Paper Cup Mic Is Fun And Functional

Any studio operator worth their Protools subscription will have a wide array of microphones to cover any conceivable situation. SM57s to cover guitar cabs, fancy gilded ribbon mics for vocal takes, and a variety of condensers to round out the selection. That’s all well and good for high-fidelity recording, but what if you want to go the other way? [LeoMakes] has just the thing, with his sub-$10 paper cup mic.

The basic concept is that of a dynamic microphone. A paper cup is attached to a taut string, upon which a magnet is affixed. Sound waves hitting the paper cup cause the string, and thus the magnet, to vibrate. The magnet is located within a coil, created from thin insulated wire wrapped around an old solder spool. This induces a current, creating the audio signal.

Results are as lo-fi as you’d expect, with the exact character of the sound changing depending on the tension of the string and the exact materials used. It’s a fun project that can be tackled with cheap materials, and there’s scope to create all manner of wacky mics by varying the parameters of the build. If you’re doing this more than once, however, you might want some help winding the coils — let this project be an inspiration. Video after the break.

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Love Songs To The Microphone

A biographer of Frank Sinatra once commented that for singers like Sinatra, their instrument is the microphone. We tend to think of microphones as ideal transducers, picking up sound faithfully. But like most electronic components, microphones are imperfect. They have a varying frequency response. They pick up popping noises when we say words like “popcorn” that are normally lost to someone listening live.

[Cheddar] has an interesting video (see below) that covers how performers like Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Billie Holiday learned to use the microphone to their advantage. They suggest that the microphone changed the way humans sing, and they are right.

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Build Your Own Anechoic Chamber

For professional-level sound recording, you’ll need professional-level equipment. Microphones and mixing gear are the obvious necessities, as well as a good computer with the right software on it. But once you have those things covered, you’ll also need a place to record. Without a good acoustic space, you’ll have all kinds of reflections and artefacts in your sound recordings, and if you can’t rent a studio you can always build your anechoic chamber.

While it is possible to carpet the walls of a room or randomly glue egg crate foam to your walls, [Tech Ingredients] tests some homemade panels of various shapes, sizes, and materials against commercially available solutions. To do this he uses a special enclosed speaker pointed at the material, and a microphone to measure the sound reflections. The tests show promising results for the homemade acoustic-absorbing panels, at a fraction of the cost of ready-made panels.

From there, we are shown how to make and assemble these panels in order to get the best performance from them. When dealing with acoustics, even the glue used to hold everything together can change the properties of the materials. We also see a few other cost saving methods in construction that can help when building the panels themselves as well. And, while this build focuses on acoustic anechoic chambers, don’t forget that there are anechoic chambers for electromagnetic radiation that use the same principles as well.

Thanks to [jafinch78] for the tip!

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High-End Headphones Get Flexible Boom Upgrade

It seems a reasonable assumption that anyone who’d be willing to spend a few hundred dollars on a pair of headphones is probably the type of person who has a passion for high quality audio. That, or they work for the government. We’re fairly sure [Daniel Harari] falls into that former category though, given how much thought he gave to adding a decent microphone to his Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

Not happy with the results he got from microphones clipped to his shirt or mounted on a stand, [Daniel] realized what he really wanted was a sensitive boom microphone. This would be close enough to his mouth that it wouldn’t pick up stray noises, but at the same time not obstruct his field of view or otherwise get in the way.

He found a few options on the market which would allow him to mount a boom microphone to his HD650’s, but he didn’t want to stick anything to them and risk scratching the finish so those weren’t really an option. [Daniel] decided to go the DIY route, and eventually settled on a microphone that would mount to the headphone’s existing connector which plugs in at the bottom of the cup.

To make his mount, he 3D printed a two piece clamp that could be screwed together and securely attach to the connector without making any permanent changes. Once he had that base component printed, he salvaged the flexible metallic neck from a cheap USB light and used that to hold the female 3.5mm connector. Into that he’s plugged in a small commercially available microphone that is usually used on voice recorders, which [Daniel] said sounds much better than even the larger mics he had tested.

Finally, he used Sugru to encapsulate the wires and create a flexible strain relief. The whole assembly is very light, easily movable, and perhaps most importantly, didn’t require any modifications or damage to a pair of headphones which have a retail price that could double as a car payment.

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen anyone brave enough to hack their pricey Sennheiser headphones. But in the past we covered a modification which gave them an infusion of Bluetooth and even one that reversed a sneaky manufacturer hardware limitation.

“Yell To Press B” Mod Makes N64 Controller Worse

There’s probably no reason anyone would actually desire a mod like this. Well, no good reason. But [William Osman] had been pondering what it would be like to play some classic games with inputs other than buttons, and decided to make an audio sensor responsible for pressing the B button on an old N64 controller. This “Yell To Press B” mod was also something unique to show his hosts when he visited the YouTube video game aficionados, [Game Grumps].

[William] acknowledges that the build is a bit of a hack job, but the project page does a good job of documenting his build process and covering the kinds of decisions involved in interfacing to a separate piece of hardware. After all, most budding hackers have sooner or later asked themselves “how do I make my gadget press a button on this other thing?” [William] ends up using a small relay to close the connection between the traces for the B button when triggered by a microphone module, but he points out that it should be possible to do a non-destructive version of the mod. Examples exist of reading the N64 controller’s state with an Arduino, which could form the basis of a man-in-the-middle approach of “Yell To Press B” (or anything else) instead of soldering to the button contacts. A video is embedded below, in which you can watch people struggle to cope with the bizarre mod.

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The Hot And Cold Of Balanced Audio

A few summers of my misspent youth found me working at an outdoor concert venue on the local crew. The local crew helps the show’s technicians — don’t call them roadies; they hate that — put up the show. You unpack the trucks, put up the lights, fly the sound system, help run the show, and put it all back in the trucks at the end. It was grueling work, but a lot of fun, and I got to meet people with names like “Mister Dog Vomit.”

One of the things I most remember about the load-in process was running the snakes. The snakes are fat bundles of cables, one for audio and one for lighting, that run from the stage to the consoles out in the house. The bigger the snakes, the bigger the show. It always impressed me that the audio snake, something like 50 yards long, was able to carry all those low-level signals without picking up interference from the AC thrumming through the lighting snake running right alongside it, while my stereo at home would pick up hum from the three-foot long RCA cable between the turntable and the preamp.

I asked one of the audio techs about that during one show, and he held up the end of the snake where all the cables break out into separate connectors. The chunky silver plugs clinked together as he gave his two-word answer before going back to patching in the console: “Balanced audio.”

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Juggling Machine Listens To The Bounce To Keep Ball In The Air

It’s a seemingly simple task: bounce a ping-pong ball on a wooden paddle. So simple that almost anyone can pick up a ball and a paddle and make a reasonable job of it. Now, close your eyes and try to do it just by the sound the ball makes when it hits the paddle. That’s a little tougher, but this stepper-driven platform juggler manages it with aplomb.

That’s not to say that the path to the finished product in the video below was a smooth one for [tkuhn]. He went through multiple iterations over the last two years, including a version that surrounded the juggling platform with a fence of phototransistors to track where the ball was at any time. That drove four stepper motors through a cross-linkage that popped the platform up at just the right moment to keep the ball moving, and at just the right angle to nudge it back toward the center of the platform. The current version of the platform does away with the optical sensors in favor of four small microphones. The mics pick up the sharp, well-defined sound of the ball hitting the platform, process the signal through an analog circuit, and use that signal to trigger a flip-flop if the signal exceeds a setpoint. An Arduino then measures the time delay between arriving signals, calculates the ball’s position on the platform, and drives the steppers through a PID loop to issue the corrective bounce.

The video below is entrancing, but we found ourselves wishing for a side view of the action too. It’s an impressive build nonetheless, one that reminds us of the many maze-runner and Stewart platform robots we’ve seen.

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