Amplifying a Didgeridoo for the First Time

Ever heard yourself playing the didgeridoo through an amplifier whether it be a small guitar practice amp, larger sound system, festival rig or a pub open mike slot? It’s an eye opener, for the first time you can hear what your playing sounds like – volume, bass, treble, tones you’ve never heard before. If you have never tried amplifying a didgeridoo before, this is what I found out.

Amplifying a Didgeridoo Advice

When I first wanted to amplify my didgeridoo, have a blast, have a bit of fun I looked to the internet for advice alongside that of a number of friends. If I was a millionaire I would have a bespoke sound system made, but failing that – what ever I can lay my hands on! I realised very quickly that ask ten people their opinion and you will get ten different opinions and this is precisely what happened, with a few exceptions where advice was uniform.

  • Use a (good (i.e. robust and reliable)) microphone
  • Use a suitable amplifyer that can handle the lower frequencies
  • Buy the best you can within your budget
  • Use an amp that reproduces the sound true, i.e. without reverb/effects
  • Every time you play in a different place the sound will be completely different
  • It’s very difficult to get good quality sound reproduction

My plan was to buy a microphone to start with and use an old Squire guitar practice amp – 10w power and a 6″ driver. I would then build from there – basically get going then improve as I go along and have cash for better equipment.

I looked around (with difficulty) for suitable equipment within my budget and struggled. I had been advised about a couple of models of clip-on microphones that were good but when I tried to find them they had been discontinued with their replacements being out of my price range. I ended up buying the only clip-on microphone that I could afford, though it has served me well and I still use it today. It was an ‘Electret Super Cardioid’ microphone for the sound pick-up of wind instruments. These are the details:

Stage Line Microphone ECM310W

  • Description: 8cm Gooseneck. Phantom power via supplied adaptor or from mixer. With 3m connection cable and clamp. Supplied in a practical plastic case.
  • Response: 30-17,000Hz
  • Impedance: 200 Ohms
  • Max. SPL: 120dB
  • Power supply: 9-48v phantom
  • Dimensions: 140mm (Length)
  • Weight: 150g
  • Product code: ECM310W

The clip-on microphone can be purchased from a company called Terralec

I do find the 3m lead can sometimes not be long enough and the gooseneck is to short. The clip will only fit on a narrow walled didgeridoo, so I use an elastic band to secure it to the bell. Positioning the mic by the bell alter the sound quite alot and it is worth playing around with the positioning to achieve the best sound pickup. Having said that, it’s what I have and it does the job.

Amplifier

The amp was rubbish – it just could not cope with the didgeridoo, the sound would distort badly, even at low volume. It took some time before I was able to replace it with something more substantial. Eventually I bought a second-hand bass amp – Behringer BX600. It has the following specifications:

Behringer BX600 Bass Amp

  • Powerful 60-Watt bass workstation with bass reflex cabinet
  • Special custom-made 12″ speaker for powerful, punchy sound
  • Extremely efficient Shape filter for total sound manipulation
  • DYNAMIZER technology for ultimate punch
  • Ultra-musical active 4-band EQ
  • 2 inputs for the connection of passive and active instruments
  • Musical opto-limiter for maximum loudness without any distortion or pumping
  • Built-in Headphone output
  • Preamp output and Power Amp input for connection to additional bass amplifiers and preamps
  • Insert option for external effects devices, pedals, stomp boxes, etc.
  • Line output for easy connection to mixing consoles
  • Tape input for line-level signals (e.g. CD player, drum computer)
  • High-quality components and exceptionally rugged construction ensure long life
  • Conceived and designed by BEHRINGER Germany

The amp does have its limitations in that although it is a bass amp, the higher frequencies don’t reproduce so well and it takes a lot of fiddling to get the settings right. It really needs a larger (18″) driver but then that’s the next model (and price bracket) up.

The kit I have is usable but like anything I will always look at trying to update and improve what I have. It is remarkably difficult to amplify a didgeridoo clearly and without any distortion but well worth the time and effort getting the best you can.