Hardware Hacking and DIY

by Nicholas Goodman

Do you have a creative vision involving certain hardware? Is this hardware too expensive, unattainable or simply non-existent? You are not obligated to go to great lengths to acquire the hardware you want. As long as you are creative and dedicated you can get the hardware you need for whatever project you are involved in.

Hardware hacking is the process of modifying hardware to better suit your needs. This hardware can be microphones, instruments, or anything you can get your hands on. With a relatively minimal skill level in soldering hardware hacking allows one to turn relatively inexpensive equipment into high-quality practical gear.

Traditionally, ‘hacking’ has had a somewhat negative connotation due to the fact you are misusing a product, infringing upon license agreements or destroying or stealing secure items. Although in some cases hacking may not be the way to go about things, it allows for the expansion of items as well as prototyping for other designs and functions. In some cases, hacking is encouraged to find and employ innovative individuals with the right credentials and activity.

Although an unorthodox approach to acquiring high-quality gear, hardware hacking is widely embraced by people and online communities. There are countless online forums online that promote hardware hacking and DIY (do-it-yourself). Online forums such as groupdiy.com are gateways to a community that can provide examples of a huge library of hardware hacking and DIY projects. These projects can range from microphone preamps modeled after designs from top-of-the-line manufacturers, to microphones made from the same circuit designs as Neumann microphones. It is also typical for the circuit designs and procedure to be shared with the DIY community. This community allows one to overcome the biggest obstacle that one is faced with when undertaking a hardware hacking project, which is the lack or support and direction.

Hardware hacking can also be done on existing instruments to serve the purpose of the musician with a vision. Examples of this include the Bass Sleeve by Izzi Ramkissoon or the Metasax by Mathew Burtner.

This method of building and modifying gear can be extremely helpful for someone who is looking to save money. But take heed! It can be difficult to get started. It is recommended that hardware hackers and DIYers build up soldering skills before attempting a build. Furthermore, the more intricate the piece of hardware the more difficult the hacking and building process will be. It is also important to practice safety precautions while soldering such as having adequate ventilation and refraining from soldering while the circuit is plugged in. Hackers should also familiarize themselves with components and be mindful of the polarity of them.

I myself am an audio engineer with an interest in recording engineering and a lack of equipment. In one of my recent endeavors into hardware hacking I have found online resources to guide me in modifying the circuitry of an inexpensive microphone to become a microphone that I would use for a professional recording, which I have done with great results. As an amateur hardware hacker, I have learned the value of being able to build my own high quality gear, as it will leave my bank account less hurt as I build up my equipment collection.

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Author: dndrew

Orchestral, chamber and interactive music composer Digital musical instrumentalist Real-time software systems designer Computer music educator

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