Cheap DIY Mic Sounds (And Looks) Damn Good

As any musician, podcaster, or youtuber will be quick to tell you, there’s no substitute for a good microphone. They’ll also be quick to tell you all about their favorite microphone, why it’s better than all the others, and how much it cost (oh, and how round it sounds, whatever that means). But what if you could build your own that sounds as good, if not better, and do it for only $30?

That’s what [Matt] from DIY Perks set out to discover when he built his DIY USB-C Microphone. He was able to source the same microphone capsule that can be found in his high-end, $600 CAD E100S, and built a simple pre-amplifier that bumps its quiet output up to line-level. He even connected it to the mic module with some custom cable made from two tiny enameled wires that won’t transmit bumps and vibrations, wrapped inside desoldering braiding which acts as a shield. He fed the output from the pre-amp into a cheap USB audio interface and voilà! — top-notch sound for next to nothing. Make sure you check out the video below to hear a comparison between the mic and its professional counterparts.

Of course, sounding good isn’t quite enough. [Matt] wasn’t satisfied until the piece looked the part as well, which is why he encased the mic module in custom-bent brass mesh shielding and tubing (which also helps to reduce electrical interference). The brass cage sits suspended via rubber o-rings on a beautiful bent brass mount, which sits atop an articulated brass arm of [Matt]’s own design. Finally, the arm is mounted to a wood and brass enclosure that also serves to house the electronics.

And, in true open-source fashion, the video description is full of links to parts, schematics, and templates in case you want to build one of these beauties for yourself. Between this fantastic build and this other, super-overkill scratch-built USB microphone we featured earlier in the year, there has never been a better time to make yourself a mic you won’t have to trade your car for.

Thanks to [RichV] and [BaldPower] for the tip!

30 thoughts on “Cheap DIY Mic Sounds (And Looks) Damn Good

      1. No. Desoldering braid is a dumb, redneck solution. No sane person would use rosin-impregnated braid for a shielding application. It will age very poorly indeed.

        Just buy proper braid, or take apart some RG58 or RG59 or RG174 coax.

        Or liberate a shielded pair from dollar store earbuds.

        Or, for Pete’s sake, just get correct microphone cable in the first place!

        1. No de-solder braid I’ve ever had has been rosin-impregnated, you flux the bit you are about to use yourself… And it looks good, which is kind of the point.

          Don’t disagree though if you are going through so much effort its worth doing it so it lasts, and picking up a reel of shielded cable and some pretty braid for it isn’t a huge cost.

  1. Thirty dollars my furry behind. Maybe if you have all the brass and wood already in stock. Factor in all the shipping costs and surplus you’ll have to purchase and I’ll be surprised if you can build this for less than a hundred dollars.

    1. Although I agree with what you say, some people have more time than money (and a good collection of ‘bits’), and this is an excellent thing to spend that time and those bits on – rather than getting fat whilst eating pizza and watching GOT or endless reruns of MASH.

      I on the other hand have neither time nor money, so I salute the effort.

  2. The past decade has been a really great time to make your own decent mics. Just google “diy microphones” and you’ll get tons of hits – everything from the active forums to complete kits if you want a more polished end result. Also google “alice microphone” – it’s an almost famous DIY mic, with many fans.

    The mic capsules are where the magic happens, but the rest of the mic parts have important functions too. The housing of course protects the capsule, but is also involved in shaping the bass response and mic directivity. And for mics that venture out of the coddled environment of someone’s desktop, there are other real world considerations like powering considerations (eg battery or phantom), RF and electromagnetic interference, wind, weather, humidity.

    But yeah, if you have the time and buy some good capsules, you can make some very good mics for very little coin. Besides the JLI capsules, the Primo EM272 omni electret capsules offer outstanding performance and extremely low noise.

    1. “The mic capsules are where the magic happens”

      Not necessarily, perhaps. A quality microphone can be made out of a loudspeaker. The bigger cone/membrane helps to contribute to “fuller” audio experience, maybe. A simple one-transistor-amplifier can then do the active part of an condenser microphone. Or we could use a nuvistor or battery electron tube (?) as an amplifier.

      1. A loudspeaker IS a mic capsule, when used like that. So you haven’t contradicted me. But I’ve never heard a loudspeaker-as-mic sound as good as an electret mic capsule. And there’s the obvious issues of needing a larger housing.

      2. Decades ago, “building a microphone” meant actually building the transducer.

        Then for a while, it was about using a small speaker.

        But when electret capsules became available, “making a microphone” became “put a capsule in a case”.

        There’s a reason for the shift to electrets. Not only are they cheap, but they have very good frequency response.

        A speaker is a dynamic mic. A condenser mic is capacitive, but needs a high voltage charge. An electret is a self-charged condenser mic.

  3. I think I’d 3D print the housing, and most of the other parts. And the solder braid (and brass) is going to get discoloured over time, although it might look cool as it takes on an aged patina.

  4. I know I’m missing something, but why does he use an amp to bring it up from 5vdc to +-15vac and then back down to 5vdc? The +-15vac amp probably would’ve improved the fidelity on its own but then bringing it back into a dac afterwards seems a bit pointless and inefficient, why not just go straight into a dac instead, like one of these guys
    and cut out the middleman?

  5. Mic capsule is sold out. Pretty much means this is a useless project in terms of anyone wanting to duplicate it. For $100+ in parts and if your time is worth something then for most people just buying a microphone of same quality will end up being cheaper. It’s so big too, so you’d be constantly accidentally bumping into it. I love 99% of the projects on Hackaday. This is the 1% that was a let down.

    1. TSB-25AXZ3-GP Is the same capsule with slightly different housing. Would wire up the same way, and would be slightly more directionally functioned, preventing more ambient sound than the original. However, it is possible to have the directionality turn into a bad feature if you are using it for computer communication, as often those need to have more broad pick up with more selectivity focused on volume than on direction.

  6. I came here and read this so I could have a good whinge about something, but it’s been a total let-down, as I could find nothing to really whinge about—*BECAUSE*—it’s a great little project and looks cool in the brass. Reminds me of one of the various deco-looking instruments sitting on Mobius’s desk in the hidden Krell laboratory (just off Dr M’s living room to the right). Looks a fun project to whittle away on and not too shabby to look at!
    Oh! But don’t forget the fact that you can just buy all this stuff partially or fully assembled by a Shenzhen preteen, of course.
    Otherwise, seriously well done mate!

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