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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rouges Gallery: Three Possible SolderSmoke mics

One of my New Year's resolutions was to finally, seriously pay some attention to the audio quality of the SolderSmoke podcast. With its roots in the scratchy Echolink connections between Juneau and London, audio quality has long been neglected on our show. With some funds donated by kind listeners (thanks guys!) I was this weekend shopping the internet for a suitable SolderMic. I ran into a lot of audio-fool snake oil. Wait a second, I thought, let's do some checks on the many mics I have around me here in the shack. I made comparison tests using three different mics (pictured above): my venerable D-104 chrome lollipop (with a transistor amplifier in the base), the dilapidated computer mic with improvised pop shield that I've been using for the last several years, and a Turner +2 mic that I gutted a while back (the original element was replaced by a cheap Radio Shack electret element, and the on-board amplifier was disconnected). (NOTE: It is a MYTH -- an ugly myth -- that the D-104 is CB gear. We debunked this hideous lie a while back. The D-104 is definitely ham gear! The Turner +2? Well, I don't know about that one. It does look a bit good-buddyish.)

At first, I thought the re-done Turner would win out. Then I thought the computer mic would keep its job. But then -- surprisingly -- the D-104 started to sound REAL good. The D-104 was especially good at keeping AC hum out of the signal -- that was a problem with the other two.

I found that I could get a very nice-sounding audio by running the D-104 audio through some EQ to knock down the little bit of hum that it did pick up, and to put about 30 db of attenuation on my now infamous SSSS whistles. I also used Audacity's noise remover.

So, the next SolderSmoke may come to you via an Astatic D-104. Kind of appropriate, don't you think? What do you guys think? Maybe I should post an audio sample to get some expert opinion before I chrome lollipop #130...


  1. D-104 all the way. (Although, wouldn't that make you more of an "appliance" operator? At least wrap that white conical thing, with duct tape, around the D-104 to give it a homebrew "feel", ha!).

  2. Bill,

    Use the D104. They have sounded great for years. What element are you using? I have a Heil HC-4 in mine for SSB but there are probably better elements for audio use. Call Bob Heil and ask him.

    Keep up the great work. I really enjoy your commentary.

    Dave K8WPE

  3. The mic you have been using has sounded surprisingly good to me but, yes,I would like to hear some comparisons. The D104 has always been a favorite of mine also.

  4. Oh, man. That D-104 is -perfect- for Solder Smoke, The Podcast! I agree with Dave; go for the Heil cartridge. Bob can surely fix you up.

    All Hail Heil! :-)

    I can hardly wait to hear your dulcet tones transduced by that fine device.

    Hey, now all you need is a lead-in announcement by Ted Williams!!

    73.......Steve Smith WB6TNL
    "Snort Rosin"

  5. I'd like to hear a comparison of the D-104 versus the mic you used in the last podcast.
    Please post a sample of each, if you get a chance.

    Bill N5AB

  6. I think it sounds fine now, and I'm a classical musician, not an audiophile. If you want to play around, I vote for The D-104 as it is a classic mic; use that one 'cause it's cool-looking. BTW I have a Mystery Mic here (looks a lot like that Turner) that I picked up at Querétaro hamfest that is VERY "Breaker one-nine, how 'bout them smokies?"-ish. It modulates the TS820 VERY well. 10-4 and

  7. D-104! That's what I use on HF - D-104 with a homebrew audio preamp and active base/treble control wired up in the base.

  8. Definitely the D104! It's a classic.



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