Tag Archives: compromises

Compromises in audio (I): Microphones

3 Nov

Since I started my engineering degree, I started to acknowledge (assuming it was way harder) that everything in life is a compromise between a great solution with a high cost and a “just OK” solution that’s much more convenient. Or as his Satanic Majesties The┬áRolling Stones very wisely said: “You can’t always get what you want/ but if you try, sometimes/ you get what you need“. Pop lyrics are sometimes more than great. Try to express it better and simpler, Yeats!

As I was saying before digressing, there is no perfect solution that covers all of the issues that we might face with no drawbacks at any point. The audio and acoustic world is one of the best exponents of compromises being made to achieve the best possible solution, which is far from perfect but is the best we can get with the technology or knowledge that we have at the present moment.

If we start by the first link in the chain from acoustic source to storage medium, we have the transducer, this is, microphones. And microphones are one of the biggest examples of a compromise solution if we have a look at them. Let’s take the difference between condenser and dynamic mics to start with. Simply put:

  • Condenser mics: Good (fast) time response able to capture accurately transients due to the diaphragm’s low mass, which means great high frequency response… they directivity might be switchable from omnidirectional to cardoid or figure of 8. The drawback? They’re mechanically very delicate and they need a constant voltage between the diaphragm and its backplate (48 V Phantom power or prepolarized electret).

A condenser microphone (Photo by Bill Selak, under CC BY-ND 2.0)

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