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Interview: Klaus Heyne, Master Of Microphone Modifications

Long recognized as the foremost practitioner of condenser microphone modifications in America (Interview first published on PSW in 2002)

BB: In view of that, has the transition to digital affected you in terms of what people want from your microphones?

KH: Yes, it has. The modifications I did fifteen years ago are now too bright. At the time, at the final stages of slaved 48-tracks, you needed so much high end to cut through the density and noise of all that. So they would boost high end on the board. But, not seeing into the future, I said, no, let me do it up front. There will be less noise and graininess if I do it in the microphone. Now I’m cringing that I ever did that, but people wanted it. So now, I counterbalance by moving toward the mellow, warm side, to work with the lack of mellowness digital has. I’ve gotten much more conservative. I assume now that they want much more than to be sizzled with high end. More and more I’m finding that you can get what you want by having more resolution. That’s the secret. With this Brauner microphone, it has so much resolution, there’s no EQ’ing in it. It’s all there.

BB: At least we’re now moving toward a new 24-bit, 96 kHz standard, which does offer significant improvement.

KH: Really? I’ve been talking to some people in Neil Young’s organization, and they’ve been working at 192kHz and say that 96kHz stinks by comparison. So, do I care about it? Yes I do, if only because my modifications will be more appreciable in the final product, the higher resolution. I’m constantly working on new componentry that will give me higher resolution. And I’m trying everything. Recently somebody tried to sell me on this sidereal capacitor, and I’ll try it and listen to it. If it works, great. But I know it doesn’t always work as advertised.

That MIT multicap was one example, with capacitors that were bypassing each other. It was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread, but I plugged one in, it was a bunch of junk, it was bullshit. If you have confidence in your hearing, you can audition all these subcategories that can make your work better. Because remember, the weakest link in the chain dictates the resolution of the whole chain. So, for example, if I have shitty cabling from the capsule to the high impedance input of the microphone, there are losses. I have to solder new cables on and listen to how they sound different.

BB: What do you think about these so-called digital microphones, with the conversion right there at the front end?

KH: It all still depends on what you do with the analog components beforehand. And I was just thinking this morning, when you do that, you forfeit any further sound shaping in the analog domain. What about your favorite Neve flavor or API flavor? You can’t do that. You can’t stick it into an LA2A anymore, and do it in that domain. Sure, you can use a virtual LA2A.

What’s more, what if they come out with a better converter? What will you do with this thing? This is the problem with companies, they feel they have to move forward, and moving forward seems to be putting more stuff in the signal chain. More often than not, this does not seem to result in a better sounding microphone.

Join Klaus in his RE/P Forum here on ProSoundWeb.

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