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The world of microphones

Introduction to music production

Xavier Jo

on 22 July 2013

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Transcript of The world of microphones

Microphone types
A dynamic microphone has a movable metallic disc (diaphragm) attached to coil of wire suspended within a magnetic field. When sound waves strike the diaphragm, it moves in response to the variations in pressure. This in turn causes the coil to move within the magnetic field, creating a patterned electrical current. It's like a speaker "in reverse".
Dynamic microphones are renowned for their ruggedness and reliability. They need no batteries or external power supplies.
So, they are the perfect ones for the STAGE.
The PATTERN matters
Every mic has a "
". This is how well the mic picks up the sound from various directions. So we can place the microphones in two groups depending on it's polar pattern.
The frequency response is the sensitivity of a microphone over its operating range from lowest to highest frequencies (measured Decibels -Db). A frequency response diagram plots the microphone sensitivity in decibels over a range of frequencies (typically 20 Hz to 20 kHz).
This sensitivity indicates how well the microphone converts acoustic pressure to output voltage, and tell us the
of the microphone: the difference between the the noise floor and the maximum sound pressure level (SPL).
Hi! I'm Xavi Jo, from Barcelona. I'm a music teacher in a Primary School and I'm very interested in music production. I've chosen this topic because I want to learn more about microphones: types, components, patterns, and other characteristics. I hope it will be useful for you! Let start the tour!
the world of
No matter how we call it. A microphone is a TRANSDUCER. In other words, an
energy converter
. Every mike has a sensor that converts "acoustic energy" into "electrical energy".
Microphone? Mic? Mike?
acoustic energy
electrical energy
There are many ways to convert sound into electric energy, but we'll concentrate on the two most common methodes:
Condenser microphone consists of two very thin electrically charged metallic plates, one of which is fixed in place. The other vibrates in response to sound entering the microphone. The movement of these plates creates patterns of electric currents corresponding to the sound the microphone picks up. The resulting sound is natural, clean and clear, with excellent transparency and detail. They need an external power supply to provide the polarizing voltage needed for the capacitive circuit (Phantom Power).
They are the perfect ones for the STUDIO.
A -
Are specially designed to respond best to sound from the front (and rear in the case of bidirectionals), while tending to reject sound that arrives from other directions. Sound arriving from the front of the microphone will aid diaphragm motion, while sound arriving from the side or rear will cancel diaphragm motion. There are
4 types
of directional microphones:
A cardioid microphone has the most sensitivity at the front and is least sensitive at the back. It isolates from unwanted ambient sound and is much more resistant to feedback than omnidirectional microphones. That makes a cardioid microphone particularly suitable for loud stages.
Supercardioid microphones offer a narrower pickup than cardioids and a greater rejection of ambient sound. But they also have some pickup directly at the rear. They are the most resistant to feedback.
A hyper-cardioid microphone is similar, but with a slightly larger figure-8 contribution leading to a tighter area of front sensitivity and a smaller lobe of rear sensitivity.
Bi-directional / Figure of eight
A microphone with a figure of eight polar pattern picks up the sound from in front of the microphone and from the rear but not the side (90 degree angle). Microphones with this Figure of Eight polar pattern are typically ribbon or Large Diaphragm Microphones.
B -
Omnidirectional microphones pick up sound from just about every direction equally. They'll work about as well pointed away from the subject as pointed toward it, if the distances are equal. A disadvantage is that an omni cannot be aimed away from undesired sources such as PA speakers which may cause feedback.
The most common connectors are XLR (3 pins), balanced audio signal.


For dynamic
For condenser
It has been really interesting to explore a little bit more about microphones. I want to finish my work wondering: what
kind of microphone
do we need for our home studio? There's a lot of options. Even if we know a lot about microphones, before making a decision maybe we'll have to consider the next questions:

THE APPLICATION: Singing, speaking, playing and instrument... So, dynamic microphones are generally preferred for loud voices, amplified guitars or drums. Condenser microphones provide a more natural, detailed sound and are therefore the better choice for acoustic instruments such as guitars, brass and overheads with drums or delicate voices.
THE ENVIRONMENT: Stage, studio, outdoor... We'll think about the directionality (polar pattern). For stage, cardioid or supercardioid is the best option. However, multidirectional ones are best suitable for recording.
EXPERIMENTING: when we have in our hands the microphone, starts an interesting process where you can try different sorts of positions and places until we create our desired sound. It is the creative way!

Shure SM57
(Dynamic cardioid, for vocals and instruments)
Neumann U87
(Condenser. Omnidirectional, cardioid, figure eight. Studio recording)
Shure SM58
(Dynamic cardioid,
for vocals)
AKG C414
(Condenser. All polar patterns. Studio recording)
I've chosen 4 professional microphones. Of course there are lots of them, but this is a great (and expensive) selection.
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