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always a work in progress

Many many years ago when I worked for a larger audio company, we had a flagship tube microphone preamp, that, when launched, had some pretty serious shipping problems. Aside from tubes that would be shaken loose from their sockets and shatter internally, there were a set of trim potentiometers with plastic housing that would continually also snap, resulting in a lot of returns. What was perplexing was that these were the same tube sockets we used in much lesser and lighter products for years, without ever having a problem. Likewise, this Bournes potentiometer with plastic housing, while not being a part we used before, would have also likely been just fine on a product which was far less massive. What I learned was that the overall mass of the entire retail package (or even master carton) has to be taken into consideration, because it will drop with that much force when the package is handled (or mishandled) by the logistics and delivery services. We moved to a latching tube socket that I helped source and design, and moved to a better Bournes trim potentiometer with a metal housing, which could tolerate about 100lbs of force. Problem solved. This knowledge would come in handy, nearly 2 decades later.

Early this year, we had something happen with two Signal Art tube 47 microphones nearly in a row, which just about gave me a nervous breakdown. We had the plastic capsule saddle (the little fork like piece which the capsule screws onto) just literally shatter in transit, damaging the capsule in the process. In one case, I replaced the capsule saddle and capsule, and sent it back on its way, just shipping the mic back alone to reduce the overall weight and stress on the package. In the other case, the entire system went back and the capsule saddle literally shattered again! No doubt this was a particularly abusive UPS route; but what really perplexed me was that these were the same plastic capsule saddles we'd been using since at least 2018 with the microphones for our other company, with absolutely zero problems. Then I remembered why... those other mics were substantially lighter solid state mics in substantially smaller packages. They were 2-3 lb packages that could never drop with the force of something that weighed in at over 20 lbs.

So what we did was commission to design our own capsule saddle, CNC machined out of laboratory grade Delrin, which is damn near indestructible. It has the electrical properties of Teflon, but is much stronger. I have literally tried to hammer one and even put it in a vice and I cannot get it to break. Problem solved. I feel like now, even if we dropped one of our tube 47's off the edge of the earth, this would be the last thing on it to break. And this is vital, because the capsules they support are the single most expensive and fragile component in our mics. We spent a lot of money to solve this problem; but it was money well spent. So now, when we manufacture a tube 47, we discard the 'stock' saddle that was pre-affixed to our custom 47 body, and install this saddle instead. Always improving.

Alot of companies would rather not admit that they had something go wrong. I try to be an open book. We had an issue, and we fixed it pretty awesomely, and made our product way more bulletproof in the process.

I don't say this to alarm anyone who has an earlier 47/48; as a matter of fact, 95% of all the ones that ever shipped, arrived just fine (some that went all the way around the world). I also learned later that shipping the mic turned on its side in the wood box will substantially reduce the stress and likelihood of fracture in an abusive shipping situation. I only speak of this because I think it is worth celebrating your engineering victories and product improvements where you have an opportunity to. It's also amazing how little bits of knowledge that you store in your back pocket across one's career always wind up being useful to get you out of a bind later down the road. I've had an interesting set of jobs over the decades, from Crusade Audio (live sound) PreSonus Audio (pro audio) to Mezzo Labs (research lab) to Warm Audio (semi pro audio) to Signal Art (pro audio) to United (pro audio), and its always interesting how this cumulative knowledge keeps helping me. Things I learned at PreSonus and Mezzo helped me make better products at Warm, and things I learned at PreSonus and Mezzo and Warm helped me do better work still for United and for SAE. It only just keeps getting better.

Onwards and upwards.

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