Since the dawn of time, audiophiles all over the world have sought after more microphones, particularly those who record drums. Most people who have a less than ideal budgets must learn to improvise. While it is highly recommended that one must acquire microphones through the used market when you are on a budget, there is another alternative. Microphones can be made using common, cheap materials for applications like bass drums and toms and thus freeing up your remaining microphones for other applications like cymbals.
The example being used here is made from an ordinary set of standard Sony Walkman headphones. Several steps must be taken in order to turn ordinary headphones into bass drum microphones. First, you must remove the headphone drivers from their surrounding apparatus. One technique is simply breaking the speaker off from the rest of the headphone assembly. Other types of headphones will unsnap allowing access to the drivers inside. Next, you need to cut the speaker cable off about 2" from the speaker. Strip 1" of the insulation off exposing the wire. There will be a lead in red insulation and another cable in black or sometimes no insulation. Strip ½" of the insulation off of the red lead and black wire (if you have it). Next, you need to get a shielded instrument cable with a TS ¼" plug at the end. Cut the end off, and strip the rubber covering from the instrument cable. You will want a cable that is long enough to meet your needs as you will not easily be able to modify the mic cable later on. Next, attach the cable to one of the speakers. This can be done by weaving the strands of one wire in the instrument cable to a speaker wire and using a very small amount of solder to permanently connect. Repeat the same step for the other wire. It generally does matter which speaker leads you patch to which cable wire as long as you patch each mic you make the same way. After this, you need to wrap the connection with electricians tape starting with the individual leads and then the cable patch as a whole. This will protect the cables and provide support to reduce the risk of breakage.
You need to find a suitable handle for your mic now. I have used 1" X 1/4" X 8" plywood for this purpose with no problems. Just remember that you need to make the handle the size you want now. Attach the speaker to the handle with screws and for smaller drivers, like my prototype model is done, electrician's tape will do. Hold the cable firmly to the handle and wrap it with electrician's tape to seal it together. Your cheap bass drum mic is now ready. Legs to support the mic can also be made out of a wire coat hanger fragment. This can be attached by a 1" thumbscrew clamp or taped on like my prototype model.
The total cost of a pair of these mics is $20-$50 U.S. currency. Try to get fairly good headphones that have moderate sized drivers. Large drivers are very expensive and not very efficient for picking up sound. Small drivers are also inefficient and do not handle very high sound pressure levels. These mics almost always require EQ and a simple bass boost can handle most of your problems but if ringing is a problem in the mid-low range, a parametric or graphic EQ is needed. My mics sound best 2" from the batter head of the bass drum with +6 dB @ 60Hz, -3 dB @ 120Hz and occasionally +3dB @ 4-8KHz. A low Z to high Z transformer works wonders for increasing gain and reducing noise. One other note, if you can, wire a female ¼" connection to the mic handle to allow interchanging of cables. If you have a low-high converter, make the cable on the mic as short as possible (about 2 feet), and use an XLR cable to get you the rest of the way there. I have heard that a good pair of earbuds will work for toms but I have yet to try this. Happy soldering!
(c) 2000, Stephen J. Baldassarre, All rights reserved.
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