OktavaMod'd Apex 205 Chosen over Coles 4038 for Solo Piano Album
"As soon as things got busy or loud, the 4038 just couldn't keep up. Too slow sounding...the 4038's were just too.....dense (for lack of a better word) for much of the harmonically rich textures the pianist was kicking out. The 205 ... top end is opened up quite a bit more than the Coles as well, yielding a more "open" sound overall to all it's tracks. It will be 90% 205 and 10% (or less) Coles in the mix"
William Pearson, Gearsluts Forum, October 2007
Grammy award-winning engineer William Pearson of Mindseye Productions recently chose tracks he recorded with a pair of OktavaMod Apex 205 ribbon mics for a new solo piano album from Jeff Bjorck.
William Pearson, Coles 4038 & OktavaMod'd Apex 205
Bill used ribbon mics - one near the keyboard end of the piano facing toward the outside edges of the instrument, and one at the oposite end of the instrument facing up and down. Incidentally
, the second engineer and recording artist all preferred the OktavaMod'd Apex 205s as the primary mics for this album.
A discussion around Bill's unique piano mic'ing technique (seen above) and four excerpts of his recordings can be found on the GearSlutz Forum
The Modifications -
The first inexpensive ribbon mics to appear on the market several years ago were commissioned by Nady Systems and manufactured by a large microphone vendor in China. These mics are now sold under various brand names. The Apex 205 is a long ribbon mic with an strong internal resemblance to the AEA R-84 (itself inspired by the RCA 44).
The stock ribbon motor design is really quite decent. But many layers of wind blast protection were added to the grille and headbasket to reduce the likelyhood of return. In addition, a perforated high frequency resonator plate is used to provide an acoustical boost in the top end. These layers sure do work - but the stock sound is simultaneously slightly muffled, bandwidth restricted and colored from the cumulative effect of reflections and refractions within the headbasket.
This is Michael Joly writing, the guy behind OktavaMod. You're invited to contact me to discuss your mic needs and discover if modifying your Apex 205 is right for you.
NEW! Check out the MJE-K47 Upgrade Suite - a universal problem solver for bright and sibilant mics
The OktavaMod upgrade removes these mechanical filters and adds acoustical damping. Subjective impression of frequency response extension is improved by about an octave at each end. These modifications produce a great-sounding mic for drum overhead, guitar cabinet, piano or vocal use.
Ribbon mic are simple devices, but a big part of their sound is the output transformer. The OktavaMod Premium modification for your Apex 205 ribbon mic swaps in my custom-designed, made in America transformer for better time and frequency domain performance across the audio spectrum.
Ribbon Sag -
About 60 to 80% of the five hundred or so mics of this type I've seen have come from the overseas manufacturer with ribbon sag - often 80% of the ribbon is sagging out of the magnetic gap. (see below).
Stock Mic with Ribbon Sag
This can cause mechanical "banging" noises when the mic is moved - the ribbon is so slack it scrapes the magnet pole pieces. A slack ribbon also creates a resonant frequency in the single Hz range thus making the mic very sensitive to footfall vibration and can also reduce output if the ribbon is bowed out of the magnetic field.
You can check your Apex 205 (or any other ribbon mic) for ribbon sag very easily. Listen to the mic in headphones, gently tip the mic back and forth so first the front face, then the back face comes to rest parallel to the floor. If you hear a sudden "clang" or "clunk" this indicates a severely under tensioned ribbon flopping about in the magnet gap. Not good - should be retensioned.
Video: Superior sensitivity of new 1.8 micron ribbon vs. stock 6 micron ribbon
So the next step in my modification and QC process is to replace and upgrade the ribbon to 1.8 micron aluminum then adjust for proper tension and secure the motor mounts.
The OktavaMod upgrade for your Apex 205 enables recording quality quite similar to the legendary Coles 4038. Hear the results yourself
Click "Add to Cart" to purchase the Premium mod for your Apex 205 ribbon microphone - you'll get an immediate confirmation email of your order. By the close of the next business day you'll receive a personal email with your scheduled modification and return ship dates. Questions? Just click "Contact Me" - best, Michael