DIY Recording Equipment FAQ January 20, 2016 12:56
Why should I build my own gear?
- To save money on gear. For example, our L2A Reamplifier kit is about half the price of an assembled equivalent.
- To obtain vintage gear you'd never get your hands on otherwise. Just because Neumann doesn't make the U-47 anymore doesn't mean you can't!
- Build cool stuff that doesn't exist on the commercial market.
- Deepen your understanding of the tools of your craft.
- Build something amazing from scratch.
Is DIY gear really as good as the commercial stuff?
Yes, sometimes better. If the design is good, the components are good, and it's built relatively well, the gear you build yourself will be every bit as good as a similar commercial unit. While every manufacturer would like us to believe their gear is magic, at the end of the day they use the same basic components and are subject to the same laws of physics as the rest of us.
I say "sometimes better" because commercial manufacturers often make design or component-quality compromises to meet a certain price point. As DIYers we have the luxury of setting our own price points, and so can choose to use an over-rated power supply, boutique components, a heftier chassis, etc.
Ok, so if it's really just as good as the commercial stuff, why is DIY so much cheaper?
- Commercial gear makers do lot more than just put components together. The brilliant people who design great pieces of gear and invest their time and money to bring that gear to the market deserve to be well compensated. Check out our podcast on "Why is Pro Audio Gear So Expensive"?
- If you are counting your DIY time in terms of dollars, it's often not any cheaper than buying retail. The real savings tend to happen at the extremes of the spectrum, with cheaper stuff like mic cables, which are really cheap to DIY, and the really pricey stuff, such as the Drip 670 which costs roughly $45,000 less than the original.
Do I need to understand electronics to build gear?
Nope! Building gear from a kit is more like putting together a puzzle than troubleshooting your home wiring. It requires patience and care, but no knowledge of electronics theory.
Is building electronics dangerous?
If you stay away from high voltages (tubes!) and wall power, then no. This is why all of our beginner kits are completely passive, and why the 500-series is so popular in the DIY community.
But isn't soldering difficult/dangerous?
True, soldering involves melting metal with a hot pointy thing. But with a little care and practice, it really is so safe that kids and do it. Making perfect, shiny solder joints 100% of the time does take a bit of practice, but it's nothing you can't handle and basic audio projects don't require 100% perfect soldering anyway. Think of it like learning an instrument: anybody can learn C-G-D on a guitar on guitar in a couple hours, and that's all they need to know to play a good number of songs.
What if I break something or get stuck on a project? I don't want to end up with a pile of broken parts.
Five years ago, I would have said this was a very valid concern. However, today there are several companies offering full kits with step-by-step instructions and support, so there's very little danger of completely botching your first project.
How much do I need to spend on tools to get started?
About $50. Better yet, borrow tools for your first project!
Is building my own gear one of the steps on the way to studio ninja-hood?
How do I get started?
What does a resistor do? What's a BOM? Etc.
My question wasn't answered here—what should I do?
Ask us! And and help us improve the FAQ by posting your question in the comments below. We'll get to it as soon as we can.