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What is harder to get right? The microphone end or the speaker end?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I have always wondered about the different challenges about making and designing audio equipment, and one question that has come to mind recently is what is harder to perfect or make very well, a recording microphone or a speaker (whether it be a headphone or full speakers)?

 

I know a little bit about drivers and such but next to nothing about microphones.

 

Are microphones easier to engineer to perform better versus a speaker?

 

Is the price/performance ratio different?

 

So what are your thoughts/knowledge on this topic?

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 22

I'd imagine, all else equal, the microphone would be harder simply because it creates a much lower level signal which must then be boosted upwards of 50-60db

post #3 of 22

A mic is not easy to get right but most mics tend to have a flatter FR than most playback systems which is why they are often used in calibration and measurement. Some mics are made to imbue their own sound into the recordings too to make it easier for recording engineers to make a recording sound more natural.

 

Good mics though like some audio technicas which are really versatile can be had on amazon for real cheap but truly good mics that can capture transients and all the little nuances during recordings like Earthwork mics go pretty far up the chain and so do some of Sennheiser's MKH series mics.

 

Cheap mics though can still be good like Shure SM57 is extremely popular or some of the audio technica AT mikes as mentioned above can be very versatile.

 

Things that affect drivers also affect the mic's diaphragm like response axis, frequency extension, noise(particular focus), sensitivity, speed. But of course, its the recording engineer's skill that makes or breaks the mic. 

post #4 of 22

Great for miking a 4x12 Marshall-cab !

 

 

 

Great for a whole bunch of things, including vocals !

Quote:
The cheap mics and monitors are every bit as good myth
 
Let me be a little controversial -
 
We have been told by all sorts of manufacturers that linearity is the most import aspect of any transducer (i.e. mic or speaker).  
 
But then why is it that -
 
The NS10 is the most successful monitor in history, but it has a really poor frequency response.
 
The SM58 is the most successful mic in history, but it too has a poor frequency response.
 
The U87 is the most successful studio mic in history, but it (yes, you've guessed it!) has a poor frequency response (OK, it ain't that bad, but linear it am not!!!)
 
And another thing -if frequency response is so important, why don't we use B&K test mics for everything?  Heaven knows, they're linear enough! 
The problem is, although they are perfectly linear, they do not sound that great.
 
What do we learn from this?
 
Easy - there must be something else going on!

Read what here : http://inchbrakie.tripod.com/audiotalk-equipment/id18.html

 

Amps and DAC's should be ruler-flat, they are neither transducers nor equalizers ..


Edited by AKG240mkII - 9/17/12 at 9:31am
post #5 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vendetta View Post
Are microphones easier to engineer to perform better versus a speaker?

 

Speakers are much more difficult for many reasons. A high quality small-diaphragm condenser microphone contains only a simple capsule element and a preamp. Decent models like the Nady CM 100 can be had for $50, and a response that's reasonably flat from 20 Hz to 20 KHz with low distortion is not uncommon. A loudspeaker needs at least two drivers, plus a crossover, and the resulting phase "issues" create peaks and nulls around the crossover frequency. Speakers also suffer from beaming and lobing, and edge diffraction, which also skew the response. Speakers also tend to have high distortion, especially at louder volumes. 5 or 10 percent THD is not uncommon in woofers, though you'd never see a decent microphone with distortion that high. The issue is mainly overcoming physics, rather than design skills.

 

--Ethan

post #6 of 22

You have to keep in mind that the objectives for a microphone are quite different (and less difficult) than a speaker. Artists don't always want a perfectly flat response from microphones (else recording artists would be using highly precise measurement microphones). Microphones are selected because of their coloring... it is part of the artistic process.

Similarly, the placement of the microphone on the speaker cone of a guitar amplifier is not chosen to accurately record what the guitarist hears when he plays, but rather it is chosen because it gets the sound they want.

 

Microphones are often catered to specific instruments, whereas speakers must always be good at reproducing ALL instruments, at the same time! This is much more difficult.

 

That said, you can build a very decent measurement mic from cheap ($5) panasonic electret microphone capsules and a bic pen body.

post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by EthanWiner View Post

 

A loudspeaker needs at least two drivers, plus a crossover, and the resulting phase "issues" create peaks and nulls around the crossover frequency.

 

not entirely correct ;)  for example: 

 

post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by El_Doug View Post

 

not entirely correct ;)  for example: 

 

I assume that this is a full range single driver design and not some coax speaker? Fidelity wise, multi driver designs are required to get the most out of any system otherwise in terms of FR. Of course only ESLs are a exception to this, however they are troubled by back waves, power handling and not so amazing bass response. Full range speakers are great with midrange but physics makes it almost impossible to get nice good bass out of them. 

 

I agree with you Eisen, the dynamics of different mics are what engineers use to make a natural sounding recording, a measurement mic may not have such dynamic response that will suit the sound the engineer wants to capture. 


Edited by firev1 - 9/17/12 at 10:22pm
post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by firev1 View Post
I agree with you Eisen, the dynamics of different mics are what engineers use to make a natural sounding recording, a measurement mic may not have such dynamic response that will suit the sound the engineer wants to capture. 

 

Measurement microphones typically use small (only a few mm) electret or condenser capsules. It is the easiest way to implement a close to point-like omnidirectional sound pressure sensor with flat and extended frequency response, and reasonably low distortion. However, they usually have low sensitivity and high noise because of the small diaphragm, and being omnidirectional also means that more unwanted ambient noise is picked up. Such characteristics are not well suited for high quality recording. For measurements using sine sweeps and maximum length sequences, the noise floor is less of an issue.

post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by stv014 View Post

 

Measurement microphones typically use small (only a few mm) electret or condenser capsules. It is the easiest way to implement a close to point-like omnidirectional sound pressure sensor with flat and extended frequency response, and reasonably low distortion. However, they usually have low sensitivity and high noise because of the small diaphragm, and being omnidirectional also means that more unwanted ambient noise is picked up. Such characteristics are not well suited for high quality recording. For measurements using sine sweeps and maximum length sequences, the noise floor is less of an issue.

 

You can design a measurement mic that would be more suited towards recording.. The panasonic wm-61a capsule has decent enough sensitivity. This is much easier than designing a pair of studio monitors.

post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by firev1 View PostFidelity wise, multi driver designs are required to get the most out of any system otherwise in terms of FR.

 

Right, I've never hear satisfying bass or treble from a loudspeaker with a single driver.

 

--Ethan

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by EthanWiner View Post

Right, I've never hear satisfying bass or treble from a loudspeaker with a single driver.

--Ethan

Times have changed. Full range single driver worked when audio stopped at 9000 Hz. Many (except Lowther diehards) now use Full range augmented. Because most full range speakers are eight inch or less, most augmentation involves subwoofers. I like the opposite approach, using twelve inch fullrangers with a tweeter. That way big dynamics and satisfying bass are preserved, and a small excellent quality tweeter takes care of the last octave only. The Hammer Dynamics Super 12 system is the best I have heard.

The second new game in town is current source amplification. In the case of my system it allowed me to eliminate the crossovers and their associated notch filter. A single small Solen cap protects the Audex tweeter. Full range speakers are nearly the only units that greatly benefit from this type of amplification. Everyone loves the sound I get from the rig. There are great rewards to be had from crossoverless reproduction. The SQ problems that the approach predicts are not always inevitably audible.
post #13 of 22
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Edited by Clarkmc2 - 9/19/12 at 7:50pm
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clarkmc2 View Post

The second new game in town is current source amplification. In the case of my system it allowed me to eliminate the crossovers and their associated notch filter.

 

How is that?

 

se

post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Eddy View Post

How is that?

se
This will be getting mighty off topic for this thread, but Ok. My equipment is in no way typical for the full range pursuit. The Hammer Dynamics Super 12 is not much like any other full range speaker. It was designed from the start to have a tweeter and no sub. It does not sound much like the other extended range twelve inch speakers - Zu Druids, AEs, the vintage brands. Nor does it remind one of Tannoy concentrics. They all do things I don't personally find pleasing. It is more like a Fostex, which I like a lot, only much larger.

While I have systems up to eighteen inches, I know twelve inch speakers are plenty for a home. So I was intrigued when a friend in Australia told me how great the Hammers sound. I did some research into construction methods for speaker cabinets, because I felt a more rigid enclosure not based on bracing would sound better than the suggested box. I had seen an unusual router based scheme from a man in Scotland and applied it. It worked very well.

Then I tried all the incarnations of the various crossover elements. That was tempting because this speaker has very little of the difficulties full range speakers are known for. It doesn't shout and does not need a complicated enclosure to produce good bass below 50Hz. Its natural rolloff on top blends well with the tweeter's characteristics. Trying it without them, I found the low pass filter in the network was unnecessary, as was the second order high pass. I put a 2mf cap in series with the Audex tweeters as a first order high pass and I found the blending to be natural sounding to me.

The notch filter was dealing with relatively minor anomalies as compared to other better known full rangers. As I said, this is no Lowther. When I read Nelson Pass's articles about tranconductance amplification I suspected that the accurate voice coil movement resulting from the application of the technology would go a long way to iron out the FR of the Super 12. It did. Being now very happy with the way it now sounded without the notch filter, I kept it out of the system. The full range and tweeter leads are together in the output posts of the amp; this couldn't be simpler. The transconductance amp makes the bass realistic and outstanding to below 40Hz. The amp will enhance bass response in any full range driver (my friend's eight inch Fostex Omega cabinets don't need a sub either; it has to be heard to be believed), but it took the Hammers all the way to fully realistic. It smooths out the frequency anomalies to where I don't notice or hear them. Without the networks the 97dB speaker is now a 105 or 106dB speaker. All is good with the world. Everyone loves the system. My friend with the Omegas says, in response to how he likes other speakers, "I don't like crossovers anymore." Sometimes, if you do your homework, slicing the midrange into two or three pieces really isn't the best idea out there.
Edited by Clarkmc2 - 9/20/12 at 1:14am
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