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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Recording Corner »

Permalink recording with a loudspeaker instead of a microphone

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I haven't seen these three BBC documentaries entitled "Guitar, drums and bass" but according to my buddy "Episode 2 - Bass with Tina Weymouth" there is an interview with Paul McCartney. I'm guessing this would have been Beatles Abbey Road point of time - He said he wasn't happy with recorded sound of his bass guitar and an engineer came up with the idea of using a speaker instead of a microphone and reversing the polarity. I'm not entirely sure how it was done but it entails the amp speaker cone in opposite back/forth movement to the speaker-microphone.

crumble wrote:

I haven't seen these three BBC documentaries entitled "Guitar, drums and bass" but according to my buddy "Episode 2 - Bass with Tina Weymouth" there is an interview with Paul McCartney. I'm guessing this would have been Beatles Abbey Road point of time - He said he wasn't happy with recorded sound of his bass guitar and an engineer came up with the idea of using a speaker instead of a microphone and reversing the polarity. I'm not entirely sure how it was done but it entails the amp speaker cone in opposite back/forth movement to the speaker-microphone.

It was done for "Paperback Writter". The Beatles weren't satisfied with the low end on their records, and wanted the bass sound they heard on Motown records. Geoff Emerick realized that a speaker is just basically a reverse wired microphone, and used a bass cab for a mic.
I've tried this before with mixed results. You have to reverse the speaker polarity and the resulting signal is very low level, so you need a way to boost it. These days it's become popular among metal guys to mic bass drums like this in order to capture all the sub bass frequencies. They even sell a dedicated mic made from a yamaha ns10 woofer for this purpose.

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Last edited: Jan 25, 2019 08:05:46

That is a cool solution! In theory, the higher the impedance of the speaker, the better the output. I have a 12" 16 ohm speaker here somewhere, so we'll do some testing to see if it works!

Frank

We used a makeshift version of this on the kick drum in one of our recording sessions. It is not uncommon these days. Of course, it was not the only mic on the kick.

THE KBK ... This is the last known signal. We offer Sanctuary.

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This is from this past weekend at the studio where we are recording our next CD.

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Last edited: Feb 13, 2019 19:08:04

Any speaker is a pretty fair microphone. (Well, except piezoelectric ones.) Classical LPs were recorded with speakers in the early days, or so the liner notes told me.

SSIV

I would imagine that in Abbey Road days, the speaker would have been an alnico one, and would offer some degree of compression compared to a microphone. I'd say that using a compressor on the bass guitar would achieve a similar effect of amplifying harmonics and thickening the sound.

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Coupled with singing leads through your headphones and the harmonies through a Teisco guitar's pickups, you've got quite a memorable sound!

I've mixed a few productions where a Yamaha Sub-Kick was used to record the bass drum, but always in conjunction with other microphones.

The idea of the Sub-kick (or any speaker woofer used as a microphone) is to capture the very lowest frequencies that the bass drum produces.

A speaker-woofer shares the same basic elements as a dynamic microphone: A diaphragm with a copper coil attached to it, sitting in the field of a magnet.

But a speaker is designed to produce low-frequency sound, sometimes at high volumes, so it has a relatively large, heavy diaghragm/coil assembly. Making the heavier, stiffer assembly vibrate to produce sound is no problem because it will be powered by a powerful amplifier of some sort.
But when you use one as a microphone it's immediately apparent that the heavy, stiff cone/coil can't be agitated by high frequency sound waves the way a microphone diaphragm can.
What it CAN do is to capture those loud, ultra-low frequencies: that powerful rush of air that you can feel on your hand when the bass drum is struck. Those are loud and slow-moving enough to push the cone back and forth.

It sounds great in conjunction with a microphone, especially if you're using a microphone that can't respond well to low frequencies, but the signal that comes from contains only the very lowest frequencies so you'd miss out on all the "attack" of the bass drum if you used it on its own.

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