In 2014 Music Thing released a little module called the Mikrophonie. It contained a contact microphone and an amplifier that enabled you to generate a wide range of sounds by tapping or scratching. In fact it picks up all sorts of case noise and the sound of knobs being twiddled to the point of feeding back the vibration from the speakers. Mutable Instruments have designed their own version of the Mikrophonie that they are calling Ears.
Ears for hearing
The swirling labyrinth on the front is the contact microphone. Responsive to touch and scratching but also to any vibration. Above that is a knob that controls up to 40dB of gain through the amplifier. The amplifier has been redesigned from the Music Thing original for lower noise and distortion. An envelope follower has been added with 3 preset sensitivity levels and a +8V gate output. The sensitivity levels are set via a jumper on the back which is a tad inconvenient when trying to set it correctly.
The 4 patch points at the top of the module provide audio in/out and envelope and gate out. The Hi-Z audio input is capable of taking any external sound source and automatically disables the contact microphone.
The sound generated by this little module is unexpected and really interesting. Starting perhaps with a dull thud it very quickly starts to generate struck and plucked sounds which can go wherever you like once it’s fed through the rest of your modular gear. I’ve seen a lot of people use plectrums on the mic to create a strum or scratched sound. Experimentation is definitely the key and the video below from Leafcutter John aptly demonstrates the weirdness and creativity on offer.
Mutable Instruments Ears are available from the 16th September, and are fully built rather than in their usual DIY kit, for £82.88 inc VAT in the UK.
For more information and to download the manual head over the Mutable Instrument’s website here.