Monday, November 5, 2012

DIY Lo-Fi Telephone Microphone


Here's an easy way to get the "telephone" style lo-fi vocal effect for your recordings, simply use a telephone! To make the telephone mic you will need an old telephone handset, an output jack, and some wire.

The first thing you need to do is take apart the handset by unscrewing the speaker and mic caps. Next, remove the mic element, which you can save for another project. Most telephone mics are carbon microphones, which require a power source. This isn't incredibly difficult, but using the speaker in the earpiece as a microphone yields a similar sound with much less effort. All you will need to do now is mount the output jack, wire the output jack to the speaker, and install the speaker as the mouthpiece. Replace the caps, plug it in, and there you go!

Please note that you can easily use the speaker as microphone trick with a lot of different types of speakers. In this case, some of the resonance from the phone handset help to give the lo-fi "telephone voice" sound. This mic will also work on drums and guitars, or anything you are looking to make sound trashy. Have fun and enjoy!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Other DIY Acoustic Treatments

In addition to the corner bass traps, I have made some broadband absorbers for my home recording studio. To make these, I used a 2' x 3' frame of 1"x4" lumber, painted black, along with a single panel of 2" Owens Corning 703 Rigid fiberglass insulation. For the broadband traps, I chose to use some burlap coffee bags to cover the insulation to add a different and interesting look, and inserted these into the painted frames. These panels hand easily from some screws in the wall, and were placed along the side walls of the mix position and behind the monitors. Additionally, I have one broadband panel mounted to the ceiling between the monitors and the mix position. Remember, all flat hard surfaces produce reflections across the frequency spectrum, and these broadband absorbers are effective down to around 200 Hz.

 For some additional reduction in mid to high frequencies and flutter echo, I have made some different treatments for the rear of the room. Again I have used 1" x 4" lumber frames measuring 16" x 32" and  covered in burlap. I stuffed these panels with regular pink R-13 insulation, with the paper side to the wall. These rolls of insulation can be found at most big box hardware stores for cheap. When compared with acoustic foam panels, the effectiveness of regular insulation holds up quite well. Check out these graphs from F. Alton Everest's "Master Handbook of Acoustics", comparing the absorption of foam(Fig 9-12) vs. fiberglass insulation.


Along the back wall of my room, I have a 6' x3' diffuser/absorber panel to go along with the corner bass traps. This simple treatment is quite cost effective, at less than $30. You can check out more about this particular homemade treatment and plans at

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A conversation with an old friend

I'm not sure what specifically inspired this, but I have been thinking a lot about my old friend, the Yamaha FB-01 synth module. I picked up this MIDI controlled FM synth box back in 1995 for $100, and it was one of the best purchases I have made. You can now find these regularly on E-Bay for around $50.  Over the years, the FB-01 has found its way on to most of my releases, and even survived my apartment/studio robbery in 1999. I guess it just didn't look impressive enough to steal. If you are not familiar with this box, it uses the same 4 operator FM synthesis as the DX-100 and TX81Z. The only problem is that you can not edit any patches without an external editor. For years I never really cared, I just used the factory presets (RubBass was my fave!) with maybe some external filtering or effects. I have used the presets in this box for kick drums, basses, pads and various FX over the years. Recently, I found a decent, free editor for PC's that works pretty well. You can check the editor out at:

With the background out of the way, I can get to the point. I like to make music, and have been in a musically creative rut for a while. Sometimes I think that limiting your tools can help inspire creativity, so I gave myself a challenge: to create a track using nothing but unaltered sounds from the FB-01. You can check out this little house tune in the video below, and see for yourself what one of these machines can do. All but one of the sounds used in the video are factory presets, as I haven't had the time to create a bunch of new patches yet. I only used sounds recorded in mono from the FB-01 into Pro Tools. I have not applied any additional effects, only adjusted levels and panning.

Patches Used:
-Custom patch based on modified Harp

I still think it sounds pretty good for a cheap synth module from 25 years ago, that is still widely overlooked. It has been nice to catch up with my old friend, and I'm pretty sure we'll be working together more soon!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Home studio remodeling, part 2

After spending most of my available time working on this project, my studio remodel is nearly complete. I have finished and installed all of my DIY acoustic treatment, cleaned, painted, and rearranged some of my gear. After installing all of the treatment and bass traps, the only thing I can say is "why did I wait this long to do this?" While it is difficult for me to quantify without testing, the bass response is much more clear and defined, with greater stereo imaging. I have yet to work on a serious production or mix, but in my preliminary noodling around I have been able to make better decisions regarding the low end frequencies on some of my work.

I will be posting sometime soon about my other DIY acoustic treatments, including how I made them, and what they accomplish for my room. 

Here are some pictures of the "new" setup:
Workstation view #1, and yes that is a lava lamp on the right above the rack gear.

Workstation view 2, including the door and how I made a trap work there.

Records...and some mics & other stuff.

The back wall.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Building your own bass traps

To build each bass trap panel you will need:

 2- panels of OC703 insulation
 2- 8' 1x4's for each trap, cut into two 4', and two 2' sections.
 -8 1.5" screws -enough fabric to cover your frames
 -some staples to keep the fabric on,
- 2 screw hooks for mounting to the wall.

We will begin by building a frame out of the 2 foot & 4 Foot sections, held together buy two screws in each corner. We then continue the assembly by laying our frame over a section of our fabric, and after pulling the fabric tight, begin stapling to the frame. Any breathable fabric works well on this project. For this example, I used some heavy sheets that I found at goodwill for $2 each.

Next, we insert our rigid fiberglass insulation panels into our partially covered frame. I used Owens Corning 703 panels, 2"thick. There is a comparable Johns-Manville product, or Roxul rockwool is also adequate. You will need to find an insulation supplier near your town, as this stuff is not at all like the fluffy pink stuff generally available at big box hardware stores.
 My frames were a little short of 4 feet, so I trimmed off the excess insulation with a serrated knife I also picked up from the thrift store. I do not recommend cutting these panels with a knife you plan on using in the kitchen again.

We continue to cover the backside of the trap with our fabric, remembering to pull tight, fold in our corners neatly, and then staple. After our cover is in place, I trim off the excess material, and set it aside for later use.

I chose to attach 2 screw hooks to the back side of the trap, and mount two eye hooks in our wall to mount the panels With our eyes and hooks in place, we simply lift and hook the panel in place, straddling the corner of our room at a 45 degree angle.

Some of us have doors in the corners of our rooms, so in the pic below I decided to hang this corner panel with some chain from the ceiling, allowing the panel to move in the event someone needs to open the door.

Don't forget about wall to ceiling corners as well. Low frequencies build up in all corners, not just the 4 vertical corners.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Home Studio Remodeling

I am currently in the process of remodeling my home studio, aka Anode Records World Headquarters located in suburban St. Louis, MO. My space is a 13' x 16' carpeted room in the basement, with a ceiling height that is 6'8" for just over half of the room, and 7'6" for the remainder. My plans include thorough cleaning, new paint, building a good deal of acoustic treatment and bass traps, and actually connecting a lot of the equipment that has just been sitting around. You can see my proposed layout in the Sketchup pictures I have made below. I will not include actual pictures at this time, because it is a bit of a disaster since my time for this is limited.

The general layout includes my rack gear and synths to the right of the computer desk, the DJ setup along the left wall, and the guitar, mics, and PA will be along the back wall.
In future posts & videos, I will detail building and testing all acoustic treatments.
I like using Google's Sketchup to visualize things before moving forward. It's a fun and free program available HERE
My main goal is to create a Reflection Free Zone(RFZ) for the mix position, and to tame the early reflections in the rest of the room so that I can actually record non electronic instruments and vocals with clarity.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Circuit bending the Yamaha RX-15 Drum Machine

RX-15 Modifications:
To open up the Yamaha RX-15, first remove the five screws holding on the plastic rear panel. Next, turn the machine face down, and remove the eight screws along the top and bottom. To have clear access to the circuit board, you should disconnect the white wire harness located by the output jacks. You should now see something like this :
We’ll start with IC 10 on the circuit, which is a large chip with alternating small and large pins which reads YM 2154 on top. This is the CPU of the drum machine, and handles most of the functions. In the picture below, I have marked 4 pins with a sharpie. If you connect pin 59(with the solitary mark) to either of the other pins I have marked, you will get a harsh sounding distorted synth effect to varying degrees depending on the pin choice. It is imperative that you DO NOT experiment with the pins on the other side of this chip or you will do PERMANENT DAMAGE to this machine. Trust me; I’ve learned the hard way.
Next, we’ll move on to IC 15, the YM2190 chip. I believe these are the ROM chips which contain the sounds for this model and the RX-21 models. By connecting pin 7 to pin 12, a decent distortion is created. Other connections on this chip result in muting of sounds, and clicking variations. There are not any negative consequences to experimenting here, but not much else to be found either.
Next, we’ll move on to IC11, the YM 3012 chip. This is the D/A converter for this machine. By connecting pin 4 to pin 11, some digital signal is fed into the analog output, resulting in noisy distortion. This connection works best when filtered by a capacitor. Experiment with values, I chose a 1.5 picofarad (102) metal film capacitor to suit my tastes.
Finally, we will work on IC 16, labeled YM4556D. This chip is one of the output opamps. Connect pin 3 to pin 7 for an overdrive type of distortion. I used a 10K potentiometer for variable results.

After these mods are completed to your satisfaction, you may drill the housing for the RX-15 near the top for the switches and potentiometer. Solder all of your connections, test, and reassemble the machine. You have now made a crappy drum machine slightly less crappy, or more if you see it that way.
E Support™ On/Off Mini Miniature Toggle Switch Car Dash Dashboard SPST 2Pin Pack of 10

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Introduction & upcoming projects

This page will be used for detailing the technical projects and DIY endeavors I am taking on. Projects currently on my to do list include circuit bending my Yamaha RX-15 and RX-17 drum machines, repairing my Technics SL-1200 turntable, remodeling my recording studio space, building some acoustic treatment for my studio, and whatever else I have time for.

If you are interested in this type of thing, you can check out a few things I have done on my youtube channel HERE