Recording Electromagnetic “Sound”

Whether you realize it or not, you’re surrounded by electromagnetic fields almost everywhere you go. Anything with an electric current has one. That means your computer, phone, TV, hair dryer, vacuum, toaster… everything electronic. Recording an electromagnetic field as sound isn’t a new idea; this is the way the pickup on an electric guitar creates sound. The guitar produces these fields in a way that (hopefully) translate into beautiful, musical tones. The electromagnetic fields surrounding most electronics, however, aren’t exactly musical. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be beautiful!

Recently, I set out to capture some of these strange sounds with a small pickup meant for telephones. I went around my apartment waving the pickup around random electronics. I ended up with a bunch of beautiful hum, buzz, static, clicks, clacks, and other kinds of chatter. Check out some of the results below.

I want to mention that these aren’t the raw recordings. Everything in this video is compressed and has EQ applied to either bring out or cut certain frequencies. In the case of the cellphone I took out a very loud buzz that drowned out some of the cool sounds from operating the phone. Everything else was generally EQ’d to make them ‘beefier’.

My favorite? Actually the hair straightener. If only because it was completely different than I expected. It almost sounds like a growling robot. I already have plans for it!

3 thoughts on “Recording Electromagnetic “Sound”

  1. Great article ! The result is impressive 😉 Did you try to get sounds with a guitar pickup mod. Ill try to grab a mic like yours. Where did you find yours ? Does it came from an old telephone ?

    I just discover your blog and spend like an hour to read articles.

    Best regards from France !

    Like

    1. Hi Pierre!

      Thanks so much for the kind words! The pickup in this video is just a cheap telephone pickup I bought from Radio Shack. (Similar to this one)

      I have only briefly messed with similar things using a guitar pickup. It does sound a lot better, but a it’s bit more dangerous around sensitive electronics depending on the magnets 😉

      If you end up recording your own stuff, I’d love to hear it!

      Cheers.

      Like

  2. Interesting Article, I am in attempt going to make my own Inductive Pick up using instructions from the Youtube Videos. I decided to use an old HiFi Speaker for the magnet but having trouble removing the unnessary metal to get at the middle. This may be better to try to pick up the wave machine from the pool side if I place the pick up over the plantroom section. It has faintly picked up sound of Power Controller UNIT in the plantroom when the wave machine had problems of its own.

    Like

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