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Online Guide Small Diaphragm Mics
Technical Aspects

 

Sound is subjective. Ultimately, your personal impression should be your guide when selecting the right
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
. Still, technical data can give you valuable information about the usability of a particular
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
.


DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
Noise
Performance (Self-Noise)

DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
Noise
is an important factor for distant miking, e.g. a choir or an orchestra and for recording quiet sources such as nylon string guitars.

For condenser mics
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
noise
performance is usually specified as “self-noise.” Alternate terms are “equivalent
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
noise
level” and “equivalent sound pressure level.” The lower the self-noise figure, the less
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
noise
the
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
produces. 16 dB-A or less is an excellent figure for a small
DiaphragmIn a microphone the diaphragm is a thin membrane up to 1" in diameter that converts sound waves into electrical current. A loudspeaker diaphragm does exactly the reverse.
diaphragm
condenser, 20 dB-A is still pretty good. At about 23 dB-A or more you’re likely to notice some background hiss, especially when you’re miking quiet sources.

Note: The “A” means the figure is weighted according to the
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
curve of the human ear. A-weighted figures emphasize the mid frequencies and disregard
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
noise
at the extremes of human perception, i.e. very high and very low frequencies. Some manufacturers also give unweighted
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
noise
figures (which invariably look worse). Don’t confuse weighted and unweighted figures; they’re in no way comparable.


Sensitivity

SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
Sensitivity
means output level. Various
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphones
will produce different output levels when exposed to the same sound source at the same distance. The usual way to specify
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
is in millivolts per pascal (i.e. output voltage per sound pressure). The higher the
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
figure, the “louder” the
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
. A typical small
DiaphragmIn a microphone the diaphragm is a thin membrane up to 1" in diameter that converts sound waves into electrical current. A loudspeaker diaphragm does exactly the reverse.
diaphragm
condenser
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
mic
is about 5-10 mV/Pa. The higher the figure, the less
TrimThe initial gain control on a mixer or other audio device such as a mic preamp, often labelled 'gain'. Trim/gain adjustment is crucial to maintaining a clean gain structure and good signal-to-noise ratio.
gain
is required from your
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
PreampAn amplifier device or circuit that provides initial amplification of a weak electronic signal, usually to 'line' level, in order for it to be processed or passed between other devices, as opposed to a power amp which amplifies a signal in order to drive loudspeakers. Examples include microphone preamps (as dedicated hardware and in mixing desks/recording interfaces) and guitar preamps. Most guitar amps combine the preamp and power amp in the same unit.
preamp
.

Unfortunately, there are several other ways to specify
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
, the most common being in relation to a hypothetical
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
. Which apparently has an enormously hot output level, given the fact that all known real world
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphones
produce negative decibel figures in comparison, usually between -55 and -35 dB. Here, too, higher figures mean higher
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
. But don’t let the negative numbers confuse you: -35 dB is much higher and therefore “hotter” than -55 dB!


Maximum SPL

Some people think that exceeding the maximum sound pressure level specified by the manufacturer means your
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
is in jeopardy. Don’t worry! Your
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
won’t be destroyed, it just means that sound at this level will no longer be free of noticeable
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
artefacts. Max
SPLSound Pressure Level: acoustic sound volume, measured in decibels (dB).
SPL
is usually specified as the sound pressure level (“volume”) at which
THDTotal Harmonic Distortion: a measure of the distortion introduced by an audio device, expressed as a ratio (in dB) of 'pure' input signal against harmonics (distortion) present in the output.
THD
(total
Harmonic1) Adjective describing the aspects of music associated with harmony (several differently pitched notes sounding together). 2) A clear, pure tone produced on the guitar by lightly placing a finger of the fretting hand directly above a mathematically determined position on the string. The easiest harmonics are found at the twelfth and (approximately) seventh and fifth frets.
harmonic
distortion) exceeds 0.5 %. Some manufacturers use 1%
THDTotal Harmonic Distortion: a measure of the distortion introduced by an audio device, expressed as a ratio (in dB) of 'pure' input signal against harmonics (distortion) present in the output.
THD
as the
ThresholdThe parameter in dynamics processing defining the level which an input signal must rise above (or fall below) to activate the circuit. A compressor is activated above the threshold, whereas an expander or gate is activated below the threshold.
threshold
figure, which results in – seemingly! – more impressive max
SPLSound Pressure Level: acoustic sound volume, measured in decibels (dB).
SPL
figures. In home applications and even most professional studio applications, maximum
SPLSound Pressure Level: acoustic sound volume, measured in decibels (dB).
SPL
is nothing to worry about. Usually your neighbours will greet you with a rifle, long before your Marshall
StackA form of guitar amplification, generally associated with rock music, in which the amplifier circuitry ('amp') is separate from (and usually placed on top of) one or more speaker cabinets ('cabs').
stack
exceeds your mic’s maximum
SPLSound Pressure Level: acoustic sound volume, measured in decibels (dB).
SPL
. So you better worry about your neighbours ;-)

Some sources can produce very high
SPLSound Pressure Level: acoustic sound volume, measured in decibels (dB).
SPL
figures in close proximity, e.g. brass instruments and drums. A few sources are much louder than you’d think because they contain very little energy in the
BassThe lowest part of the audio frequency range; in popular music, a (generally) rhythmic, low frequency melodic line emphasising the root notes of the chord progression.
bass
department (where you’d physically feel it). A tambourine, for instance, can easily be louder than an average microphone’s maximum
SPLSound Pressure Level: acoustic sound volume, measured in decibels (dB).
SPL
. 130 dB-SPL is a very good maximum
SPLSound Pressure Level: acoustic sound volume, measured in decibels (dB).
SPL
figure, 140 dB-SPL and more is excellent. Oftentimes you can add an additional 10 or 20 dB by applying a
Pad1) An attenuation switch found on many microphones and mixing desks, allowing a signal to be attenuated by one or more fixed amounts, such as -10 or -20dB. 2) A soft, sustained sound used in arranging or sequencing as an unobtrusive harmonic backdrop. This may be a synth sound or a natural sound, typically strings.
pad
which reduces the level right behind the
CapsuleThe part of a microphone containing the diaphragm which moves or vibrates in response to sound waves.
capsule
, so the internal
AmplifierA device for increasing the power of a signal by taking power from a supply and shaping the output to match the input signal.
amplifier
electronics won’t overload. However, don’t use a
Pad1) An attenuation switch found on many microphones and mixing desks, allowing a signal to be attenuated by one or more fixed amounts, such as -10 or -20dB. 2) A soft, sustained sound used in arranging or sequencing as an unobtrusive harmonic backdrop. This may be a synth sound or a natural sound, typically strings.
pad
unless necessary. A
Pad1) An attenuation switch found on many microphones and mixing desks, allowing a signal to be attenuated by one or more fixed amounts, such as -10 or -20dB. 2) A soft, sustained sound used in arranging or sequencing as an unobtrusive harmonic backdrop. This may be a synth sound or a natural sound, typically strings.
pad
often leads to a slight increase in
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
noise
and may also compromise the sound quality somewhat.

 

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Contents:

[Contents] [What Is a Small Diaphragm Microphone?] [The Pros and Cons] [Typical Applications] [Technical Aspects] [Directional Patterns] [Extra Features] [Stereo Sets] [FAQ] [What to Get?] [Hotdeals] [Feedback]
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