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Author Topic: Mods and how they affect value  (Read 3708 times)

Mark Lemaire

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Mods and how they affect value
« on: August 05, 2011, 08:58:39 pm »

Here on Craigslist in SF, three M50s have gone up for sale as a Decca Tree set. The have all been modded (by Blue Audio, in this case), and are, so it seems, priced much lower than M50s might be if all original.

I don't want to start a discussion of this individual set of mics and how their pricing may have been affected by the fact that they were modded by Blue. I would rather start for discussion of how microphones' values are affected by modifications in general. I expect individual companies and modifiers' names will come up- and I think that's appropriate, as they all do different work that affects the microphones' workings differently.

Typically, an 'all original' microphone usually brings the best price because the buyer knows exactly what he's getting (or he thinks he knows...). Also any 'all original' collector's item from the past commands a high price because that's just how the used market functions. 

But often modification or at least a big overhaul is necessary to keep a microphone working at professional levels. It seems that modifications that do as little as possible to the microphone- especially to the capsule- are most likely to maintain their value. I had a chance to purchase a pair of 'Blue'd KM54s, but was told by my local mic tech (James Gangwer) that the insides of the microphones had basically been replaced with completely new workings. They may have sounded good, but they were only KM54s, at this point, in name only- and so not a good investment.

On the other hand, some microphones command a higher price because they have been modified. This is less common, but it does happen. Thoughts?

Klaus: I hope that this topic does not go against forum guidelines. With that, I'd like to hear other people's opinions on this.
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klaus

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2011, 09:39:04 pm »

Klaus: I hope that this topic does not go against forum guidelines.

Not as long as responses are from first-hand experience, rather than hearsay.
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Klaus Heyne
German Masterworks®
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Mark Lemaire

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2011, 09:51:10 pm »

I agree.  But we will be skirting very close to going against forum guidelines by discussing pricing. As long as it's all firsthand knowledge and firsthand experience, we should be able to have a productive discussion.
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David Satz

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2011, 09:37:52 am »

In 2004-5 as an experiment I had several microphones modified: one pair of AKG C 414-B ULS which Jim Williams converted to transformerless operation; one pair of Neumann KM 84 modified by Klaus; and a Neumann U 87i which got a 3-micron modification from Stephen Paul Audio.

I've since sold the AKGs and have tried to sell the U 87 on eBay. The experience was not positive; I took a beating of several hundred dollars on the AKGs while the Neumann didn't sell in two attempts, again for several hundred dollars less than the microphone plus the modifications had cost me.

Of course, "value" doesn't necessarily equal "what price a given seller can get for an item on eBay at a particular time." Selling effectively on eBay is like selling on television--it requires a suggestive style of advertising, and whenever an item needs to be explained rationally, that raises suspicion and resistance.

With the AKGs, potential buyers emailed me questions about the modifications and their effects. I could answer the technical questions; for example, the signal-to-noise ratio was improved 4 dB and the high-frequency response was lifted slightly, but increased susceptibility to RFI from cell phones was also noted. But I didn't provide a suggestive sales patter full of adjectives of uncertain meaning; I think that was a big impediment. Plus, the "ULS" version of the AKG isn't the model that a lot of non-classical people prefer, so this was addressing a small subset of an already small market.

With the U 87, beyond the standard 3-micron modification I had spent a little extra to have a tiny switch on the amplifier board that allowed two different high-frequency characteristics to be chosen. At least one person who presented himself as a potential buyer quibbled with me about the switch, as if its presence reduced the mike's value rather than increasing it.

Again, though, this is such a small and particular sample of experience that I'm not sure what to make of it. I can imagine that it might have gone very differently under other circumstances.

--best regards
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Nob Turner

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2011, 01:11:24 pm »

Mark-

Though you say you don't want to discuss this particular set of M50's, they do bring up a more general issue: BLUE is pretty well-known to have sold a fair number of "refurbished" old tube Neumanns that I believe contained few if any original Neumann parts. Apparently for a while these were sold through Guitar Center.

I have personal experience of an M49 which I purchased from a GC Pro account rep via eBay that turned out to have no genuine Neumann parts in it. In fact, it had several transistors in it!  Once faced with the evidence, the seller took the mic back for a refund immediately.

So the possibility of mods done to a mic can bring up the question of whether that mic is in any way original.

Mark Lemaire

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2011, 03:12:52 pm »

Gary-

Happy to discuss Blue mods specifically. I just didn't want to make the discussion ALL about that particular deal.

Like I said before,  I had a chance to purchase a pair of 'Blue'd KM54s, but was told by my local mic tech (James Gangwer) that the insides of the microphones had basically been replaced with completely new workings. They may have sounded good, but they were only KM54s, at this point, in name only- and so not a good investment. I've written to the M50 seller and he does not know if the M50s he is selling have had a similar job done to them, but I suspect they have. So I think Blue can be particularly called out as an example of a mod killing the resale value by a tremendous amount- probably upwards of 50%.

I see SPA as another modder worth discussing, as they reskin the capsule, essentially making the cap non-neumann. I have heard that an SPA modded 67 sells at above the price of an original U67 (for example) but have no first-hand proof.

I have four modded Klaus Heyne lg cap tube mics- a pair of 67s and pair of 269s. I needed them reworked by him to make them useful as matched pairs for my purposes as a classical recordist, and I hope that they bring a good price when I one day sell. But it may serve to pay to have him revert them back to original before selling- if that helps the price enough. I know of a Klaus'ed pair of 67s that sold for 13k last year- less than I would have hoped. But it was a BIN on Ebay, and the seller might have made more $$ if he had asked for more....
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2011, 09:05:58 pm »

I have yet to see a Blue M49 or M50 that has any part that's ever been inside a Neumann factory.  I do not consider Blue "Telefunkens" to be modded mics.  I call them forgeries.

That being said, as far as mics that are modded, and their value, I think vintage guitars or cars are worth a parallel look: In collectible and rare guitars, generally, anything unoriginal causes depreciation, even if it enhances the usefulness.  There are a couple exceptions.  In guitars, Strings and Things modded guitars sometimes go far beyond what the guitar is worth on its own, such as in the case of their '68 Les Paul Standards.  Or in cars, a couple famous names can bring value, such as Shelby. 

I have only encountered one name whose mods appreciates the value of a mic, and that's Klaus'.  Not that people who don't know what should and shouldn't be original to a mic won't pay regular market value for mics that have been serviced or altered by Korby, SPA, etc., but I have not seen those go for greater value than stock mics, while I have seen that with KH modded mics. 

And back to Blue, those mics typically go for less than market value or a real M49, M50 or U47, because by now it is well known that they are fakes, nor do they possess the sound of the real thing. 
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Mark Lemaire

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2011, 02:17:35 am »

Perhaps it would be good to consider which modifications preserve what aspects of the microphones' originality, and to what degree. If we assume that (for most mods) the further from original the microphone system is, the more adversely the resale value is affected, then it's worth figuring out which modifications irrevocably change the microphone, and which ones do not. It's also key whether it's possible to return it to 'original' if so desired.

Let's use Blue as an example at hand. I don't know all the answers to this one, but I'm willing to make a few guesses to provide an example:


Basic criteria might be (I'm no microphone tech, so I could use a little help here) :

Is the capsule (after modification) still an original capsule? (with Blue- I don't know)

Is the Power Supply still original, or is it able to be put back to original? (Blue replaces the PSU completely in a 'Blue' box, so I figure this is No and No)

Is the in-microphone modification reversible?  (with Blue, once again: No, as all accounts point out that the inside-the-mic electronics are completely replaced)

What other criteria have I missed? Does anyone agree that my basic assumption about originality? Your thoughts are welcome.
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Jim Williams

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2011, 12:20:54 pm »

One does not go about having a microphone modified in order it increase it's value. It's done to create a tool that responds to the user's wishes.

In that regard, the customer is always right. It's their tool and they can do with it as they please, as they should in a free society.
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J.J. Blair

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2011, 09:02:37 pm »

Is the capsule (after modification) still an original capsule? (with Blue- I don't know)

No.  They use their capsule.

And, in the majority of the Blue47s I've seen, there is no original Neumann part.  I had a very early Blue 47 that had an original Neumann head basket, but I can't remember if I bought that separately from Skipper, or that came on the 47 I bought from him. 

Unlike their M49, the Blue 47 was actually a great mic.  It just isn't really a U47.  But the Blue M49 I used didn't resemble the real thing at all, in terms of sound.
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Mark Lemaire

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Re: Mods and how they affect value
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2011, 10:29:00 pm »

"One does not go about having a microphone modified in order it increase it's value. It's done to create a tool that responds to the user's wishes."

Yes, true. It's worth thinking about what the mic is worth (relative to it's "original self" on the resale market) afterwords, though. The other purpose of this thread is to assist folks considering buying a modified mic, so they can pay what it 's worth without illusion. Many folks have no idea that the Blue M50 trio for sale on Craigslist is not a set of Neumann M50s, for example....

It's ironic that many 'original' mics don't sound as good as one that has been modified in some way- even if the mod consists of replacing busted original components- and yet the original mic may be worth more on the resale market.
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