Gig Fix: Turn Your Headphones Into A Mic

| Read time: 3 mins
DIY Gig Fix headphones microphone Pro
Last updated 28 March, 2018

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Headphones as a Microphone
If you’ve forgotten your microphone, your headphones can make for an impromptu substitute at the last minute.

Forgot to take your microphone to the gig? An old DJ trick can turn your headphones into a mic! All you need to do is connect your headphones to your mixer’s mic input. It’s that simple.

Phones Input
It’s an old DJ trick that works pretty well, particularly when you don’t have any other options for mics.

This works because microphones and speakers are similar in a lot of ways. Microphones convert sound into electrical signals while speakers do the opposite, converting these electrical signals into sound. Despite this inverse relationship with each other, they’re practically comprised of the same components and operate under the same sonic principles.

Microphone
When a mic’s diaphragm vibrates, the magnetic coil attached to the diaphragm sends those vibrations as electric impulses. Photo from audiovisual-equipments.blogspot.com

When you speak into a microphone, the diaphragm vibrates, sending electrical signals down wires inside the microphone and into your mixer preamps. These electrical signals travel through wires that go to your amplifier and speakers, which have an electrical coil and magnet attached to the speaker cones. As the cones vibrate, those signals get converted back into sound.

Speaker
Speakers can work as mics by reversing the flow of electrical signals pictured above, with sound waves going inside the speaker making the magnet attached to it vibrate, which then sends an electrical signal down its wires. Photo from http://explorephysics.edublogs.org/

The sound quality isn’t as good as a regular microphone because headphones aren’t built for this purpose, but in a tight squeeze this trick can be a lifesaver!

DIY lavalier mic

On the topic of microphones, how about making a DIY lavalier mic using an old pair of iPhone earbuds for recording?

Step 1

Headset adapter
You’ll need a headset split adapter that divides your iPhone earbud signal; one jack for your headphones and the other one for your mic.

You’re going to need a headset splitter adapter that divides the input into two signals: One for the microphone, and one for the earbuds. This is essential if you’re to be using this on a standard mic input like the one found on your mixer or audio interface. On your iPhone, the headphone input does the splitting for you already, which is why you don’t see a separate plug where you need to jack in your mic. This is also the case with Macbooks and iMacs. You can actually stop there already, but for a more permanent modification that strips the mic to its essentials, you can lop the earbuds off if you so choose. Read on…

Step 2

Locate the Mic
Locate the Mic.

Get your pair of earbuds and locate the wire where the controls and mic are.

Bud removal
Remove the cable and earbud after the mic.

Once found, cut the wire after it leading to the earbud. This will be your mic.

Step 2

Cut the other bud
Cut the other earbud at the portion where the two wires join together

Cut the other earbud off at the point where the two wires join together.

Step 3

Connect the jack to the mic input of the adapter mentioned earlier in this article, and connect the adapter’s jack into your mixer or audio interface. You’ve now got a tiny microphone that could function as a lavalier mic. You can use this at a gig or even shoot videos with it and, thanks to its small size, it’s easy to hide. Again, if you’re on a Mac or similarly equipped input (4 position Tip Ring Ring Sleeve jack), you don’t need the adapter.

Video talkthrough

Ever been to a show where you’ve forgotten your mic at home? What other gig horror stories can you share about equipment you left behind (phones, USB cables, power supplies)? We’d like to know! Share them with us in the comments below, and tell us how you got around to sorting them out.

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