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DIY Condenser Microphones On The Cheap

These days, boutique recording mics like the Manley Reference, Blue Kiwi, Nuemann U87 and the like are more expensive than ever. Most of them are financially unattainable to budding home studio owners. A lot of people have asked me what’s the best bang for your buck on a large diaphragm condenser mic for all around utility and vocals.

Meanwhile, cheap knockoffs like the Carvin LDC CM87s and Avantone CV-12 seem to get cheaper and cheaper. I wrote a great blog HERE about converting a $200 CV-12 into a AKG C12 clone that sounds very similar to the $10k original as I discovered on a Bjork session!

In 2009 I was working on Bjork’s Volta album, setting up mics and cables, where the chief engineer demo’d the C-12 with the CV-12 and everyone in the room was blown away how similar these two actually sounded! I guess there’s a reason Taylor Swift loved this mic too. At $200 it can’t be beat.

Changing a few parts on this mic to achieve top tier quality is like putting new tires on a Honda Civic and all of a sudden you have a Bughatti Veyron. It’s an incredible yield for such a small investment, it’s really an unparalleled ROI. If you have basic soldering skills (or a couple bucks to have me do the work for you) you too can own a $10k mic for under a G! Here’s some great pics from the last build I just did (below).

“It makes a few hundred bucks and a bit of time sound like a $20k microphone. Completing these modifications is like putting new tires and headlights on a Honda and all of a sudden it performs exactly like a Bughatti. I can’t think of a bigger return on investment than building one of these incredible mics.”

The mic below was a cheap $100 Carvin u87 clone that I gutted from scratch and populated with a custom PCB from microphone

We used the RK-12 capsule for that true C-12 tone and the entire audio signal path was completely replace with a kit something like THIS.

I even built a mic box from left over plywood, hinges and a custom made locking mechanism

If you’re new to soldering, check out THIS tutorial on proper solder technique but trust me, it’s as easy as using a glue gun once you get the hang of it. I started building RC car servos and motors at age 12 and never looked back. Now I make EQ’s, Preamps, Compressors, mics and time based effects from scratch in my home for almost nothing! Viva la DIY culture!

Down to the frame rails!

Here’s a thread I started on about how to complete these mods with tips for those interested in tackling such a feat. If you’d rather buy one already completed, I sell them at my Reverb shop Here.

You don’t have to stop with mics, check out this old sinking boat of an organ (Vox Continental) that I restored. With some simple elbow grease and tolex, this old gal went from Cinderella the step daughter to Cinderella the bell of the ball!

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