Friday, October 20, 2017


by Mark King for
Three Tom Tom mini microphone cables by standard mic cable for comparison
The drum set in the Proworkshop recording studio is sitting on a floating plywood platform which decouples the kit from the floor, the plywood is covered in carpet. The goal of the floating floor is to isolate all the vibration of the drum set from the building, this keeps the building around the drums from resonating and causing distortion in the recorded drums. I had my headphones on and was adjusting the kit for a recording session when I detected some very low frequency rumbling mechanical noise. All my microphones are in shock mounts so where was the rumble coming from?

After a little investigation I discovered the noise was from the standard microphone cables laying on the floating floor, the noise was riding up the microphone cables and getting into the ultra sensitive tom and snare microphones. I had the original full size microphone cables routed away from the drum hardware, mounts and the rack hardware but vibrational noise could still get in because the mass of the cable was laying on the floating floor which was excited by the drums being played.
Cables and stands on drum room floating floor
Back in 2005 I had been experimenting with making low-mass isolation microphone cables for use with sensitive large diaphragm microphones but those were just little short cables. What if the whole microphone cable was constructed from miniature microphone wire? Would smaller electrical conductors affect the tone or performance negatively? I had to know, here's the story and the results.

Mogami is one of the more expensive brands of cable and wire products but they offer a high quality version of miniature microphone cable for use on lavalier microphones. I measured the distances in our drum room and then ordered up enough mini Mogami wire to make custom length microphone cables which connect the two snare and three tom microphones to the input panel in the drum room.

I used Switchcraft A3F and A3M connectors on the ends of my new low-mass mic cables because I'm very familiar working with them and soldering the connections. The Mogami cable is really small, I wore magnifiers to see what I was doing because I did not want to lose a single hair of precious signal carrying copper.
Heat shrink over the mini Mogami and color coding, Switchcraft A3M and A3F connectors
The Switchcraft connectors use compression clamps to squeeze the cable and hold it in the connector. To prevent damage to the fragile wire I built up the exterior of the Mogami cable with a layer of heat shrink and then put on color identification tape and covered that with a clear layer of heat shrink. From there it was a relatively straight-forward soldering job to make the five ultra light-weight cables. As it turned out I had just enough wire to make the cables.
Mini Mogami on the left, standard balanced mic cable on the right
It was a joy installing the new mini microphone cables. Since they were all made-to-fit around our studio drum set this has reduced the amount of wire laying around on the floating drum riser.

I tried to come up with some scientific testing procedure but in the end I just beat on the floor with a rubber mallet around where the mini Mogami microphone cables laid. I put on my High Isolation headphones and cranked the headphone amp up loud. I could not detect any mechanical noise getting to the microphone through the wire. Even tapping with my finger directly on the wire was quiet. When I tapped on the heat shrink exiting the connector I could make noise but tapping the wire just a few inches from the heat shrink produced no perceptible noise. The low mass of the wire worked and completely isolates the microphone from mechanical rumble.
Mini Mogami on Floor Tom Microphone
We're in the middle of recording a bunch of studio drummer auditions, I've already had five drummers in the studio and they were all recorded with the old microphone cables. The next two auditions were recorded with the new mini Mogami mic cable in place. Now I have all seven auditions, all playing the exact same song but the final two were recorded through the mini mic cables.

I've heard the audition song well over 200 times now as we've gone through the audition process. I put markers at identical points in the song on versions with old mic cords and versions recorded with the new mic cords, this allowed me to rapidly switch between the two versions of microphone cords.

The new microphone cables sound better and deliver better results than the big cables they replaced. Is it the reduction of mechanical noise? Is it the superior conductive characteristics of Mogami wire products? Better connectors? I may never know because I don't care, I got what I came for, better sound on my drum recordings.
Mini Mogami on the left, standard mic cable on the right
Rumble and noise down under the audio we're after is like intermodulation distortion in an amplifier circuit, it's there and it's mucking things up but you can't hear it directly without measuring equipment. In the case of these drum-microphone cables my ears were my measurement tool and the results were worth the effort and parts cost.
Mini Mogami connecting phantom powered Tom Tom microphone
The drums sound more punchy and distinct to me now. Is it my ears and brain trying to validate my data? Probably, but reducing all the collective rumble and noise from five microphones (combined with some amazing studio drummer performances) has resulted in some of the best sounding drum recordings I've ever made.

Previously my normal procedure is to engage 50 to 80 HZ high pass filters on the Tom Tom microphones to remove rumble. I've turned these filters off now, the low frequency of the 18" floor Tom really comes through with excellent depth, clarity and huge tone. All the Tom Toms sound brilliantly clear and accurate, more like they sound acoustically when you're actually sitting in the drum set and playing them.

This Mogami wire is so light-weight it is almost silly. It's fragile so it would not be suitable for situations where cables can get yanked and stepped on. You could easily wreck one of these mini microphone cables with very little physical abuse. I've been careful to route them away from any of the drum hardware that could eat through one of these in a heartbeat. My longest mini Mogami cable is 14-feet and the shortest is four-feet.

I would not recommend going over 20-feet in length with this wire because the conductors are so small. As a point of reference many of the tube microphones use 7-pin XLR cables that have 26 or 28 gauge conductors in them, some of these are even 30-feet in length and they're connecting high-voltage tube power supplies too.

Mini Mogami on right, regular mic cables on the left
Out of the five drum microphones connected using mini Mogami microphone cables, three are LDC condenser type, one is a SDC condenser and one is a dynamic. There were no problems with delivering phantom power to the condenser models and the Beyer M201 TG dynamic model (which is on the bottom of the snare drum) sounded better than ever.

I've never seen anything like these cables for this application but I'm very impressed with the sonic results. They were not hard to make and not terribly expensive either. Ultra light-weight mini Mogami microphone cables made my drums sound better, that is the only thing that really matters to me.

Good luck, good drumming and good music to all!

The wire and connectors came from Redco.

I recently added another pair of microphones to our studio drum set and the first step was to build two more mini-Mogami balanced microphone cables for them. I carefully positioned the microphones off-axis from the drums to minimize pickup of drums, I put the mic's under the left and right ride cymbals to minimize bleed from the crash and effects cymbals above.

This brings the total number of microphones on the drum set up to 10. I would not normally include these ride microphones in a mix unless one of them was doing something special that needs focus, then I can bring one of these ride cymbals in on a separate fader. I did this recently on a clients recording and really enjoyed having the extra control provided by the ride cymbal microphone. It was simple to trim the part in the DAW so it only played when called for.

The mini-Mogami wire is so thin and light-weight it is easy to route it away from any contact with the drum rack system. Both of the newly added microphones are phantom powered and we've had zero problems using the mini-Mogami wire.