Barcus Berry Planar Wave Contact Mic Review – part 1

Ok so after some prompting, this is just going to be some initial feedback on how I’m finding the Barcus Berry contact mic & preamp to use, as I havent used it enough yet to come to any definitive conclusions, such is my workload with the imminent temp mix…

In terms of sound quality; the preamp is excellent – very low noise, even under high gain situations and the fact it runs off phantom power is just brilliant!! No more worrying about how fresh the 9 volt batteries are… Compared with my Trance Audio preamp (admittedly now an old/non-stock preamp) I would say the Barcus Berry is noticeably quieter in the bg noise stakes..

I found the actual piezeo contact mic unit a little fiddly to use, but I am getting used to it… At first I thought it made contact with the vibrating object the same way my Trance Audio one did, but compare the two units in this photo, Trance Audio on left & Barcus Berry on right:

With the Trance Audio contact mic element, I apply double sided sticky tape directly to the element & stick it to the object, whereas with the Barcus Berry the sticky tape is applied to the two brass bridge pieces which surround the element & these then transmit vibrations to the suspended contact mic element. Is there a difference in tone between the two elements? I imagine there is, but without having two identical preamps its hard to ascertain…. Heres a few recordings I did with dual contact mics, Barucs Berry is left, Trance Audio right:

download sword scrapes mp3
download oven rattles mp3
download bowed cymbal mp3

Its hard to judge & compare the sounds as the placement on each object was not identical eg sometimes I would have one contact mic at each end of an object… but my conclusion so far: the Barcus Berry is really high quality & I suspect I will order another of their Planar Wave preamps & use it with the Trance Audio contact mic element… I’ll post some more sounds in part 2 in a few weeks, when I get time to try them both on some acoustic instruments eg Gheng zu, zither, piano etc…

11 Responses to Barcus Berry Planar Wave Contact Mic Review – part 1

  1. Ben says:

    Amazing response! Thanks so much for letting us know!!
    I’ll definitely be checking these out.

    Ben

  2. hi

    i’ve just received on of these too – i’ve had a brief play – i was wondering what you are using to fix the pic up to surfaces ? does this have a great effect on the sound?

    i’ve been playing with rubbing the pickup over various materials and surfaces with some great results. i’m getting quite a lot of handling noise – any ideas as to a good method of gripping ?

    great blog by the way, i’ve been enjoying it

    best

    chris

  3. tim says:

    I use double sided sticky tape bought from a stationery shop

    in my experience it is really CRUCIAL as to how well the contact mic is attached to the object… it can be a bit frustrating if the object is dirty eg I’ve been trying to record some big metal pipes that are quite rusty, and most times I have to resort to gaffer tape… if the contact mic element is not solidly stuck to the source then you get the equivalent of mic bumps & buzzes that can ruin a recording…

    i dont really use the contact mic hand held as any movement will transfer to the mic element – even the cable to the contact mic element is sensitive, since it is physically connected to the mic element any vibrations or movement in it will get transferred… When recording sounds like dragging a sword along the ground, i had to be very careful not to get handling noise….

    i suspect in comparison, attaching it to acoustic instruments will be easy, it will just take a little experimentation to find the best source of resonance, tonally… it was designed after all, to be attached to a nice clean piano!

  4. Scott says:

    Tim, thanks for the comparisons on these mics. I’m hearing more range on the trance audio vs. the bb but that of course may be part placement and part method of attachment.

    Have you tried using wax yet? I have a contact mic from sclaboratories (who use the same design as the frap mic) and they sent it with a little ball of bees wax to affix the mic to virtually any surface. I like the wax alot becuase it makes a very solid but competely temporary connection. There is also no dampening when using wax, you really are making what feels like a 1 to 1 connection to the object you are micing.

    Love the blog!
    Scott Petersen

  5. tim says:

    thanks Scott – i’ll track down some bees wax & try it…
    and I hadn’t heard of SC Laboratories:
    http://www.sclaboratories.com/

  6. i’ll check out some different ways of attaching the mic – bees wax sounds interesting and i’m due to record some bee hives next week!

    it occurred to me that i’m best fixing the mic down and moving the fabrics and materials over it, not the other way round

  7. tim says:

    a few people have asked where i bought my barcus berry from…
    i bought it ex usa from this shop
    http://www.bluestarmusic.com/

    both ebay & amazon wont ship that product international
    but bluestarmusic had it at the reduced rate – list price
    is us$399, they sold it to me for us$279
    + us$36 UPS to get it to nz

    their service was prompt & efficient, heres a direct link
    http://www.bluestarmusic.com/product-exec/product_id/549/nm/Barcus_Berry_4000_XL_Planar_Wave_System_for_Acoustic_Piano_and_Harp

  8. greg says:

    hey tim,

    i don’t know if trance contacted you too (no pun intended) but i got an email from them that said they’re going to be manufacturing the trance inducers sometime in the future. when that’ll be exactly, they know. the problem they’re having is getting some of the parts. they also mentioned to me that the newer unit they’re selling wouldn’t be well suited for sound design recording.

    thanks for the audio clips!

    -greg-

  9. tim says:

    Aye, I got that email too
    its weird, you’d think most companies would welcome more sales/business but I guess we just are not their core market 🙁

  10. Jake says:

    What does not/good for sound design mean though?

    • tim says:

      Are you referring to Gregs comment? You’d need to ask him, i dont know… but I know the TA Inducer I got was custom built with a longer stronger cable… if you were going to mount the contact mic permanently inside an acoustic guitar you wouldnt want 1m of chunky cable, the same way if you’re going to sue it for field recording you wouldnt want lightweight short cable…

Leave a Reply

Please use your real name instead of you company name or keyword spam.