DIY Profile: Artur Fisher of DIY Audio Components March 29, 2011 12:07 1 Comment
Artur Fisher does some cool stuff with aluminum foil. Since last year, he has created a hand-made ribbon motor for DIY projects, the RE-154 and the RM-5, a microphone of his own design based on the RE-154. What makes the RM-5 really unique, besides being hand made by Artur in Latvia, is that Artur has made all of the details of its design and construction "open source" via his Designer's Diaries blog. I'm glad to have Artur as the first "DIY Profile."
What's your backround? How did you get into DIY and designing gear? I got into DIY electronics about two years later then I got into pro audio business. I started hanging around the industry when I was 17, started getting occasional payed jobs when I was 18 and got my first full-time employment when I was 19, so I am in the business for 10 years yet. My first job was in the theater as a member of stage sound crew and this was the period when I got into audio DIY. We have had a senior technician who was an engineer in electronics, so he was not just a sound guy, but was also responsible for equipment maintenance and servicing. All the electronics stuff seemed something like a black magic to me that time, but I was very curious about how is it that all these small things inside the amp do factually make sound... So I was hanging around his laboratory when he was doing some stuff and got my first basic understanding on how things work from him. After about half year I have built my first tube amp (home audio), which I still have assembled, but it wasn't what you call "designing" yet, as I have just cloned a schematic I found on the web. Then there were few attempts to make a tube guitar amp, that were marginally successful - well, they did make sound, but it wasn't exactly what I had expected, so I have understood that simple schematic cloning is not likely to work if you don't have a clear idea of what You are doing. So, I started digging old books, internet, following around people who had knowledge and skills, and after about two years after my first tube amp was built, I came to my first design - a tube guitar combo that I have calculated entirely myself from scratch, designed the chassis and made a body. It was my first small success, as some of my fellow musicians got quite excited after trying the amp, so I managed to produce and sell few pieces. I suppose that this was the moment when audio DIY culture became a major part of my life.
Why ribbon mics? Well, because they are a major trend in recording fashion right now - I just fell for ribbon mics once, but I couldn't afford to buy a Royer that time, while cheap ribbons performed way to badly to be seriously used in recording sessions. That was the moment when I asked myself a question - can't I make my own? And the long way started. Research, material sourcing and basic design works took about half-year. From the moment I had my first motor working (read, producing sound) it took another year till I brought a fully assembled good sounding microphone to my studio. I suppose that there wasn't a single session from that moment when I wouldn't use at least one of my microphones some way. In general, from a DIY point of view ribbons are very rewarding, as it is one of the rare situations when you can make something out of nothing. You can make a good condenser microphone using a pre-made chinese capsule, but nothing comes close to the feeling when you have made a working transducer out of raw materials with your own hands - and it is possible, while making your own condenser capsule is way beyond the abilities and skills of a regular DIYer, not even talking about precision machinery that You are not likely to have easily accessible in your neighborhood. There is one guy I know on the web who managed to make a condenser capsule, but from his words, it took him about 10 years to make it sound good.
Tell us about the RM-5. Is it based on anything in particular? If there is something it is based on - it is my design philosophy. I wanted to keep the microphone as simple as possible, as with all of my other designs. I wanted it to be fundamentally classical - no ribbon offsetting, no ultra-extended frequency response - pure old-school warm ribbon sound. I could easily go about 1500 - 2000 Hz up in response, but I didn't find it necessary after testing. I would rather design another model with completely different sonic signature, but I want this one to sound the way it does - conservatively charming. Advantages of modern materials provide elegant shape, compact size and quite high signal output level - these mics are absolutely usable when I just plug them into my Mackie 1640 console without any additional preamps.
On your website, you mention the RM-5 is an "open source" project. What does that mean in terms of a microphone? With "open-source" I mean that all the information about my approach to design is revealed on the site for free (and I will keep updating with more articles, when I have more time), all the materials are easily available on the web and I am open to answer any technical questions people ask me - no secrets. Feel free to make your own microphone and I will help if my advice is needed.
After you fill the current preorder for RM-5s, what's next for you and DIY Audio Components? Next - as always - is to keep working. As I can already see, there is a big interest to my pre-order offer, so I will do my best to keep providing the microphones to people who are eager for a good yet reasonably affordable ribbon sound. I have also started designing a microphone preamp. It is going to be a high-end full-tube transformer-coupled design, but I can't tell You right now when it is going to be released, hopefully by the end of the summer. Most likely it is going to be available as both - DIY kit and a ready to use assembled unit. Join the DIY Audio Components page on Facebook - all the updates are posted there. Thanks a lot to Artur Fisher of DIY Audio Components for doing this interview.