What's In Your Mic?

Sonic beauty is more than skin deep.

Music is primarily experienced with one's ears. That's why we invest our R&D budget into perfecting the sound and voice of our microphones.

What's inside of your microphone?

You need not look inside a Roswell microphone to get great results from it. Just plug it in, point it, and press record.

But if you're ever tempted to look inside, feel free. You'll see the result of a decade's worth of research into circuit optimization, voicing, and boutique assembly techniques.

Building mics the old fashioned way

Microphones used to be built one at a time by leather-aproned craftsmen, using high-quality components.

Craftsmen are expensive, though, which is why most condenser microphones today are made overseas by automated "pick and place" machines, using tiny surface-mount circuit components. That sort of assembly process is fantastic, if one's goal is to minimize production cost.

Our goal has always been to build the best-sounding mics in the world, so we've broken with industry tradition and returned to the old-school ways of building mics: hands on, one mic at a time, using experienced craftsmen... (who, thus far, have declined to wear leather aprons, "because they're hot." Alas.)

Peek inside the black box

Ask a guitarist if the strings affect tone. Or the pickups. Or the wood, frets, or even the pick. The answer will be "yes!"

Ask a drummer about his or her drum heads -- one ply or two, coated or clear, loose or tight. Ask about the wood in the shells, the depth, diameter, number of plies. Do those factors affect the sound of the kit? Absolutely yes.

While microphones might be an inscrutable 'black box' to some people, we've spent years understanding how to optimize them. Microphones don't have strings or heads; instead, they have capsules and circuits. And, just as the details of these ingredients matter to the sound of an instrument, they matter to the sound of the microphone.

The wall of parts

Expert chefs can taste the difference between brands of salt. That one particular ingredient might not make or break a recipe, but the culmination of instincts and experience that lead to that ability tend to mean that chef won't be serving grilled cheese for dinner.

Did you know that capacitors can be made with paper, plastic film, wax, or even glass insulation? That the electrodes could be vapor-deposited aluminum, or tin foil, or copper? All these materials behave differently, and, depending where in a microphone circuit they're deployed, can affect the sound of the device.

Every microphone we make needs to meet a particular sonic profile. The components used in the circuit are like the ingredients of a cake (or grilled cheese).

We test them all to hear how they sound in our circuits. Do we want clarity or character? Air or weight? Punch or imaging? Somewhere in our Parts room, one wall of which holds our favorite components (sorted into color-coded bins), we have a complement of capacitors, resistors, transistors, and transformers that will give us the sound we need.

Some of these are new production components, made specifically for audio. Some are "NOS," New Old Stock, aka vintage components rescued from old TV and radio repair shops, military surplus, and the like. Some are custom made boutique parts that we've developed when we see an opportunity to improve on the current state of the art -- e.g. our growing line of Roswell branded electrolytic capacitors, modeled after the famous (and famously unobtanium) Black Gate electrolytic capacitors of audiophile days gone by.

Capsule voicing

The capsule in a condenser mic primarily determines the sound of the mic: dark, bright, full, thin, etc. Aside from any filtering effects in the circuit, the capsule determines the mic's frequency response.

That's why we have developed five different capsules: so that our line of microphones can provide sonic diversity.

  • Our K47 capsule is found in the Mini K47 and KD. It is a 34mm, large diaphragm, single backplate design, with traditional K47 drilling pattern.
  • Our K87 capsule is found in the Mini K87 and Delphos II. It is a 34mm, large diaphragm, dual backplate design, with traditional K67 drilling pattern.
  • Our K67x capsule is a proprietary design, based on the K67 but tuned and constructed to create the distinctive sound of the Mini K67x. Like all of our capsules, it is a large-diaphragm type, with 34mm O.D.
  • Our K47x capsule is a proprietary design, based on the K47, with an alternate tuning to help create the sound of the Mini K47x. Like all of our capsules, it is a large-diaphragm type, with 34mm O.D.
  • Our Colares capsule is based on the CK-12; it is an edge-terminated, 34mm large diaphragm design, with a special tuning that has been winning vocal mic shootouts for years.

Circuit Topology

A condenser mic's circuit determines sensitivity, noise, headroom, and saturation. The circuit also provides switchable features such as pad, pattern, and filtering.

We have developed multiple circuits, optimizing each for its specific goals. For example:

  • The Mini K87 circuit has very low distortion and clean transients, to help the microphone capture an accurate (rather than 'enhanced') representation of the source, without sounding sterile or lifeless.
  • The Delphos II builds on the Mini K87 design, incorporating some rare and high-priced audiophile components in both the audio and DC circuits in order to simultaneously increase clarity while maintaining the mic's characteristically analog, "1960's FET" sound.
  • The Mini K67x circuit, in contrast, creates musical saturation at moderate SPL, while softening transients. This behavior gives the mic a sound like vintage tube microphones, albeit without the high noise commonly associated with tube gear.
  • The Mini K47 KD circuit has very high headroom, low distortion, and very low sensitivity, as these characteristics allow it to stand up to close placement on loud sources -- namely, kick drums. This circuit also has subsonic low-frequency response, again appropriate for big drum miking.

These are not cookie-cutter products. We treat each one as a unique product, designed top to bottom to deliver a specific experience.

Quality Matters

Field-proven circuit designs, handpicked components, boutique assembly techniques, and meticulous testing yield microphones that perform far above their price class.

Take a look inside whatever mics you're using now. If you don't like what you see, we'd invite you to check out one of ours.

Read More

For more information about our handcrafted microphones, or to place an order, click here.