What is a microphone?
A microphone is a sound device that collects audio sound waves and converts the vibrations into an electrical signal or transcribes them into a recording medium. The electrical signal can be amplified as an analog signal or translated to a digital signal. If the electrical sound translates to a digital signal, the signal can be processed through the use of a computer or another digital audio device.
One of the main aspects behind a microphone is the diaphragm, a thin piece of material that vibrates when it comes into connection with sound vibrations. The diaphragm is the component that converts sonic energy into an electrical energy/signal. As the diaphragm differs in each microphone, the use of the microphone will be different. At the moment there are three types of microphone diaphragms, classified according to their mass and size. The size of a diaphragm will affect the sound pressure level handling, sensitivity, dynamic range and internal noise level.
Different types of diaphragms
Microphones with small diaphragms are also known as pencil mics. They are cylindrical, and their compact design makes them light and easy to position. Microphones with small diaphragms are built to handle sound vibrations that are higher in pitch and have full dynamic range.
Large diaphragm microphones can detect the slightest difference in sound pressure levels and gives a clear and natural sound. Large diaphragm microphones are more likely to be used in a recording studio and are the most common structure used on modern USB microphones. The volume needs to be maintained when recording because increased sound pressure can result in the sound to become distorted.
Medium diaphragm microphones are also known as hybrid microphones as it combines characteristics from both the small and large diaphragm microphones. The diaphragm in these microphones allows the sound to be clear and natural sound like large diaphragms while they hold the high-frequency vibrations of small diaphragms. Best used in both live performances and recording studios.
Main types of microphones:
There are currently three main microphones that are used often, the dynamic microphone, the condenser microphone and the ribbon microphone.
The dynamic microphone (Medium diaphragm):
A dynamic microphone works with electromagnetic induction meaning that the magnet creates a current to flow within the wire. The diaphragm in the microphone will vibrate because of the sound vibrations, the magnet will move, and this process will create a small current. The current or electrical energy created will then be sent to amplifiers and mixing boards.
Dynamic microphones are used to capture high-pressure sound levels from things such as drums and electric amplifiers and are ideal for live performances.
Here is the link to a ribbon microphone we offer on our website, https://agilenoise.com/product/shure-sm58/
Condenser microphones (Large diaphragm):
Also known as capacitors, condenser microphones have a diaphragm that acts as one plate of a capacitor. The vibrations that are picked up create changes in the distance between the two plates of the diaphragm. Changes are amplified to create a signal that can be measured. Condenser microphones need a small battery to give a power supply across the capacitor.
These microphones are mainly used in laboratories and recording studios because of their capability of producing high-quality sound.
Here is the link to a condensor microphone we offer on our website, https://agilenoise.com/product/samson-c02-single/
Ribbon microphones (Small diaphragm):
Ribbon microphones use a metal ribbon that is placed into the magnetic field and is connected electrically to the microphone. The ribbon is caused to move because of the sound waves; the sound waves change the current that flows through the ribbon and therefore, an electric signal is produced.
The ribbon microphone is often used to pick up sounds created by instruments such as cymbals from acoustic drums.
Here is the link to a ribbon microphone we offer on our website, https://agilenoise.com/product/akg-p220-high-performance-large-diaphragm-condenser/
Now that you know which microphone to use in which setting it is also essential to understand and know how to use a microphone. Here are some techniques to make sure your microphone is used to its best potential.
1. Make sure to speak or sing into the microphone.
2. Ensure that you and the microphone do have some distance between the two of you. If you are too close to the microphone, it will pick up frequencies that are not intended to pick up.
3. Project your voice and use your voice to its full potential.
4. Do not tap or blow into a microphone, rather test the microphone by saying ‘testing one-two’ repeatedly until the sound engineer is satisfied with the EQ.