North Suburban HAMMOND ORGAN Society

Microphones figure prominently in much of what we do, and actually in much of the world of music, they are among the most important items. They are also often not very well understood, and there are many different types. The wrong microphone for a particular application will give terrible results or possibly may not work at all, whereas the right one will make every person's life who is part of a program a lot easier.

First of all, exactly what is a microphone, or what does a microphone actually do? Most people know that you can talk or sing into a microphone and your voice will appear to come from some speaker somewhere, or it might get recorded, or if you are a radio or TV personality, your voice will be heard by thousands, and perhaps even millions of other people. But what exactly does the microphone do to make this happen?

The microphone is actually a transducer. Transducers usually convert one form of power from one type of system into another form of power often in a different system. Microphones convert sound waves (mechanical energy or power) into electrical waves (electrical energy or power) so that the resulting signal can be further processed as necessary depending on what the final result should be. Some microphones are actual generators of electric power, and other microphones produce appropriate variations in existing power. But in either case, the microphone converts the instantaneous minute variations in air pressure that constitute sound into a correspondingly varying alternating current which is an analog copy and representation of the soundwaves which acted upon the microphone.

Good! Now that that's out of the way, let's look at the different types of microphones and see how they work. Along the way we'll also find out what kind of a microphone we should use for any particular application, because not all microphones are created equal, and there are several different technologies employed in various microphones, and in each category there are some significant variations.

Among the major classes of microphones are these:

  • Carbon
  • Crystal
  • Dynamic
  • Condenser

We will begin on the next page with a look at the various types, and elaborate further as necessary.

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