A Mic which is short for a Microphone is a transducer. The microphone is a device that converts sound waves into electrical signals. Sound travels in the form of waves but it can’t travel far before it fades away at some point. For this, we created a transducer. The electronic devices we all love and spend most of our day with all have these transducers, which allow the device to capture and convert our sound waves into electric signals. Thanks to this we can talk to our loved ones whenever and where ever we can as long as we have signals.
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Why was this needed?
As we go back in our history we have come to understand that communication is the best source of information transfer and a very important tool to take control of an emergency situation. Back in the days, getting your voice heard from the distance was not possible you could shout at the peak of your lungs but that wouldn’t have helped much plus it’s exhausting. So people used different methods to get their information from one place to another. For example, they used horse riders to carry their message from one city to the other they were called messengers. But as we all know this was not very safe as they were killed or the message was switched at some point.
Later on, pigeons were introduced as a means of information transfer. What the process was, that the pigeons were trained to carry the message that was attached to their feet. But let’s be honest it’s not very assuring to leave an important message that could change the relationships between 2 regions on a pigeon. The success rate was not bad but for important messages, messengers were dispatched. This all needed to be changed.
So around the mid 16th century, physicist Robert Hooke made a device “lovers’ telephone”. The premises around which this device worked was two cups that were attached from the end with a wire. This concept sparked an idea that started a race which led to us having wireless mics. Because this gave the world the idea that sound waves can be converted into other mediums.
1861 Johann Philipp Reis built a transmitter which was known as the “Reis telephone”. This device used a metallic strip attached to a membrane. This produced a sporadic current which proved very hard to use because of its irregularity. The first carbon microphone which produced proper voice transfer was created by David Edward Hughes in mid-1877. But around the same time, Emile Berliner and Thomas Edison made their own version of carbon microphone which was patent by them as they won the legal rights after a long dispute over the rights with David Edward Hughes. Hughes showed his work to the public quite sometime before Edison’s device. So it’s pretty common for the general public to give Hughes the credit.
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There are 7 components on which a microphone works around.
- Magnetic Core
- The Capsule
- The Body
These seven parts let you work around your daily life as you casually call your friends to plan a meetup, your boss for a meeting, or even call 911 in case of emergency. These innovations defined the future or communication if not for these we would have been stuck in the stone ages(Dr. Stone reference).
The windscreen is a net of metallic wires that help prevent any harsh or sold material to get near the most sensitive part of the device, yes it’s the diaphragm. It acts as a filter for both noise and particles. It protects the inner parts of the mic.
The microphone working principle is based on the biological structure of the ear. As an ear has a diaphragm which is called the eardrum, the mic has the same functional diaphragm. This vibrates back and forth as the sound waves collide with it.
The main purpose of the coil is to move back and forth at the same frequency as the diaphragm. This becomes very easy to handle as it is attached to the diaphragm. So when that moves the coil will automatically move.
The Magnetic Core is a very specific part of the mic and it holds a lot of value. Why? Because as the coil moves back and forth wrapped around the magnetic core it creates a magnetic field. Which later on converts to an electric signal. This signal is passed on to the next part where the science hits off again.
In a dynamic microphone, the core and the coil are distanced from the capsule. But with the general case including the dynamic mic, the capsule is the part where sound wave energy is converted into electrical signals, and the capsule stores the signal. It passes the signal to the speaker for it to then be heard by the public. Thanks to this highly sensitive role the capsule requires a separate power source.
Well, it’s not the most important part of the whole process as it doesn’t affect the workflow. But what it does affect is how long will your microphone lasts. So getting a good build mic helps you get the maximum bang for your bucks. The other role is that it protects the inner parts from harsh behavior.
We all know that electric signals need an output source for them to be presented to the world. There are many output forms that come with the mic nowadays. These would be the XLR cable, the standard auxiliary cable, and the three-pronged which also sends the stereo output.
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How Microphone Work:
As we have discussed the sound travels in the form of wave energy by the vibrations in our environment. The sound waves produced by you speaking enter the mic through the windscreen.
After the windscreen, the waves hit the diaphragm which moves back and forth due to the motion of waves. The design structure of the diaphragm is constructed in such a way so that it can receive even the lightest wavelength produced around it.
We have seen that the coil is attached to the diaphragm, so when we say that the diaphragm moves the coil also moves.
Due to this back and forth motion of the coil the permanent magnet produces a magnetic field. This magnetic field goes through the coil creating an electric current flow.
This current flow goes to a sound recording device and boom you have now created electricity with the conversion of sound waves.
But this doesn’t explain how we transfer sound waves wirelessly through our everyday machines. Well that part is simple once you convert sound waves into electric current you attach a signal transmitter, that transfers that electric current into signals to the specific receiver and you get connected to that user.
Types of Microphone:
What we have discussed so far applies to all types of microphones. But now we will dive deeper into the different forms a mic has and how they are different from one another. There are many variations of a mic:
- Electret Condenser
These are all the types of microphones we have seen throughout time as we developed further into the technological world Condenser and Dynamic are the most commonly used types in today’s time.
The range of condenser microphone goes from the karaoke microphone to the professional recording microphones. How does a microphone work physics regarding this type of microphones? It generates the current by using the movement of the diaphragm’s back and forth motion, which is connected to the metal plate of a capacitor. The only difference is that where the coil and the magnetic core are present in the condenser there is a capacitor. A capacitor is a device that helps you store electric charge.
This is a type of condenser mic because it follows the same mechanics as a condenser mic. But the fundamental difference between them is that where the externally powered capacitor helps generate current, the capacitor is replaced with a permanently charged electret material. An electret is a dielectric material that has a dipole polarisation or quasi-permanent electric charge. To further simplify it’s a magnet. Thanks to the ease of handling magnets and their great chemistry it works fine and costs a lot less than the condenser mic.
The moving coil microphone which we have discussed up till now is technically known as a dynamic microphone. What kind of energy does a microphone convert? Well to answer that in simpler words, they convert sound wave energy into electric signals.
That is also the mechanics of how a dynamic microphone works. The difference between condenser and dynamic is the replacement of a capacitor with a coil magnetic core and capsule. They are very effective to make so it’s the most common type of microphone in the everyday market for stage work. But what makes this super interesting is that a single dynamic membrane does not receive all frequency easily. So multiple membranes are used so if one doesn’t pick that specific frequency others should.
Unidirectional microphones aren’t exactly a different type but they have a difference with mentioning so here we are. Unidirectional mics give you the ability to single out the sound you want to record. Because it doesn’t absorb sound waves from all directions but from the way it’s pointing. This makes unidirectional mics very useful in situations like interviews where there is too much background noise.
OK, this one is very interesting. Why? you ask. Because as the name suggests it captures the sound in the form of a heartbeat pattern. Hun Hun… isn’t this awesome!
It hops the gathering location of the sound waves from one location to another meaning you get a specific location with every beat. These are used for speeches and that is because of the heart-shaped pattern. In a 3D view of this type, it looks like an apple and the sensor of the mic is like the seeds in the middle of the apple. Because of this, the range is small but very good for noise canceling.
We are discussing the early forms of mic that had a button consisting of carbon granules stuck between two metal plates it also had the capsule. How this microphone worked was simply awesome. What they did was, they applied a voltage to the metal plates that had the carbon granules. One plate was used as the diaphragm that vibrated at the same frequency of the sound waves which applied pressure to the carbon. This changed the surface and caused resistance. With that as the different granules came into contact which caused the change in resistance, which was later turned into the current signals.
This type of microphone had the ability to receive sound waves from all directions. But thanks to that all the excessive noise also gets sucked in which is not very friendly for the user, as it’s not very desired to have background noise in the audio recording of the speech. This does come in handy with all of the CCTV recorders as they need to get sound from pretty much all directions.