Carbon Microphone – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Microphones and Audio Hardware Glossary

What is a Carbon Microphone?

A carbon microphone is a type of microphone that converts sound waves into electrical signals. It is one of the oldest types of microphones and was widely used in telephones and early audio equipment. The carbon microphone operates on the principle of varying electrical resistance in response to sound waves.

How does a Carbon Microphone work?

A carbon microphone consists of a diaphragm, a carbon granule or button, and two metal plates. When sound waves hit the diaphragm, it vibrates and causes the carbon granule to compress and decompress. This compression and decompression change the resistance of the carbon granule, which in turn changes the electrical current passing through it. This varying current is then converted into an electrical signal that represents the sound waves.

What are the advantages of using a Carbon Microphone?

One of the main advantages of using a carbon microphone is its simplicity and durability. Carbon microphones are relatively inexpensive to produce and are known for their robustness. They can withstand high levels of vibration and are less prone to damage compared to other types of microphones. Carbon microphones also have a high output level, making them suitable for use in high-noise environments.

What are the disadvantages of using a Carbon Microphone?

Despite their advantages, carbon microphones also have some drawbacks. One of the main disadvantages is their limited frequency response. Carbon microphones are not able to accurately capture high-frequency sounds, which can result in a loss of detail in recordings. Additionally, carbon microphones have a relatively high noise floor, which can lead to background noise being picked up during recordings.

How is a Carbon Microphone different from other types of microphones?

Carbon microphones differ from other types of microphones in their operating principle. While most modern microphones use electromagnetic induction or capacitance to convert sound waves into electrical signals, carbon microphones rely on changes in resistance. This makes carbon microphones less sensitive to electromagnetic interference and allows them to be used in high-noise environments.

How are Carbon Microphones used in audio hardware?

Carbon microphones are no longer commonly used in modern audio equipment due to their limited frequency response and high noise floor. However, they can still be found in certain applications where their robustness and simplicity are advantageous. For example, carbon microphones are sometimes used in vintage telephones and intercom systems. Additionally, carbon microphones are popular among hobbyists and enthusiasts who appreciate their retro aesthetic and historical significance.