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  • DIY GEN16 AE


    I love practicing on my electronic drums, I use drumtec real-feel meshheads and they almost feel like the real thing (for the level of playing I'm at). But playing electric cymbals still sucks.
    that's why I love the idea of the Zildjian GEN16 AE. But I think it's a bit expensive at the moment. So I made a first attempt at replicating the system. (which is also a fun hobby project :-)
    I think the 'direct source pickup' is an electret microphone, I can't see any other candidate mic of that size. So I tried making an electret contact microphone by attaching an electret to a flathead bolt with epoxy putty (see pic).

    Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.13.21.png

    I hooked this up with a 50kOhm logarithmic potentiometer to a VM114 7W audio amplifier For now I'm, powering the mic and the amp with a 9V battery (I could get a low noise audio power supply if this turns out well). The contact mic is bolted trough a hole I made in an old sabian solar 16" ride (not a great sounding cymbal to begin with!).

    I used the following circuit to connect the electret to the amp and power source. But instead of the 10k resistor I used a 1M resistor and instead of the 1F capacitor I used a 1000F capacitor, because this seemed to give better results. You can hear the results in the audio file in the following link:

    I'm not exactly there yet :-) so any ideas to improve the sound would be greatly appreciated.

    My questions:
    • Does anyone agree that the 'direct source pickup' is in fact an electret mic hooked up to a preamp?
    • Any ideas on how to improve the sound?
    • Would it help if I hook this up to an equalizer to improve sound?
    • Maybe I'm better off asking this question on some kind of audio tinkerers forum?
    Last edited by tommyCUHM; 06-06-20, 08:22 AM.

  • #2
    OK, I discovered that the 7W amp is a really bad idea. Ik need a preamp of course. I used the following circuit

    This gives way better results, much less distortion when it's played loud:

    If I hook this up to an equalizer I might get some decent results. I also ordered a higher quality primo electret capsule (Primo EM172-Z1), can't wait to try that one. Right now the cost of the preamp + mic is about 4€ ! And I can hook this up to any mixer/equalizer I want. Don't have to buy the expensive 'cymabal controller'.

    Any input on how to improve the sound would still be welcome :-)
    Last edited by tommyCUHM; 06-05-20, 05:16 PM.


    • #3
      why not just add triggers to them instead of mic'ing?
      Alesis STRIKE, PD-85 rack toms, PD-105BK floor tom, Mapex snare with ISM-6, PDP MX 22" kick with ISM, iron cobra 900 double pedal, hart e-cymbal2, CY-5 as splash, CY-8, CY-12R, L80 hi-hat with cheap-o trigger with goedrum hi hat controller. EZdrummer2+EZX/Addictive Drums 2 VSTs.


      • #4
        Because it plays like a real cymbal. I've made a three zone cymbal with triggers, but it doesn't feel like playing a real cymbal.


        • #5
          And because I can
          It's an interesting hobby project


          • #6
            I fed the output of this preamp to an old behringer mx 1604a MIXER I bought second hand. I mixed this with the output of superior drummer and this was really playable.
            I ordered a Fazley CYM-MUTE-S cymbal set to try a hihat and crash cymbal.

            The sound is stil a bit thin and real cymbals do sound much better, but for practice, this is perfect:
            Maybe I can get a better sound with different placing on the low volume cymbals. The S/N ratio is excellent though, I can put it through a 300W PA with no problem. And there is absolutely no ambient noise picked up!

            The mic and preamp together are <5€ ! Of course, I don't have the fancy blue lights the direct source pickups have


            • #7
              Originally posted by tommyCUHM View Post
              Because it plays like a real cymbal. I've made a three zone cymbal with triggers, but it doesn't feel like playing a real cymbal.
              There are ways to dampen it to feel like a cymbal. You need to use a smaller cymbal under it and sandwitch some 5mm thick poly fil foam between them. I've tried this and it doesn't make it fel like hitting a table and also there is no rubber on the edge. Triggering wise you would have to use a piezo as switch for the edge.


              • #8
                I guess for me the feel of the cymbals is much more important than the sound (at least while practicing).

                So I hooked up the contact mics with preamps to the fazley mute cymbals. The output is going through a Berhinger MX1604A (cheap second hand version ) and is mixed with SSD5 free hugo edition drum sounds controlled by my roland-TD6V module. The sound is not perfect and there's some distortion going on, also muted cymbals will always sound thinner and higher than the real deal. But I love the way this feels and plays (well, it's just real ). It's also great for low volume practice with other musicians (no more groove breaking sound of tapping the e-cymbals).

                This is me playing around on the kit:
                (I'm still learning to play! and I'm not here to brag about my drumming, I'm here to brag about my DIY project )

                You can make everything for under 30€, and you'll need a mixing board with at least 3 mic inputs (for the amp) and one line input (for sound from the drum module or VST), but you can find these very cheap or second hand. And you'll need a mute cymbal set, which you can get for less than one high end electronic cymbal.

                Don't worry if you're not good at soldering, you can fit the preamp on a small breadboard:

                Screenshot 2020-06-11 at 20.42.51.png

                Everything attached to the ride cymbal (tie wraps rule !):

                IMG_20200611_142323 (1).jpg

                The Hihat setup, be sure to use soft wire! With all the movement your hard wires will let you down pretty quick. Also had to protect the wire with heat shrink tubing (not shown) because the lower cymbal damages the wire. (you can also see the mic cable coming from the crash, waiting to be attached to the preamp)


                I also had to use a rubber o-ring to dampen the mic, otherwise I would get insane distortion. Maybe the distortion that's left will go away with proper dampening, but now it's time to play the drums :-).

                Screenshot 2020-06-11 at 21.06.31.png

                In fact, the hardest part was (is) finding a decent 9V power supply for the mic and preamp, all the one's I tried give to much noise. For now I'm using a 9v battery. Also, signal and power go through a different cable, I will try to get them on the same cable.

                I'm still waiting on the High quality electret mic (Primo EM172-Z1), wonder what the effect will be. In the future I will also try to run this through an effects processor to get some reverb or delay.

                Attached Files
                Last edited by tommyCUHM; 06-11-20, 03:25 PM.


                • #9
                  Wow really interesting. It makes me wanna try to do it. But I don't know anything about electronics. I wouldn't know where and how buy pieces for the preamp.

                  I have some questions but I'm really nooby, so maybe they make no sense.

                  Why the mic is touching the cymbals? Is it a different type of mic? Wouldn't be less distorted if it's on the rack?

                  Would it be possible to have a longer cable and place the preamp somewhere else?

                  Would it be possible to create a bigger preamp with multiple independent inputs and connect them all there instead of multiple preamp on each cymbals stand?


                  • #10
                    Hi, Here's a part list for the preamp:
                    • 1 resistor 50kOhm
                    • 1 resistor 220kOhm
                    • 1 resistor 2.2kOhm
                    • One transistor BC547
                    • 2 capacitors, between 4.7 and 0.1F (I used 0.1F because you can find cheap MKT capacitors of 0.1F)
                    • one stereo 1/4 inch printplate chassis
                    • 2 thingies with screws to connect wires to a printplate (don't know the English name :-), to connect power supply and mic wires, but you could use any connector you can connect to a printplate.
                    • One smal breadboard if you don't want to solder, or just buy a big one and cut it in pieces.
                    Go to any electronics parts shop and they will help you, you can also find them easily online, they are very simpel and common components.
                    You can find the electret mic anywhere online, or also at the electronic parts shop. If you don't want to solder, buy them with wires already soldered on.

                    Answers to your questions:
                    Why the mic is touching the cymbals? Is it a different type of mic? Wouldn't be less distorted if it's on the rack?
                    I use the electret mic as a contact mic, because otherwise you pick up noise from the other cymbals and drums. It's very easy to install because the mic is fixed to the cymbal and picks up no ambient noise. You can find a lot of info on the Zildjian GEN16 AE system on the internet.
                    You would need a shock absorber if you attach a mic to the cymbal arm. Mic placement for cymbals is not so easy, but you could try it.

                    Would it be possible to have a longer cable and place the preamp somewhere else?
                    A microphone gives a weak signal, so the line can pick up electrical noise along the way, the longer the line, the more noise you pick up. This noise will also be amplified by the amp. If you use a preamp, you boost the signal, so you have to amplify it less later, hence, any noise picked up in the wires after the preamp will be amplified less. You should always keep the wire between a microphone and the preamp as short as possible.

                    Would it be possible to create a bigger preamp with multiple independent inputs and connect them all there instead of multiple preamp on each cymbals stand?
                    Your lines from the mic will be longer and you will pick up to much noise. You can also buy some preamps online. I found two preamps which I want to try, I ordered them but it will take a while before I they arrive:
                    I will test them and post the results here.

                    For now the preamps are attached with tie wraps, but it should be easy to fix them to a metal piece with a hole to place them on the cymbal arm under the cymbal.

                    About the Fazley mute cymbals: you probably noticed the crash cymbal in my recordings sound awful, well, that's not because of the mic or preamp, they register the sound pretty good. But the cymbal itself is just terrible, it sounds like you hit a church bell with a cooking pot lid. I will get a better crash in the future.

                    Good luck!
                    Last edited by tommyCUHM; 06-13-20, 05:33 PM.


                    • #11
                      Very informative thanks a lot.

                      With the price of the prebuilt preamp it's even easier to do for someone with no knowledge of electronics like me.

                      But at the same time, I want to learn.

                      Why did you order the preamp when you already built one?


                      • #12
                        There is always room for improvement , so I want to try different routes. It would also be nice if it works with an of the shelf preamp, easier for other people to join in.
                        I will also try some other DIY preamp designs, with different gain values, maybe I can get rid of the distortion. For me, It's part of the fun to experiment.

                        I also tried the more expensive primo electret capsule (Primo EM172-Z1), but it doesn't give any noticeable difference in sound. I think the quality of the cymbal is much more critical to the sound (e.g. the crappy fazley mute crash).

                        If you want to attach the electret capsule to a bolt with epoxy putty, make sure you hold them together with a clamp and put the putty around the capsule and the head of the bolt. If the head of the bolt and the capsule do not touch each other, or if there gets epoxy in between, the contact mic doesn't work as well.


                        • #13
                          A few important updates:

                          1. I sent the fazley mute cymbals back to the shop. They were not made to sound good, and so they did not (they had an aggressive 'clank' sound which got on my nerves after playing a while). In retrospect, it's quit obvious that you should start with a decent set of cymbals if you want good results with a contact mic. So I bought the 'Arborea Bronze-8 Low Noise Cymbal set 368 13"HH, 16"Crash, 18"Ride' from drumtec. They are not super high end but they sound good (for mute cymbals), the bronze really makes a difference opposed to the nickle based alloys. You can hear me play the kit here:
                          The cymbals come 100% straight from the mixer, the drums are from DruMic'a (great free drum VST from Sennheiser, played on the 'brittpop' setting). I'm so happy with the way these cymbals play and sound. The sound will never be like real cymbals, but for practice, I choose this over any triggered cymbal pad!

                          2. I've lowered the supply voltage from 9v to 5V. This seems to help with the distortion. I use an old DC 7V 300mA adapter, the low current is enough. I've made a power supply filter with some capacitors and a LV4805 voltage regulator (which also regulates the voltage down to 5V). You could also use a 9V power supply, but maybe you would need a heat sink on the LV4805. With the filter the power supply is very clean (no noise). You can find all the circuits here:

                          3. I made a circuit to transfer the power and the signal with one stereo cable. It's very simple. The ground (negative) from the power supply is connected to the sleeve from each jack connection. The tip carries the signal and the ring carries the +5V to the preamp. The signal is transferred to the mixer with a mono audio jack (each 'tip' coming from the is connected to the 'tip' going to the mixer. The sleeves are all connected to the ground. (see circuits).

                          power sypply.jpg

                          4. So now I only got one stereo cable coming from the preamp, much easier to set up. You can find the way to connect this to the preamp in the circuits file. I attached a shielded microphone cable with mono jack connector to the electret mic.


                          5. I tested the preamp form Aliexpres ( and it works great. In fact, the ride on the sample above is recorded with this preamp. They also have a power supply filter built in, so it's possible you could use them with any power supply, but I didn't test it.


                          I immediately ordered some more and I'm going to use them for every cymbal (because they are small, cheap and convenient). I'm still prototyping, so for now the preamps are glued to the cymbal arms. The next step will be to put the preamps in an aluminium project box, so they are properly shielded. I'm still looking for a clamp for easy attaching to the cymbal arm.

                          I will test some other electret microphones and I'll play around a bit with the dampening of the microphone.

                          So, throw away your old fashioned triggered cymbals and get real .


                          • #14
                            I've just received the Arborea mute, I should have bought the bronze because the nickel doesn't sound so great and they are loud.


                            • #15
                              Yeah, maybe I was a bit to enthousiastic about the sound of the nickle alloy mute cymbals, sorry. To be honest, after I sent back the fazley cymbals, I ordered the arborea silver mute cymbals (the ones you have, I suppose). After a very short test, I also sent them back to finally order the Arborea bronze cymbals. They are much quieter and sound much better, but they are a bit more expensive.

                              I hope you can send the cymbals back and order the bronze ones.

                              Some more info on the making of the contact mic: I clamp the mic and the bolt together and put epoxy putty around the mic and the head of the bolt.
                              Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 23.36.39.png

                              You should get something that looks like this (I still have to file away some of the epoxy on this one, purely cosmetic):

                              Screenshot 2020-07-01 at 23.36.54.png

                              After soldering the wires, I put some epoxy putty on top to protect the connections. The outer cable of your mic cable (the shield) should be connected to the negative pole. The negative pole of your mic is the one that's connected to the outer case of the mic (the right one in this image), so the case is grounded. The negative pole should be connected to the sleeve of your jack connector.

                              If you're not good at soldering, you can buy electret microphones with wires already soldered on.