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“Modding” is the act of altering equipment in order to improve its performance, and it’s anything but new in the audio world. However, recently it’s blossomed into a full-blown sub-industry. Be it mics, preamps, consoles, or processors, people are now accustomed to buying an inexpensive product, only to send it to a third-party company to perform some sort of top-drawer upgrade.
There are entire companies whose business model is to take existing inexpensive Chinese-made microphones and swap out components, in lieu of building their own models from the ground up. There are also companies like Black Lion Audio, who have no shortage of original products, yet have also earned a reputation for their modifications to Digidesign/Avid’s 192, 003, and Mbox converters (among others), in most cases swapping out cost-cutting components for higher-quality pieces and improved digital clock technology.
The concept of modding is not viewed in a universally positive light, however, and brings with it no shortage of controversy. In some cases, the original manufacturers do not look kindly on having their designs changed by third-party companies, and modding their gear will void the original warranty, so proceed with caution. The recently announced Black Lion modification for Apogee’s flagship Symphony converter, a high-end studio favorite, was met with almost equal skepticism and excitement. As with all things audio, the best advice is to trust your ears. Most companies offering mods provide before-and-after comparisons, so you can get a sense of what the mod would do for your particular piece of equipment, allowing you to decide before the fact if altering your gear is worth your time and money.