Best Microphones For Miking Didgeridoo


The didgeridoo is an instrument that was developed by Indigenous Australians. Though the instrument is typically a hollowed out wooden tube, it fits best into the brass family of instruments. When played well, the didgeridoo sounds absolutely amazing. So how can we best capture the beautiful sound of the didgeridoo? It all starts with the right microphone.

The top recommended microphones for didgeridoo are:

Let’s discuss each of the above microphones in a moment. First, we’ll talk a bit about the sound of the didgeridoo.


Disclaimer:

“Best” is a dangerous word. There is really no such thing as a “best microphone” for any situation. The microphone(s) listed in my Recommended Microphones And Accessories” page are simply my recommendations. These recommendations are based on my own experience and are mindful of budget. It would be easy to suggest an ELA M 251 or U47 for most scenarios. However, these tube mics are very expensive, putting them out of a hobbyist’s price range and making it difficult for professionals to make their money back on the gear.

Another important note is that the microphone or equipment you choose is not the most important part of recording audio. In fact, there are many factors that are arguably more important than the choice of microphone. These include:

  • Performer (whether a musician, speaker, or otherwise)
  • Instrument
  • Microphone technique/placement
  • Number of microphones used
  • Natural sound of the room
  • Content (whether that’s the song, discussion, or otherwise)
  • Signal chain (including mic cable, preamplifier, console, and/or interface/computer)

With that being said, some microphones and gear suit some instruments better than others, prompting this series of articles under “Recommended Microphones And Accessories.”


What Does A Didgeridoo Sound Like?

To make a better microphone choice, it’s important to understand the sound of what we’re miking. So what does a didgeridoo sound like?

The first thing we’ll look at is that, simply put, a didgeridoo is a cylindrical tube that’s closed at the mouth end (like a trumpet). Physics, therefore, states that didgeridoos should have a fundamental wavelength 4 times the length of their tube and only generate odd overtones. Of course, this is if all conditions are ideal (which is never case and only a framework for discussion).

Typical didgeridoos are of fixed length and therefore have a fixed fundamental frequency. The longer the didgeridoos, the lower its pitch.

Because didgeridoos are not perfect cylindrical tubes, they do not produce only odd-harmonics. Some didgeridoos flare out like conical tubes, further complicating the measurement of upper harmonics.

We play the didgeridoo by vibrating our lips at the mouth-end of the instrument. The true sound of the didgeridoo, like the human voice, comes from the formant information, which is modulated by our vocal tract.

Formants are most easily thought of a vowel sound in human speech. “Ee” sounds different than “ahh” or “aye.” We can make all of these sounds at the same pitch, but it is the formant information that gives these sounds their different character.

Let’s look at a 1.2m (4ft) long didgeridoo. A common length is just slightly longer than this:

Frequency Range Of 1.2m (4ft) Didgeridoo

  • Fundamental frequency: 69 Hz (C#2)
  • Overall Range:  69 Hz ~ 8,000 Hz
  • Important Note: It is the change in the formants that give the didgeridoo its distinctive sound.

Note that the lower frequencies of the didgeridoo are emitted in a more omnidirectional fashion while the higher frequencies are more directional (emitted through the open end of the instrument).


What Factors Make An Ideal Didgeridoo Microphone?

Let’s discuss a short list of the critical specifications that make up a great didgeridoo microphone:

  • Flat Frequency Response: Choose a microphone with as flat a frequency response as possible. Because a didgeridoo’s sound comes from its changing formant information, it’s a good idea to capture all frequencies at as even a sensitivity as possible.
  • Wide Frequency Response: A frequency response from 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz will capture the full range of human hearing. This helps to capture the “airiness” of the didgeridoo, the strong fundamental frequency, and all the important harmonic information in between.
  • Directionality: Pick a microphone with some directionality. When recording didgeridoo, off-axis colouration can actually be your friend. By positioning the microphone at various points around the bell, many different sounds may be captured.
  • Sensitivity: Select a microphone sensitive enough to pick up the nuances in the didgeridoo. This helps to capture the fullest sonic picture possible!

So we have a general idea of what we’re looking for. Let’s discuss the recommended didgeridoo microphones through this lens:


The Rode NT1-A

Rode NT1-A

The Rode NT1-A is a beautifully crafted large diaphragm condenser that sounds much more expensive than it is. It is an incredible quiet and sensitive mic. Marketed as “the complete vocal recording solution,” the NT1-A naturally sounds great on didgeridoo as well. A fun fact on top of that is that Rode, like the didgeridoo, is Australian!

The Frequency Response Of The Rode NT1-A

The frequency response of the Rode NT1-A is listed as 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph of the NT1-A:

Image from Rode NT1-A Data Sheet

As we can see here, the NT1-A has a relatively flat and extended frequency response.

The slight boosts found in the upper-mid range will help to add presence to the didgeridoo signal without over-representing any of the formant information.

The high-end peak and roll-off will add “air” to the didgeridoo signal without making it sound too harsh.

Be cautious of the proximity effect when using this microphone. The boost in low-end sensitivity can really add to a performance, but may detract in certain situations as well. Mic placement is key!

For more information on microphone proximity effect, check out my article In-Depth Guide To Microphone Proximity Effect.

For more information on microphone placement, check out my article Top 23 Tips For Better Microphone Placement.

For more information on microphone frequency response, check out my article Complete Guide To Microphone Frequency Response (With Mic Examples).

The Directionality Of The Rode NT1-A

The Rode NT1-A is a cardioid microphone with the following polar pattern graph:

Image from Rode NT1-A Data Sheet

For more information on the cardioid microphone polar pattern, check out my article What Is A Cardioid Microphone? (Polar Pattern + Mic Examples).

As we can see, an off-axis positioning of the NT1-A will yield a brighter sounding capture of the didgeridoo since the sensitivity of lower frequencies drops.

Another important point of using a directional cardioid pattern microphone, like the NT1-A, is that it will help to isolate the didgeridoo from other instruments in live settings. As we see from the graph, this Rode microphone is barely sensitive in the opposite direction of where it points.

The Sensitivity Of The Rode NT1-A

The sensitivity rating of the NT1-A is given as -31.9dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (25.00mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz. This means, like most condenser microphones, that the Rode NT1-A is quite sensitive to sound pressure.

For more information on microphone sensitivity, check out my article What Is Microphone Sensitivity? An In-Depth Description.

With an extremely low self-noise rating of 5 dBA, the NT1-A will pick up the nuances of a didgeridoo with great detail (so long as it’s pointed at the instrument).

For more information on microphone self-noise, check out my article What Is Microphone Self-Noise? (Equivalent Noise Level).


The AKG P170

AKG P170

The AKG P170 is a lovely sounding small diaphragm condenser mic. It’s a popular didgeridoo microphone in studio and live applications and gets my top budget recommendation for capturing the sound of the didgeridoo.

The Frequency Response Of The AKG P170

The frequency response of the AKG P170 is rated as 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz and has the following frequency response graph:

Image from AKG P170 User Instructions

There are three things worth noting about this graph as it pertains to the sound of a didgeridoo.

First, there is a boost in the low frequencies where a typical didgeridoo fundamental would be. This helps to accentuate the “drone note” of the didgeridoo.

Second, there’s a nearly flat response in the mid-frequencies, meaning the P170 would capture the modulating formants of a didgeridoo quite accurately.

Third, there’s a slight peak in the upper frequencies, helping to add a bit of “sparkle” to the sound of the didgeridoo.

On paper and in practice, the frequency response of the AKG P170 sounds excellent on the didgeridoo.

The Directionality Of The AKG P170

The AKG P170 is a cardioid microphones with the following polar response:

Image from AKG P170 User Instructions

The P170 will work well to isolate the didgeridoo in live settings when it’s pointed at the instrument.

We can see that by turning the microphone slightly off-axis, we can “warm up” the sound of the didgeridoo. The P170 will be less sensitive to the higher frequencies emitted from the didgeridoo’s open end when it’s positioned off-axis.

The Sensitivity Of The AKG P170

The sensitivity rating of the P170 is 15 mV/Pa, which is less than the aforementioned NT1-A.

Though the P170 may not be the most sensitive microphone on the market, it works just fine on the didgeridoo. The nuances of the instrument will not be lost, though the P170 may not detect as many extraneous noise as the Rode NT1-A.


The Beyerdynamic TG I57

Beyerdynamic TG I57

The Beyerdynamic TG I57 is my top choice for a clip-on didgeridoo microphone. This microphone has a mount clamp with gooseneck for stable and reliable positioning, meaning the microphone will stay in the same position relative to the didgeridoo throughout a performance. The microphones is also offered with a wireless system to further improve its worthiness as a clip-on mic.

The Frequency Response Of The Beyerdynamic TG I57

There are two frequency responses given on the TG I57 data sheet. The first states 30 Hz – 20,000 Hz (when close miking), and the second states 100 Hz – 20,000 Hz (when distance miking). The following frequency response graph pertains to the former:

Image from Beyerdynamic TG I57 Data Sheet

Note that because we’ll be using the TG I57 to close-mic the didgeridoo and that the microphone exhibits the proximity effect, that the low-end response will be much more sensitive that what is shown above.

The low-end roll-off will help dramatically to reduce low-end rumble and hum in live stage applications. This is particularly useful as sometime the didgeridoo is touching the floor.

So when close-miking, the response will be fairly flat through most of the important didgeridoo frequencies. Depending on the tone and bass response you’d like, experiment with various microphone positions.

There is quite a boost in the upper frequencies with the TG I57. This will help to brighten the sound if the mic happens to be positioned too close to or even within the tube of the didgeridoo. If the signal ends up being too bright, a low-pass filter on the mixing console should help in fixing the sound.

The Directionality Of The Beyerdynamic TG I57

The Beyerdynamic TG I57 is a cardioid microphone with the following polar response graph:

Image from Beyerdynamic TG I57 Data Sheet

Like the other two cardioid microphones on this list, the I57 offers isolation when close-miking the didgeridoo. This is often essential in live settings.

The cardioid pattern also allows us to position the microphone closer to foldback monitors without a huge risk of microphone feedback. Having the performer near a monitor to help them hear themselves is a crucial part of live performances. Cardioid patterns are the best patterns to achieve this.

The Sensitivity Of The Beyerdynamic TG I57

The sensitivity rating of the TG I57 is 12.4 mV/Pa (-38.1 dBV) ±2.5 dB. This is quite low for a condenser microphone, but is advantageous when talking about a clip-on or live setting microphone.

The I57 is sensitive enough to pick up the important characteristics of the didgeridoo’s sound. At the same time, it’s designed to not be so sensitive that it picks up all the low-end rumbling or movement of the instrument.


Let’s Recap

So these are the three top microphones for capturing the sound of a didgeridoo. Of course, there are many microphones that sound amazing on didgeridoo, but in considering price and setting, these are my top 3. Let’s recap:

  • Rode NT1-A: Best sounding mic on didgeridoo.
  • AKG P170: Best “budget” microphone on didgeridoo.
  • Beyerdynamic TG I57: Best clip-on live microphone for didgeridoo.

Honourable mentions:

  • AKG C414 XLII
  • Neumann U87
  • Sennheiser MD441
  • Shure SM57
  • AMT P800
  • AKG D12

For all the My New Microphone mic/gear recommendations, please check out my page Recommended Microphones And Accessories.

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