Gear Review: Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone

Zeppelin Design Labs was founded February 2015 by Brach Siemens, electrical engineer, product designer, guitarist whose background included touring with Wilco as guitar tech, and by Glen van Alkemade, Zeppelin Design Labs’ project manager, who has a background as a civil engineer and previously worked as a designer of custom sheet metal and custom cabinets. Zeppelin Design Labs is owned by parent organization Jesus People jesuspeoplechicago.org. The backstory on how a homegrown church evolved into a unique multi-faceted business and collective for social good is a fascinating read. Check out the link for more information. Zeppelin Design Labs, the creator of the Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone, is one of the businesses that operates as part of the Jesus People Chicago collective. This is a great example of how a real-world business can be created and operated with non-traditional funding and management.

This is the third generation of the Cortado Microphone and incorporates some significant improvements over previous versions. The Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone has been used extensively in live sporting venues to capture sounds for television broadcast as well as in sound design studios, dance stages, theaters, sporting events, in recording studios and many more applications.

Packed with useful and innovative features, the Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone is a ruggedly built, fully balanced professional grade piezo contact microphone. The Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone has an elegant design reflecting the retro feel of 1940's lab equipment. The Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone’s built-in preamp circuit is capable of driving a balanced signal through literally hundreds of feet of cable with no signal degradation. The Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone is fully balanced and buffered, and requires 48 volt Phantom Power to operate. Zeppelin Design Labs offers an optional accessory kit that gives you everything you need to couple the microphone sensor to just about any surface you can think of. The Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone can be used in the loudest sound reinforcement environments without any chance of feedback.

The Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone’s sensor is enclosed in a nearly-indestructible capsule that is strong enough to withstand any real-world abuse you are likely to encounter while using it. (The demo video on the Zeppelin Labs website shows the microphone sensor capsule being run over by a car with no apparent ill effect.) The preamp chassis itself is equally solidly built and contains the preamp circuitry, XLR output and some user selectable controls. The sensor capsule is connected to the preamp via a six-foot tether.

The Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone’s preamp circuit features hand-matched, high quality components for a low noise floor and flat frequency response. All the user-controlled features such as a -10dB pad and “Bass Boost” (high pass filter) are accessible via a series of DIP switches on the base of the preamp chassis. The switchable “Bass Boost” feature enables bandwidth from 50Hz to 18kHz. The 10dB switchable pad is useful for loud sound sources.

This really is a product with nearly endless possibilities for use. The Cortado Mk III Contact Microphone sensor can be attached via contact putty or clamped to virtually any musical instrument or vibrating surface. Use it as a traditional piezo microphone to record acoustic guitar or just about any music instrument. Use it just about anywhere to capture sounds you would otherwise never think of recording. In short, let your imagination run wild.

Bottom line: this is a professional-grade piezo contact microphone that is easy to use, deliverers professional results, doesn’t cost a lot and is just plain cool. Highly recommended!

The Cortado Mk III is available now for $143 MAP.

For product details, dealers and ordering information check out cortadomic.com.