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Re: contact microphones - how?

At 8:37 PM -0800 2/10/02, eileen wrote:

>  By "live" I do mean a living thing, haven't decided what yet. But
>the way I imagined the sound was what you would hear when let's say a cat
>purrs. How exactly would that purr sound as it travels through the cat? 
>would it sound from the outside? Or even when the cat meows...how would 
>sound? Would a contact mic not be able to translate those sounds into
>something recognizable? The quality isn't really important, I'm working on
>some installations and I don't see the quality interfering with my 
>Is a contact mic not a good idea for this project? If not, do you have any
>ideas on what type of mic could capture something like this?

I don't have any specific recommendations on contact mics, but I 
expect there are people on this list who might. Percussionists 
frequently use contact mics to pick up the sound of drums, or as 
inputs to MIDI drum triggering interfaces.

Another thing to realize is that a transducer can work both ways, as 
a pickup or as a sound-producing element. Components designed as 
buzzers for electronic devices can also function as contact mics if 
hooked up in reverse (similarly, headphones can function as 

The efficiency of a contact mic depends a great deal on how 
intimately coupled it is to the object it's meant to pick up. A furry 
object such as a cat might not give you very good contact, and 
shaving a cat is not something you'd want to do.

I suspect that your best results might come by using small electret 
microphones, the sort of lavaliere mics that are commonly used for TV 
interviews and as part of a wireless system for theatrical 
performance. Omnidirectional mics would probably be the best, since 
they have the most linear frequency response in all directions.

Experiment with different mounting techniques. It may be necessary to 
hide the mic inside a piece of fabric, perhaps arranged as a collar.

Try it on yourself and on your friends first!


Richard Zvonar, PhD
(818) 788-2202