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Microphones

Dynamic and Condenser


Polar patterns
Frequency response
Wireless

How a microphone functions

Dynamic microphones

Based on a moving coil of


wire
Think of the reverse of a
loudspeaker
Sound waves push on a
diaphragm which in turn
moves a coil of very fine wire
through a magnetic field
Produces current
proportional to the sound
waves

Dynamic microphones
Usually

very robust and durable

Very often used on stage where rough handling or


dropping is common
Damage is most often caused by breaking
suspension wires

Two wires which hold the diaphragm and coil in place

Often

do not produce a flat frequency


response and not very sensitive to low SPL

The relatively massive coil of wire takes a great


deal of power to make move

Condenser microphones

Creates a capacitor using the


diaphragm as one plate.

Capacitor is used to store an


electric charge. Changing the
distance between plates changes
its ability to do that.
Requires the plates to be charged
by an external source
Battery, phantom power
As the diaphragm moves, it causes
a ripple in the current from the
phantom power. This ripple is
proportional to the sound waves

Condenser microphone
Due

to the lightweight diaphragm, only small


pressure changes are required to produce an
audio signal.

Very sensitive to small SPL


Much flatter frequency response than dynamic

Much

more susceptible to damage


Requires external power supply to function

Frequency Response

A graph showing how a specific microphone


responds to different frequencies.

No microphone is perfectly flat


Usually not desirable anyway
Microphones are designed for specific purposes and
frequency responses are tailored for each use

Proximity effect

Usually only seen on dynamic microphones


As you move the mic closer to the sound source, you get an
increase in the low frequency response.
Trained vocalists will make good use of this effect, the
untrained will make themselves unintelligible.

Frequency Response
Dynamic Vocal Mic

Live Instrument Mic

Condenser Vocal Mic

Studio Instrument Mic

Directional properties

Every microphone will have a polar pattern

Description of the sensitivity of the microphone


related to the direction the sound is coming
from
Omni-directional

Sensitive from all directions


Used for ambient noise recording or where the
sound source is moving and the mic cannot

Often on lavaliere mics

Sound is often general and unfocused.


Feedback more likely

Omni-directional
polar pattern

Directional properties

Uni-directional
Mostly sensitive from one direction and less
from all others
Cardioid pattern

Sound is mostly picked up from the front, but


some from the sides as well to allow for some
movement of the mic off axis
Most common pattern, good for general use
Most common on hand held mics

Cardioid polar
pattern

Super and Hyper Cardioid pattern

Less sensitive to the sides, more sensitive to the


rear
Sometimes called a shotgun mic
Very directional
Super cardioid
polar pattern

Directional properties

Bi-directional
Sensitive from the front and back and
much less to the sides
Not much use on stage
Variable directionality
Polar pattern is adjustable to different
patterns
Seems like a good idea, but rarely works
perfectly well

Bi-directional pattern

Specialty Microphones

PCC and PZM microphones

Collectively known as Boundary microphones


Trade names of Crown International
http://www.crownaudio.com/mic_web/pcc.htm

http://www.crownaudio.com/pdf/mics/101062.pdf

http://www.crownaudio.com/mic_web/pzm.htm
Often used as a floor mic to reinforce a large group of
people who are moving
Musical chorus for example

Choir microphones

Small sensitive condenser mics usually hung overhead

http://www.shure.com/microphones/models/mxoverhead.asp

RF (wireless) microphones

A microphone which transmits its audio signal using


radio frequencies rather than a cable

The mic has a radio transmitter built into it which transmits


to a receiver off-stage. The receiver then sends the audio
signal to a mixer

Most often in the form of a wireless

Vocal mic transmitter is built into the body of the mic


Lavaliere small mic capsule is clipped onto clothing or
taped to the head (preferred). The mic capsule is wired to
a small pack with the transmitter and batteries.

RF (wireless) microphones
The

frequency that the packs transmit on are


very important

Usually transmit in the VHF or UHF range and are


susceptible to interference from other radio
sources
Diversity receivers

MUCH more interference resistant than non-diversity


Involves two separate receivers spaced apart from
each other

The system will select the strongest signal

RF (wireless) microphones

Lavaliere mic mounting


Usually mounted on the center of the forehead or over the ear

Toupee clips, bobby pins, high quality surgical tape.


Spirit gum only if ALL else fails

Occasionally mounted on clothing

Traditional use. TV interviews for example


Poor sound quality

Low frequency boost from being near the chest


Wind or clothing noise likely
Sound level changes as performer moves their head

Boom mounting a.k.a. Madonna Mic

Mounted on a rig over the ear which puts mic very close to the mouth.
Best sound. Poor aesthetics.

Additional Readings
http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/framed.h

tm?
parent=question309.htm&url=http://home1.pa
cific.net.sg/~firehzrd/audio/mics.html
http://www.mediacollege.com/audio/
Interesting discussion on mic techniques

http://www.informatik.unibremen.de/~dace/guitar/recording/