The Future of Microphones – Part 1

Modern technology does not stand still for very long, and microphones are not exempt from change. From the very early days of trying to find ways of capturing and amplifying sound the industry has come a long way in terms of technology.

One of the new microphones to have hit the market in the last decade is the Eigenmike and it is causing a great deal of interest in the way it operates and performs. The Eigenmike is quite revolutionary in the way it works, it actually consists of many microphones.

The Eigenmike

The Eigenmike is basically a sphere with thirty-two very high-quality microphones part of the structure. The collective outputs of each of the separate microphones is collect together to capture the overall sound. By the technology of beamforming this soundfield can be pointed at any direction that is desired. This type of new technology is being operated by many manufacturers including: Sennheiser, Core Sound, TetraMic and Soundfield. And is particularly popular in high end type recording. The developers of this technology took inspiration from insects and the way they hear.

Insect Technology

The inventors Jian Zhou and Ron Miles took their inspiration from studying insects and the way they hear. Insects pick up on vibrations that they sense with hairs on their body, and the two developers found out a way to record audio by airflow velocity rather than the normal pressure. They experimented by covering spider silk with gold and then inserted it into a magnetic field, the two inventors noted that almost any fiber that was thin enough could be used. This whole approach is mostly directional and the frequency responses could be of the highest quality.

Mems New Technology

MicroElectrical-Mechanical System have developed a series of microphones that are based around using a pressure-sensitive diaphragm that has been meticulously etched into a super thin wafer made of silicon. Many manufacturers are looking at this new technology to develop new microphones that are made for the directional market.

Soundskirt and Vesper are the two companies most interested in this latest design, in the case of Vesper they have been at the forefront of harnessing any new and viable technologies into their products. They have been using piezoelectric materials for some time now that are excellent at producing a voltage when combined with pressure. The microphone market is currently being dominated by MEMS type products, but this newer technology will achieve superior results especially in signal to noise ratio.

Graphene Microphones

Over the last couple of years developers have been experimenting with using graphene in microphone production. Dejan were at the forefront of this experimentation to see if graphene is a suitable enough material to be used as a membrane for a microphone.

The first tests showed that it had the properties to be highly sensitive over a very wide frequency range and far better than anything that is currently on the market. Although this testing seems fairly conclusive this technology it is yet to appear in large numbers on the market. In part two of this blog we look at more new technologies that could affect the microphone industry in the near future.