Believe it or not, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. I’ve built a microphone before.
This week I will be challenging myself by building the V-251 vacuum tube microphone kit sold by the company known as Microphone Parts. I’m also going to build their VPS1 premium power supply, and am getting the premium Gotham GAC-7 tube mic cable that they offer. This is as premium as it gets, at least for this particular kit.
My intention will not be to keep the finished V-251 for myself (as much as I wish I could), but to sell it at a slight markup. Microphone Parts also sells this kit in pre-assembled form for those who prefer not to build it themselves, but I intend to price my build competitively. If you were to buy this exact bundle pre-built from Microphone Parts, it would cost more than what I’d charge.
I’ve built their S-47 kit in the past, and that has become my go-to vocal mic. Not necessarily the best ever for my voice, but highly detailed, extremely serviceable, and incredible sound quality for the price. It will be interesting to compare the sound of my S-47 to the V-251 once I finish it.
There’s a lot of great recording hardware available in kit form, some of which is not offered pre-assembled at all. I’m testing the waters to see if building kits for people could become a viable side business. I love building audio kits, and I’d love to do it for others. And if I can beat the price of buying pre-assembled directly from the kit seller, I think this could become a real value to customers who want to save a few hundred bucks on great recording hardware without sacrificing anything.
About Tube Microphones
Nowadays, transistors are everywhere. They are the small electronic components that power the logic in your phones, computers, vehicle electronics, modern-day microphones, and much more. But before the transistor was invented, we had vacuum tubes, which served a similar electrical purpose but had their quirks. Tubes (called “valves” in other parts of the world) were bigger, harder to manufacture, required more power, and distorted differently than transistors when over-driven. The most obvious example of tube distortion can be heard in guitar amps. Today, tubes still have their niche uses, mostly among musicians and audio enthusiasts.
I’m greatly simplifying this explanation, but there is plenty more info out there if you do a search for how vacuum tubes work.
What makes tubes desirable among audio geeks is the fact that when over-driven, they add pleasing distortion to the signal going through them. Essentially, this holds true for tube microphones, which add a pleasing distortion to the sound they pick up when it surpasses a certain loudness threshold. For example, a singer who belts a note through a tube mic may trigger this pleasing distortion, while their other un-belted notes will sound cleaner and clearer. This is part of what gives tube mics their unique sound character, and it can add a unique vibe to a musician’s performance.
It also gives tube mics a “vintage” appeal, because their design mimics the great recording microphones of the past which were built on tube-based designs, such as the Neumann U-47 and U-67, AKG C12, and more. Ultimately, it is a matter of individual preference as to which type of microphone produces better sound, tube-based or transistor-based.