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Author Topic: Oktava MK-219 mods  (Read 11741 times)

josh

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Oktava MK-219 mods
« on: May 07, 2004, 10:09:22 AM »

Hey all-

I think this is the forum for cheap mic talk...  

My old favorite cheap mic was Studio Projects B1, which sounds great if you have a warm or dark-sounding source to record...  it's a bright mic with a crisp top end and lots of detail, and it'll really wake up a not-so-great acoustic guitar or snare drum with a dead head, shines on anything where you need a little extra sizzle.

However, once I got my Breedlove I found that it really didn't work at all for that guitar, the guitar's got enough top end already and it sounded strident with the B1.  So on the hunt for a darker-sounding, but still detailed mic, I bought a couple of Oktava MK-219's.

They immediately sounded killer on snare drum and I almost left them alone for that, but they sounded boxy on vocals and other instruments so I thought there was something missing that maybe could be improved.  Enter the grille mods.

I am sure many of you have heard about grille mods for the Oktava MK-219.  It's surprisingly easy to pop out the mesh grille without bending it, snap out the "bars" in the body over the grille with a pair of wire cutters (the aluminum cast body is really soft), and then file the nubs flat, stick the mesh grille back in with a touch of super glue.  You have to find a way of reliably grounding the mesh otherwise the mic will hum (I used copper tape, a strip running from the opening at the base of the mic where the connector ground housing is, up to the grille).  

The result is even more killer on snare drum, more detail, and fixes the boxiness resulting in a very smooth, liquid, dark-sounding LDC that's suddenly a useful tool to tame the raspy, strident vocalist you might need to record or just to knock the edge off of an instrument without losing the detail or air in the top end.  The sound is kind of like the body and color of an SM57 with much more air in the top end and a lot more deail.

I did this to both of my 219's and on one of them I also removed the plastic resonator from the front side of the diaphragm.  That definitely changed the sound as well, seems it has more top end extension and not as much "presence" than before...  smoother top end, but not as crisp, more laid back, better for acoustic guitar but not as great for snare drum.  I will record with it soon and see how it does on kick drum.

I thought the $35/ea I spent on my Behringer ECM8000's was the best money I had ever spent on mics, and maybe it still is...  those mics will do just about anything acceptably and some things very well and cost next to nothing. Studio Projects B1 got really close to the Behringers in terms of bang:buck ratio.  But I think the Oktava mics, with the grille mods, are now the top of my list of value mics.  They are not as versatile as the Behringers, but they definitely shine on important things (vocals, snare drum, guitar cabinet) enough to make them worth 2x the cost (especially considering now the Behringers have gone up to $49/ea, and you can often get MK-219's for that).

More cheap mics I need to try:  MXL 990 is almost too cheap to believe at Musician's Friend for $59 including a shock mount and an aluminum case.  MXL V67G is also pretty hard to pass up at $99.  My next round of mic money is going for one or both of these, with the V67G first.  If I really come into a windfall of gear funds, then a MXL V69ME will be my next purchase.

Later-
-josh

bloodstone

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2004, 10:25:29 AM »

Does anyone know of someone who can perform mods to the electronics of an Oktava ML 52 ribbon?
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Greg Youngman

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2004, 10:39:17 AM »

While we're on Oktavas... GC would have weekly specials on 012s or 219, 319s.  I was picking up a pair every week.  It was a no-brainer.  Now, I don't even see any Oktavas listed on the website.  Anyone know why they're not selling them anymore?

It would be interesting to do a frequency response plot of the 219 before and after your mods to see what's going on.

TNX  
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josh

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2004, 10:58:15 AM »

GY wrote on Fri, 07 May 2004 15:39

While we're on Oktavas... GC would have weekly specials on 012s or 219, 319s.  I was picking up a pair every week.  It was a no-brainer.  Now, I don't even see any Oktavas listed on the website.  Anyone know why they're not selling them anymore?

It would be interesting to do a frequency response plot of the 219 before and after your mods to see what's going on.

TNX  



Yeah, that'd be interesting...  I don't really have much of a way of measuring that though.

I bought my two MK-219's at GC just about two months ago.  They had a ton of them.  I can't imagine that they don't have them any more.

MF does not have them.  GC seems to be the "exclusive retailer", even though GC/MF are the same company last I heard.

bloodstone

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2004, 11:43:21 AM »

I was talking to a Guitar Center assoc (the brick & mortar equivalent of Musician's Friend) and heard that they are having problems getting stock from the distributor.  
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LanceSexington

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2004, 01:49:28 PM »

Here in Kansas city...there is a brick and morter Musicians Friend...(the distributer where all the returns go to, and stuff is shipped from). I bought my 319 for $30 there.

The best mod of the MK219 is the MK319 Very Happy Remove the cover when using it...you may need to use a saw...be careful.
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Wayne

josh

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2004, 03:04:36 PM »

LanceSexington wrote on Fri, 07 May 2004 18:49


The best mod of the MK219 is the MK319 Very Happy Remove the cover when using it...you may need to use a saw...be careful.


From what I've heard (no direct experience to back this up, but knowledgeable people have remarked), the 219 and 319 both have issues with body resonance "ringing", but the 219 is much easier to "cure" of this problem than is the 319.  In fact, using a Sabra-som type shock mount (I made a homebrew one for mine with embroidery hoops and ponytail elastics) dampens the MK-219 body and eliminates the ringing.  I understand the "rings" inside the 319 (?) are not nearly as easy to silence.

Anyway, the windscreen design of the 319 is certainly an improvement, but not likely any better than the modified 219, and certainly not worth the extra $30 GC wants for a 319, and not worth the extra bulk.  The "flat" shape of the windscreen of the 219 is part of what makes it a great snare drum mic...  you can easily get it in there without being in the way.

bloodstone

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2004, 03:22:53 PM »

josh wrote on Fri, 07 May 2004 20:04

LanceSexington wrote on Fri, 07 May 2004 18:49


The best mod of the MK219 is the MK319 Very Happy Remove the cover when using it...you may need to use a saw...be careful.


From what I've heard (no direct experience to back this up, but knowledgeable people have remarked), the 219 and 319 both have issues with body resonance "ringing", but the 219 is much easier to "cure" of this problem than is the 319.  In fact, using a Sabra-som type shock mount (I made a homebrew one for mine with embroidery hoops and ponytail elastics) dampens the MK-219 body and eliminates the ringing.  I understand the "rings" inside the 319 (?) are not nearly as easy to silence.

Anyway, the windscreen design of the 319 is certainly an improvement, but not likely any better than the modified 219, and certainly not worth the extra $30 GC wants for a 319, and not worth the extra bulk.  The "flat" shape of the windscreen of the 219 is part of what makes it a great snare drum mic...  you can easily get it in there without being in the way.



ALso, the 319 casing is made from old Commie Mortar shell casings, so they're pretty tough to saw.  Some people use  a Sawz-all.   Razz
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Marik

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2004, 04:53:23 PM »

<Does anyone know of someone who can perform mods to the electronics of an Oktava ML 52 ribbon?>

Bloodstone,

I was playing quite a bit with mine. There is not much electronics inside of it. It is a capsule and transformer only. I would suggest replacing stock transformer for high quality Lundahl LL2911. Grill rings like crazy--you need to dampen it-try to put a couple rubber rings around it. To see what the grill actually does to the sound, take it off and try to record without it--you will see what I mean. On the capsule there are resonators--metal jobies on each side, glued to the body. Pry them off. Although they kinda help with HF response, the sound is smeared with them. The biggest problem is that this is a double ribbon mic, and in most cases both ribbons are not tuned properly and seriously mismatched.
Also, since the ribbons are very narrow, their impedance is around 1.3 ohm (vs. 'normal' 0.1-0.25 ohm), so the mic is very sensitive to input impedance of your preamp and if it is too low, the ribbon will get loaded at HF, resulting further HF cut.
Also, I replaced the stock magnets with high efficiency Neodymiums. It boosted the output by a few dbs. In order to get some kind of high end out of the mic, I converted one of the ribbons into an omni by means of carefully tuned acoustical resistance right behind of it and changed connection of the ribbons, so I got a nice cardioid pattern and much better high end.
I recorded acoustical guitar of some steps I described above. If somebody is interested, I can convert it into MP3 files and post.

BTW, I had a big thread on ECM8000 mods on HR. At the end of the thread there are some OH and guitar clips. Have a look:
 
http://homerecording.com/bbs/showthread.php?t=111051
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josh

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2004, 05:46:18 PM »

Marik,

Man, that thread on ECM8000 mods, amazing.

I think I might do the mods, but I wonder if I can without replacing the capsules?

Wow.

Greg Youngman

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2004, 06:06:24 PM »

Anyone able to post the specs on the Panasonic WM60 capsules?  I may have found some info on replacements.
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Greg Youngman

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2004, 06:32:27 PM »

These small, cheap condenser elements like the ECM8000 uses are intriguing.  I was looking for specs for the Panasonic and came across a lot of different manufacturers.  I wish I had some time to experiment.

http://www.jlielectronics.com/about.htm

Mouser electronics has some Horn brand.

http://www.mouser.com/index.cfm?&handler=data.listcatego ry&Ntt=*horn*&terms=horn&Dk=1&D=*horn*&N =0&crc=true

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Marik

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2004, 02:18:43 AM »

<I think I might do the mods, but I wonder if I can without replacing the capsules?>

Josh,

Yes, you can do it without replacing the capsule, however, the output level of original WM60  will be significantly lower, connected as a source follower. I choosed WM61 instead, because it has higher output, and is about 3-4db lower noise level... and it costs less than $2. Also, WM60 is currently out of production. Although it is not in the tread, I changed the stock tip  and also, cut from the capsule its resonator (that's how final tracks were recorded), as both of these influence the sound in significant way and make it harsh and  unmusical.


<Anyone able to post the specs on the Panasonic WM60 capsules?>

http://rocky.digikey.com/WebLib/Panasonic/Web%20data/WM-60A. pdf  


<These small, cheap condenser elements like the ECM8000 uses are intriguing.>

Yep! According to Michael Joly, early Earthworks used stock Panasonics with Linkwitz mod. On the other hand, Harvey says that they used custom ones made by Panasonic exlusively for them, but it probably happened later.
Anyway, these capsules are very simple in their construction, so are very cheap to manufacture. Their small size makes all the tolerances less critical. Low sensitivity and higher noise is still a problem...
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Mark Fouxman
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hargerst

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2004, 09:06:34 AM »

Marik wrote on Sat, 08 May 2004 01:18

Harvey says that they used custom ones made by Panasonic exclusively for them, but it probably happened later.


I'm only quoting what David Joesephson told me at an AES show, when we got into a conversation about the various small capsule omnis on the market.
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Greg Youngman

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Re: Oktava MK-219 mods
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2004, 10:12:04 AM »

Marik
Thanks for posting the specs on the WM60a.

Better specs than the Horn or other brands I've seen.  Looks like JLI still makes a capsule that's equal or better than the WM60A.  It would be interesting to build a 5.1 array using them.  Could be very small and easy to set up.  If someone had the time and a little money, it could be profitable.
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