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  • Alberto Icaza

The Ultimate DIY Gear Brands list

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

As an audio engineer, I quickly realized that my love for gear can become an expensive problem. Classic brands like Neve, SSL, API, and Chandler, charge thousands of dollars for their high quality equipment, and with a tight budget, clone companies like Warm Audio become a more attractive option. However, it doesn't always has to be a battle of quality vs money. There is an unsung hero that has gained popularity in the last few years. And that is DIY companies that have reversed engineered our beloved designs and brought us a high quality product at a smaller price.


These companies don't have to pay assembling labor, marketing fees, and most of them sell their products direct to costumers via their websites, so there isn't a sellers fee. The only catch is: YOU HAVE TO GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY.

The advantage is you get to know your gear inside out and your tech bills go down since you lose the fear of fixing your own equipment. My good friend Sam Pura from The Panda Studios Brings an interesting perspective.


"In order to be an audio engineer, you must fully understand and respect signal flow. Doing things like making cables, stuffing PCB’s and all the “annoying” shit that comes with recording music is one of my favorite things to do. In our line of work... hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, and potentially millions of variables all add up to make the end result. To cut one of those corners and rush through any step is the most disrespectful thing you could ever do. Take your time. Obsess over the details. Make it count. "

Here are some of my favorite DIY companies that sell incredible products at a very reasonable cost. Most of these sell complete kits so you don't have to source parts, or if you do its small stuff.



CAPI-Gear (https://capi-gear.com/)

Jeff Steiger is a brilliant engineer that offers kits in the 500 series format for amazing API style preamps, compressors and eqs. They are easy to build, come with picture instructions and are super affordable.

I love his preamps VP26 and VP28. You will not find a better preamp for the money. In my ideal world, I would have a rack with 16 of these. For OP amps i strongly recommend the Louder than Liftoff Rogue Five.






Hairball Audio

(https://www.hairballaudio.com/)

This is the to-go place for your 1176 needs. Their reproductions are incredible, sound just like the UREI 1176 and offer a Rev B (Blue stripe) and Rev D (Black Face). The Rev B has more harmonic distortion, sounds great on vocals. The Rev D has more of a controlled sound to me and i love it in drums, bass and sometimes guitars! They also have a Rev F that has their own flavor, I haven't played with it so I cant attest to its magic. They sell kits in rack or 500 series format.

Their preamps, affectionately named Lola after their dog, are also worth mentioning!







DIY Racked

(www.diy-racked.com)

DIY Racked is a great place to find classic pieces of gear that are quite expensive for a very reasonable price. They have Calrec eqs, Neve preamps, Chandler compressors, Neve compressors, etc etc. The catch is, they sell PCBs, cases, and provide a link to buy all the rest of the components.






Mic-parts

(https://microphone-parts.com/)

Micparts , as the name suggests, does microphone kits as well as microphone upgrades, capsules, etc. Their microphones are the shit! But don't take my word for it, here is Greg Wells doing a much better job than I can:



They have all options from Telefunken 251, to AKG C12 and the classic Neumann 47, 67, 87.







Hope this helps you and inspires you to get your feet wet in the land of DIY audio. If you have never built anything I would recommend you start with a couple guitar pedals (check out Kurt Balou's business card) and once you are comfortable with a soldering iron jump into these kits.


-A




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Billboard Charting Engineer

© 2019 by Alberto de Icaza.