How to Make Your Mic Sound Bad Intentionally – 6 Ways!

Author: Tomas Morton | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Working as a producer in a studio can be an enjoyable experience because it allows you to experiment with equipment in unconventional ways. Although most people strive to achieve the best possible sound quality, using microphones in unusual ways can create interesting and amusing effects.

If you want to give your singer a unique sound or simply need an excuse to skip a boring zoom meeting, try out some of these tips to create unconventional but awesome sounds with your microphone!

Overcompression

One of the easiest ways to achieve a gritty sound from your microphone is by over-compressing it and passing it through warm tube emulators on the way out. Artists like Nine Inch Nails and Trent Reznor have used this technique to their advantage in many songs, but even stranger sounds can come out of non-engineers using compression incorrectly.

The easiest way to achieve this is through a plug-in compressor. There are many free options available, such as AudioDamage Roughrider 3 or NI Supercharger. One trick I use often is to drive the input as far as possible and then hit the compressor with a slow attack and fast release.

What this does is cause a “sucking” effect because it picks up every nuance in the room and of your breathing. The compressor dips the signal when it hits, and then it bounces back in a cool and unusual way. The more noise you have, the better the effect.

Phasing

One trick I love to do with one of my condenser microphones is to put it in a figure-8 configuration, with the back facing my studio’s near-field monitors. This setup causes some pretty horrible nasal phasing effects, as the output of my monitors feeds back through the figure-8 pattern of the same microphone when I talk.

I admit that sometimes I even use this trick during Zoom meetings that I don’t want to attend or in situations where people can only hear me through a group chat, especially if they can’t see me on video. It can get you thrown off a chat, but sometimes that’s for the better!

Using Mic Modelers Incorrectly

Antares, the company behind the famous auto-tune plug-in, has also created another plug-in that not many people know about called the Mic Mod. I’ve been using this plug-in since version one, and it’s supposed to make your microphone sound like any other microphone in Antares’ kit.

Mostly, I use it to make a cheap mic like the Shure SM57 sound expensive, like a Neumann U47. But you can also use it to take an expensive mic like the Neumann U87 and try to make it sound like a distorted kick drum mic.

The Mic Mod also has a cool proximity effect that makes things sound more upfront, plus tube saturation that gets really gritty. Just be careful as things can get crazy and harsh fast.

Convolution Effects

So, back in the day, people used convolution plugins to make their music sound like it was in a cool space. They would go to places like a fancy European church, shoot a starter gun, and then record the sound that bounced around the room.

Then they would use that recording to add some sweet reverb to their music. As time went on, they started using recordings of speakers for this too, which was pretty neat.

There is this company called McDSP that made this cool plugin called the Futzbox. It lets you run your microphone through all kinds of crazy things like toy speakers, doorbells, intercoms, and even TVs!

You can do some pretty wild stuff by mixing amp simulators, saturators, filters, and the impulse response of all these different objects.

I love using this technique to create telephone effects for singers, and it is also super handy for sound design in movies. You can even run singers through toy speakers and get some seriously cool sounds.

Use Headphones As a Mic

Hey, have you ever given this a try? It’s seriously one of the coolest ways to get that LoFi telephone sound instantly. All you need are some good studio headphones with a quarter-inch jack.

Then, just plug the jack into the input of your audio interface or preamp like it’s a microphone or instrument. After that, just talk or sing into the headphone itself.

This trick makes the headphone’s speaker work as a microphone, which results in some cool organic filtered and distorted effects. I use it all the time for vocals and have even tried it on guitars.

You might need to turn up the gain on your preamp to really bring out the nasty details.

Abuse Computer Drivers

So, most of us have probably hopped on Zoom calls, had meetings, and chatted on Discord. But have you ever noticed that those recordings often don’t sound good?

Why not use these quirks to make cool sounds with your microphone? You could annoy other gamers, pretend that your mic is failing during a meeting you don’t want to attend, or get dramatic effects for your videos.

Discord

Let’s start with some tricks to make Discord sound worse. You can use your built-in device microphone or a dodgy mic like a Blue Yeti with a gain knob on the front.

First off, turn on everything that tries to make Discord sound better. Turning on Krisp, echo cancellation, and noise reduction in the settings creates too much sensitivity for the drivers and can create a horrible sidechain effect that cuts you in and out.

Another quirky Discord trick is to lower the bitrate to the lowest (8-bit) in the overview section. This will give you some retro console vibe with artifacts that make it kind of cool.

Zoom

On Zoom, you can turn on “use original audio” to boost background noise. What I like to do is put a fan slightly to the side and blow directly into the microphone. The fan noise will overpower Zoom’s noise filter and create pumping and digital clipping.

Another trick I recommend is to Increase the input sensitivity of all your drivers and use free extensions like VB-Audio’s VoiceMeeter and VB-Audio Cables. These act like virtual mixers in a DAW, allowing you to insert wild effects to mangle any mic input source.

You can also use the APO EQ for bandpass filtering or do the traditional digital distortion trick by increasing the input sensitivity and cranking your condenser mic up.

Phone Calls

You can use these tricks for phone calls too. For cell phone calls, I use a microfiber cloth on any Bluetooth microphone and move it around randomly, causing friction and static. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to the listener on the other side.

Do that to the next Spam Risk telemarketer who dares to call!

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About Tomas Morton

Tomas is a record producer, engineer, and synthesizer enthusiast based in Pasadena, CA. He received training at Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA. When not in his studio, he can often be found scouring garage sales or Craigslist ads for vintage gear treasures.

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