Acoustic comparison microphone / ~€ 100 - DIY-pickup-system

I am always asked how good or bad my € 100 DIY-pickup-system is.

This question is difficult to answer, since a lot has to do with personal listening impression and personal preferences. I now had the opportunity to record my playing simultaneously with two computers. The recordings were made with the freeware audacity on the computer.

The only change I made to the recorded signals is that I normalized all levels equally to -5 dB to make the sound pressure comparable.

Microphone setup:
2 x Rode NT5 MP microphones about 75 cm above the vibraphone, a Behringer audio interface UMC404HD.

PickUp setup:
One pickup on each sound bar, all pickups paralell connected (no potentiometers or resistors), t.c.electronic stereo chorus as preamplifier, Zoom H4N as audio interface

I have provided two comparisons (mic/pickup) as Audacity projects (one with and one without chorus) for download. Then everyone can get an impression of the sounds themselves and switch back and forth as desired.

The audacity software is freeware and can be downloaded here.
For everyone who does not want to install audacity, I have added an mp3 file of the same recording one with microphone and one with pickups.

I personally would not want to work with the pickups on studio recordings. However, I've never been to a studio anyway.

I like to use the pickups as an uncomplicated, feedback-free amplification option for the vibraphone, without also amplifying the saxophonist or trumpeter blowing into his device behind me. The use of high-quality (expensive) microphones is not recommended anyway on cramped session stages, since such a stand is easily tipped over in the crowd of musicians.

HTH Paul

Access: Anonymous


Thanks for posting this. By any chance, do you have these files in a lossless format such as WAV or AIFF? The MP3 is knocking out a lot of the high frequency info that I’m sure that at least the mics picked up.

I would also like to hear a comparison without any
Phase shifter or other processing, just the straight feed off the pickups. It really sounds good to me; I’d like to hear exactly how good.


I am not able to upload the WAV 32bit.
So I will try to upload WAV16 bit, but it ssems as if I need to do one theme per file.

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2nd part

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I have now changed the recording mode to exclude the influences of the tc-electronics preamplifier:
I have now given the signal from the pickups directly to the Behringer audio interface. The microphone was recorded with the Zoom H4n.

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I want to play around with the direct out from the pickup one a bit, then I'll post back some results. Very nice. I dream of a highly portable electric axe. I am going to take a shot at processing it to see how lifelike I can make it. It really sounds good.


This started with your unprocessed file from just the pickups... Obviously, there are several issues to work out yet, but I am really feeling very positive about the possibilities with this. I used to be a "no pickups ever" kinda guy, but I am definitely warming up to this a lot.

thanks again.

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Randy, I liked the improvements you made to the sound, especially your reduction of the percussive pop at the sound of the note (not sure how to describe that). For live performance, what processing do you think would result in a sound similar to the sound you created through your processing?

That's what I am working on figuring out. My plan is to figure out what is needed first, then figure out how to miniaturize it and make it available in a live setting. Everything I am using thus far falls in the class of VST plugins, so it could be run through an audio interface into a system like Mainstage and back out to the amp... there would be a slight amount of latency in that. With my current Universal Audio interface, I can run many of the plugins on the interface itself, reducing latency to near zero.

There are, of course, old school analog processing gear that does some of the same stuff with no perceivable latency.

What you heard in that example is a combination of a multi-band compressor (to knock out the thuds), an exciter (to recreate some of the missing upper partials), room emulation (somewhat different than normal reverb... its uses an AI algorithm to recreate the sonic space in the Ocean Way recording studios), a bit of artificial tremolo, some light final EQ and a touch of reverb.

I am working on some other samples I just got with different instruments and pickups. I will keep you all in the loop on what processing seems to be getting me to a useful, musical solution. NOTE: I am not thinking this will ever sound completely like all the beautiful complexity that an acoustic set of vibes produces in a room. My goal is for something that sounds reasonably organic and expressive that can be used for a musical effect. If guitarists can do this, so can we.

I think there is no reason to remain in the "no pickups ever"-corner. You just need an equalizer (to raise the treble) and possibly some reverb to get a pretty good sound out of the pickups. Pickups are not a devil's work, they simply offer an additional amplification option.

My goal building frames was to get an highly portable acoustic vibraphone with easy to use electrical amplification options. Therefore, I have integrated the contact sockets of the pickups into my two-part frame. Each frame half can be transported like a synthesizer/keyboard with the bars remaining assembled and pickups connected.

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