Updated: Nov 12, 2019
Possibly some of the most fun to be had in the field of audio comes from experimenting with microphones and other devices and testing them out in situations other than their intended use. It’s through this experimentation, that the Electro Voice RE20 made a name for itself as a versatile bass instrument and vocal microphone, even though it was originally designed to be a broadcast microphone.
After seeing the Marble Machine video I was inspired to try out the AKG C411 contact mics on cymbals to see how the sounded in a live recording situation. And the results of the experiment show that they can be quite useful in certain situations. Because they’re picking up the mechanical vibration of the cymbal rather than listening to the sound waves from a distance, there is no bleed and no room sound. The signal dry as a bone, but it does come at the small cost that it will dampen the sound of the cymbals. I say small cost, because livening up the sound of a dry and dull cymbal with saturation, EQ, reverb is a simple task for even novice sound engineers.
The result is that these neat little microphones can be used to record cymbals in less than ideal recording environments. For example the DIY artist recording drums in their bedroom with some mattresses against the window for some “acoustic treatment” (sorry dude, just because you’ve made it better, doesn’t mean you’ve made it good). However you'd be wise to be wary of using them in live sound, or without regular overheads to use as backup; because if not applied properly, or if the adhesive gel stretches due to the tug of a lead (or gravity) your sound will become horrifyingly distorted.
Because of these possible drawbacks I'd recommend following the age of adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." If the room sounds great, just stick with your favourite overhead microphones. But for the bedroom audio engineer, the creative experimenter, or the sample collecting sound designer, contact microphones can be a useful, and fun addition to your arsenal. Head on over to Audio Technik to check them out for yourself.