Audio: microphone (0:04)

Figure: microphone

microphone plays two sounds in succession. The first is speech recorded with a microphone and the second is the sound of an electro-acoustic guitar being beaten with a feather duster (and why not). The microphone figure shows the spectrograms of the two sounds side by side. Speech is largely unpitched sound and this is shown in the first spectrogram. The second spectrogram shows distinct peaks, representing the pitch of the individual guitar strings, although the overall perception is of an unpitched sound.

Sound recording with a microphone is a popular way to record sound. A microphone works by converting physical sound waves into an electrical signal. An electric musical instrument containing a pickup or similar electronics works in the same manner. Analogue and digital recording both use a microphone or pickup to generate an electrical signal but store it in different ways. Analogue recording stores the signal as a continuous signal on a record or a tape. Digital recording stores the signal as a discrete series of numbers on the hard disk of a computer or a CD or DVD.

Analogue recording used to be the only way to record sound in times past. Nowadays, digital recording is a perfectly viable option. In terms of which is better, analogue or digital, the jury is still out.