Choosing rhe right contact microphone

Contact Microphones

If you wanna get loud, pay in acoustically difficult spaces and/or play with backing track, then you’ll most probably go for contact mic. But which one to choose ?

1. AKG C411
Most people, including Jeremy Nattagh and Laureau Sureau, use the AKG C411. I personally dont like it, as I find them expensive for a very bad sound, and you have to eq them like crazy to get something ‘not that bad but still’. IMHO, there is better for cheaper. If you try it, be wary that you can put it on the ring and not on the bottom, as his small size enables you to do that (and this is not the case of all contact mic, which is actually a good point). Most info on contact microphone placement below.

2.LOW GRADE PIEZZO
Classic low-grade piezzo can do the trick, sound is not really good, but it’s extra cheap. Some of them provide a better sound than the C411 in my opinion, while costing significantly less. I was personally quite pleased with the on the Schaller Oyster. Sound is in my opinion better than the C411 (even if not awesome, but you can’t get it all), and it’s also real cheap. if sound quality is not a total priority, I would recommend this guys. Note that Shadows make kind of the same mic.

3.TRANSDUCTOR
If you want to play loud with a decent quality for a decent price, transductor microphone seems like one of the best deal. A good one, used by Daniel Waples, is the Shertler Basik serie. You can have it battery-powered or phantom-powered, and I use it for difficult condition as the sound is quite good if you set it up perfectly (right place, right amount of paste, etc…). I also happen to find a little marvel that has 3 transductor microphones side by side, but mounted with invert phase, so that it helps kill the larsen. I was kinda amazed by the sound here for what it is, and it was for me the best solution for a while. Problem is, it is built only by a small french maker who doesn’t even have a website (and that I have no mean to contact now) ; other problem is that as it is a long flat mic, it bends when you stick it to the pan, and with transport it broke kinda fast. The guy was super kind and replaced it, but this is a major problem if you travel a lot with your pans – and here maybe the Shertler would perform better overall on the long run. I sadly cannot provide you with any link to get it, but you need to check triple transductor mic for banjos. This one seems quite similar.

4. BROWN & BAUR
There is also the Brown & Baur set (that you can find on facebook), which may be good but is a bit expensive. In my personal opinion sound is not that good for the price, and I won’t go for this option.

5.ISCHELL
I heard a lot of good things a while ago about the Ischell microphones. Initially oriented at double bass, these microphones made by a French maker are said to work very well with Handpan. It is quite expensive though, and I never got to try it out. But if you’re looking for a no-compromise solution, you can try to contact the maker and see with him if he can implement one on your pan. I know he done it before, so you can get good advice from him.

So what to choose regarding all this ? Here’s a quick summary :

Cheapest option : Schaller or Oyster piezzo. Decent sound with good post eq/reverb, extra low price.
Best sound
: I would go and try for Ischell’s mics.
Best overall value
: Transductor microphone such as Shertler basic. Medium price, quite good sound with good post eq/reverb.

As a general matter, you can try anything you see for banjo/double bass as this is most of the time the mics that gave me a good result.
Final word on the contact mics is that the mic position on your handpan is essential, and can make tremendous difference. try many different places, find the sweet spot. As a starting point you can place it next to the gu (on the inside of the shell) below the lowest note (this is the position I’m using), then try to move it around and see how it’s best. Then try it outside of the shell, and try it on the ring.

Hope I helped you here, don’t hesitate to share your results when you got to try some settings.
Love & Chill,
Tom

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