Even though I finished a review of more than 80 small-diaphragm mics last summer (Tape Op #72), I'm
still discovering and testing SD mics and expect to do so on an ongoing basis -probably for the rest of my recording life. For those who missed that article, my tests focused on mono recordings of my Collings C-10 acoustic guitar through a Millennia HV-3 to Lavry Blue converters in my home recording studio. Anything that gets me a great guitar sound gets my attention, and I think I've found yet another mic that you need to know about -the Mark Fouxman mod of the lowly AKG C 1000 S (#35).
According to Fouxman, he stumbled onto the project when a friend of his handed him an old, beat-up C 1000 S and said it was his to keep. "Having heard numerous times that this mic works best when used as a paper weight or a door stopper, I was not exactly thrilled," Fouxman says. "Just a quick listen showed explicitly how it got that reputation -shrill tone with no bottom end that pierced my ears down to the guts."
Fouxman found some schematics online and thought he'd be dealing with an impedance-balanced circuit, but when he took it apart, he was discouraged to find a printed circuit board full of surface-mount devices. Usually this militates against any type of mod, but he spotted a capacitor that could be switched out for a better one and knew that would improve the sound straight off. Fouxman also knew it would take some more manipulations to get a great sound out of the mic, so he did this by losing the foam in the grille and changing the positioning of the capsule. This took a lathe and some rewiring, but the final result stunned him, and I got an email the next day asking if I wanted to hear the mic.
Frankly, I didn't. After all, I had just heard more than 80 this year, but I said, "Yes, send it on." And I'm glad I did. After one night of testing, I knew that this wasn't just a mic I wanted to review, it was a mic I wanted to own. The brittle high end was replaced with a sweet clarity -no harshness whatsoever. And the bottom end was huge. There's no high-pass filter on the mic itself, but I'd definitely use one on the preamp or the DAW when recording acoustic guitar -which is usually what I am recording when a small-diaphragm mic is involved. (Note: Some people would call this a medium-diaphragm mic, but I refuse to make that distinction.)
There's no need to take my word for it. You can go hear it for yourself. For the duration of this issue -until the next Tape Op comes out -I will keep before and after sound files of the Marik AKG C 1000 S mic mod for you to hear. Point your browser to www.proaudiobay.com/AKGC1000S, and you will find out for yourself that I'm not lying or exaggerating about the sound of this monster one bit.
The cost of the mod is a very reasonable $149 plus shipping, and the cost of a new AKG C 1000 S is under $300. Of course, it's pretty easy to pick up used models on eBay for less than $200, so for around $350, you'll have a high-end sounding mic. The catch? Like any other mod, you usually don't get your money back on resale; I don't know why that's true, but it is. Despite that caveat, if it's pure sound you're after at a low cost, this mic is a true contender in the under $500 category. ($149 direct; email@example.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.