I am but a copy of a copy of a...
Updated: May 25
This blog is normally centered around my hobby-shop company, Signal Art; but today I'd like to spend a moment writing about the main company, United Studio Technologies, and why we started it.
In a couple days, another manufacturer I once worked for will put out their version of a classic FET microphone along with their long awaited release of what was actually the last tube mic product I worked on developing for them while there (and ironically, the only one that I considered 'finished' and ready for release at the time of my departure... why it is only happening now, I do not know. Maybe they completely re-did it, I have no idea). I've known about it for many months. One of the virtues of working in this industry for nearly a quarter century is that not much sneaks past you. It also doesn't bother me. I get it. We all live in shadow of Georg Neumann, and they have as much right as anyone else to put out their version. I welcome the competition. Customers deserve choice; something at the core of why we started United. It's my job to make the case of why ours presents a better product and a better value, and I'd like to take a moment to do that here.
We started United because we wanted to do things a certain way. To make no compromises in terms of delivering a quality product, and to truly 'do' the things that all manufacturers at least promise to do (more bang for buck, a greater value, 'this should cost 3x more', etc.). Everyone who ever made an appliance, home theater component, or piece of pro audio gear has framed themselves in this light. What we found out is that 'actually' trying to do that is so much harder than merely saying it. This is the work that keeps us up at night.
One thing about our approach is that it is very holistic. We look at everything. Every switch, every semiconductor, and we perpetually are refining our board designs and mechanical designs. It does no good to make a product with a good quality transformer if those transformers are merely book-ending a lot of generic parts and poor manufacturing. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. I literally obsess about resistor and capacitor choices.
Another thing about our approach is that it is engineering driven. We designed all of our own products. We have the receipts and the sleepless nights to prove it. We never once have merely let a contract manufacturing plant design our product for us and hold that intellectual property over our heads. We design it, we own it, and we choose who will help us manufacture it.
To speak a bit about the UT Fet47, I'm especially proud of the no compromise approach we took to developing this product. To be fair, the idea to do this product dates back to my time at a former company, and there are very real reasons why I held on to the idea for when we would later start United. It had to be done right. This starts with the capsule. I wanted a real and reputable German capsule engineer to design the K47 for the circuit and to fly that engineer out to train a larger scale capsule manufacturer on how to do it. This is something that would have been absolutely impossible at another company. We had to create the company that would indulge this kind of approach. We were honored that Eric Heiserman was willing to take time out of his schedule to help us make this dream happen, and for the first time I would like to share a few of the photos from this collaboration below.
We wanted it to be authentically made with a nickel plated brass body, just as the original. We wanted it to have an original reproduction of the full size transformer and not something more cost effective. We wanted complete control over every part in the circuit so that no compromises could be made. We had to create the company that would indulge this kind of approach.
Lastly I want to talk about quality control. I'm known for being OCD, and being an audiophile. What I am certainly not is a salesman, or a businessman, or an accountant. I care about audio quality above and beyond all else. I have to believe that the other partners in United allowed a person like me to take the helm because they wanted to push through the boundaries that often inhibit the final output of other companies, and to try to reach a higher standard at our price point. To that end, our Fet47 is still handmade in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the same workshop where I have built some very expensive handcrafted microphones. It is done under my supervision by myself and a small group of close friends whom I have personally trained. We are picky about every detail, mechanically, and sonically. Every unit is burned in for 24 hours after manufacture with both white noise and subsonic wave generation to fully break in the capsule and the electronics. Every unit is sound tested, and has to sound exactly right before it gets packed up.
I can recall just in the most recent product batch of units, we had one unit that would have passed by any metric, but I knew it was not quite 100% right in the low frequencies. It was EASILY within tolerance, and I think would have been passed by even the most expensive manufacturer out there. But not by me. I spent a ridiculous amount of time tracing it down, ultimately replacing both the capsule and amplifier board. This level of OCD would never have been possible with any other company I've worked for. It would never happen with larger scale manufacturers making gear in Asia. We had to create that company. And we knew we had to come in at the very low prices established for these kinds of products by more mass-production manufacturers. This is not easy work; but it is our calling. This is what we the advertising means when we say "Its a United".