Buying Custom Mics


There seems to be a big influx of so called “harp mic builders” popping up in the past couple of years. I think eBay is partially to blame for this, and all the guy’s who are trying their hand at mic building many of who don’t even play since it doesn’t seem to be so very difficult to the average DIY’er to slap a bullet shaped mic together. Beware of these guy’s when looking to buy a quality harp mic. You won’t get one from them! If you’ve been watching, you’ve seen the prices of these mics with Shure CR and CM elements in them skyrocket these past few years. Some people are buying them and putting together very poorly made mic’s with a coat of shiny paint and selling them for $250 to $300 each. Why? Because unknowing beginners are paying big bucks for mics with flashy paint jobs that have Shure elements in them. Many of these uneducated beginners end up with medium or low impedance elements in them that are not properly mounted, as well as mic connectors that aren’t properly installed either. Do some homework before setting out to purchase a harp mic and you’ll get a good quality mic at a fair price.

My strong advice to you is; know exactly who you’re buying your mic from, ask around and get some references. There is a lot more than meets the eye required to build a high quality harp mic. Those of you who have been ripped off know exactly what I mean. There are a few guys out there who are building quality mics, and selling them at fair prices, but there are more guys out there selling junk for big bucks! If you’re in the market for a serious harp mic, ask around! Get the names of people who have proven track records. Don’t do a Google search on “harp mic’s”. This is where you’ll find most of the junk builders. The good guy’s may be there too, but you’ll need to find out who they are. Do a search on the HARP-L forum, and ask around for references.

Most good mic builders will have very few if any mics on hand ready to go. That’s because the guys who know what they’re doing make mic’s to order, and will guarantee them. If you find a site that has all kinds of mics available, all with flashy paint jobs and high prices, keep looking. Chances are the sellers are painters, not mic builders. Most of these guys wouldn’t know a hot CR from a half dead one! You’re better off taking a chance buying an element on eBay.

I have noticed recently that there are guy’s out there now who are adding transformers to low impedance elements and putting them into shells and selling them as high Z mic’s. These mics are being sold on eBay as “high impedance” mics and some are not being described as mics with low Z elements with a transformer installed. Some are actually straight up low Z mic’s that aren’t described as such etc. They use all kinds of tricky language trying to make you think that you’re buying the real deal. Phrases like “the most widely sought after harp mic’s”, and “the original” or ” the granddaddy of harp mic’s” and all kinds of other garbage can be found in their auctions. Be EXTREMELY careful if buying a mic on eBay! Find out exactly what is inside the mic and get element model numbers if possible and compare them to the ones on this website to see exactly what they are if you’re not sure. Unfortunately, there seems to be some people who have nothing better to do but to spend all day every day on eBay looking for the vintage Shure CR and CM elements. They bid on every one they see trying to win them only to put them back on eBay for a higher price, or they’re building crappy mic’s and selling them at high prices. This can make it hard to get one at a decent price, but there are still some being sold at bargain prices. You’ll have to look hard for them but they are there.

There are all kinds of sellers getting in on the action on eBay these day’s. They will tell you that their mics with the transformers on low Z elements will sound as good as any high Z mic when they have no idea what a good harp mic even sounds like! My advice is, “STAY AWAY” from these mic’s. They WILL NOT sound as good the real deal and I don’t care what they tell you! There are also guy’s tearing the elements apart now and rebuilding them with rewound windings. As this will boost the impedance, once they have been taken apart, they usually never sound as good as they did before. For one, there is a pin that was either welded or press fit extremely tightly into another part that once removed can never be put back as good as it was, once it has been removed. The elements were also fine tuned for gain and response with special equipment at the factory before being put into microphones. I highly doubt that anyone has the equipment or capability to do this as accurately. There are also other parameters that just cannot be put back to the exact same specs, mainly, because nobody knows what they are

I have rebuilt many of these elements, and have experimented with capacitors, magnets and many other ideas trying to make these things better. The fact is, they are as good as they’re going to get if they’re in good working order, and once they are taken apart, they’ll likely never sound as good as they did before. If that were the case, I’d be doing the same rebuilding and rewinding the elements. The low Z elements that are rewound to be high Z elements will sound better than they did when they were low Z, but they will not sound as good as a good strong high Z element that has never been taken apart. Thats just the way it is and don’t believe anything else. If money is tight and you can have a low Z element rewound for $20, then it may be a good option, but personally I would never pay for a rewound element if I could buy a (never rebuilt) high Z element for the same or less money, and this is likely the case.

I’m not writing this because I want your business, I’m telling you this to save you some money, and probably a big headache and disappointment. I’ve seen many of the mics that these weekend mic builders are selling because people end up sending them to me, or other reputable mic builders to be fixed. All I’m saying is that if you’re looking to buy a quality harp mic, look around, and ask friends and other harp players who might be able to help you find a good mic builder. Go on Harp-L and ask for opinions. You’ll be able find the guys who build quality mics very easily with a little effort! Building your own mic can be fun and can save you some money, but if you’ve never done it, do some research because there are certain things that need to be done right or your mic may not sound as good as it could. Do it right and you’ll have a great mic and save a lot of money too. If you need some advice on how to build your own mic you can contact me via email and I’ll be happy to help you with any question’s you may have about building your mic or any other question’s you may have. Just click on the email link at the bottom of any page.o adjusted for optimum performance at the factory with special equipment before being put into mics. I highly doubt that anyone has the capability to do this. These elements will work, but will never have the capability to sound as good as the really good high Z CR and CM elements that are out there waiting to be found.