Hello!

Xaudia offer microphone re-ribboning and repair services.

2011/01/09

False Economy a.k.a. "I can't afford to buy cheap."

Here's a little lesson that I learned (again) recently. Buying cheap, used equipment can cost just as much, or more, than buying new.

RE20 microphone in the Xaudia studio
I recently found an ElectroVoice PL20 microphone for sale on a forum for $200, which translates as about £130. The PL20 is exactly the same (apart from the colour) as the much loved RE20, which is a perfect choice for recording drums, bass, vocals, brass and many other instruments. Considering that these microphones generally go for around £400 here in the UK, I thought I would grab a bargain for our studio. Even with transatlantic postage, duty, and maybe some small repairs, I should come out ahead of the game, right?

WRONG!

The first thing that arrived was a letter demanding a whopping payment of duty and handling for the import.

On unpacking I noticed that the microphone rattled - the capsule was loose. This is actually a common fault with these microphones - the foam disintegrates and the capsule becomes loose. Luckily, replacement foam is available for a small charge from Shuttlesound. I ordered a kit and it arrived the next day.

Time for surgery: Here is an excellent photo-journal showing how to open up an RE20.

The mic comes apart easily - you need to unscrew the XLR connector at the bottom (note the screw turns counter-intuitively), and unsolder it , then undo the hex nut behind it. This reveals the wiring which can be fed through the mic body so the capsule may be withdrawn.

Also remove the grill, which will unscrew once a small grub screw has been removed. On this mic the hexagonal hole had been stripped round, and so I had to carefully drill this out and re-tap the thread.

With the mic apart I unsoldered the capsule, cleaned out dirt and deteriorated foam, and then put it all back together again with the new foam for testing.

The capsule was no longer loose, but the mic still rattled! Something was broken inside the capsule assembly.

I took it apart again and took the top cover off the capsule. Inside I could see that the small black baffle behind the diaphragm had become unglued. This is not good - it can't be reached without removing the diaphragm, and this is like brain surgery.

With nothing to lose, I carefully unsoldered and removed the diaphragm with a scalpel, then re-glued the baffle and reversed the process, and tested. Sadly the 'repaired' capsule had low bass response. It was time to admit defeat and order a new capsule, which did indeed solve the problem. The mic is now back to full working order, and sounds just like the other RE20s.

Total cost:
'Bargain' microphone: £130
International postage: £25
Duty and handling £49!
New foam set + delivery + VAT: £23
New capsule + VAT: £167
+ a couple of hours ordering and fitting bits.

Total = £394

For reference,  Thomann.de sell a package for £399 which includes an RE20, a stand and 10M cable.

Lesson learned.... at least for now.

Oh, and the mic stand clip is missing....