This is part 1 of a 4 part blog series on understanding how a microphone works & what different microphones offer with On Tour Events, London's leading audio visual hire company.
A microphone's primary focus is to convert acoustic energy sound into electrical energy, a signal that can be amplified, recorded or transmitted. Because the microphone is the first link in the audio chain, it's important to choose the right microphone for the job and this is just as important as choosing the PA system to mixing desk.
When choosing a microphone, you need to consider the desired sound source, whatever the mic is supposed to pick up, and the equipment that the microphone will connect to. The microphone needs to be able to handle the loudness and frequency range of the voice or instrument that you're mic'ing. If it doesn't, your audio might have noticeable hiss, distortion, or voices and instruments might not sound natural and let's be honest who wants to listen to bad audio at any event let along a wedding or conference where the speech / talks are a huge part of the event.
The microphone also needs to be compatible with both the physical connections and the electrical characteristics of the audio mixer, recorder or computer that it will connect to. If it isn't, you might have problems with noise, low level, or no audio at all. If your hiring On Tour Events to supply the sound, live stream recording or any other production services for that matter don't worry we take care of all this but if your looking to dry hire a microphone from us then carry on reading....
To know how a microphone will work for a particular purpose, you need to check its technical specifications. These fall into four general categories. In this segment, we'll discuss the operating principle. The operating principle describes the type of transducer that the microphone uses to convert sound into an electrical signal.
The most common transducer types are dynamic and condenser. In a dynamic microphone, sound waves strike a thin plastic diaphragm and cause it to vibrate. A coil of wire attached to the back of the diaphragm vibrates along with it. As the coil moves back and forth, it passes through a magnetic field created by a magnet, which generates an electrical signal that corresponds to the sound.
Dynamic microphones can handle even the loudest sounds without overloading, but this also means that they're not well suited to distant mic'ing of quiet sources because the sound waves have to move the mass of the diaphragm and the voice coil. They usually have limited high frequency detail so they're better for vocals or horns than for stringed instruments. The size of the magnet makes it difficult to make a dynamic mic very small which can limit your mounting options.
In a condenser microphone, sound waves also strike a diaphragm and cause it to vibrate. The diaphragm is mounted just in front of an electrically charged plate. As the diaphragm moves back and forth, it changes the electric field between the diaphragm and plate which generates an electrical signal that corresponds to the sound.
Since there is no voice coil in a condenser mic, the sound waves only have to move the diaphragm. This gives condenser mics better high frequency detail than dynamics. This makes them ideal for mic'ing stringed instruments, percussion, piano or subtle vocals. Condenser mics usually have higher output than dynamics so they're good for distant or quiet sources. Since there's no magnet in a condenser mic, they can be made extremely small which makes it easier to mount them in tight spots and make the mic less visible.
Condenser microphones have internal circuitry that requires power to operate. Usually phantom power is supplied through the microphone cable from the mixer or recorder. Some condenser microphones can run on an internal battery, but that's less common. Unlike dynamic mics, the electronics in a condenser mic can overload when exposed to very loud sounds. Make sure that the condenser mic you're using can handle the sound levels that the source can be expected to produce.
By understanding microphone characteristics, like operating principle, you'll be able to choose the best mic for any application and get better results when recording or using a sound system. When organising a conference or corporate function your panelists / speakers may require a specific microphone, feel free to give us a call or drop us an email and we can advise the most suitable microphone. Take a look on our website though our conference page which lists the some of the services we offer at On Tour Events.
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