magnetic storm
Leaders in Events, Sound, Lighting and Audio-Visual

Blog  > Inventors Month  > The Microphone

12 April 2016

A look at technology; where it all began and how it has all evolved. 



Here's examples of latest trends in microphones.


The AM-1 Real-time Steering Array Microphone System has achieved the unique function of detecting the sound source location and steering its angle automatically in real-time to capture the targeted sound more efficiently. In addition, the special user-friendly iPad app allows the user to monitor live, status of the sound source tracking, and make real-time changes to setting parameters.




The Shure SM58 is a professional cardioid dynamic microphone, commonly used in live vocal applications. Produced since 1966 by Shure Incorporated, it has built a strong reputation among musicians for its durability and sound, and nearly half a century later it is still considered the industry standard for live vocal performance microphones. The SM58 and its sibling, the Shure SM57, are the best-selling microphones in the world. The SM stands for Studio Microphone.





The Shure 55 is the most recognized microphone in the world.

First produced in 1939, the original Model 55 Unidyne microphone was the first single-element unidirectional dynamic microphone. From its beginnings at that time being a cardioid pattern microphone, its smaller size made it a true classic that was affordable and accessible to all. Then as well as today, its impressive “art nouveau” satin chrome-plated die-cast case was closely equaled by its breakthough performance.

The Model 55 (unlike competing omnidirectional mics at that time) was able to operate in close proximity to loudspeakers without creating feedback. It’s characteristic Shure presence peak made it excellent for vocal pickup in any situation from radio broadcast to live shows.

What most people know and think as the 55 was called the Model 55S and was a smaller version of the original Unidyne 55. First produced in 1951, Shure now makes an updated version called the 55SH Series II, which is essentially the same as the 70-year old Unidyne except for modern internal acoustic components are used to bring it up to present day requirements.


In 1966 Neumann adapted the "phantom powering" method that had been used for years in certain telephone systems, so that a compatible method of powering would allow tube microphones, solid-state microphones and dynamic microphones all to be connected to the same power supplies. Eventually the "fet 80" series grew to include over a dozen models, some of which are still in production as of 2014—the U 87, U 89, KMR 81, KMR 82 and USM 69. The best-known models from this series were the KM 84 small diaphragm cardioid and the U 87 three-pattern, large diaphragm successor to the U 67.



Shure ULX-D Digital Wireless offers uncompromising 24-bit audio clarity and extremely efficient RF performance with single, dual, and quad channel receivers for any size professional sound reinforcement application.

Scalable, intelligent hardware delivers the best performing digital wireless available, with a wide selection of trusted Shure microphones to choose from. Unmatched spectrum efficiency enables a dramatic increase in the number of simultaneous active transmitters on one TV channel, with rock-solid signal over the entire range. Optional rechargeable accessories eliminate the need for disposable batteries while offering extended run time and metering accuracy in hours and minutes. For secure transmission, all ULX-D components include AES-256 encryption.


Electret microphones are among the most widely used microphones on Earth. Because they're cheap and relatively simple, electret mics are used in cell phones, computers and hands-free headsets. An electret microphone is a type of condenser microphone in which the external charge is replaced with an electret material, which by definition is in a permanent state of electric polarization.



Ribbon Microphones

In a ribbon microphone, a thin ribbon -- usually aluminum, duraluminum or nanofilm -- is suspended in a magnetic field. Sound waves move the ribbon, which changes the current flowing through it.Ribbon microphones are bidirectional meaning they pick up sounds from both sides of the mic.

The RCA PB-31 was one of the first ribbon microphones. It was produced in 1931, and changed the audio and broadcasting industries because it set a new standard when it came to clarity. Several other microphone makers made comparable models, including the BBC-Marconi Type A and ST&C Coles 4038.


Countryman E6 discreet headset mic 

The advantages of the E6 are great in the conferencing/corporate side of the market, having a discreet microphone that is picking up audio directly from the source (as opposed to a lapel mic where sound has a distance to travel) There is still a market for the larger diaphragm headset mic though, the belting vocals of Madonna and on-stage sound would never work well for Madonna. 


Laser microphones are often portrayed in movies as spy gadgets, because they can be used to pick up sound at a distance from the microphone equipment. A laser beam is aimed at the surface of a window or other plane surface that is affected by sound. The vibrations of this surface change the angle at which the beam is reflected, and the motion of the laser spot from the returning beam is detected and converted to an audio signal.

A new type of laser microphone is a device that uses a laser beam and smoke or vapor to detect sound vibrations in free air. On 25 August 2009, U.S. patent 7,580,533 issued for a Particulate Flow Detection Microphone based on a laser-photocell pair with a moving stream of smoke or vapor in the laser beam's path. Sound pressure waves cause disturbances in the smoke that in turn cause variations in the amount of laser light reaching the photo detector. A prototype of the device was demonstrated at the 127th Audio Engineering Society convention in New York City from 9 through 12 October 2009.


Fiber optic microphone

The Optoacoustics 1140 fiber optic microphone Established in 2006, Optoacoustics' founders are the inventors of the original fiber optical microphone.The company pioneered the microphone's commercial manufacture, which is now in its third generation.

A fiber optic microphone converts acoustic waves into electrical signals by sensing changes in light intensity, instead of sensing changes in capacitance or magnetic fields as with conventional microphones.

During operation, light from a laser source travels through an optical fiber to illuminate the surface of a reflective diaphragm. Sound vibrations of the diaphragm modulate the intensity of light reflecting off the diaphragm in a specific direction. The modulated light is then transmitted over a second optical fiber to a photo detector, which transforms the intensity-modulated light into analog or digital audio for transmission or recording. Fiber optic microphones possess high dynamic and frequency range, similar to the best high fidelity conventional microphones.

Fiber optic microphones do not react to or influence any electrical, magnetic, electrostatic or radioactive fields (this is called EMI/RFI immunity). The fiber optic microphone design is therefore ideal for use in areas where conventional microphones are ineffective or dangerous, such as inside industrial turbines or in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment environments.

Fiber optic microphones are robust, resistant to environmental changes in heat and moisture, and can be produced for any directionality or impedance matching. The distance between the microphone's light source and its photo detector may be up to several kilometers without need for any preamplifier or other electrical device, making fiber optic microphones suitable for industrial and surveillance acoustic monitoring.

Fiber optic microphones are used in very specific application areas such as for infrasound monitoring and noise-canceling. They have proven especially useful in medical applications, such as allowing radiologists, staff and patients within the powerful and noisy magnetic field to converse normally, inside the MRI suites as well as in remote control rooms. Other uses include industrial equipment monitoring and audio calibration and measurement, high-fidelity recording and law enforcement.


Neumann Solution D Large Diaphragm Digital Microphone

“I'll be up front with you: this microphone costs more than my car is worth.”

The Solution-D system includes three components: the D-01 digital microphone, a high-quality microphone with integrated preamp; the DMI-2 digital microphone interface, and the RCS remote control software which operates the microphone itself. Imagine a microphone of world-class quality, bringing Neumann's legendary quality to life with a 96kHz, high-quality analog-to-digital converter, the Solution D offers the absolute best of cutting-edge technology. Perfect for vocals (or anything, for that matter), this digital perfection comes at a price. Get that loan application ready: $13,299 and it's yours!



Trying times require innovative thinking

Many of our clients use our services to engage with their audiences; clients, suppliers, stakeholders, communities and teams. With the current Covid-19 emergency and the banning of all gatherings of over 100 people, it is important that we step up the communication to ensure businesses keep on track.

Read more
The impact of visualisation in events

If I say to you, “imagine a sitting with your feet in the sand, staring out at the ocean.” I bet that the image in your mind versus the image in mine has similarities, but many differences too. Creating a concept from words alone can lead you in a different direction, so it’s key to ensure you have clarity on what that picture looks like.

Read more
Magnetic Storm announces office move to accommodate business vision

Magnetic Storm, a leading event and technical solutions company, is excited to announce a major office move to larger facilities in Port Elizabeth. Magnetic Storm will be relocating from its current Newton Park premises to 51 Leadwood Crescent, Fairview on November 18th.

Read more
The power of purpose

Never underestimate the power of purpose. A clear and strong purpose is the driving force behind many successes. However, more than success, it's about impact Purpose pulls, it compels you to act, to create, to explore and discover, to achieve despite any obstacles and challenges.

Read more