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  • Writer's pictureJinx Chin

Tribute To My First Microphone

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

I think it is time for me to wax lyrical a little about this gem of a condenser microphone that I bought way, way back in 1998. At that time I was just getting into recording and producing music in my dorm room and the whole "home" digital recording was just at its infancy.

Towards the latter part of the nineties, music tech companies strove to develop new ways to make home recording more of a practical reality, and innovate they did. It was a time when new home digital multitrack machines started coming out, with the promise of digital recording in the home, without having to spend money to rent a recording studio. It was a notion that was too scintillating to ignore. So with some money I earned as a student assistant, I bought into the trend, in the form of the Roland VS-840 digital workstation. I was so obsessed with the promise of recording in my room that I was willing to put up with the cryptic way of getting the tracking done on this machine. It recorded audio into ZIP discs, which seemed to be rather futuristic, compared to recording to digital tape.

I was just too happy to get to record digitally at my tiny apartment in college, so much so that I neglected to turn the unit on in this photo

There were, however, a few limitations that I had to overcome. The most glaring one, was the fact that none of the inputs of the unit had any phantom power to power any condenser microphone. And the inputs were all 1/4 inch. I had to buy a preamp to provide phantom power and an XLR input for the mic and then transfer that signal to the VS-840 via the 1/4 inch cable. But I digress. So I had to get a microphone. I decided to get the Shure Beta 87A handheld condenser mic. I thought that was the most practical choice because, at the time, I was also interested in doing live shows, and this mic would work for me in those situations too. So in a way, I thought of it as getting two mics for the price of one. Since then, the better part of 21 years, this mic has been an absolute workhorse, from the times when I gigged with it at clubs to doing my little productions in my room with that crazy VS-840 machine, recording friends, producing songs that were sucky and gradually less sucky, all the way to the time when I started music production professionally.

Through live gigs during my college years, in alcohol-charged air, the Shure Beta 87 A never let me down

Through the test of time, it proved to be a reliable workhorse, on stage and in my little home studio, with nary a scuff accumulated on its body. The great thing about it was, being a condenser mic, it had better response to sound sources than regular dynamic vocal microphones, and it also held its own when used in my home studio as a recording mic.

Time marched on and I have thankfully moved on to newer recording methods that are much more modern and intuitive, and while I would like to have the venerable VS-840 be part of my musical museum section in my studio, I can't find it anywhere!

Here's to a great mic that has been part of my music journey all this time, and while I have since acquired newer mics for the studio, it still remains as a symbol signifying my addiction to music production, an addiction from which I hope never to recover.

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