BLUE's 'The Bottle' is a great mic that is larger-than-life both in sound as well as in actual size. It's a formidable presence in the studio, a great conversation piece. It inspires great takes and captures them in a stand-out manner. Inspired by the legendary Neumann CMV-3, at least in terms of physical dimensions, the Bottle is an original circuit design based around the EF-86 pentode valve and an interchangable 'lollipop' bayonet-style capsule.
The Bottle has been manufactured since the 1990's, although quite a few revisions and changes in contract manufacturer have occurred over the years, leaving the insides quite different from the mic that was originally built by Skipper and Martins in Estonia a quarter century ago.
Thankfully the integrity of the design and the mechanical aspects of the product are still really strong, and the capsules are still very well built. It is suprising to me that something so robust on the outside would become so 'cost reduced' on the inside with all generic capacitors, semiconductors, and brittle thin one-layer PCBs. Unfortunately the insides show every sign of being made cheaply at '797 Audio China' or some place similar. Thankfully, this can be salvaged and the mic can be rebuild so that the insides hold up just as well as the outside.
First we do a grounding mod to both ends of the cable, and to the mic chassis and to the PSU chassis to help ensure solid shield/ground contact. We replace all 20 generic 'Jamicon/no name' capacitors in the power supply with over-spec'd highest quality long life/high temp Nichicon and Panasonic parts. As we go through the power supply board, due to the board fragility, we reinforce the traces that we de-solder with solid-core trace repair jumper wire.
In the microphone, we replace the one generic electrolytic capacitor with a Nichicon part of the highest grade available. We replace the generic off-brand film output capacitor with a premium polypropylene film output capacitor made by Solen Canada. The stock tube is a standard issue Electro-Harmonix EF86 tube' and honestly, it does a pretty decent job. We do upgrade the tube, and will send back the EH tube to you for use to keep on hand as a spare. We can also discount the cost of the upgrade if you choose not to upgrade the tube. In any case, we add contact enhancer and a pair of tube damper rings to the tube.
Though I normally opt for simply better new-production tubes, the EF86 in this circuit presents a bit of a quandary. I am not a fan of JJ tubes in microphone circuits (but love them in rack gear, and in guitar amps). They just have a voicing and a self-noise level that I find makes them not a great choice in mics, generally speaking. While I am often a fan of TAD-Germany valves, the EF86 they offer is a re-branded and cherry-picked specimen of the NOS Winged-C (original Svetlana) tube made in Russia in the 1990's. These EF86's have a pretty distinct mid-forward character to them that I think is not the best choice for these microphones. So in this particular case, I have to break my own self-imposed exile from the world of NOS tubes and opt for a NOS EF86 by Mullard, Telefunken, Genelux, or Amperex, tested and graded for microphone use by Vintage Tube Services out of Michigan. This does raise up the price of things; but it is important for me to get this right.
The monstrous thick double-shielded 7 conductor cable is re-terminated and augmented on both ends, tying pin 1 to chassis lug to improve ground contact on either end, but also re-terminating the female end fully in order to properly terminate the braid shield to chassis lug. Unfortunately, someone at BLUE apparently prescribed to the debunked idea often seen in hi-fi wiring (and occasionally in some commercial studio wiring as well, also known to often cause problems!) where the shield is only tied to ground at the male XLR end. I call this the 'pied piper of electrons' notion that one can 'direct traffic' and encourage EMI/RFI to flow down in only one direction away from a source. It's bologna. Noise captured by the shield will be drawn toward Earth because its the path of least resistance, not because of where the shield is terminated at on the cable, and floating one end of it only reduces the shield's ability to draw noise by putting a resistance on the floated end. It also 'bottlenecks' what is apparently circuit ground on the mic and power supply to only a very thin gague wire at the microphone end. So, we correct this and involves cutting and re-doing one end of the XLR, working on both ends, and working on both the mic and PSU's XLR connectors to tie pin 1 to ground lug and ground lug to chassis everywhere. ...Now, it is bulletproof!
While the overall sound of this mic is dictated by its very unique circuit design and capsule selection, my mod ensures that the mic is absolutely the best it can be, and should now last a lifetime... something that should be a given, considering the high price of admission on a microphone like this. This also allows you to feel that, even if you own one of the latter issue versions of this mic, you can rest assured it will now be put together as well as the earliest ones and with the best possible ingredients. My sonic impressions are that, once modified, it is a bit cleaner, a bit more open, ever slightly less muddy/dark, lowest bass is a bit tighter, and its ever slightly clearer and more forward in the midrange. It's subtle, but audible. The real value is that is now 100% high grade components and made to last a lifetime, as anything of this hefty price point surely should be.
What we need:
We need the microphone body (sans lollipop head) and power supply, individually wrapped well, along with the 7 pin XLR cable, nothing else. Since we own one of these microphones for testing, it is not necessary to include the capsule with this order. You can send the microphone 'headless' and avoid having to prepare the capsule for transportation, which should make life easier for you.