Austin Ribbon Microphones Hot Holder
By Phil O'Keefe |
A product that's not so hot!
A lot of musicians are into electronics. Whether it be building their own microphones, amplifiers and effects from scratch (or kits), or making their own cables from bulk wire and new connectors - or even just occasionally re-soldering broken connectors on commercially-manufactured cables, there's a lot of musicians who know how to solder out there… and there are two things that all of us have in common: we've all been burned at on point or another (or several times over the years…) while trying to hold parts in position while trying to solder them, and we've all struggled with trying to keep parts properly positioned while we're trying to work on them. Sure, there are several tools on the market that are designed to help with holding and positioning parts - most use small pivoting metal arms and alligator clips to hold things in position, but there are drawbacks to them; the metal can act as a heat sink, pulling the heat away from the very parts you're trying to heat up with the soldering iron (thereby potentially leading to cold solder joints), the alligator clips in combination with the heat can melt the wire insulation, and worst of all, often the articulating arms just don't have enough tension to keep things in the position you want, so as you press the iron to the joint, things move away from you, which can be very frustrating. Well Austin DIY Microphones has come up with a remarkably simple yet highly effective tool that solves some of these problems. It's called The Hot Holder, and I think all musical solder jockeys need to be aware of it, which is why it's under review here.
What You Need To Know
- The Hot Holder is a small (~3.5" L x 2.3" W x 1.35" H) block of firm yet flexible high-temperature silicone that is designed to be used as a soldering aid. It's got some heft to it, so it's not going to fall over or move out of position when you start working with it.
- There are a total of 18 different cavities, indentations and cuts / slots on the silicone block. These are "grippy", and are designed and shaped in such a way as to allow you to insert wires, small PCBs and various other components into them; the Hot Holder then holds them firmly and safely in such a way as to make soldering easier.
- There are openings on the Hot Holder for XLR male and female cable connectors., as well as both 3.5 mm male and female plugs and jacks.
- There are also openings designed to hold 1/4" male and female plugs and jacks; the 1/4" female can also be used for holding potentiometers shaft-side down.
- There are also openings on the Hot Holder for holding pickup switches. You get two styles, including one that will hold a Les Paul-style 3-way switch in the inverted / contacts-up position, and one that is designed for holding Fender-style 3-way and 5-way blade switches in the same orientation.
- There are also openings designed to hold dual RCA male and RCA female jacks, along with several different sized hexagonal holes that can be used to hold a variety of different components.
- The two sides of the Hot Holder each have a slot for holding wires. These can also be used to hold small PCB circuit boards in place while you populate them with parts and while soldering the parts to the board.
- The bottom surface of the Hot Holder is slightly "dished", which gives it some suction when it's placed and pressed down on to a smooth, flat surface - this helps hold it in position on your work bench. Additionally, the weight of the Hot Holder is sufficient to keep it in place by itself; it's not going to move around or away from you like some other third-hand solutions often do.
- However, don't think that you can only use the Hot Holder with the bottom oriented down - you can set the Hot Holder on its side or even stand it on one end, and as long as you're not trying to hold something too large (it works great with a typical effects pedal-sized PCB), it still holds things very well (just in a different orientation) and still remains stable.
- It doesn't hold every conceivable electronic component you might need to work on. Additionally, it might not be the proper tool to reach for when you need to hold something in position in a tightly confined space, such as when soldering pots into place on the inside front face of an amp chassis, or when wiring an effect pedal's 3PDT bypass footswitch inside of a nearly-completed DIY pedal. However, Austin Ribbon Microphones does offer two similar silicone products (The Cheese - $29 MSRP shipped, and The Finger, which is currently in beta testing) that provide additional capabilities, which could be useful in some of those situations.
What a clever and useful product! If you solder, you're going to want to have a Austin Ribbon Microphones Hot Holder in your toolbox. Unlike the metal alligator clips on helping hands units or vice-type parts holders, the Hot Holder doesn't act as a heat sink or damage wire insulation, which alone makes it worth having. Add in the fact that it also holds things more stably in many circumstances, and the fact that it's not only highly heat resistant but is likely to reduce the number of times you could get burned while trying to hold something in place with your hands (or accidentally get burned by touching the heated metal of other parts holders), plus the fact that it can't scratch plating on metal parts like alligator clips can, and it becomes a no-brainer. While it may not be the correct tool to reach for every time you need to hold something in position while soldering it, you'll find it useful in a wide range of situations. Simple and relatively inexpensive, with significant advantages over some of the previous items that have tried to solve some of the same issues, the Hot Holder is a brilliant idea and a product that every musician who uses a soldering iron should own. -HC-
Want to discuss the Austin DIY Microphones Hot Holder or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the DIY forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Austin Ribbon Microphones Hot Holder ($39.00 "street", including free shipping anywhere in the USA, including US Military APO/FBO/DPO overseas stations)
Austin Ribbon Microphones product web page #1
Austin Ribbon Microphones product web page #2
You can purchase the Hot Holder directly from Austin Ribbon Microphones via the above links.
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.