Sennheiser Element – Laser Drum Microphone System from Andy Greenwood on Vimeo.

We cover a lot of experiments that make an interesting proof of concept, or that make performance, frankly, more difficult but in interesting ways. Here’s an idea that might just work. You know, like might actually make an existing technology better.

The idea is this: rather than clumsily using gates to isolate individual drum mics, use lasers (“lazorrrs”) to measure vibration. And if the demo video is to be believed, it works damned well. You can use this to get better recordings, or use it to transform a drum into a better MIDI trigger (without just the mics alone), or both. It’s the work of Sennheiser’s California R&D folks.

Sennheiser, you might just want to start adding this to your drum mic kit. (Now, if somehow this could also make a little laser show appear atop the drums when coupled with a smoke machine, a bit like the silly security systems featured in action movies, we’d really be sold.)

Seriously, it’s a good idea. Cooper Newby of Sennheiser USA explains:

Here is our newest Sennheiser R&D prototype. It is a laser that triggers a drum gate or Midi trigger when the drum is hit without applying any pressure to the drum head. It could turn a live drum kit into a totally new instrument by accurately triggering effects or samples along with each specific drum hit. Here is a video demonstrating its live drum mic-ing applications to prevent microphone bleed though.

Thanks, Cooper. I’d love to see this move beyond R&D – or perhaps it’ll inspire other experiments, too.

  • Samuele Cornell

    Too bad i can’t use it to hear conversations through windows like a classic Laser Microphone….okay that’s creepy

  • Stan Taylor

    Wadsworth constant applies. If you’re in a hurry, start the video at about 2:20.

    • Andy Greenwood

      Apologies Mr. Taylor. This video was created as an internal marketing tool and was not originally intended to be shown publicly. I am happy that we’re allowed to talk about some of our work openly but our original audience had more limited technical expertise than the CDM audience :-) Thanks for watching!

    • Peter Kirn

      Heh, don’t worry – the joke is that *all* YouTube videos have this property.

    • Stan Taylor

      Oh yes, definitely. I enjoyed watching the whole thing, but in the attention deficit age, I usually envision “kids these days” watching videos while clicking fast forward with one hand & composing a text message with the other: “i can’t remember when i wasn’t watching this video LOL”

      And while we’re on the actual subject, it looks like a brilliant implementation of the technology. Less bleed, more feed.

  • RB

    Optical microphones are known for quite a long time. I think Sennheiser company itself has shown it at the Frankfurter Messe around 1998 or even before. It is also used in environments where electricity is banned I guess (in magnetic resonance imaging installations in hospitals for instance). I am actually still surprised this technology has not made its way to the audio market yet.