What is a Microphone ?

The basic answer is a device with the ability to convert sound energy into electricity. Microphone is almost exactly the opposite of speaker, which turns electric power into sound waves. It is a common device used by presenters, TV hosts, singers, reporters, and in everyday circumstances when people need to amplify the loudness of a speech or any sound. The microphone itself is connected to a speaker so the electric power can be converted back to sound waves, allowing the audience to hear much louder sound than it really is. Microphone comes in various shapes from a small condenser model to parabolic shape depending on purposes.

Microphones by Type

A. Condenser microphone - Condenser Micorphones are also known as Capacitor Microphones. These microphones operate on the principle that when you apply a fixed charge on a capacitor, and you change the capacitance, the voltage across its plate varies. The condenser microphone is made up of two plates separated by an insulator. The capacitance of the microphone varies as the plates move due to sound waves. The first condenser microphones use a small battery pack to supply a fixed charge on the capacitor. Today, condenser mics use "electrect", a material that has fixed charge built in it and does not require an external battery.

B. Dynamic microphone - instead of using two closely installed plates, dynamic microphone utilizes a fixed magnet surrounding a coil attached to a membrane. As sound waves hit the membrane, the coil moves along with it. The movement of the coil relative to a fixed magnet generates electricity.

C. Piezoelectric microphone - some materials are able to generate electricity when subjected to pressure, and this is the idea behind piezoelectric microphone. Certain crystals such as Rochelle salt and quartz are used as they can produce a voltage when compressed by sound waves.

D. Ribbon microphone - similar to dynamic microphone, a magnet is used in ribbon microphone. However, ribbon microphone uses a corrugated metal instead of a coil. Vibration of the corrugated metal in response of sound waves and relative to the magnet produces electricity.

E. Carbon microphone - in between two metal plates of a carbon microphone, there are granules of carbon. One of the plates acts as diaphragm and moves in accordance to sound waves. The varying pressures applied to the carbon generate electricity.

Microphones by Function

Based on the intended use, microphones can be divided into many different categories as follows:

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