Microphones: Avoid Poor Placement, Seek Intelligibility
Your microphones need to possess the ability to portray sound in a linear fashion as our ear/brain relationship does. This will improve comprehension and intelligibility in harsh conditions.
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In my opinion, ears have commonalities to microphones. In fact, a great microphone can only come close to mimicking our ears. The ear possesses a series of filters, compressors, and equalizers in order to attempt to give us the best scenario for intelligibility, also to prevent damage to our ears.
Sound waves travel through the outer, middle, and inner ear, through the smallest bones in the human body, then are naturally amplified while journeying through the liquid-filled cochlear chamber, which is lined with hairs that own differing sensitivities. From there, sound is transmitted electrically to tell the brain to hear the world around us, converting sound waves into information that the brain can translate.
Each ear also has an Eustachian tube to regulate pressure on both sides of the eardrum. If the pressure becomes uneven, we may experience hearing loss and pain temporarily until this pressure is regulated. An omnidirectional microphone also has a similar feature. The tube in the onmi microphone prevents the diaphragm from becoming stuck at one pressure.
Sound is a vital cog in the human design. It lets us understand one another, and signals us for dangerous situations, or the joy of music. Working 24/7 in the background within an invisible realm. Truly magical!
Within this design, the frequencies between 1 kHz and 3 kHz are intensified 20:1 through the middle ear. This is the target frequency range where humans communicate. The larger eardrum forces pressure through the much smaller oval window of the cochlear. The additional strength is needed to make the journey through the high-impedance liquid-filled cochlear. Between 0.5-5kHz is where humans require sensitivity the most. The cochlear aligns the frequencies and will also boost additional frequencies like 4 kHz, in order to ensure intelligibility. In my opinion, if the sound enters the ear accurately through a well-placed premium microphone, the ear will not need to overenhance/process, because the sound is understood initially.
I find it interesting that these same frequencies during a news program are often boosted to increase intelligibility. Mic placement on the chest/tie is convenient, but it is not the best place to put a microphone due to the 800 Hz build up on the chest (not from the chest). This causes the “muddy” sound that is often heard when using a microphone in such a way. If you add a few more microphones to the equation, and have this done in an acoustic space that is not treated properly … we now have the perfect recipe for unintelligibility.
A microphone that can accurately produce these attributes at all frequencies and angles should be the engineer’s target solution, whether it is one or 10 microphones open at the same time. Select such a microphone that allows you to transmit your speech naturally, without the need for excessive processing and equalization.
A great microphone should treat on and off axis sound the same regarding frequency. The only difference should be that the off-axis sound is lower in level. Natural! Like our ear/brain relationship.
Latest ResourceWorship Facilities Magazine, March-April 2018
The March-April 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about how to prepare, prevent and respond to church violence, a look into what church management software can do for your church community, and a piece on how a once popular nightclub venue was transitioned to become Shoreline Church's new home.