Microphones for Musicians – Laser and Other

August 7, 2006

If you have been following my Microphones 101 series of articles, you would have read about 4 of the most important microphone types. These were: Dynamic Microphones, Condenser Microphones, Ribbon Microphones, and Carbon Microphones. This last update will cover a couple less used mic types. Laser Microphones, lavalier mics, contact microphones, and parabolic microphones. If you jumped in on this article without reading the first two, here a little re-cap of how microphones work. How microphones work – in a nut shell.

A microphone captures sound waves with a thin and flexible piece of metal known as a diaphragm. Sound waves are introduced into the microphone, vibrating the diaphragm. The vibrations are then converted by various methods into an electrical signal that is an analog of the original sound.  There are various types of microphones, today we’ll be discussing laser, lavalier, contact, and parabolic microphones. 

1. Laser Microphones

A laser microphone utilizes, well, laser technology to capture vibration and convert it into sound. The laser will be reflected off of glass or another flat and rigid surface that vibrates with the sound nearby. The laser measures the distance (very accurately) between itself and the surface it is reflecting off of, and measures the fluctuations of that surface when the sound waves from nearby vibrate said surface. This form of mic is portrayed in movies as spy equipment. But contrary to it’s portrayal, the device is very new, expensive, and not very portable. 

2. Lavalier Microphones

This type of microphone is commonly used for hands-free operation, usually clipped to a person’s lapel. They usually have their own power source and can run directly into the mixer, or may be wireless, making it ideal for television. 

3. Contact Microphones

In the world of microphones, contact mics are a little different than the rest. They are designed to pick up sound vibrations from solid objects, instead of vibrations carried through the air. This is mainly used to record low level sounds that you would not be able to pick up with a regular mic. These mics consist of a moving coil transducer, a contact plate and pin. The contact plate is placed on the object which you would like to record, the vibration is passed through the plate to the pin which passes it to the transducer. The experimental electronic music group Matmos used this on their album “A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure”, to record the neural activity of a crayfish. 

4. Parabolic Microphones

Parabolic microphones use a parabolic reflector to pick up and focus sound waves for a microphone receiver. It is similar in function to a satellite dish in the way that it pick up radio waves. These mics are commonly used for law enforcement surveillance. But they are not very well suited for regular recording, as their low frequency response is very poor. So this wraps up our Microphones 101 series of articles. I hope you all learned as much from these articles as I have from researching and writing them!  Jason Cole and DiskFaktory Mastering offer great professional mastering services and information regarding audio engineering and CD mastering. Get the professional mastering information you are seeking now by visiting http://diskfaktory-mastering.com/evaluation.htm


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