This year was my first year to go to NAMM and it was eye opening. Who knew so many people out there made ukules. I heard more than I think I ever could have wanted…. oh my.
But other than looking at the instruments I spent most of my time in the pro-audio expo rooms looking at whats on the DIY market and what can be upgraded.
DIY Ribbon Microphones:
Austin Ribbon Microphone Kits had a booth this year that had all sorts of fun ways of encasing their ribbon microphone kits.
Here is a photo of their display. You can see the one on the left one of their kits encased inside of a Revlon Hair Brush. On the far right is one completely exposed with the transformer inside of a Minions head. And the one in the back that looks like a futuristic harmonica mic is actually a 3D printed mic housing.
Now why are we reporting about this? Because it’s DIY audio… duh!
Also because Austin Ribbon Microphones had a deal running during the event that they have not turned off.
UPDATE Feb 2018: Deal so no longer good but the link still takes you to the correct website.
- $49 off their basic DIY microphone kit.
- Free Videos and PDF files on how to build their kits so you can see if the project is going to be too hard for you or not. (BTW its not too hard. It’s only 7 solder points.)
- And the most exciting thing I think they announced a new product this year, the Hot Holder.
This new product is very similar to the XLR soldering jibs that our buddy Ben created to make his Z-Cables. But with one big improvement… silicone. By making it out of silicone there is zero heat transfer to anything. They designed the Hot Holder by 3D printing a silicone mold that they could mount different real connectors into so the shapes would be created perfectly when you put your real connectors into it to hold. This method of soldering connectors is going to be more stable than any alligator clip. And because its made out of solid silicone the weight and texture keep this from sliding around on your work bench unlike those “vacuum suction cups” on the bottom of those none helpful 3rd hands.
The other reason why I’m posting the NAMM special link is Rick’s son (13yrs old) was working the booth selling these Hot Holders hard and for every one he sells his dad was going to give him $5. And because this kid sold me on this invention, I felt the need to pass it on and give this kid all the credit.
This is an odd company. It was founded in China in 1953 by a group of Germans. And while they will sell you a microphone directly they really are a OEM/ODM maker for other brands. Brands like MXL, NADY, CAD, Samson, Studio Projects, Etc…. all rebrand and relabel models from 797 as apart of their microphone product lines. And while this shouldn’t be much of a shock to anyone who reads this blog since we’ve covered the Chinese rebrand issues a few times HERE and HERE. What makes 797 different is this year they have announced they will cater to the DIY community.
I spoke with their NAMM sales rep and she told me for a long time they didn’t want to sell just the parts individually. But after years of being asked they realized why not do it. They already were making them and that it wouldn’t hurt to sell capsules, PCBs and grills separately. So if you want to do a small batch run of microphones or offer a upgrade service to people’s rebranded 797 microphone, contact 797 to get ahold of the upgraded parts.
Other than these two companies most of the exhibitors at NAMM were the ones we see at other conventions. Sure there were the $8000 tube studio condensor microphones that sound AMAZING, but very little of that has anything to do with the TV/Film Industry. It was fun to find out that some of the CineLa shock mounts for microphones are actually 3D printed. It also seems that some of their accessories are also 3D printed. I got to see them at the Scheops booth. As a 3D printer user myself, I love seeing the use of additive manufacturing elements in real life products.
Also I checked out the new Sennheiser G4, it was about as under whelming as I predicted it would be in our blog post last week. There were zero body changes so I believe it should still be a candidate for the SMA mod.
I spent some time in the basement where they put all the shady Chinese wholesale audio makers. I was shocked to find knock off Sennhesier G3 IEM units out in the open at NAMM. Stuff that you normally see on sites like Alibaba where displayed openly with giant posters giving out their “specs”. This was my first time touching one of the G3 clones and I was shocked at just crappy they were built. One thing I guess I never thought about would be that the clones would be made out of 100% plastic. I figured the clones would atleast be. cheap metal since they are making cast molds from original metal parts… nope. They really did feel cheap and flimsy. They average in cost on AliExpress from $160-$200, for that cost just buy a used G2 set for $300 on eBay.
Overall NAMM was a fun show to attend. If you are in SoCal during late January you should try to get tickets to go.
Andrew Jones is a location sound mixer based in Los Angeles. He started in the TV and Film industry in 2004. You can email him at Andrew@HoldForSound.com