Science. Not Fiction.
Why on Earth did you start another microphone company?!
Believe me, I get it. The market is saturated, despite the fact that the most lusted-for microphones went out of production 50 years ago. How can a new microphone company compete with dozens of “cloned” vintage models, not to mention the titanic brands that essentially invented the category?
The short answer
The answer is embodied in the Roswell Pro Audio motto, “Science. Not Fiction.” Here's the short version of why I started a new microphone company (or, to be accurate, two of them).
While recording drums at home, I became frustrated by mediocre microphones... then by the lack of good product info for researching better options. I spent five years studying microphones, and built a huge microphone database along the way. I learned enough to start upgrading and modding them, so I started a business to sell DIY mic products. I realized there was an opportunity to offer some of the best-selling microphone kits as finished, warrantied products, so I started another business to sell these original mic designs. That’s my last fifteen years in a nutshell: all microphones, all the time. First study, then modify, then innovate.
The longer answer
I had no intention of building microphones, when I started out. I was recording drum tracks in a makeshift home studio (the guest room, between in-law visits).
I was dissatisfied with the sound of my overhead mics, so I bought a second pair, and set up a comparison. That test not ontly convinced me that the new mics were a good purchase, but literally changed the course of my life. I hadn’t bought nicer drums, built a larger room, or improved the acoustic treatment. I certainly hadn't become a better player over the last ten minutes. All I did was plug in two new mics, and my drum tracks suddenly sounded better than they ever had.
It seemed like magic! I wanted to have this experience again, on every session. I wanted all of my microphones to deliver this kind of excitement and performance. But I lacked expertise. What makes mics sound different? What makes one sound better than another?
I spent five years of evenings and weekends finding answers to those questions. I analyzed hundreds of microphones, publishing detailed notes about how each works, including condenser mic circuit topologies and capsule types, all of which have a significant effect on sound and application. If you’re interested in microphones, chances are you’ve already seen the results of my deep dive into mic design, the RecordingHacks Microphone Database.
The jump from analyzing microphones to modifying them came naturally, part of a life-long habit. The first car I bought once I had a steady paycheck was a 1969 Camaro, which was a bit of a basket case. It gave me plenty of opportunities to exercise my drive to make it better.
I applied the same energy to improving my collection of cheap microphones. Like everyone who is just getting into recording, I had a limited budget. But I wanted the best possible sound for every dollar spent. That’s why modding had so much appeal. I loved the idea that a cheap microphone could be upgraded to deliver high performance on a budget.
I launched a DIY microphone parts store, accurately, if perhaps unimaginatively, called Microphone-Parts.com. Demand from customers gave me both a reason and an opportunity to develop multiple circuit designs and multiple capsule voicings, including solid-state mics with and without transformers, tube mics, power supplies, and more.
Having spent five years writing about other people’s microphones, and another five designing DIY microphone kits for MicParts, I had absolutely no desire to start another new company to sell the finished product. But the phone kept ringing! “Can you build it for me?” people would ask. Audio engineers wanted my microphones, pre-built and ready to go.
That was the genesis of Roswell Pro Audio. I launched the company with a five-year head start on product research and development, and a track record of successful mic designs. I use the best DIY products as a template, then elaborate them into unique, problem-solving microphones.
Roswell Pro Audio products benefit from more than DIY mic recipes. We’ve been a custom microphone shop for ten years, which means we test new components constantly as we search for new sounds and superior performance. For example, we’ve tested dozens of transformers and transistors, using signal injection and distortion analysis. While designing the Colares, I tested a half-dozen different JFETs on a custom fixture. Only one met my requirements for consistency, harmonic balance, and sound.
We don’t leave our microphones to chance, and we don't leave component choices to an offshore factory. We pick circuit designs and components by hand, because that’s the only way to make a superior product, and the only way to compete with the giant brands that dominate the industry.
If you’re interested in more about the science of microphone design, you can see excerpts of my masterclass Building a Mic Locker on Youtube.
If you have any questions for me directly, or need help picking your next mic, contact me via email.