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Online Guide Stage Vocal Mics
Understanding Specifications

 

In addition to some of the basic design characteristics we’ve discussed, there are some technical specifications that are particularly associated with
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphones
– below, we’ll look at the most important to understand:


Frequency Response

Numbers alone will not tell you that much in this area, as not many
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphones
have such a limited frequency response that they do not cover the necessary range for live sound. More useful is a frequency response graph which displays the
AmplitudeMeasure of the magnitude of a signal such as an audio signal, equating to volume when converted to sound.
amplitude
of response at any given frequency, generally only for sound directly into the front of the
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
, although there are sometimes additional graphs available for ‘off axis’ response. Although you might expect an ideal
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
to have a straight line graph, it is variation in frequency response that is mainly responsible for giving different mics their distinctive characters.
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
Microphones
such as the Shure SM58 which are specifically designed for live singers, often have a slight dip at around 200-300Hz and a lift around 4-8kHz – this serves to increase
IntelligibilityOfficial measure of intelligibility of speech or audio signals, used in the specification of PA systems.
intelligibility
and flatter the voice.


Sensitivity

SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
Sensitivity
expresses the microphone’s ability to convert the movement of its
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
to electrical voltage. To accurately measure the
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
of a
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
, a manufacturer will place it in a ‘reference sound field’ to measure the output voltage against a known sound pressure, and this is stated as its
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
, usually in mV/Pa where higher numbers are better, or sometimes in
dBVAs the decibel reference has been in use for over 50 years a number of different references are used as equipment technologies and specifications have changed. dBV was adopted early on and references 0dB as 1V as opposed to 0.775V (dBu) and is generally used for consumer hi-fi specifications.
dBV
, where confusingly figures are negative, and numbers closer to zero (i.e. less negative) are better.
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
Sensitivity
is generally not very important in live situations, as mics are typically placed very close to the sound source.


Self Noise

A
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
, like all electronic devices, generates
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 amount though, is usually well below the
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 of other equipment and so isn’t generally a factor with loud or moderately loud sound sources. However,
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
can be a problem with soft sound sources - manufacturers are aware of this problem and many mics are now advertised as having low
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
. It is usually termed 'self noise’, ‘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
SPL’ or ‘noise floor' in specifications and is the audible
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 the
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
produces when it is placed in isolation from external sound sources. Dynamic mics usually have very low self-noise as they don’t have the electronic components of condensers. As with
SensitivityThe input level (in dB) required by an audio device to drive it to its rated output level.
sensitivity
, this specification is not terribly important in live sound, as the
Volume1) In audio and music, the loudness or amplitude of a signal. 2) In computing, a fixed amount of storage space, addressed as a single entity ('C:', 'D:' etc). A physical drive may contain more than one volume, but a single volume may also span more than one drive!
volume
of sound arriving at the
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
mic
will generally dwarf any self
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
.


Sound Pressure Level (SPL)

Sound Pressure Level is a reference standard that indicates how loud a sound is in deciBels or dB. The ability of a
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphone
to handle high SPLs without
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
is primarily determined by its construction. Dynamic mics are generally the most robust in this respect and can usually handle SPLs of 140dB or more. Ribbon
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
microphones
are the weakest and can actually be destroyed by too high a level. Although the
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
of most condenser mics generally won’t distort except under the most severe SPLs, its built-in pre-amplifier can be overloaded to the point of
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
, so figures can vary widely depending on the quality of the
MicrophoneA device which converts airborne sound into an electrical signal.
mic
. Many condensers do have an
AttenuationDecrease in the level of a signal. Attenuators (circuits which attenuate a signal) are used to lower signal level in an audio system to prevent overload and distortion.
attenuation
‘pad’ switch though, which reduces the level of the signal before the pre-amp to avoid overloading. When using the
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
, keep in mind that the signal-to-noise ratio of the device is degraded by the amount of
AttenuationDecrease in the level of a signal. Attenuators (circuits which attenuate a signal) are used to lower signal level in an audio system to prevent overload and distortion.
attenuation
, so in
NormalType of patchbay configuration in which a top row socket is internally connected by default to the corresponding bottom row socket; the connection may be broken by inserting a plug into one or both front panel sockets, depending on the type of normalling in use.
normal
SPLSound Pressure Level: acoustic sound volume, measured in decibels (dB).
SPL
conditions it’s wise to remove the
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
as it’s unlikely to be an issue with all but the very loudest of singers!

 

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[Contenuti] [Introduction] [Microphone Designs] [Directional Characteristics] [Understanding Specifications] [FAQ] [Hotdeals] [Conclusion and Feedback]
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