FAQ – How not to clean a microphone

FAQ - How not to clean a microphone

With sensible handling and a bit of common sense, a good studio ribbon microphone should need little in the way of cleaning or day-to-day maintenance.

There are a few things that can help keep your microphones in top condition

  • Keep your studio clean and don’t put microphones on the floor. 
  • Use a pop shield for vocals – it will help reduce plosives* and keep spit off the microphone too.
  • If you leave microphones on stands, cover with dust bags when not in use.
  • Don’t put sticky tape on your microphones.
  • A lens cloth can be used to remove dust
  • If needed, wipe with a damp cloth and dry before storing. 

Our Extinct Audio ribbon microphones are nickel-plated and will give years of reliable service without need for anything else.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions 

A lot of old microphones come through our workshop and one thing that causes trouble is liquid metal polish. This stuff is generally a slurry of fine abrasive powder in some kind of solvent, and whilst it might be OK to scrub the rust off the chrome on your vintage automobile, it has no place in the maintenance of recording equipment. The problem here is that the abrasive dribbles through the grills into the working parts of the microphone. The photo below was taken inside a nice RCA 44BX which was very shiny on the outside, but now needed professional cleaning inside, along with new a ribbon and new grill cloths.  The white gunk in the photograph is metal polish and was totally avoidable.

RCA 44BX with added metal polish
RCA 44BX with added metal polish

Magnetic attraction

Another common issue is metal particles. Ribbon and dynamic microphones are electromagnetic devices and contain strong magnets. This RCA 77DX was placed on a bench that had been used for some metalwork, and the magnetic field inevitably sucked in the iron filings. Every single one of those particles can cause trouble, and needs to be removed before the microphone can be re-ribboned.

RCA 77DX with added iron
RCA 77DX with added iron

If your ribbon microphone does need professional cleaning  or service then please get in touch – we can help.

*P’s and B’s to you and me.

February 16, 2020