When I was growing up I didn’t have much money to burn, but had a great interest in electronics. This led me to some of the build-it-yourself gear that was around in those days from long-forgotten companies like Heathkit, Dynaco, Lafayette, Allied and Eico. Most of that gear was based on vacuum tubes, so beginners had to absorb being thrown across the room by +450 volts in the learning process (you only needed that to happen once before you were more careful).
Even when we got to transistor gear and the voltages became much lower, the liabilities weren’t, so many kit manufacturers left the business thanks to numerous consumer protection lawsuits and increased insurance costs. That meant for a number of years there weren’t many companies offering audio gear kits, especially high quality ones.
Today we’re lucky in that there are so many manufacturers offering build-it-yourself kits or mod kits to existing equipment. What’s even better, the audio quality can be pretty fantastic compared to the relative cost of the kit and the construction time that goes into it.
If you’re interested in learning about electronics, saving some money, and getting a surprising good piece of audio gear, here are some places to check out.
If you feel like wielding a soldering iron for a few hours, a company called Microphone Parts (microphone-parts.com) provides low-cost DIY kits of modern versions of popular classic mics. The company also provides upgrade parts, circuit boards and capsules for some of existing low-cost mics (like some mentioned above), as well as suggestions for popular modifications.
Another company worth checking out is Mic & Mod, which specializes in replica kits of vintage microphones like the U67, U47, U87 and C12.
Like with microphones, there are a number of manufacturers that now offer preamp and compressor build-it-yourself kits. If you know how to use a soldering iron (or are willing to learn), you can save a considerable amount of money on a great piece of gear, and learn something from building it along the way.
Companies that offer DIY kits include:
- Seventh Circle Audio (seventhcircleaudio.com)
- Five Fish Audio (fivefishstudios.com)
- DIYRE (diyrecordingequpment.com)
- Hairball Audio (hairballaudio.com)
- JLM Audio (jlmaudio.com)
- Sound Skulptor (soundskulptor.com)
- Classic Audio Products (capi-gear.com).
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but there are plenty of audio items that are sure to get your GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) glands flowing. Let me know what I missed and I’ll add them to the list.
You can read more from The Recording Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.