Thursday, June 29, 2006

Return of the Carbon Microphone

Emile Berliner was the inventor working for Bell who came up with the idea of placing carbon granules between conductive plates to make a sound variable resistor.

Chladni would have liked it.

You can look at the loose granules of carbon by zooming into the center of the holder. When assembled, the center of the diaphragm rests on the little dish full of carbon and makes electrical contact.

Old carbon microphones were noisy and affected by moisture. Sometimes you had to tap the mic to loosen up the granules. Occasionally I see some person tapping on a mic or blowing into it and wonder if they picked that up from an old movie. Also Bjork and Shlomo know how to properly get a carbon mic to operate. Check out this video and also notice the flapping hand producer technique that follows. Amazingly, her music continues to be innovative and often excellent.

The carbon microphone is about to make its comeback.

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