Ribbon microphones are coveted for their flat frequency response and natural sound. If you are thinking about making your own mic, you’re not alone. Audio DIY enthusiasts take on home-built ribbon microphone projects to take advantage of the ribbon’s sonic capabilities and to make their own customised versions for recording and broadcast use.
Understanding Ribbon Microphones
The first step to any successful DIY ribbon mic project is to fully understand how ribbon mics work. Ribbon microphones consist of two magnets mounted in opposing directions, a thin metal ribbon stretched between them, an electrical transformer and connection wires. Sound waves cause the ribbon to vibrate, the transformer converts the vibrations into electrical energy, which is sent to the amplifier and speakers to interpret as sound.
Assess Your Skills
Assessing your skills will dictate the project level you wish to tackle. Basic electronic and soldering skills will do fine for electrical components, but more advanced machining and construction skills will be needed for the housing and structural mounts. Kits are available with all the necessary components, or you may build a mic from scratch if you feel adventurous. Choose a project that fits your skill set for the best results with minimal grief.
Plan Your Design
With a kit, the microphone design will be laid out for you. If you are building a partial kit or a mic from scratch, you’ll need to carefully plan your design from the inside out. Some DIYers use common items to mount and house mic components, and can include anything from empty tin cans to PVC pipes. Study other microphone designs, both manufactured and DIY, and find one that you think you can duplicate or approximate with your available tools and skills.
Build the Microphone
Sourcing parts may be an issue, especially if your needs are very specific. Be prepared to substitute parts that are difficult to get which can put your project on hold. Set up your work area with all necessary tools. Organise the parts, and plan out blocks of time to work on the build. Making notes and taking pictures of the project as you move along will help with future microphone projects, and are a fun and informative way to document and share your knowledge and skill with friends.