#535: Drop the Microphone

GETTING MORE TALE #535: Drop the Microphone

Need to do some recording, but don’t own a microphone?  No problem.  In a pinch, any speaker can be used as a microphone.

As kids, my best friend Bob and I recorded stuff all the time.  Skits, songs, commercials, and school projects were all recorded on cassettes on a regular basis. Some of the most fun weekends we had were spent recording.  And laughing, a lot.

The problem was never lack of ideas, only lack of decent equipment.  As kids we had to make due with what we had, which wasn’t much compared to what can be bought cheaply and easily today.  We only had one microphone.  It was a Lloyds from the early 70’s, and I still have it.  But there were two of us and we both needed microphones.

I don’t know how we discovered it, but it turns out, any speaker can be used as a microphone, and that’s how we did most of our childhood recordings.

35-audioI had a ghetto blaster (dual cassette) with detachable speakers.  The speakers connected via a normal 3.5mm audio jacks.  The deck had a microphone jack of the same size.  Converting a speaker to a microphone was as simple as unplugging it, and plugging it into the microphone jack.

Every speaker has a magnet and a coil to create sound.  The signal travels through the wire to the speaker coil and magnet, causing the speaker’s membrane to vibrate and create sound.  It also works in reverse!  By plugging it into a microphone jack, the speaker membrane vibrates by picking up sound, and then converts it into a signal.

The sound quality was more than enough for two kids with a $0 budget.  It was a tad bass-heavy, but good enough for us.  Any serious recording should have proper microphones, but if you’re sitting down to record for shits n’ giggles, give it a try.

“Oral Roberts and Pals” sketch recorded January 12 1988 using the “speakers as microphone” technique.  From “Mike and Bob Vol II”.

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13 comments

  1. I did not know you could do this. It seems counter-intuitive. A mic is for in, a speaker is for out. How does an out allow an in just by switching jacks?

    NB: I was never the wiring guy in our band, fair play. I was just the drummer. No one trusts the drummer with important things like knowledge…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are very lucky to have had a ghetto blaster with this capability. None of our GBs’ speakers detached or detached with speaker wire – not the 3.5mm connector.
    We got these mics for xmas one year (1983?) that used the radio to make sound. Later, my sister got a proper mic, which made for some fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The good ol’ jack speaker, eh? I actually didn’t know you could do that… or even think to do that! Then again, most stereos I’ve had didn’t have the jack connector, but the two pronged white and red wire shenanigans.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We would have taken those and wired them into an RCA jack! Just about every piece of equipment we had was jerryrigged in some way. None of our stuff was un-modified. Bob would always tinker…try to “improve” stuff…he usually wrecked everything!

      Liked by 1 person

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