DIY Subkick

subkick 2

For those of you out there who want more low-end out of your kick drums, floor toms and other instruments, you could buy a Subkick microphone, but it’s much more fun to make one!
Speakers and microphones are essentially the same thing. You can use a microphone as a speaker and a speaker as a microphone – they work the same way. Small diaphragm microphones/speakers pick up/put out high frequencies very well, but can be somewhat lacking in the low frequency department, so when we want lower frequencies, we use large diaphragm microphones/speakers to capture/put out more low-mids and low frequencies. Therefore, if we want super low-end out of a kick drum, for example, we’ll need a larger diaphragm to pick up the much larger lower frequency sound waves – much like we use larger speaker cones to get lower frequencies. Using a 6″-8″ speaker is a great way to get those ultra low frequencies into your kick drum recordings.

It’s actually pretty simple:

  • Take a 6″-8″ speaker (don’t use the tweeter!)
  • Grab an XLR to XLR microphone cable
  • Cut the female end off the mic cable
  • Carefully strip away an inch or so of the sleeve to expose the wires
  • Cut away the bare copper strands – we don’t need a shield/ground
  • Carefully strip away 5-10mm of the sleeves of the smaller wires
  • Attach the two wires to the speaker terminals
  • Plug the cable in to one of the inputs on your interface/preamp
  • Tap the speaker to make sure you’re getting a signal
  • Unplug the mic cable from your preamp/interface
  • Solder the wires in place (if you don’t know how to solder – learn)
  • Done!

The finished product can be screwed back into the original speaker box, or mounted on a microphone stand or cymbal stand in some way. If you’re not mechanically minded, you can grab a cheap snare drum stand – it works a treat.

Now you can place the finished product close to the drum head (or whatever you’re recording) and bring some of those sub frequencies into your recording. You will no doubt find that you need to activate the pad switch on the input of your audio interface or preamp as these mics run a little hot. If your preamp/interface doesn’t have a pad switch, you can buy in-line pads for around $70 AUD.
In use, I would always recommend using a subkick style mic to complement another microphone – I’ve never found it to be that useful on its own.

As always, don’t blame me if you electrocute yourself somehow or burn the house down. It’s a simple procedure and practically idiot proof, but I’m sure that there are some people out there who shouldn’t be left alone with electronics and soldering irons.

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