Who is Ken Donnell?
The MiniFlex Mic™ family of products is a creation of Ken Donnell, who is the foremost authority on “close-mic” applications for stringed musical instruments. (The field of using “close-mics” involves placing miniature microphones directly on to, or inside of, an instrument for amplification or recording). Ken holds the original patents in this field of audio engineering and continues to manage R&D at his company, Donnells-MiniFlex in Plumas County, California.
Ken has a long background in music and the music business. Ken’s parents were choir directors and his father managed a local retail music store. Ken began singing in church choirs at the age of 5 and helped his father move pianos as early as 8 years old. In college, Ken developed a passion for music education, composition, and classical guitar, followed by several years working as a professional musician playing both popular and classical music. Eventually, Ken became fascinated with lutherie and followed in his father’s footsteps into the retail music business by owning or working with several retail music stores.
In the late 1970s, while living in Houston, Texas, Ken was fortunate to be associated with the late Bill Collings, who inspired Ken to further pursue building guitars. A move to northern California in 1979 propelled Ken more towards lutherie, including teaching and writing about lutherie, until one pivotal moment when, in 1987, a client asked Ken to install a miniature microphone inside a Martin D-28 Guitar. That first experiment was successful, and Ken continued to improve his designs. By 1988, MiniFlex Microphones was operational, and Ken attended his first NAMM show as an exhibitor in January 1989.
This year, Ken returned to NAMM to exhibit his latest designs in a triumphant resurrection of MiniFlex after a devastating and complete loss due to the Dixie Fire in August 2021.
A Little History
In 1987, a client asked Ken Donnell, then a full-time professional luthier, to install a miniature microphone inside a Martin D-28 Guitar. That first experiment was successful, and Ken continued to improve his designs. By 1988, MiniFlex Microphones was operational, and Ken attended his first NAMM show as an exhibitor in January 1989. Microphones and MiniFlex soon came to dominate Ken’s career, with lutherie becoming more of a passionate hobby. By 1996, MiniFlex Microphones were world-famous, and there were models for a variety of stringed instruments…. mandolins, violins, upright bass, banjo, etc. By 1999 Ken was beginning to feel burned out as a small businessman, so, he closed his facility in Chico CA, and licensed his designs to GHS Strings Corp who continued to sell Ken’s original single mic designs until 2017 under the trade name – The Soundhole Mic™. Although formally retired, Ken never stopped thinking about ways to improve mounting microphones in guitars, and in 2006 one of his tests yielded incredible results for improved feedback rejection and improved tone quality using a new prototype dual microphone system. Further development continued until the restart of MiniFlex Microphones in 2009 with the release of the Model 1 and Model 2. By 2015, continued development resulted in 6 different guitar models with unique features and sound signatures, and specialty models for other stringed instruments.
In 2016, flamenco guitarists began contacting Ken after using the Model 1, and reported results superlative to anything they had previously experienced using pickups. These guitarists were enthusiastic about the great sound quality, and feedback rejection of the Model 1, but expressed some problems with controlling the heavy bass response of flamenco guitars. Ken listened carefully to the comments of these guitarists and eventually came to realize that his earlier 2Mic™ designs with MiniFlex were oriented towards the tone palette of steel-string guitars, while the new prototypes he was testing worked best for classical and flamenco guitars.
To avoid confusion, it was decided to keep the MiniFlex trade name involving 2Mic™ models for steel-string guitars. To celebrate creating a completely new line product line, Ken decided to launch this new model for classical and flamenco guitars under the new trade name—the2Mic™.