Not just cheap, it sounds good!
Ingredients to make your own clipon microphone
- Realistic 33-1063 Electret Tie Pin Microphone
(Radio Shack, Tandy)
- Deluxe Clothes peg
- Two small self tapping screws
- Strip of metal, e.g. brass, approx 8″ x 1/4″
- Self amalgamating tape (or improvise something else)
The actual microphone
First, let me point out about the quality involved. I was introduced to these inexpensive clipon microphones by a well established studio sound engineer, they were his “secret weapon” and cost around £20 ($28). He used them for drum mics. I’m not sure if you can still get these from Radio Shack/Tandy but there are plenty on eBay. The modern Radio Shack equivalent or other back electret tiepin mics may or may not be as good. No other cheap tie pin mic I have tried has the amazing quality of this one, but there could be some others out there as good, who knows? The point is these may be cheap, but they sound great, I have recorded some soundclips (see below) which compare this with my AKG C12VR which costs about £2000.
The clamp (peg)
The other crucial component is the peg. It’s important that this does not either fall off or damage the bell, so you need to try to get this upper class peg with extra rubbery grippy bits. You are more likely to get these from John Lewis than from Mr. Pound. The point about these are they grip well and the they hold the screws well. It is possible to adapt the grip to be stronger by merely winding a small but strong rubber band around the jaws.
The photograph should be reasonably self-explanatory, but here are the instructions anyway:
Assembling the Sax Clip-On Mic
Compare with more expensive microphones
- A: AKG C12 VR (£4000)
- B: Oktave Ribbon ML-53 (£250)
- C: Shure SM58 (£100)
- D: Realistic Electret 1063 (£20)
Which microphone sounds best?
- Drill two holes near the clip end in the metal strip (to take the screws) and two slightly smaller holes in the peg handle (see illustration). Those of you who are good at DIY will know about self tapping screws and drill sizes. The important thing is that the screws pass easily but snugly through the metal so the drill should be the same size as the outer circumference of the threads on the screw. The hole which the screws screw into needs to be the same size as the shaft of the screw, but without the threads. If in doubt make this hole slightly too small and then try a size up if it’s too hard to screw into. A self tapping screw cuts its own thread, so it’s important to get this how not too large or it will slip. If in doubt practise on a bit of spare metal and another peg.
- For the metal strip I suggest brass. Aluminium might be too weak. I actually used a piece of silver which I had hanging around, as you do. You can get strips of brass from a craft, hobby or model shop.
- Now just attach the whole shooting match to the bell of your beloved saxophone (or whatever: this also works for trumpets and various other brass instruments) and bend the metal round to find the approximate position for the microphone. As this is an omnidirectional mic, it can actually be placed quite close to the bell without getting some of the disadvantages of a very close cardioid (directional) polar pattern microphone. Don’t worry about the exact position, as you can experiment once you’ve got it all set up. Besides it is adjustable so you can do a lot of trial and error finding the best position for different performance situations. Yes, eventually bending it back and forth will break the metal, but you probably won’t need to. Besides, it’s easy to just make another one, or several at once if you feel like getting a production line going.
- Now all you do is attach the mic. I used self amalgamating tape attached round the actual mic, and then to secure the cable about two,inches further down. You could just use gaffa tape, however it doesn’t do quite such a professional job. Self amalgamating tape is a wonderful and somewhat underestimated product. It isn’t exactly sticky, until you stretch it over itself, when it sort of just grips onto itself rather like super strong clingfilm. In fact, it amalgamates into itself. It has a million other household uses. You can get it from Amazon, Maplins, Radio Shack (?), Screwfix and any electrician’s supplier.
- Plugin in and play!
These mics come with a mini jack plug, so depending on your rig, you may need to get an adapter, either for a 1/4″ jack or an XLR. The mics use a small battery, and has an on/off switch on the battery compartment. It can be important to remember to switch off after use to preserve battery life. No doubt you will forget, as I do, so carry a few spares.