Who’s behind all this?
My name’s Peterson Goodwyn, I’m a drummer and recording engineer out of Philadelphia who stumbled into DIY because I couldn’t afford the gear I wanted to record with. When I found out I could build that gear for a fraction of the price, I kind of freaked and became obsessed with cataloging every project I could find. This website is an attempt to organize those projects in one place and make it easier for newbies to get started successfully.
Philadelphia filmmaker Cory J Popp made a great short feature about DIYRE:
Why build your own gear?
- To obtain vintage gear you’d never get your hands on otherwise. Just because Neumann doesn’t make the U-47 anymore doesn’t mean you can’t!
- To save money on gear. Ex: An original Fairchild 670 Limiter costs around $50,000 (if you can find one). It costs about $3,600 to build one with a PCB from Drip Electronics.
- Build cool stuff that doesn’t exist on the commercial market.
- Deepen your understanding of the tools of your craft.
- Build something amazing from scratch.
Is DIY gear really as good as the commercial stuff?
Yes, sometimes better. If the design is good, the components are good, and it’s built relatively well, the gear you build yourself will be every bit as good as a similar commercial unit. While every manufacturer would like us to believe their gear is magic, at the end of the day they use the same basic components and are subject to the same laws of physics as the rest of us. I said “sometimes better” because commercial manufacturers often make design or component-quality compromises to meet a certain price point. As DIYers we have the luxury of setting our own price points, and so can choose to use an over-rated power supply, boutique components, a heftier chassis, etc. The bottom line is that doing one of the DIY projects listed here is not equivalent to making a “kiddie version” of the real thing, it’s doing exactly what the pros did back before (most of) the pros outsourced their manufacturing to China.
Ok, so if it’s really just as good as the commercial stuff, why is DIY so much cheaper?
- Commercial gear makers do lot more than just put components together. The brilliant people who design great pieces of gear and invest their time and money to bring that gear to the market deserve to be well compensated. If you want a piece of gear that’s currently on the market, buy it from the person or team who designed it.
- If you are counting your DIY time in terms of dollars, it’s often not any cheaper than buying retail. The real savings tend to happen at the extremes of the spectrum, with cheaper stuff like mic cables, which are really cheap to DIY, and the really pricey stuff, such as the Drip 670 which costs roughly $45,000 less than the original.
How do I get started?
Funny you should ask.
I don’t even know how to solder! How do I get started?
First of all, get quality tools and practice your soldering a bit while you decide which project to tackle first. I’ve curated a DIY Tools Store from Amazon based on the tools I found most commonly recommended at GroupDIY, Gearslutz, etc. Once it’s time to choose a project, take a look “21 Newbie Friendly DIY Projects” where I rank projects on a 1-10 difficulty scale. You can do it! Start small to build your soldering skills and confidence, and you’ll be building that Fairchild in no time.
Did you make all of these projects?
Lord, no! I merely saw a bunch of people doing really cool things and set out to document it. I have no commercial affiliation with 99% of the projects listed here, but I nonetheless encourage you to buy many things to keep this community alive and growing. If you do want to support my work, you can use these links to shop on eBay or Amazon, click the ads, or buy one of my kits.
You didn’t answer all of my questions! Can I put API opamps in my mixer? How do I make a mic splitter? What kind of transformer do I need for a DI box? Where do I get cases for my projects? Etc.
Questions like these are posed and answered on the Q&A Board.
DIY Discussion Forums:
- DIY-Racked: The administrator here creates excellent front panels and cases for DIY projects. Discussion is centered around the enclosure side of DIY.
- GroupDIY: The GroupDIY forum is where most of the projects on this site were born. There are some brilliant engineers among it’s denizens, so discussions can get quite technical.
- Geekslutz: Tech-oriented section of the (in)famous Gearslutz discussion board.
- Lunchbox Hero: Discussion of 500-series related projects.
- Pro Audio Design Forum: A small, but extremely knowledgeable community that discusses DIY and pro audio circuit design.
- Sound on Sound: Less active than other boards with only one or two posts a day, but searching the archives can yield some great projects.
- TapeOp: TapeOp Magazine has always been about applying the DIY ethos to recording. The posters here apply it literally to their gear.