let’s build an rk-47 kit microphone!

After a few suggestions that I do so, I finally went ahead and splurged for another kit microphone – the micparts RK-47 capsule and amplifier circuit board, both sized to use the dirt-common MXL-990 microphone case.

The MXL-990 is kind of a go-to microphone for people just starting at home recording. I don’t recommend it, even in that role; I think it’s a nasty piece of kit and sounds terrible. Even at $50 – the used price, roughly – you’re better off spending another $40 and getting a low-end AKG or Nova. But it is about the cheapest condenser microphone with XLR out that you could pretend to treat like a real mic, and that has meant a thriving mod community.

Here are the basic parts included with the kit. I didn’t have the capsule out – the actual thing that vibrates to sound – because it needed to stay in its protective box until installation.

This is technically an MXL-990 mod, one wherein nothing is kept but the case and socket. It’s also a nontrivial assembly, so I’m going to talk about building in this one, and have some sound samples in the next.

You can see the instruction booklet over on the right. It’s quite clear, and has some important commentary, about extra care being needed not to touch certain components any more than you have to, and which parts are particularly sensitive to heat. It does not say up front that about 25 pages in it will suggest that you use a couple of chemical products if you have them, so I ended up having to order some purple loctite and conformance coating.

If I had it to do again, I probably wouldn’t order the conformance coating, because the MDA sheet on that is not attractive. But now that I have it, I might as well use it. If anyone local needs some, let me know.

As you can see, the board is clearly labelled:

For the most part, this is one of those insert-and-solder projects. The tolerances are reasonable, though they were emphatic about working at a meaningfully lower iron temperature than I prefer. If you use 60/40 lead solder, their temperature would be fine.

(I ran at 350°C, which is a little hotter than they recommend, but I use silver solder, and it seemed to work out. In these cases, I solder only one leg from each component, then cycle back to the start, and do the second leg, then cycle around again for the third if necessary. This lets the heat that is building up in the component itself dissipate, reducing peak temperature inside the component. This is most important with semiconductors, usually – particularly transistors.)

They also have you cleaning the board with isopropyl alcohol regularly, and suggest cleaning your iron between each solder point. I don’t know if they just meant wiping the tip or actually using the sal ammoniac, so I kind of compromised. (Though for the most sensitive components, I did do a complete sal ammoniac cleaning between each point.)

This is the board essentially complete:

The process is a bit fiddly, I have to say. They’re quite strict in the manual about flux cleanup and so on, so you’ll end up using tweezers and foam swabs and lint-free cloth and and and. Still, with kits this expensive, it’s best not to take chances.

You might note that the connections on the switch are not made yet; that’s because you’re wiring two of the leads from the pickup to the circuit at these points directly. Those connections are where they’re most persnickety about how things are to be done – but I followed their directions precisely and it worked out.

Here’s the new RK-47 pickup canister in its mount:

I’m liking this canister already, at this point. I know, I know, “good feel” is silly, but this capacitor pickup has a good materials feel to it. The mounting system you see in use is also partly a replacement – the original was a ring mount system; this is a saddle, larger, and is also where you need the threadlocker. I’m not convinced MXL used a threadlocker on that post, but I see how the larger, heavier pickup does kind of call for it.

Once the board is mounted back into the bracket and grille, you end up with this:

And once you’ve wired the three leads from the pickup and the three from the XLR connector, you’re pretty much ready to test.

I did have an initially-worrying test result: voltage at the primary test point – the one you conduct before any audio checks – was running high. The manual had a lot to say about what you’ve probably done wrong if it runs low, and further tests to isolate your mistake, and spends a couple of pages going on making sure you’ve got a bare minimum of 45V going to the exciter, with a preferred minimum of 50v, and an “operating range” of 50-62v, where 60v is optimal.

The range on mine ran from a low of 62.45v to a high of around 68v, so I was concerned. But it turns out the actual operating range is 50v-70v – they just don’t expect anybody to be able to get to the upper end. Support even said that if I was mostly recording quiet material I could safely crank it up to 65v full-time for an even hotter pickup, but, heh, that’s not what I generally do, so I’ll leave it where it is. XD

As for the sticker – I put “MP-SVS” over the “MXL” logo because at this point, it’s not an MXL microphone in any way, so why would I keep that? It’s just silly. MP-SVS is MicParts-Supervillain Studios, naturally. I also changed the model number to RK-47, after the canister number.

I did not mention before that this is a switch-selectable dual-pickup-pattern microphone:

That will let me try an instrument miking style I’ve wanted to try for a while anyway. The only downside of using an existing microphone housing is that the switch has to live on the inside, and you have to unscrew the bottom of the housing to get to it. But it’s just twist-open, so not really an issue.

Regardless, as you can see, the switch says “cart” (for cartioid) and “omni” (for omnidirectional), but I think I’m pretty sure it’s really more figure-eight, given the construction of everything and what the switch does. And pictures in the manual actually agree with that – the printing on the board is different in the photos.

An optional modification to the case involves coating the lower half with silicate caulk (or a couple of other listed materials). I, of course, did that too:

The idea is that this reduces case resonance. Does it? I dunno, I just went ahead and did it because silicon caulk is dirt cheap – the local hardware store down the hill had a small tube for three dollars. The lack of silicon at the top is necessary – the upper part of the case scrapes into the lower half quite tightly, and any added material would be scraped off right away. As you can probably see, it’s even scraping off its own coating.

This is what it looks like all put together, and put in the standard MXL-990 shock mount:

As always, larger versions of the photos are at my Flickr account.

All in all, I’d call it a straightforward well-documented build. It’s far from the most difficult I’ve done. Not a good starter project, but if you’re reasonably good with a soldering iron, you’re going to be fine.

And this is already a long post, so I’ve decided to make it Part 1 of 2, and will talk about the important part – what the result sounds like – next time. Spoiler: a whole hell of a lot better than an MXL-990. But it also has audibly (and visibly, in the waveform) finer and more precise pickup than, say, my Novas.

I’m also going to see if I can’t do some comparisons to my Oktava 319 and possibly the (already-improved via mods) Oktava 012s as well before next time. That, too, might be interesting.

Have a good weekend, everybody!

cylon wars: equestria

We got our new hero – Orisa – in Overwatch yesterday, which means unlimited-selection-hero game mode is all-Orisa-all-the-time. She’s a robot centaur so basically it’s Cylon Wars: Equestria in there now.

There’s a skin called “Twilight” that has more or less Twilight Sparkle colours and you cannot tell me that’s not on purpose.

she even has a cutie mark SHE EVEN HAS A CUTIE MARK

And Janai and I were laughing about ponies everywhere when she said WE NEED A COWBOY THAT’S ALL WE NEED so for this I was willing to play McCree on purpose.


Back in the saddle again

He’s 120% laughing into his hat during this victory photo. I insist.

wherein i thought i was going to be posting about a new microphone today

I thought I was going to be posting about a new microphone I built today! I was pretty sure I could get the kit construction finished and even make a couple of recordings.

And I could’ve, but no, I had to have one of these moments:

…wherein on page 24 of the assembly instructions it talks about connection sealing material and special kinds of thread-locking fluid which aren’t strictly necessary but are definitely good to use, if, you know, you just happen to have them around, and if you don’t, well, you can add them later but EVERYTHING WILL EXPLODE.

Particularly the connection sealing material. Apparently.

None of this was in the components and tools list up front. Of course. So thanks, now I get to order all that stuff, which I already have, and it’ll get here Wednesday. (No, it’s not at the local hardware. I did check!)

Anyway, this is how far I got, and where it’ll be until Wednesday:

a few pictures from qualicum beach

It’s very strange to start learning the violin (or, in folk terms, the fiddle), just because it’s an instrument that anyone around me actually plays. Honestly not entirely sure what to do with that. Everything else I’ve learned it’s been me and THAT’S ALL (for the most part) and so I’m all kinda “…huh” and not sure what I think about it.

The other people at the Qualicum Beach workshops were pretty much “…well you’re jumping straight into the deep end, aren’t you?” at me, and I’m all YES BUT IT’S OKAY I AM A SHARK. A SHARK WITH A FIDDLE. APPARENTLY.

I have a few photos, but not that many, because the weather on the way was pretty terrible and I like rain and stuff so you know I’m not fucking around. But right as we were docking in Nanaimo, it cleared up a bit, and I took a few pictures.

Of course, the best picture I got of Andre – who was leading the workshops – was on guitar. Go fig. Still, it’s the best shot I got that wasn’t video. (I took a little video for technique study later.)

I broke a bow string! MILESTONE ACHIEVED! Very, very small milestone. Still. Also, a vaguely album-covery picture from Saturday night, after dinner but before the ceilidh performances, of the workshop stage.

Oh, yeah, there was a stage because everyone at the workshop gets up and does a piece or two. Anna and I went up as a band and did the entirely-unrelated-to-the-event “King of Elfland’s Daughter” and “Elf Glade.” They were not expecting that, and Andre was all “now I get what you do.” It was pretty metal.

Bigger versions on Flickr, as usual.

off to british columbia

Heading north to Vancouver Island for a music workshop. Minion Anna has been going to this Qualicum Beach event for a couple of years, and she’s dragging me along this time. I’m even taking the thrift-shop viLOLin, as it is technically an instrument, and, well, let’s see how badly I can torture this cat. It should be painful hilarious a learning experience.

Possibly for others more than me. Just sayin’. 😀

sadly, it’s not just me – overwatch season iii was a cesspit

Turns out it’s not just me having racism and misogyny problems in Overwatch competitive. I saw Wil Wheaton reblog this article from mic.com about it, as well as this thread on the Reddit Overwatch forum, and yeah – it did get a lot worse in Season III.

And so far, nobody official seems to be doing much about it. And people doing it won’t stop until it hurts them, so I’m definitely going with my announcement and plan as a de rigueur thing before all competitive matches in Series IV.

Meanwhile, back in quickplay, I’ve started singing what I call the Tracer Tank song again, because Tracer is a tank in the right circumstances and the right levels. NO, SHE IS, REALLY. I have golded so many times for objective time as Tracer that it’s hilarious.

Tracer tank / Tracer tank
movin’ the payload
’cause somebody has to

where the fuck is Reinhardt?
where the fuck is D.va?
i could be that Reinhardt
if i really wanted

let’s all move the payload
i said everybody
okay fine I’ll do it
objective gold again

I mean, think about it. If you’re on offence in a payload level, and you’re good at her dodging motion/blinking/rewind, it works out to an effective hitpoint/armour total of easily 350 points, assuming only one rewind – much more if you’re lucky and good. I have beaten back one-on-three facedowns across the payload, more than once.

How does that work? Base health/armour of 150. Near-double that to 290 from your own health, doubled, with use of rewind. You get 10 points per second back from being on the payload; survive five seconds – not hard if you are good with her movement – and that’s another 100 points (with the single rewind), which gets you up to 390. Survive 10 seconds, that’s 490. Survive 15, 590.

Survive, oh, 2:09 like I did in one game last night as Tracer Tank? That’s 2580+300 hit/armour points (tho’ that assumes more rewinds, as it would), for a total of 2880.

Bulletproof. Reinhardt? Roadhog? Paper people.

And that’s not even getting into how the payload is functionally a motion-restricted shield with infinite hit points and infinite duration.

Tracer is a tank.

(Really, of course, Tracer shouldn’t be your group’s tank. For one thing, this whole shtick falls apart if they have a Sombra who knows what she’s doing. Even without that, it’s not Tracer’s best mode, and usually if I’m doing it, the team I’m on isn’t very good. But we all know the number of people that just won’t get on the goddamn payload, right? I was on one of those a couple of days ago where I literally solo-escorted the payload from Objective A to (just short of) the Eichenwald castle gate entirely by myself. It was hilarious.)

where I’ve actually been posting

Sorry I haven’t been doing much with the band blog lately. Frankly, all my blogging energy has been used working against the literal fascist movement which has grabbed partial power and is trying to grab more.

I blog at Dreamwidth and it’s echoed to Livejournal. Here’s my post on Milo’s support of child pedastry, for example, which I wrote last night. The Republicans have been fine with his vicious misogyny, overt and savage white supremacy, and slanderous attacks on transgendered people; let’s see if they’re also on board with 28-year-old men fucking 13 year old boys.

I mean, we already know they’re fine with 50-year-old men raping 13 year old girls, but everybody knows the only way to end up dead in politics is to get caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. Because boys are valuable and girls aren’t.

Apparently, CPAC (biggest conservative political conference, where he has a headline speech this year) and his fans in general all knew about this already – the interview I’m quoting ran over a year ago. And they’re okay with that. Monstrous filth.

Anwyay, I’ve been getting used to being back in full-time war mode for a couple of months now. Since this movement has always hated women and queers (unless, apparently, they’re pederast fascists), I’ve had to do this my whole life – but I had kind of some time off for a little while, and it made me soft. Hopefully I can return to band stuff more regularly, as I start to feel more ramped up on all this again.

Hopefully.

overwatch competitive is becoming kind of a cesspit

Is it just me, or is Overwatch competitive mode becoming kind of a cesspit? I had to drop from another game due to misogynists going on – at me specifically – about feminist “cunts.” I’ve had to drop other games due to people going off on killing all the “ni**ers” and just chanting white supremacist horseshit into voice chat, too.

I actually called this round’s douchebag leader on a lighter weight rant a couple of minutes before, when they were going off about horrible feminists, saying, “I’m trying to figure out how to respond to this, as the actual feminist on this team who is the also only one actually taking the point,” and they shut up for a minute or two after I’d captured half of the point solo. (We’d’ve taken the whole thing right then if anyone else had showed up, but I can only play one-on-four for so long.)

But after we captured the first point and started our first big push on the second, they doubled down, so mid-push I just said “You know what, fuck this, fuck all of you, enjoy losing, I’m out” and dropped, leaving them five-on-six and without their time-on-point and kills leader.

Unfortunately, while that does cost them, it costs me more than them in ranking. So I’ve come up with something better. Next time I’m in competitive, I’m going to go on team chat first thing and say some variation on:

Hiya! Tracer here. So, apparently, this is a thing you have to say now, which is horrible, but:

If you’re going to hijack team chat to go on some racist or misogynist rant, my response will be to go back to spawn and practice wall climbing and stuff until you quit or we lose. I’m not joking, that’s just what’s gonna happen, ’cause I don’t game with dickbags.

So if that’s anybody’s plan, please, go ahead and drop now, it’s not an official game yet, and we can all go play with better people.

Nobody? Great.

I haven’t done this before now because I’ve been too antsy about getting back into competitive at all, because of how nasty my last several experiences have been. But that is nonetheless my plan.

In related news, in quickplay yesterday there was someone with a Pepe-the-Frog-type name on enemy team. He may have been backfill, because I didn’t spot him at game start. But once I spotted him in the game, I went after and killed him immediately, and made it my first priority the rest of the game to find and kill him first, without fail.

I killed him like five times. As far as I could tell, he was never a factor in the game again, and we completely steamrolled his team. (Even before that. I just accelerated the process, because fuck you you kek-worshipping neofascist numerologist shitfiend, just fuck you.)

So I encourage everyone else who is not a total douchebag Overwatch player to join me in one or both of these routines, ’cause there’s sure as hell no way PSN is going to do anything about it. I’ll probably get some shit – particularly for the speech – but I don’t fucking care anymore, I’m sick of this.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love this game. I was in pretty early and re-optimised our network and even bought a PS4 Pro so I could play it better. (Minion Paul’s PS4 was crashy.) But you pull this crap, and I will make it cost you, on my team or not. And if I earn a rep, so be it. This is a rep I am perfectly fine with earning, because I am done.

this is hilarious

Please enjoy “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” on guitar and unbalanced washing machine, by Aaron McAvoy.

h/t to @gfish on Twitter

as expected

As expected, Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as secretary of education. When the two GOP “no” votes were announced a few days ago, I knew that meant the other 48 were locked down; I’ve been around this carousel before.1

But the fights right now are mostly not about winning. We’re going to lose these. The GOP have power and don’t give a fuck about you, and that’s been official since the Hastert Rule.2 What these fights are about are having the ability to keep fighting. About keeping possibly meaningful elections, things like that. We’re fighting a six-month war to fight a two-year war to fight a four-year war, as a start.3

So I’ve been beating this drum for a while and I’m going to keep beating it: until opposition start paying attention to state and local elections, nothing will change. The situation on the ground for the Democratic Party is nightmarish, because Democrats much of the time just can’t be bothered, and gerrymandering will continue to make the Federal level worse. There is no – I mean zero – probability of a Republican turnaround on gerrymandering for the foreseeable future, and therefore no likelihood of political relief on that front except possibly through citizen initiative.

They have power; they don’t care about how they get it; they will use all tools possible until and unless they are forced to stop. Do not appeal to decency, do not appeal to fairness, because they do not fucking care. Get it through your head: no fucks are given beyond “do Republicans keep power”? There may be some local pockets of exceptions, but push comes to shove, they will go along. All but without fail. Know this.

(Also, people are talking about terrible poll numbers for Trump? 86% of Republicans approve of his performance as of day 16. That’s all that matters to them. If those numbers start to fall in-party, then the situation changes – but not before.)

So. If your state is Republican but has has citizen initiatives, your Federal option is to put together a popular state initiative to force meaningful district reform. This will take some time. Outrage, complaints, do it because it’s good PR – and more importantly, keeps you within the Overton window – but it won’t change results. You need initiatives. There are rumours of some kind of coordinated effort to start working on this, but I haven’t seen anything I can pin down. That’d be a good thing to pin down.

The bigger deal is that you have to start PAYING ATTENTION to the BORING LOCAL CRAP. Learn that it matters. Figure out your state and local governments, know who your reps are, and get working on them. Because in the end, that’s where political power starts.

It’s a long fight. Don’t get yourself burned out, because it’s going to get worse before it gets better; there is no magic solution, there is no fast solution. It’s a long haul grind, and even when you win, don’t think it’s over – we thought fascism was over, and oh look, now we’ve got neofascists and white nationalists in the White House.

Deal with that, accept it, because this is what it takes. Not dealing with that – well…

…that’s how we got here.
 


1: Don’t be fooled; we never had an actual shot here. The Republican Party has the discipline of an authoritarian parliamentary party and gives no fucks outside its own. The two “no” votes were allowed solely to give them political cover for the constituencies; they were knowingly-harmless-to-DeVos “no” votes, as political cover. If their votes were actually needed, they would’ve been “yes.” This is standard party procedure in the Senate; has been for decades, as anyone who has gone through this enough times can tell you – Harry Reid was a master of this, and this was simple Reid playbook copypasta. THAT DOES NOT MEAN DON’T FIGHT: first, all resistance makes them expend money and time (the latter being in shorter supply than the former), and second, it keeps the Overton window where you need it. The fight still matters, just… don’t expect to win these.

2: No bill can proceed without a majority of Republicans in support, regardless of House total support or popular support. That’s the weak form. The strong form – aspired to by the “Permanent Republican Majority” crowd – was “no bill can proceed unless it can pass entirely by Republican votes.” The explicit intent of the strong form was to make opposition parties irrelevant. I think it’s pretty clear they’re going for the strong form now.

3: The six-month war at the Federal level is keeping a court system. That’ll be hard. At the popular level, it’s maintaining some elements of consensus reality. (“Anything I don’t like” being “Fake news.”) We lose that, we’ve lost everything, and it’s harder than keeping the court system. Bannon, Trump, and both the fundamentalist and authoritarian movements want to eliminate the courts as a check-and-balance, and override fact-based media and decision making, both to clear the way for complete power. If we win the six-month war, the two-year war is probably going to add focus around fighting Attorney General Sessions. You’ll note I’m already using the title – his appointment won’t be stopped, and it’ll probably be 54-46. If somehow we can make it 52-48, I’ll consider that much a big victory. But the two-year war will be around preserving voting rights, and it will also be hard. Very hard indeed.

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THE NEW SINGLE