More than a year ago Jess and I purchased a pair of Oktava 319 microphones with the express intent of having them modified by Michael Joly at Oktavamod.com. Several years ago Guitar Center was blowing these out at $89 each. They currently go for about $300 new. We found them on Ebay for less than $100 each.
They sound pretty good stock, but according to many sources (including tapeop.com and gearslutz.com) Mike really makes them sound amazing. In addition to replacing all of the electronics with much higher grade components (except the transformer which is great stock) he dampens the body of the mic (stock, it noticeably “rings” when you tap it), removes the high frequency resonator disks, and removes a layer of the headbasket and its supports to achieve a more open sound. He does this all for the low price of $299 per mic – which is very reasonable. A year or so ago it actually seemed like it would fit in our budget… eventually.
As time continued to pass, this $600 investment started to lose priority status. So I did a bunch of research on cheaper ways to get it done…
There’s another guy, Bill Sitler, who does Oktava modifications for a lot less – in the range of $120 per mic. There’s a real air of competition among these two, which is evident in the flame wars that get started on the gearslutz forums. Granted, Jolly appears to be the true master. Check out their websites and this is fairly obvious. From what I’ve gathered, booth of them are doing modifications based on the work of Scott Dorsey, but Mike seems to have done a lot of experimentation and applied a great deal of expertise with many microphones to get to the level of quality and service he offers. Maybe Bill has too… but for me right now even $240 is going to be difficult to set aside. I saw Bill offers a “parts only” kit for $39, and that made me wonder how hard it might be to source the parts and do the whole thing DIY. If I’m going to do it on the cheap I might as well do it myself.
Using the parts list from Dorsey’s article I found everything I needed from two sources:
Toshiba 2SK170BL FET – Ebay. I picked of a lot of 8 for $9.99 with free shipping. (I’ll only need one for each mic.)
Everything else (caps & resistors) – Newark. Components for 2 mics for $34 including shipping. (They were one of the only places I found 1G ohm resistors in stock.) Here’s a PDF of the specific components I ordered.
So, for less than $44 I have all the components on the way to modify the electronics of both mics. They may not be as custom matched as Michael would put in, but they should still provide a major improvement. There will be a few other expenses: damping materials and, if I’m ambitious, paint. I’ll also need a bit of practice with the dremel tool. It should be a fun, and hopefully rewarding winter project though!
UPDATE: part two