A microphone, sometimes called a mic or mike, is an acoustic-to-electric transducer or sensor that converts sound into an electrical signal. The microphone is used in many applications such as public address systems for concert halls and public events, motion picture production, live and recorded audio engineering, telephones, hearing aids, two-way radios, megaphones, radio and television broadcasting, and even in computers. My favorite use for a microphone is a rock concert.
Most every microphone used today uses electromagnetic induction (dynamic microphones), capacitance change (condenser microphones) or piezoelectricity (piezoelectric microphones) to produce an electrical signal from air pressure variations. A microphones typically needs to be connected to a preamplifier before the signal can be amplified with an audio power amplifier and a speaker or recorded. Ah, science.
In 1827, Sir Charles Wheatstone was the first person to coin the phrase “microphone” although history tells us the earliest known device used to increase the volume of the spoken word dates back to 600 BC with the invention of masks with specially designed mouth openings that acoustically augmented the voice in amphitheatres. Did you ever cup your hands around your mouth when you are yelling to someone? Something like that.
According to inventors expert Mary Bellis at About.com, with the invention of the radio, new broadcasting microphones were created with the ribbon microphone being invented in 1942 for radio broadcasting. These are the types of microphones I like. Not saying they are the best. James R Cameron writes in his book Public Address Systems, “There is room for improvement in even the best microphones.”
To learn the full history of the microphone one could read whole books or take courses and probably still not know all there was to learn. What I do know is that the old time style microphone is the one I like best. It just looks so cool.
There is the one you would imagine to see in the recording studio:
Or the type you could see in the hands of a soulful singer on stage at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville:
Yes, wherever or however it is being used, the look of the old time microphone always makes me smile.
Now, if someone would just use it at a rock concert…
Are you in a field where you use a microphone on a regular basis? What style do you prefer? Tell us about your experience. We would love to hear from you. Click here to leave a comment and share your opinion and experience. Would love to hear from you.
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