A multi-disciplinary journey in music, sound, and field recording.

Hydrophonic Cocktail

Posted: February 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: field recording, found sound objects, gear, sound design

Hydrophone + Ice + Tonic. Sound and cocktail design in one easy step.

The latest addition to my microphone quiver is the Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophone. For less than US$200, you get a really well-built unit with a high specific gravity (less sway in moving water) and a thin, flexible cable with an extremely supple “hand.”

I also got the rubber cup that enables it to be used as a contact microphone, and I must say that it also excels in this capacity: Super-low noise and very articulate, even recording human heartbeats with clarity (Hint: Aim for the sternum, the pecs have too much muscle and fat in the way). The H2a’s weight, however, prevents it from being easily taped upside-down or held in odd positions like my other contact mics I’ve used in previous posts.

I can’t hope to improve upon Darren Blondin’s excellent review of the Aquarian H2a, so in the short term, I’ll instead offer some quick and dirty recording results with it, with perhaps some more detailed results and analyses in the future. (Oh yes, some very strange recordings to come…)

When the H2a came in, I placed this device in all the usual places you’d expect for some quick tests: the sink, the bathtub, the cats’ water fountain. But having just discovered some very tasty tonic water for making cocktails, it struck me that I’d not recorded carbonation before. After hearing the clear, but not overly-bright, tones of the carbonation, I decided to mix up the room-temperature tonic water with some ice cubes.

The ice’s cracking, melting, and expansion was largely in the same frequency neighborhood as the carbonation bubbles and added an interesting dimension to the sound. Some initial sound processing makes me think that melting ice in still water might make for a cool creature sound pitched down -3 octaves or so, but for today, let’s listen to the original recording, unadorned and unprocessed.

[Aquarian H2a-XLR hydrophone into Sound Devices 702 recorder]

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2 Comments on “Hydrophonic Cocktail”

  1. 1 George Spanos said at 9:44 pm on March 10th, 2010:

    Another great recording idea Nathan. Pitching the sound down is definitely what springs to mind with this one… and time expanding it. Some really cool sounds here. I’m getting one of these hydrophones… do you have an affiliate link I can use :)?


  2. 2 Nathan said at 8:06 pm on March 11th, 2010:

    Thanks so much, George! Not only is Aquarian not distributed through B&H or Amazon, the only thing to do is to buy direct! I’m a big fan of one-person industries and cottage manufacturing anyway, and I’m thrilled the H2a-XLR is impressive enough to recommend buying from such a channel.

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