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I would like to try some ideas for some really wierd sounds and I think a good contact mic would give me better results at that!

Also I would like to ask if you think its a good idea to plug this mic or any mic on a zoom H2 or H4N to get the sound.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Make your own! Commercial contact mics are insanely overpriced. You can make exactly the same thing for 1/10th of the price. Here's one set of instructions: http://brokenpants.com/?page_id=94

or another: http://home.earthlink.net/~erinys/contactmic.html

One thing that these tutorials are missing is a way to protect them once you've made them. The best way I've seen is to use something like Plasti-Dip to seal off the transducer: http://www.plastidip.co.uk/index2.cfm?page=products&prodId=9

Check out how Leafcutter John uses piezos: http://leafcutterjohn.com/?p=894

And I've never tried this, but he suggests building this preamp to make the piezo transducer sound much better: http://www.alexrice.co.uk/content/piezo-preamp

And yes, recording a contact mic into a Zoom recorder will probably sound fine.

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You really should have a high-impedance buffer right at the piezo, or it will be prone to hum interference and high-frequency roll-off. –  endolith Mar 9 '10 at 4:06
    
on the Plasti-Dip - do you just dip the entire element in, or brush it on in a thin layer? i'll be making one of these this weekend - excited! thanks for the info. –  VCProd Apr 13 '10 at 15:57
    
Get the spray-on version. –  Josh McHugh Jun 15 '10 at 17:10
    
Do you recommend the primer or do you not need one? –  Adrian Millington Oct 30 '10 at 21:56
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I use a Trance Audio Inducer and a Barcus Berry Planar Wave, and the Trance Audio is definitely my favorite, but the thing to bear in mind with both these mics is they aren't just a contact mic, they also come with a perfectly matched preamp and there is a very good reason why. People who build their own contact mics definitely get sound from them, but their sensitivity & frequency response is often limited by plugging them into a normal mic preamp. This article explains the issue of impedance matching and includes a basic preamp circuit:

http://bit.ly/contactmicpreamp

"The problem with piezo guitar pickups and contact mics is that they are not well matched to typical audio inputs. By their nature they can generate a lot of signal, but cannot drive a 50 kilohm typical line input. The pickup needs to work into a much higher impedance, typically 1 megohm or so...."

So if you are going the DIY route & want good results, spend the time to build a matched preamp for it...

And re "commercial contact mics are insanely overpriced." Do you cost out the time involved in making your own contact mic and high quality preamp? Even on minimum wage this can be a false economy... I've had my Trance Audio contact mic for more than 5 years and have never once felt it was over-priced, quite the opposite it was actually a phenomenally good investment... I totally respect the DIY approach, especially if you are time rich & cash poor, but long term the issues of quality & reliability are what drive my decision making when investing in gear....

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Cold Gold is a pretty well known maker of piezo-style mics, as is Jeff Thompson. I have two that Jeff made with XLR conenctors, and they're pretty good; some ground loop hum on my SD 702, but if the audio source is loud enough it's workable. Piezo's are small and you can tape them to anything; google "DIY contact mic" and you'll find tutorials galore if you're handy with a soldering iron and have more time than money.

My hydrophone actually makes an incredible contact microphone. The Aquarian Audio H2a-XLR is available with an optional rubber cup that turns it into a contact mic with low noise, hot output, and good dynamic range. It's too heavy to effectively tape upside down to much, unlike the weighs-nothing piezo elements, but it has its uses.

Chuck Russom and Tim Prebble use Barcus Berry Planar Wave contact mics, and there are many contact microphones like the BB that are intended for use on instruments that are pretty professional, albeit at a higher price.

Hope this helps you get started in your research!

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I have a pair of cold golds and find that they work really well. –  Rene Jun 15 '10 at 13:41
    
I have a stereo Cold Gold -- decently interesting as a hydrophone but lots of fun for contact mic recording. Thanks for the tip on the Aquarian -- I'll have to check one out soon. –  Tyler Sep 12 '10 at 2:41
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Listen to Tim, he knows his stuff :) He's the one who turned me on to the Barcus Berry that I am using. In no way is it insanely expensive, it is just over $200 USD including a preamp with phantom power and a -12db pad. Plus, it is well made.

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I'll add that despite being worth every penny of their retail price, used Barcus Berry Planar mics can be found for far cheaper than $200 and get the job done equally as well. –  Steve Urban Jan 25 '11 at 5:14
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I've got a DIY contact mic tutorial up on my site: http://maaheli.ee/main/archives/932

The trick for me when using piezos is to build them durably to withstand a good deal of pressure. With sufficient contact regular old piezos can be really sensitive.

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wow! thank you all for your answers! it was really helpfull all of it! i think that i ll go for the DIY solution for starters and test my skills :P

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