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What is the DIY mentality?

Updated: Jan 31, 2022

What is the DIY mentality?

The dictionary describes Do It Yourself as "the activity of decorating or repairing your home, or making things for your home yourself, rather than paying someone else to do it for you".

In the world of audio being able to make your own equipment, furniture, decoration, means full freedom and unlimited possibilities of customization.

Not to mention of course the monstrous savings you can make.

Savings, let's talk about it, too many people take the DIY path just to save money.

It's an approach like any other, but here we're talking about learning from your equipment, being able to do advanced research, understanding breakdowns and being able to fix them.

Starting DIY to save money without even knowing why to choose this or that equipment may not be the best idea.

A clone replicates the schematics and chooses components similar to legendary pieces of equipment.

This is not to say that if you make this equipment, it will replace a vintage device. Far from it.

The know-how, the tools, the assembly, the custom-made components etc. are irreplaceable or very complicated to replicate and assemble.

However, DIY opens the doors to obtaining (more or less) high-end equipment with the ability to build it yourself and learn more about its history and operation.

My first experience with DIY audio was building a clone microphone of the famous TLM 103.

At first sight the kit didn't have many parts and didn't seem very complicated. The only challenge is the soldering of the components onto a PCB and the tricky part of assembling the capsule to the microphone body.

Luckily for me I had "Technology" classes at school and according to the teacher I was a natural at soldering on PCBs. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, it was just a small light-up key ring!

But 15 years later, it is with this confidence inspired by one of my teachers that I started soldering on what will become today my first DIY equipment.

In my current collection:

  • Condenser microphone (TLM103 clone)

  • Tube condenser microphone (U47 clone)

  • Ribbon mic (R121 clone)

  • 2 vintage preamps (1073 clone)

  • 2 vintage EQ (1073 and 1084 clone)

  • 1 stereo VCA compressor (clone of the famous G bus)

  • 1 mono FET compressor (clone of the famous 1176)

  • 1 stereo FET compressor (also a clone of the famous 1176, but from another company)

Outside of audio equipment, you can of course take this DIY mentality to other uses.

For example, I made my desk using pine boards to make the structure and boxes for my equipment, as well as a metal frame from ProgressiveDesk, which allows me to set up the workstation so I can work standing or sitting. This allows me to customize my workstation at a lower cost and adapt it to my present and future needs.

Some questions around the DIY mentality:

Who is DIY for?

Anyone who wants to learn and is not afraid to fail. Anyone can try to do a DIY project, you must understand the potential danger of using equipment such as a circular saw, a soldering iron, and take the appropriate safety measures.

What are the costs of getting into DIY?

We are approaching 100 to 250 dollars to get the necessary tools.

The list includes

  • Soldering iron (starts at $25 CAD for a 25 watt)

  • Cutting pliers to cut the legs of the components ($10 CAD)

  • Third hand (about $15 CAD)

  • Soldering tin (about $10 CAD)

  • Toothbrush (about $5 CAD)

  • Isopropyl alcohol (about $10 CAD)

  • File (about $12 CAD)

  • Multimeter ($15 to $100 CAD)

  • Miscellaneous Screwdriver (between $20 and $100 CAD)

  • Solder removal pump (about $15 CAD)

If I don't know anything about it, how can I start?

There are several answers to this question.

One possibility is to use the PCB of an old device that no longer works, such as a computer, and recover the circuits to de-solder and re-solder.

The other possibility would be to start with something less complicated than a microphone, like a DI or Re-amp box. The circuit is simple, with few components and often accompanied by a detailed manual.

Where to start?

It all depends on your background, if you have some knowledge of electronics, the forums are a good place to start your search.

If you are looking for ready-made kits with a manual, there are several sources:

If you are looking for PCBs, there are also several sources:

Some companies will offer you the box and/or the PCB, as well as a list of components to buy (often from Mouser) corresponding to the unit you choose to build.

In some cases, there is no manual, in other cases there is a manufacturing guide and in some companies there are explanatory videos.

Is there any guarantee that everything will work?

No, a manufacturer, or a dealer, cannot provide you with warranties, even if the steps are followed perfectly well. Some companies offer to do the repairs, but for that you have to send the device to the manufacturer and charge extra for the repairs.

When buying a complete kit, can there be defective parts? If so, what are the guarantees?

It is possible that during the packaging process, some components are missing or broken. In this case the company will decide whether to return the components or not.

Personally this happened to me, in a kit ordered from a European manufacturer, all the resistors were missing (almost 65 resistors) and after explaining the situation, the company decided to send them back to me within 24 hours.

How hard is it to build a kit?

To be honest, I don't find it too complicated, but not everyone has the same qualities. That's why I offer my services to make equipment or to advise.

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