May 10, 2010

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When I used to live in Italy in my teens, I remember the excitement and pride some of my friends shared for their “modded” Motorinos (sadly my mother never even allowed me to ride one…). These bikes were noisy, but ran faster than regular ones. A decade or so later, computer nerds started modding computer processors and musicians started doing something similar to existing musical circuits.

The excitement of this challenging hobby/game/passion lies in putting the individual “modder” in direct competition with the original manufacturers of the product. Michael Joly has turned this game into a successful company (called Oktavamod) that has been producing outstanding sounding modded microphones out of affordable ones. The referral point for most of his mics is the almost universally venerated sound of vintage Neumann mics, with their midrange richness with a sibilance-free top end. In the case of the NT1a, the modifications were made to match its new sound to that of a U87.

If you own a NT1 or NT1a, for $329 you can send it to Oktavamod and get it back upgraded, the capsule replaced with a MJE-K47, defined by Michael as the “result of my painstaking search to find a capsule producer who could manufacture a K47-style capsule to my quality control standards,” and the headbasket replaced with a more open one that will avoid sound coloration. Check out a fun a/b test organized by Oktavamod here: Rode NT1a (mod’d) vs. Neumann U 87 – can you identify the 87?

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