As we get further into the new year, savvy studio owners clear out closets, take stock of what tools have been collecting dust, and decide what to repair, what to jettison, and what to sell to help soften their tax burden. Today we explore a fourth option: Gear Mods.
Designing sustainable hit products for a broad market requires that manufacturers look for places where they can shave costs: A savings of five cents on resistors here, a few dollars in loosened quality control there, and developers can strike a useful balance between cost, performance, and sustainable profits. By their nature, economies of scale require compromises- compromises that the re-designers we visited refuse to make.
The first stop on our tour of the re-tools brought us to OktavaMod’s Michael Joly. Joly is a personable and responsive tech who has made a name for himself by designing upgrades for the most popular offerings from Rode, Blue, Apex, and of course Oktava.
It’s been years since Joly began toying with one of the first affordable large-diaphragm condenser microphones available in the U.S., the Oktava MK-219. Although this Russian-made mic featured sturdy build quality and respectable sound, Joly wondered what corners he could paste back on the microphone to help it better stand up to the venerable U87, whose role it hoped to fill at a fraction of the price.
“I spent a lot of time studying the mic, just holding it, looking it over and asking questions,” says Joly. One of the first things he did was cut off the front grill slats and convert the thick protective mesh to a single resilient layer. “That change alone makes the open area larger and reduces the internal coloration of the head-basket. Right away you have a mic that’s much more clear and accurate. The transient response instantly improves…