. I am intrigued.
Old 26th July 2016
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by weltarm View Post
And lastly, a recording of the 4006 with the modification and the RH preamp. It was captured on an island in the middle of a river full of industrial machinary. Save a light HPF, here is an unedited recording featuring a Bewick's Wren.

A wren for Rens.

https://archive.org/download/wrenshe...ijnis_4116.wav
I find 'nature sounds' like these just as instructive and worthy of comparative analysis as music recorded in a familiar space. The ability to detect the creature AND its environment simultaneously, the rise-time and decay of the bird call, the absence of HF resonances, noise (hiss/hum/road or air traffic) and the cleanliness of the signal chain can all be determined if one has a reference point of outdoor sounds.

For those who can only compare the sound of a string quartet or a piano in a concert hall with a similar context, it might be a sign to get out of the house more often, and re-calibrate your ears to the sounds your ancestors were surrounded by

Like any sort of discrimination and discernment, it can be learned and fine-tuned given enough exposure and devoted attention to extract the inherent detail
Old 26th July 2016
  #25
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One of the loyal Rens disciples known to all is Judith Sherman. She is a perennial awardee of the Best Engineering Grammy. While this is not a total arbiter of quality, she is using a Rens mixer and mics and power supply to get very high fidelity results. Her records sound great.

It is odd to me that engineers want to listen to anonymous internet sounds where they do not know the origin or quality control on the sounds. I think it's a joke and that's why I never offer these comparisons.

One of the sad parts of the decline of the studio and the decline of recording in general is that engineers don't hang out together in studios any more. If they did hang out they could compare and contrast in person the different sounds.

The Rens mods are not 2% improvements. That's a piece of crap. They are 25% improvements. At least that!

This equipment is rare so I doubt you will find it for rent to try out.

Best way to start is to get your 48 volt microphone electronics replaced by Rens so that you do not need a special power supply. Use the same equipment as before--the only difference being the mic.

This testing method represents a very good way to go about things because, critically, you have changed only one variable.
Old 26th July 2016
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
One of the sad parts of the decline of the studio and the decline of recording in general is that engineers don't hang out together in studios any more. If they did hang out they could compare and contrast in person the different sounds.
I would come hang with you, Plush!
Old 26th July 2016
  #27
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I said:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
But the people who are really attuned to it, not only can tell a difference but they are willing to work to get that difference. To them, the difference can be large. And they are looking at us wondering what's wrong with us that we can't hear such an obvious (to them) difference and improvement.
You said:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
The Rens mods are not 2% improvements. That's a piece of crap. They are 25% improvements. At least that!
Thank you for making my point. I rest my case.
Old 26th July 2016
  #28
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I wouldn't have a Schoeps ccm 8 modified, because although it uses a SMD circuit (I assume), 48 volt phantom power, and is not perfectly symetrical, I am content with how it works as a tool. The search for the best possible, or most approved of gear in the world becomes a not-so-healthy obsession and competition. It's a more artistic challenge to improve the sound of recordings through recording, producing and editing technique.
Old 26th July 2016
  #29
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Alas, another GS thread that goes nowhere. :(

D.
Old 26th July 2016
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tourtelot View Post
Alas, another GS thread that goes nowhere. :(

D.
D., what were you hoping for, a definitive group endorsement? It seems those with direct Rens experience are very happy with their purchased modifications. Almost a Bernie following.

I have a more sceptical view, and no direct Rens ownership. But I do have a first hand (literally) association; I help hump his multiple mixers, power supplies, required special cables (not his repurposed Mogami Starquad) at sessions. The stuff is heavy!

From a practical matter, I paid more than $9,000 for my current model matched set of five DPA-4006A, and more than $12,000 for my three matched DPA-4041SP. Do I believe DPA is either technically dumb enough, not have the design resources, or quasi corrupt as Hudson alludes, to purposively sub optimize the design of their microphone electronics, such that a lone designer with "audio better sounding" components and a simpler design can make them appear as inept? No actually.

But I remain open minded, and if possible, will do and share a stereo side-by-side shoot-out of both the modified and unmodified 4006's in January.

Please remember a fact, as Bruce Watson suggests, that this is a subjective subject. ALL microphones are colored, and one man's/woman's prefered coloration is another's bane. Perhaps a simple balanced device emitter/source/cathode follower is the most natural sounding to some. Gotta love that touch of 2nd harmonic, just like tubes and tape. I wonder what else you sacrifice with this approach?

Tom

Last edited by tailspn; 26th July 2016 at 08:34 PM..
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