Academy Dashboard Forum Studio Gear Talk Testing the Hobo mic

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    Mike Morrison

      Hi everyone,
      If you frequent the PLAPA chat, you may have already learned that member Nate Wycoff is making some unusual, fun, and creative microphones.

      Today I'm sharing the results of a test session with his tin-can microphone, the Hobo.
      Hobo Mic - exterior

      Inspired by the old tin cans + string telephone idea, the Hobo mic has a 1/4" TS jack on the bottom and a 27mm piezo pickup inside.

      As one of the initial buyers (possibly the first, although I don't see a serial number on it), I bought it too early to receive the current mic cover made from "fresh hobo bandanas". Mine has a metallic windscreen covering the top of the can instead, giving it more of a post-apocalyptic vibe.
      Hobo mic - interior

      Obvious uses that came to mind before ordering were re-amping for guitars and vocal effects and double micing for extra grit on just about anything.

      To get a feel for the mic, I asked my friend Tom Griffith -- a brilliant producer, and exceptional songwriter -- to help me test it out.

      The initial setup was two mics side-by-side. My intent was to use a large-diaphragm condenser to capture the performances in the room cleanly so that the sound and character of the hobo mic could be compared. Aside from minor gain adjustments, there is no other processing on these audio files.

      -->> You can download all the files in a single ZIP from this link. <<--

      First was live acoustic guitar and vocal:

      The sound and character are delightfully trashy and metallic, but there's some resonance when he sings or hits an F note. They build up -- probably a result of the diameter of the can -- and really spike.

      To minimize this, we wrapped the shell of the Hobo in a heavy towel and rubber-banded it to dampen most of the vibration of the chassis. 

      Hobo mic - dampened

      Then we did another short take:

      It helped reduce the resonance quite a bit, and made it so that we could probably use it on most sources without much concern. In retrospect, we could have wrapped the towel more tightly across the back of the closed-end of the can as well. Something I'll probably try when we use it in a session.

      We rarely track live vocal and guitar at the same time here, though, except for demos. Most of the time, we'll track separately. So that was next!
      First the guitar...
      Then the vocal...

      If you open those files up in your DAW, they'll line up and you can mix and match as you like.

      We found that mixing in just a bit of the Hobo mic provided some unique character and distortion. It doesn't sound like anything else, and in this age of finding just the right towel for a kick drum or the right muffle for a snare, I'm stoked to have this creative analog distortion grunge mic as a secret weapon.

      I didn't have time to do any re-amping yet, but hopefully this test will give you enough of an idea to know whether this kind of thing would be a fun addition to your studio.

      While our towel-wrapping solution worked pretty well, there may be some other ways to combat the resonance without drilling/cutting into that glorious chassis. A heavy insulated Hobo-sized drink sleeve might work. Or maybe put a couple of narrow strips of foam inside (maybe in a spiral pattern?), or even glue some wooden popsicle sticks to the interior with different thicknesses to vary the interior diameter a bit (like an internal diffuser). There are definitely some DIY options if you buy one and want to make it your own.

      Next time: Testing Nate's telephone handset mic for the ultimate analog "telephone vox" effects! I've already pre-ordered and can't wait to unleash it on some of my unsuspecting clients. Should make for some great studio fun.

      Available at:

      Hope you find the test files informative. Happy to answer any questions about the test.

      Thanks for reading!

      • This topic was modified 4 years ago by Mike Morrison.
      • This topic was modified 4 years ago by Mike Morrison.
      • This topic was modified 4 years ago by Mike Morrison.
      • This topic was modified 4 years ago by Mike Morrison.
      • This topic was modified 4 years ago by Mike Morrison.
      • This topic was modified 4 years ago by Mike Morrison.
      • This topic was modified 4 years ago by Mike Morrison.
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