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gear/software, recording techniques

Sub Kick #1 – Woofer from the Garbage

Making a sub kick mic is pretty damn easy. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, “sub kick” refers to a speaker cone you’ve converted into a microphone for use on a kick drum (though one can use it on other sources). Yamaha NS-10 woofers are popular candidates for sub kick mikes.

But since I don’t have an NS-10 woofer, I used a 5.5″ woofer that my co-worker Alex Erker found in the garbage. Virtually any speaker can be used, really, though cones between 6″ and 8″ are desirable. Turning this piece of junk into a mic was so easy, in fact, that everyone reading this should go make one right now. Just do the following:

  • Have a friend find you a speaker in the garbage and rip it out of it’s housing. Alternatively, obtain a 6″ to 8″ woofer of your choosing. You should see two terminals – possible labelled hot and cold, or positive and negative.
  • Prepare a shielded cable. Solder one inner conductor to the positive terminal and the other to the negative terminal. Remove the shield from the speaker-end of the cable.

Use heat shrink if you want to get fancy

  • Now prepare the other end of the cable for assembly on a male XLR connector. Solder pin 2 to the conductor attached to the positive speaker terminal, and pin 3 to the negative terminal. Connect the shield to pin 1.

You can also make some sort of strain relief using a zip tie

  • Finish assembling the XLR connector and you’re done. Plug it into a channel and tap lightly on the cone. If you don’t see a signal, the woofer was put in the garbage for good reason.

Finished sub kick

While making the mike is pretty easy, finding a way to mount it can be tricky. Since I plan on making a nicer sub kick using a “real” speaker in the near future, I didn’t bother to find some creative way to mount this one. So I just stuck it to our kick-out mike stand. Worked well enough.

Works just fine, thank you.

You may notice I connected an in-line 10dB pad. The measured impedance of this speaker is 8 ohms, and most speakers like it will be between 6 and 12 ohms. Since this creates a lot of signal for very little effort on the coil, you’ll probably want to use a pad.
So what does it sound like? Well, I’ll post samples once I have a second sub kick mike to compare it to. In the meantime, suffice to say it sounds like a triggered sub tone. On it’s own, it’s all but useless. Blended in tastefully, it can add a lot of bottom to your kick sound on the cheap.
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