Microphone Terminology: M (With Definitions)

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Magnet:

What is a magnet and why are magnets important to microphones? A magnet is an object that produces a magnetic field. Magnets are crucial components in dynamic microphones (both moving-coil and ribbon varieties) since these mics convert sound waves to mic signals via electromagnetic induction (a conductive diaphragm moving in a magnetic field).

For more information on magnets and microphones, check out my article Do Microphones Need Magnetism To Work Properly?


Matched Pair:

What is a matched pair? A matched pair is a pair of identical microphones. Having two of the same mic is ideal for stereo miking techniques. Since the left and right mics are the same, the differences between them are based solely on mic positioning rather than different microphone specifications.


Maximum Output Voltage:

What does the maximum output voltage rating of a microphone mean? The maximum output voltage rating of a microphone is the maximum voltage (in dBV or dBu) a mic will output before experiencing 1% total harmonic distortion (into a 1 kΩ load). Max output voltage is a rare spec to see on data sheets since max sound pressure level and sensitivity give the same info.


Maximum Sound Pressure Level:

What does the maximum sound pressure level rating of a microphone mean? The maximum sound pressure level (max SPL) of a microphone is the SPL at which a mic’s output signal will experience 1% total harmonic distortion (into a 1 kΩ load). Max SPL ratings are common in active mics since their internal preamps can be overloaded. Dynamic mics rarely have max SPL ratings.

For more information on max SPL ratings, check out my article What Does Maximum Sound Pressure Level Actually Mean?


Measurement Microphone:

Also known as a calibration microphone.

What is a measurement microphone? A measurement microphone is intended for use with an audio analysis system. Measurement mics are excellent at gathering data about room acoustics and measuring sound pressure levels. These high-quality mics are generally used for measurements but also see use in recording and sound reinforcement.

See: Microphone.


Mechanical Isolation:

What is mechanical isolation and why is it important to microphones? Mechanical isolation is the removal of a mic capsule from any vibrating bodies that would cause mechanical noise in the mic signal. Although mechanical isolation is never truly possible, internal and external shock mounts are very efficient at reducing potential mechanical noise in mic signals.


Mechanical Noise:

What is mechanical noise in a microphone? Mechanical noise is caused by vibrations in the solids a mic is connected to (directly or indirectly). Vibrating solids around the mic can travel up the mic stand, transfer into the mic, vibrate the capsule, and cause a coinciding mic signal. Shock mounts help reduce mechanical noise in mics.


MEMS Microphone:

Also known as a microphone chip or silicon microphone.

What is a MEMS microphone? A MEMS (MicroElectrical-Mechanical System) mic is etched into a silicon wafer by MEMS processing. A MEMS mic “capsule” has a diaphragm and a fixed backplate over a cavity in the base wafer. MEMS mics are designed with integrated preamps and analog-digital converters and output digital audio signals.

See: Microphone.


Mercury Triad:

Also known as the omni triad or the Bob Fine triad.

What is the mercury triad miking technique? The mercury triad is a stereo miking technique for orchestra. A center mic (C) is positioned to capture the best mono orchestra recording. Left and right mics (L and R) are placed at the same height, 2-4 feet aside from C. C is recorded as mono while L+C+R are recorded as stereo before being mixed.

Mercury Triad Drawing

Mic Cable:

What is a mic cable? A mic cable is technically any cable that can carry a microphone’s signal. Nearly all professional microphones utilize XLR cables to carry their mic signals, and so the term “mic cable” practically always refers to XLR cables. However, lavalier mics often utilize 4-pin mini connector or 3.5mm TRS cables.

For more information on mic cables, check out my articles Why Do Microphones Use XLR Cables? and What Do Microphones Plug Into? (Full List Of Mic Connections).

To learn about my recommended mic cables, check out Best Microphone Cables.


Mic Level:

What is mic level? Mic level is the typical and expected level of professional microphone outputs and mic preamplifier inputs. Mic level is generally between 1 to 10 millivolts (-60 to -40 dBV). Mic level signals (from mics) need amplification (via mic preamps) to reach line level for use in mixing consoles and DAWs.

To learn more about mic level and microphones, check out my article Do Microphones Output Mic, Line, Or Instrument Level Signals?


Mic Signal:

What is a mic signal? A microphone signal is an electrical AC signal that is outputted from a microphone. It is an electrical representation the acoustic energy converted by the mic’s capsule. Mic signals are at mic level until they reach an amplification stage, where they often get boosted to line level.

For more information on microphone audio signals, check out my article What Are Microphone Audio Signals, Electrically Speaking?


Microdot Connector:

Formally known as the S-50 connector.

What is a microdot connector and how do they apply to microphone technology? A microdot connector (properly known as an S-50 connector) is a small coaxial connector that uses a 10-32 thread. Microdot connectors are used on a few small microphones and other transducers.


Microphone:

What is a microphone? A microphone (mic) is a transducer that converts sound waves (mechanical wave energy) into audio signals (electrical energy). There are many microphone types and the vast majority of them utilize a diaphragm that moves sympathetically with sound waves to trigger the aforementioned transduction.

This blog is all about microphones. Here are some of the best articles on microphones in general:

What Is A Microphone? (Mic Types, Examples, And Pictures).
How Do Microphones Work? (A Helpful Illustrated Guide).
What Is The Best Microphone? (Full Guide To Choosing The Best Mic).
50 Best Microphones Of All Time (With Alternate Versions & Clones).
Mic History: Who Invented Each Type Of Microphone And When?
How To Use A Microphone (Connections, Applications, Miking Technique).


Microphone Array:

What is a microphone array? A microphone array is an arrangement of multiple mics operating together. The mic signals of a mic array are sent to a computer that interprets the various mic signals in a specific usable format. Mic array applications include stereo, surround sound, beamforming, and locating objects using sound.


Microphone Clip:

What is a microphone clip? A microphone clip is a physical device that holds the microphone and allows it to be secured to other objects. Pencil mics often slip into their mic clips which are then threaded to mic stands. Lavalier mics are often held in their clips that are then clipped to clothing.

Alternatively, see “clipping.”

For more information on microphone clips, check out my articles What Is A Microphone Clip? (Physical And Electrical) and How To Attach A Microphone To A Microphone Stand.


Microphone Input:

What is a microphone input? A microphone input is a jack (often female XLR or sometimes TRS) in a mixing console or mic preamplifier that expects a mic level signal. Microphones should always send their signals into microphone inputs (and not line input, which expect much stronger signals).


Microphone Placement:

Why is microphone placement important? Microphone placement is critical when it comes to producing the best possible mic signal in any given situation. Finding the sweet spot of mic placement depends on the sound source, the acoustic environment, the microphone specifications, and the intended results.

To learn more about microphone placement, check out the following My New Microphone articles:

Top 23 Tips For Better Microphone Placement.
Top 8 Best Stereo Miking Techniques (With Recommended Mics).
Top 4 Best Surround Sound Miking Techniques (With 3 Extras).


Microphone Stand:

What is a microphone stand? A mic stand is a free-standing piece of equipment that holds a microphone in place for recording or sound reinforcement. Microphones mount onto mic stands via fastener threads on mic clips or shock mounts.

For more information on mic stands and microphones, check out my article How To Attach A Microphone To A Microphone Stand. To learn about my recommended mic stands, check out Best Microphone Stands.


Mid Frequencies:

What are mid frequencies in relation to microphones? The mid frequencies have a range from roughly 200 Hz – 10 kHz (according to our definitions of low-end and high-end frequencies). The mid-frequency response makes up much of a mic’s character, whether the mic is flat or coloured.


Mid-Side Technique:

What is the mid-side microphone technique? Mid-Side is a coincident stereo miking technique with a cardioid “mid” mic pointing at a source and a bidirectional “side” mic placed above or below facing left/right. The mid mic is mono centre. The “side” mic signal is duplicated: one channel panned left, the other panned right and phase flipped.


Mini XLR Connector:

What is a mini XLR connector and what is its role in microphone technology? The mini XLR connector is a smaller 3-pin XLR connector that is used on some lavalier and boundary mics as well as on some bodypack transmitters. Though generally never an issue, the mini XLR is not standardized in the microphone industry.


Mix:

What is an audio mix and how do mixes relate to microphones? An audio mix is a relative balance, panning, processing, and automation of audio channels that are “mixed” together in a formatted output (mono, stereo, surround sound, etc.). In electrical recording (analog and digital), practically all audio comes from microphones or synthesizers.


Mixing Console:

What is an audio mixing console and how do mixing consoles relate to microphones? A mixing console is a physical multichannel audio device designed for mixing. Mixing consoles can be analog or digital and typically include channel faders, pan pots, preamps, effects processors (or in-line slots for processors), pads, sends, and mic and line inputs as well as various outputs.


Mod:

What does the term “mod” mean in reference to microphones? A microphone mod is any modification that is done to a microphone. Mods include altering the circuitry, capsules, and even the bodies and grilles of microphones.


Mono:

Also known as monaural or monophonic audio.

What does mono mean in the audio industry and how does it apply to microphones? Mono audio is designed to emanate from a single source. In mono playback, the same signal is sent to all loudspeakers, monitors, and headphones. Microphones (even stereo mics) send mono signals. The mix engineer then decides to pan the signals in stereo, surround sound, or another playback format.

For more info on microphones and mono audio, check out my article Do Microphones Output Mono Or Stereo Signals?


Motown Drum Technique:

What is the Motown drum technique? The Motown drum technique is generally described with three microphones. One overhead condenser mic above the snare, one dynamic mic close-miking the snare drum, and another dynamic mic close-miking the kick drum.


Moving-Coil Dynamic Microphone:

What is a moving-coil dynamic microphone? Moving-coil dynamic microphones (often simply referred to as dynamic mics) work on the principle of electromagnetic induction, where a conductive voice coil is attached to a diaphragm and moves through a magnetic field in sympathy with the varying sound pressure around the mic.

See: Microphone.

For more information on moving-coil dynamic mics, check out my article Moving-Coil Dynamic Microphones: The In-Depth Guide.


Multipath Interference:

What is multipath interference and what role does it play with microphones? Multipath interference happens when a wirelessly transmitted signal reaches a receiver via different paths. As wireless mic signals (radio signals) reflect off surfaces and reach a receiver at varying times, phase cancellation and dropouts occur. Wireless systems combat interference with diversity.


Multipattern Microphone:

What is a multipattern microphone? A multipattern microphone has switchable polar patterns to choose from. Multipattern mics accomplish their various polar patterns by combining their multiple capsules together in varying amplitudes and phases. Some multipattern microphones even come with stereo options.

See: Microphone.


Multiple-Distance:

Also known as multiple-D.

What is multiple-distance technology in microphones? Multiple-distance is a special design of a directional microphone’s Acoustic Labyrinth that minimizes the proximity effect. Multiple-D does this by having multiple sound path lengths for both the front and back of the diaphragm. Electro-Voice’s patented Variable-Dis a great example of this.


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