Meet Ken Donnell

CEO, Lifetime Musician, Master Luthier
and Legendary Inventor of the2Mic™

Ken Donnell - CEO, lifetime musician, master luthier, legendary inventor of the2Mic™
Ken Donnell – CEO, lifetime musician, master luthier, legendary inventor of the2Mic™

the2Mic™ 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 Greenville, 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 1970’s, 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.

Microphones and MiniFlex soon came to dominate Ken’s career, with lutherie becoming more of a passionate hobby. As interest in MiniFlex Microphones began to soar, Ken created new and improved models once or twice a year. 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, and in 2006 one of his tests yielded incredible results for improved feedback rejection using a dual microphone system used with steel stringed guitars. Further development continued until the re-start of MiniFlex Microphones in 2009 with release of the Model 1 and Model 2. More development followed until by 2015, there were 6 different guitar models with unique features and sound signatures, and specialty models for other stringed instruments (visit MiniFlex Microphones at www.miniflexmic.com).

In 2016, flamenco guitarists began contacting Ken after using the Model 1 with results superlative to anything they had previously experienced using pickups. These guitarists were enthusiastic about the great sound quality 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 created new prototypes with a more carefully pre-EQ’d bass response to send to some of these flamenco guitarists for testing.

Evolution of the2Mic™ took a further leap forward when famed flamenco and classical guitarist, Adam Del Monte, contacted Ken in October 2017, after hearing a performance by flamenco guitarist Jason McGuire performing with a new 2Mic™ prototype. Adam brought a perspective of performing with both classical and flamenco guitars, resulting in the first prototypes of the2Mic™ being tested in early 2018. By June, testing was complete, and a formal product launch planned for August of 2018.

Looking back on a lifetime in music and 30+ years working with close-mic systems, Ken speaks with anticipation for the future….

“There appears to be a happy convergence of technologies so that it is now practical to use the2Mic™ to amplify a wide range of both classical and contemporary stringed instruments. At the same time that classical musicians are becoming more with discreet and high quality amplification of their instruments, audio companies are bringing to market a wide range of high quality PA equipment at very affordable prices that are compatible with the2Mic™. I predict the next decade will see a resurgence of interest in classical music now that audiences can hear all of the nuances and tonality of classical guitars, flamenco guitars, and the whole bowed instrument family.”

– Ken Donnell, CEO, lifetime musician, master luthier, legendary inventor of the2Mic™