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Element types

From: Digital Audio Principles

Video: Element types

So a microphone is a transducer, in that it converts variations in sound pressure into an electrical signal. A transducer is anything that takes one thing and changes it into another thing and usually it actually changes it back the other way as well. In the case of a microphone, it changes air pressure changes into electrical voltages. So while a microphone is a transducer there are three element types where, more or less, this is kind of like the brain of the transducer that exists, more or less, in microphones. There are a few other ones, but these are the ones you're going to come in contact with, the dynamic microphone, the condenser microphone, and the ribbon microphone.

Element types

So a microphone is a transducer, in that it converts variations in sound pressure into an electrical signal. A transducer is anything that takes one thing and changes it into another thing and usually it actually changes it back the other way as well. In the case of a microphone, it changes air pressure changes into electrical voltages. So while a microphone is a transducer there are three element types where, more or less, this is kind of like the brain of the transducer that exists, more or less, in microphones. There are a few other ones, but these are the ones you're going to come in contact with, the dynamic microphone, the condenser microphone, and the ribbon microphone.

These were just referred to generically as microphone types, or element types, something to keep in mind. Let's look at the dynamic microphone and think about kind of quickly how it works, but also what also what you can use it for. So the dynamic microphone works on the electromagnetic principle. The nutshell there is that sound comes in, hits the little diaphragm here, moves this thing back and forth in a magnetic field, and that generates electrical signals. So that's the transduction, that's the change from sound to electrical. Dynamic microphones are great for things that are really loud that have high pressure levels, like guitar amps and drums.

You'll see them a lot of times for vocals in live settings because they are good at just picking up what's in front of them, the mouth is right there and loud as opposed to picking up the whole band behind them and generating feedback and things like that. It's great on instruments, it's great on vocals, but not great on, let's say, on vocals you are recording in the studio. For that you'd want to look toward something like a condenser, which ultimately is a slightly more sensitive microphone, even though it's not really legitimate for me say that, that's the truth.

It's more sensitive it can pick up things with sharper transients like the voice, like acoustic guitars, like violins, because it works on an electrostatic principle. And in a nutshell that means the sound wave's come, and this little super thin diaphragm that's coated with like gold or nickel on the back. It just moves against the static background, and that generates electric signals, and this is charged, it's kind of positive and negative, and you get a result from the movement between those two.

So basically this technology is a lot more sensitive to sound pressure, because it's lighter and smaller, it can move back and forth quicker, so softer sounds, more subtle sounds, in sounds can be picked up. So condenser microphones are great for things like vocals, violins, acoustic guitars, things like that that have a lot of transients and a lot of kind of higher dynamics. And you can use them on almost anything, it's hard to use them close to things that are very loud. You can put one in a room with a drum set, if it's 10 feet away and get great results, but you have a hard time putting a condenser microphone on a snare drum because it's just as it's too loud it's too much for that element type.

The other thing about condenser microphones that you want to know about, which we'll talk about a little bit later when we discuss preamps is phantom power. Which ultimately is 48 volts that comes either through the microphone cable or sometimes can come from a battery that you put in line in the microphone in certain handheld designs. And that is what provides the charge on the element. Mixing consoles, anything with a mic preamp, will usually have a little 48 volt switch, which basically is phantom power, and that sends a little bit of juice back out in the microphone cable, to the microphone, which in a nutshell let's the element run. It gives it the power to be sensitive.

The third kind of mic you look at and maybe come into contact, these are coming back in popularity are ribbon microphones. This works like the dynamic microphone does on the electromagnetic principle, in that there is a little ribbon of aluminum here, and when sound comes it actually moves back and forth in a magnetic zone, and you get electrical signals from it. They used ribbon microphones, big old announcer microphones with the big grill on there, those are usually ribbon microphones from the `40s and `50s and stuff and they put that huge grill on there, because this ribbon, this little piece of aluminum is really, really sensitive to big Sound Blast and easy to damage.

You can actually just bend the aluminum if you send sounds to it that are too loud. So ribbon microphones are coming back and they're being used on things, sometimes in the way you would use a condenser, and sometimes in the way you'd use a dynamic microphone. And have different applications but the thing is that pretty good, pretty juicy ones cost quite a bit. So chances are if you're going to just get into digital audio, you won't be starting out with a ribbon microphone, but they are worth knowing about and definitely worth reading about, because it's pretty exciting than the newer ones have some technology that makes them less susceptible to damage.

It's an amazingly sensitive element, which is the good part and the bad part about it at the same time. So that's it for the different element types. In the next section we'll talk about pickup patterns and axis.

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This video is part of

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Digital Audio Principles

110 video lessons · 28258 viewers

Dave Schroeder
Author

 
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  1. 50s
    1. Welcome
      50s
  2. 39m 10s
    1. What is sound?
      4m 15s
    2. Hertz and frequency response
      5m 34s
    3. Phase
      2m 39s
    4. Capturing audio
      3m 39s
    5. Sample rate
      6m 16s
    6. Bit depth
      9m 47s
    7. The waveform
      5m 3s
    8. Audio file formats
      1m 57s
  3. 7m 25s
    1. What is a digital audio workstation?
      2m 59s
    2. Typical DAW signal flow
      4m 26s
  4. 50m 33s
    1. What microphones do
      1m 57s
    2. Element types
      5m 0s
    3. Pickup patterns
      6m 51s
    4. Axis
      2m 52s
    5. Frequency response and the proximity effect
      5m 10s
    6. Phase issues
      1m 41s
    7. Microphone types
      8m 44s
    8. Miking vocals
      5m 39s
    9. Miking amplifiers
      2m 17s
    10. Miking drums
      10m 22s
  5. 16m 39s
    1. Cables and connectors overview
      2m 42s
    2. Balanced and unbalanced cables
      3m 19s
    3. Common cable types
      7m 13s
    4. Cable tips
      3m 25s
  6. 12m 16s
    1. What is an I/O device?
      1m 41s
    2. Analog to digital conversion
      3m 10s
    3. Tour of an audio interface
      4m 49s
    4. Interface considerations
      2m 36s
  7. 21m 5s
    1. What is a preamp?
      3m 21s
    2. Input levels
      5m 29s
    3. Padding
      2m 18s
    4. Phantom power
      2m 37s
    5. Phase reverse
      3m 4s
    6. Preamp demo
      4m 16s
  8. 12m 56s
    1. What is a mixer?
      5m 55s
    2. Input section
      1m 17s
    3. Channel strips
      3m 16s
    4. Master section
      2m 28s
  9. 18m 21s
    1. What is monitoring?
      2m 11s
    2. Speakers
      4m 47s
    3. Room considerations
      5m 43s
    4. Headphone types
      3m 50s
    5. Monitoring levels
      1m 50s
  10. 15m 23s
    1. What role do computers play?
      1m 36s
    2. Performance issues
      4m 11s
    3. Hard drives
      4m 38s
    4. Mechanical noise
      2m 10s
    5. Authorization
      2m 48s
  11. 6m 54s
    1. Planning for recording
      54s
    2. Doing a system check
      1m 26s
    3. Planning your inputs
      1m 42s
    4. The recording environment
      2m 52s
  12. 25m 52s
    1. Types of digital audio software
      38s
    2. Multi-track recorders/sequencers
      4m 56s
    3. Two-track recorders/waveform editors
      4m 55s
    4. Loop-based music production software
      5m 44s
    5. Plug-ins
      6m 56s
    6. Other varieties
      2m 43s
  13. 18m 59s
    1. Common components
      46s
    2. The transport
      2m 4s
    3. The toolbar
      3m 19s
    4. The Edit/Arrange window
      4m 42s
    5. The mixer
      5m 8s
    6. The file list
      3m 0s
  14. 19m 17s
    1. Setting up a session
      3m 30s
    2. Assigning inputs and getting signals
      3m 19s
    3. Input modes
      3m 28s
    4. Overdubbing and punching
      5m 14s
    5. Bouncing down
      3m 46s
  15. 19m 42s
    1. What is editing?
      1m 21s
    2. Waveforms
      2m 53s
    3. Making silent cuts and trims
      7m 1s
    4. Fades and automation
      8m 27s
  16. 1h 23m
    1. What are plug-ins?
      3m 0s
    2. Using plug-ins
      6m 11s
    3. EQs
      7m 4s
    4. Dynamics pt. 1: Compressors, limiters, expanders, and gates
      5m 40s
    5. Dynamics pt 2: Applying dynamic effects
      7m 2s
    6. Pitch shifting
      6m 14s
    7. Reverb
      9m 28s
    8. Echo and delay
      6m 23s
    9. Modulation effects: Phaser, flanger, and chorus
      9m 39s
    10. Sound tools pt. 1: About, gain, normalize
      7m 39s
    11. Sound tools pt. 2: Reverse and time compression/expansion
      6m 29s
    12. Sound tools pt. 3: Noise reducers, dither
      8m 11s
  17. 23m 43s
    1. What is MIDI?
      3m 6s
    2. Keyboard controllers
      1m 23s
    3. Computer-based virtual instruments
      1m 6s
    4. Control surfaces
      1m 6s
    5. Recording and editing MIDI
      12m 4s
    6. Virtual instruments
      4m 58s
  18. 27m 29s
    1. What is mixing?
      1m 54s
    2. Some common objectives
      3m 4s
    3. Some useful techniques
      5m 59s
    4. A quick mixing demo
      16m 32s
  19. 18m 48s
    1. What is mastering?
      2m 24s
    2. Sonic maximization
      9m 43s
    3. Final preparations and exporting
      6m 41s
  20. 13m 34s
    1. What is audio compression?
      2m 16s
    2. Popular formats
      2m 9s
    3. Bit rate, sample rate, and channels
      5m 42s
    4. Other adjustments and considerations
      3m 27s
  21. 15m 6s
    1. Essential gear
      7m 36s
    2. Voice recording setups
      1m 43s
    3. The voice production process
      5m 47s
  22. 10m 4s
    1. Analog vs. digital
      2m 48s
    2. Tube vs. solid state
      5m 6s
    3. The continual upgrade
      2m 10s
  23. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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