The ubiquitous headphone.
How boring. Unless you refer to them as “cans”, then that’s just funny! Anyway, there are numerous articles online and in the trade rags discussing the merits of Brand X versus Brand Z, which one are better to mix with, etc……. Blah.
Headphones can be so much more to us in the recording and audio engineering world. I’m not talking about using headphones just for listening and monitoring. That’s too obvious. I’m talking about using them opposite of their intended design….to capture those pressure changes in the air around us. As a microphone!
Headphones as a microphone?
Using headphones as a microphone can be a lot of fun, and can also give us another sonic flavor in our mic arsenal. Let me explain:
Headphones operate with the same basic principals as a dynamic microphone. Electromagnetic induction, baby. Yes, Electromagnetic induction applied to audio engineering. There is a magnet, a diaphragm and voice coil of some sort or another. Speakers work the same way, and in fact can and do get used as microphones as well. (Side note – check out our gear to see what Omega has in the studios.)
On your next session, try this:
- Have the vocalist sing into the earpiece of some cans for a gritty “lo-fi” sound.
- Or double track the vocals against a “hi-fi” vocal track for some subtle texture.
- Make sure you have a direct box to match the impedance and balance the signal so you can plug it into a mic pre-amp.
- Plug the headphones into the “instrument” input on the D.I. and treat the signal as any other D.I. signal.
In addition to vocals, try putting the headphones on a small guitar amp for some sonic variations. Makes for a great conversation piece when the producer walks in and sees the guitar amp wearing headphones, too.
And my absolute favorite non-traditional use of headphones:
Tuning an acoustic guitar that does not have a pick-up. Just put the headphones on the body of the guitar and plug it straight into a guitar tuner and tune ‘r up.
Let your creative juices flow and keep thinking outside the box…., I mean cans.
New sounds are only a headphone away!