# Carbon microphone amplitude

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by Rune D. Jørgensen, Feb 26, 2006.

1. ### Rune D. JørgensenGuest

Hi.

I'm building a microphone amplifier and filter for a communication system
for my motorcycle. I'm filtering away frequencies below 1KHz to suppress
wind noise.

I have a microphone that has a resistance of 1.8K ohm, so I guess it's a
carbon. I have read somewhere that I should have approximately 1mA running
through it. Is that correct and what kind of amplitude should I expect out
of the microphone?

--
Rune D. Jørgensen

Rune D. Jørgensen, Feb 26, 2006

2. ### ehsjrGuest

Rune D. Jørgensen wrote:
> Hi.
>
> I'm building a microphone amplifier and filter for a communication system
> for my motorcycle. I'm filtering away frequencies below 1KHz to suppress
> wind noise.
>
> I have a microphone that has a resistance of 1.8K ohm, so I guess it's a
> carbon. I have read somewhere that I should have approximately 1mA running
> through it. Is that correct and what kind of amplitude should I expect out
> of the microphone?
>

If you have 1 mA current running through 1.8K ohms
resistance, you will have a voltage across the resistance
of .001 * 1800 or 1.8 volts.

As to what you read (the 1 mA) and what you guess about
the mike, who can say? We'd be guessing, based on your

Ed

ehsjr, Feb 27, 2006

3. ### Walter HarleyGuest

"ehsjr" <> wrote in message
news:mIvMf.381\$dj2.321@trndny04...
> Rune D. Jørgensen wrote:
>> Hi.
>>
>> I'm building a microphone amplifier and filter for a communication system
>> for my motorcycle. I'm filtering away frequencies below 1KHz to suppress
>> wind noise.
>>
>> I have a microphone that has a resistance of 1.8K ohm, so I guess it's a
>> carbon. I have read somewhere that I should have approximately 1mA
>> running through it. Is that correct and what kind of amplitude should I
>> expect out of the microphone?
>>

>
> If you have 1 mA current running through 1.8K ohms
> resistance, you will have a voltage across the resistance
> of .001 * 1800 or 1.8 volts.
>
> As to what you read (the 1 mA) and what you guess about
> the mike, who can say? We'd be guessing, based on your
> guess. Facts would be helpful!

What AC amplitude is typical, for speech into a carbon mic element?

Walter Harley, Feb 27, 2006
4. ### Rune D. JørgensenGuest

Det var smuk og solrig dag da ehsjr skrev
news:mIvMf.381\$dj2.321@trndny04 i sci.electronics.basics:

>> I have a microphone that has a resistance of 1.8K ohm, so I guess
>> it's a carbon. I have read somewhere that I should have approximately
>> 1mA running through it. Is that correct and what kind of amplitude
>> should I expect out of the microphone?
>>

>
> If you have 1 mA current running through 1.8K ohms
> resistance, you will have a voltage across the resistance
> of .001 * 1800 or 1.8 volts.

I know ohm's law...

> As to what you read (the 1 mA) and what you guess about
> the mike, who can say? We'd be guessing, based on your
> guess. Facts would be helpful!

Facts would be helpful, indeed. But I don't have the facts. If I did I
If I had an oscilloscope I could just measure it, but I haven't got one.

There must be some rule of thumb, as to what current should run through the
microphone, and what signal amplitude to expect. Is it 10mV, a 100mV or a
1V?

--
Rune D. Jørgensen

Rune D. Jørgensen, Feb 27, 2006
5. ### Rune D. JørgensenGuest

Det var smuk og solrig dag da Walter Harley skrev
news: i
sci.electronics.basics:

>> As to what you read (the 1 mA) and what you guess about
>> the mike, who can say? We'd be guessing, based on your
>> guess. Facts would be helpful!

>
>
>
> What AC amplitude is typical, for speech into a carbon mic element?

You're spot on It's of course the signal amplitude, I need to know.

--
Rune D. Jørgensen
Electronics engineer, but mainly into digital design.

Rune D. Jørgensen, Feb 27, 2006
6. ### Don BoweyGuest

On 2/26/06 1:50 PM, in article
Xns9776E8563A47Dblattersplatterlatte@130.225.247.90, "Rune D. Jørgensen"
<RUNE_dahl@hotmailREMOVE_THIS.com> wrote:

> Hi.
>
> I'm building a microphone amplifier and filter for a communication system
> for my motorcycle. I'm filtering away frequencies below 1KHz to suppress
> wind noise.
>
> I have a microphone that has a resistance of 1.8K ohm, so I guess it's a
> carbon. I have read somewhere that I should have approximately 1mA running
> through it. Is that correct and what kind of amplitude should I expect out
> of the microphone?

I don't believe that is a carbon mike. I may not be up-to-date on them, but
in my experience carbon mikes tend to have a resistance of 200 Ohms or so.
In practice the current could be 10 milliamps, more or less, and the
resulting signal from a good quality unit might be as much as 0.5V with a
circuit voltage of about 4 to 6V.

Don

Don Bowey, Feb 27, 2006
7. ### Dan AkersGuest

Rune D. Jørgensen wrote;
"I'm building a microphone amplifier and filter for a communication
system for my motorcycle. I'm filtering away frequencies below 1KHz to
suppress wind noise.
I have a microphone that has a resistance of 1.8K ohm, so I guess it's a
carbon. I have read somewhere that I should have approximately 1mA
running through it. Is that correct and what kind of amplitude should I
expect out of the microphone?"
______________________________________
Re;
Assuming it is a carbon microphone and you don't have the make and model
#. There is no current/sound pressure thumb-rule, that I know of, that
would cover all carbon mikes. Although the characteristic resistance for
yours may be 1.8kohm, the voltage amplitude produced for a given sound
pressure with 1 mA excitation is highly dependent on the surface area
and frequency response of the diaphragm, the particular density response
of the carbon pack, and the characteristic input impedance of the
electrical load on the microphone and it's power supply. Without these
particulars you are just guessing, as are we, and you will probably need
an oscilloscope to determine the electrical response to voice in your
planned circuit.

Dan Akers

Dan Akers, Feb 27, 2006
8. ### ehsjrGuest

Rune D. Jørgensen wrote:
> Det var smuk og solrig dag da Walter Harley skrev
> news: i
> sci.electronics.basics:
>
>
>>>As to what you read (the 1 mA) and what you guess about
>>>the mike, who can say? We'd be guessing, based on your

>>
>>
>>
>>What AC amplitude is typical, for speech into a carbon mic element?

>
>
> You're spot on It's of course the signal amplitude, I need to know.
>
>

You guys may not be aware of how a carbon mike works.
You seem to think that the mike generates a voltage.
It doesn't. A voltage must be supplied to it. Sound
varies the pressure on the carbon, which causes its
resistance to vary. That causes the current through
the mike to vary.

What is the typical signal amplitude of a carbon mike?
Meaningless question. A carbon mike is not a source.
Without knowing the source voltage one cannot say what
the amplitude will be. Likewise, without knowing the load
impedance, one cannot say what the amplitude will be.
The signal (and by that I assume you mean the voltage
drop across the mike) is a result of the current through
the resistance of the carbon. That current depends on
source voltage and load impedance, as well as mike
impedance at a given audio level & frequency.

Ed

ehsjr, Feb 28, 2006
9. ### Walter HarleyGuest

"ehsjr" <> wrote in message
news:dTQMf.7608\$UN1.4908@trndny08...
> You guys may not be aware of how a carbon mike works.
> You seem to think that the mike generates a voltage.
> It doesn't. A voltage must be supplied to it. Sound
> varies the pressure on the carbon, which causes its
> resistance to vary. That causes the current through
> the mike to vary.
>
> What is the typical signal amplitude of a carbon mike?
> Meaningless question. A carbon mike is not a source.
> Without knowing the source voltage one cannot say what
> the amplitude will be. Likewise, without knowing the load
> impedance, one cannot say what the amplitude will be.
> The signal (and by that I assume you mean the voltage
> drop across the mike) is a result of the current through
> the resistance of the carbon. That current depends on
> source voltage and load impedance, as well as mike
> impedance at a given audio level & frequency.

Ed, the OP asked about how much AC voltage is generated across the mic if he
runs a DC current through it and presents it with an acoustic signal. Since
a carbon mic behaves like a variable resistor, that is an entirely
meaningful question: if a DC current is applied to a variable resistor, the
voltage across the resistor will vary. The unanswered part is "how variable
is the resistor"? Does it vary by 1% before clippping, or 10%, or what?
Does the resistance increase, or decrease, or both, compared to nominal?

Or, you could answer a different question, that still could reasonably be
presumed to be helpful: what sort of circuit might one typically and
usefully employ, to develop an electrical signal from a carbon mic?

Dan Akers suggested that there's just no way to know. But I suspect that
knowing the answer for "some" specific carbon mic would be more helpful than
knowing nothing at all - even if it's an order of magnitude away from this
one, it's a starting point.

Walter Harley, Feb 28, 2006
10. ### BanGuest

Walter Harley wrote:
> "ehsjr" <> wrote in message
> news:dTQMf.7608\$UN1.4908@trndny08...
>> You guys may not be aware of how a carbon mike works.
>> You seem to think that the mike generates a voltage.
>> It doesn't. A voltage must be supplied to it. Sound
>> varies the pressure on the carbon, which causes its
>> resistance to vary. That causes the current through
>> the mike to vary.
>>
>> What is the typical signal amplitude of a carbon mike?
>> Meaningless question. A carbon mike is not a source.
>> Without knowing the source voltage one cannot say what
>> the amplitude will be. Likewise, without knowing the load
>> impedance, one cannot say what the amplitude will be.
>> The signal (and by that I assume you mean the voltage
>> drop across the mike) is a result of the current through
>> the resistance of the carbon. That current depends on
>> source voltage and load impedance, as well as mike
>> impedance at a given audio level & frequency.

>
> Ed, the OP asked about how much AC voltage is generated across the
> mic if he runs a DC current through it and presents it with an
> acoustic signal. Since a carbon mic behaves like a variable
> resistor, that is an entirely meaningful question: if a DC current is
> applied to a variable resistor, the voltage across the resistor will
> vary. The unanswered part is "how variable is the resistor"? Does
> it vary by 1% before clippping, or 10%, or what? Does the resistance
> increase, or decrease, or both, compared to nominal?
> Or, you could answer a different question, that still could
> reasonably be presumed to be helpful: what sort of circuit might one
> typically and usefully employ, to develop an electrical signal from a
> carbon mic?
> Dan Akers suggested that there's just no way to know. But I suspect
> that knowing the answer for "some" specific carbon mic would be more
> helpful than knowing nothing at all - even if it's an order of
> magnitude away from this one, it's a starting point.

A carbon capsule is likely to be big and went after the advent of electret
mikes into the garbage bin and no sane person will use this technology for
other then close voice pickup and drving a horn speaker directly though a
12V battery, a megaphone without amp. When the OP measured some resistance,
it doesn't mean it is only resistive, but might be an Electret mike which
have about 0.5mA bias current and might on a multimeter show up as some
obscure value.
If the OP would also measure with the test leads crossed the same resistance
it is certainly not an electret mike, exept those with 3 pins where there is
a resistor between supply and output.
--
ciao Ban
Apricale, Italy

Ban, Feb 28, 2006
11. ### John Jardine.Guest

"Ban" <> wrote in message
newsz%Mf.9354\$...
> Walter Harley wrote:

[...]
>
> A carbon capsule is likely to be big and went after the advent of electret
> mikes into the garbage bin and no sane person will use this technology for
> other then close voice pickup and drving a horn speaker directly though a
> 12V battery, a megaphone without amp. When the OP measured some

resistance,
> it doesn't mean it is only resistive, but might be an Electret mike which
> have about 0.5mA bias current and might on a multimeter show up as some
> obscure value.
> If the OP would also measure with the test leads crossed the same

resistance
> it is certainly not an electret mike, exept those with 3 pins where there

is
> a resistor between supply and output.
> --
> ciao Ban
> Apricale, Italy
>
>

Yes.
Hoping someone would mention they came out of the Ark.
Measured one of the Electret types at 1.0Kohm in one direction and 1.4Kohm
in the other direction.
Also hooked up a couple of mic's I've kicking around.
A cheap Electret, with a 5V supply and 4k7 load resistor gives about 3mV
rms, normal voice, 50mm away.
Another cheap mic' (dynamic?) measured 560ohms and gave about 200uV rms
under same speaking distance.
john

John Jardine., Feb 28, 2006
12. ### ehsjrGuest

Walter Harley wrote:
> "ehsjr" <> wrote in message
> news:dTQMf.7608\$UN1.4908@trndny08...
>
>>You guys may not be aware of how a carbon mike works.
>>You seem to think that the mike generates a voltage.
>>It doesn't. A voltage must be supplied to it. Sound
>>varies the pressure on the carbon, which causes its
>>resistance to vary. That causes the current through
>>the mike to vary.
>>
>>What is the typical signal amplitude of a carbon mike?
>>Meaningless question. A carbon mike is not a source.
>>Without knowing the source voltage one cannot say what
>>the amplitude will be. Likewise, without knowing the load
>>impedance, one cannot say what the amplitude will be.
>>The signal (and by that I assume you mean the voltage
>>drop across the mike) is a result of the current through
>>the resistance of the carbon. That current depends on
>>source voltage and load impedance, as well as mike
>>impedance at a given audio level & frequency.

>
>
> Ed, the OP asked about how much AC voltage is generated across the mic if he
> runs a DC current through it and presents it with an acoustic signal. Since
> a carbon mic behaves like a variable resistor, that is an entirely
> meaningful question: if a DC current is applied to a variable resistor, the
> voltage across the resistor will vary. The unanswered part is "how variable
> is the resistor"? Does it vary by 1% before clippping, or 10%, or what?
> Does the resistance increase, or decrease, or both, compared to nominal?

You don't even know if he has a carbon mike! Then you post
the above and call it an "entirely meaningful" question?

>
> Or, you could answer a different question, that still could reasonably be
> presumed to be helpful: what sort of circuit might one typically and
> usefully employ, to develop an electrical signal from a carbon mic?
>
> Dan Akers suggested that there's just no way to know. But I suspect that
> knowing the answer for "some" specific carbon mic would be more helpful than
> knowing nothing at all - even if it's an order of magnitude away from this
> one, it's a starting point.
>
>

Balderdash. The OP is *guessing* he has a carbon mike.
If he does not then what good is it posting "the answer"
(if one existed) concerning a specific carbon mike?

You mention 'the answer for "some" specific carbon mic'
There is no "the answer ...", for crying out loud. It depends
on external (to the mike) circuit elements: the load and the
source. "The answer" does not exist.

What you are suggesting is to give the op something that
doesn't exist, for an unknown circuit for an unknown mike.

Ed

ehsjr, Mar 2, 2006
13. ### Walter HarleyGuest

"ehsjr" <> wrote in message
news:BRwNf.1826\$%a2.309@trndny05...
> [...]
> Balderdash. The OP is *guessing* he has a carbon mike.
> If he does not then what good is it posting "the answer"
> (if one existed) concerning a specific carbon mike?
>
> You mention 'the answer for "some" specific carbon mic'
> There is no "the answer ...", for crying out loud. It depends
> on external (to the mike) circuit elements: the load and the
> source. "The answer" does not exist.

Here, let me try one more time. I'll ask a hypothetical question that is
different than the OP's, but that might be informative nonetheless. I know
it's hard to answer hypothetical questions, but some people manage okay.

Let's say I have a friend who thinks he has a carbon mic element - maybe he
got it out of a 1950s-era telephone operator's headset. He thinks it's
carbon because it's old and when he shakes it, it rattles. He offers to
give it to me.

Now, I don't have it yet. But I want to think a little about what sort of
circuit might get some audio out of it. So, on the hypothesis that it is
indeed a carbon mic, I imagine I will hook it up to a 1mA constant DC
current source. (Note that the AC impedance of a DC current source is
infinite. The load and source are thus specified, just as they were in my
earlier question.)

1. Roughly what AC voltage level might I reasonably expect to see developed
across it, when I speak into it (at, say, 75dB SPL)? Are we talking tens of
uV, or tens of mV, or ...?

2. Does the performance of this microphone technology depend on a particular
current being passed through it? Would, for instance, 10mA be better than
1mA, in terms of the linearity and dynamic range of the mic?

3. Would it be better (in terms of linearity and dynamic range) to apply a
constant DC voltage and measure AC current variation, or to apply a constant
DC current and measure AC voltage variation?

4. What circuit conditions would this element have typically been used in,
and in those conditions, what sort of AC signal would it typically develop?

Walter Harley, Mar 3, 2006
14. ### Rich GriseGuest

On Mon, 27 Feb 2006 07:45:48 +0000, Rune D. Jørgensen wrote:
> Det var smuk og solrig dag da ehsjr skrev

>> As to what you read (the 1 mA) and what you guess about
>> the mike, who can say? We'd be guessing, based on your
>> guess. Facts would be helpful!

>
> Facts would be helpful, indeed. But I don't have the facts. If I did I

That's not the kind of facts we're talking about. We need to know all of
the facts that _you_ have, now - otherwise, we're guessing in the dark.

> If I had an oscilloscope I could just measure it, but I haven't got one.
>
> There must be some rule of thumb, as to what current should run through the
> microphone, and what signal amplitude to expect. Is it 10mV, a 100mV or a
> 1V?

The first thing is, how sure are you that it's a carbon mic? If, as you
say, the mic has a DC resistance of 1.8K and a spec'd current of 1 mA,
then you could take a 3V battery (like 2x D cells), a 1.2K fixed resistor,
and put them in series with the mic:

+----[1K2]-----+ A
+ | |
[3V batt] [MIC]
| |
+--------------+ gnd

Then, you should get a signal at point "A" that more or less represents
the audio. You can measure this with a multimeter - put a capacitor at
point A, and an AC voltmeter from the other end of the cap to ground:

+----[1K2]-----+----||----o
+ | | |
[3V batt] [MIC] [DVM]
| | |
+--------------+----------o

I have no idea what kind of voltage you'll get out of it, but it's a
start. Put your meter on, say, 1V full-scale, and shout into the mic.
If the meter doesn't show much, start turning its range down (.1V,
10 mV, etc) until you see something.

If you use an electrolytic cap, be sure and get it the right way around.

Good Luck!
Rich

Rich Grise, Mar 3, 2006
15. ### Don BoweyGuest

On 3/3/06 9:45 AM, in article
, "Walter Harley"
<> wrote:

> "ehsjr" <> wrote in message
> news:BRwNf.1826\$%a2.309@trndny05...
>> [...]
>> Balderdash. The OP is *guessing* he has a carbon mike.
>> If he does not then what good is it posting "the answer"
>> (if one existed) concerning a specific carbon mike?
>>
>> You mention 'the answer for "some" specific carbon mic'
>> There is no "the answer ...", for crying out loud. It depends
>> on external (to the mike) circuit elements: the load and the
>> source. "The answer" does not exist.

>
>
> Here, let me try one more time. I'll ask a hypothetical question that is
> different than the OP's, but that might be informative nonetheless. I know
> it's hard to answer hypothetical questions, but some people manage okay.
>
> Let's say I have a friend who thinks he has a carbon mic element - maybe he
> got it out of a 1950s-era telephone operator's headset. He thinks it's
> carbon because it's old and when he shakes it, it rattles. He offers to
> give it to me.
>
> Now, I don't have it yet. But I want to think a little about what sort of
> circuit might get some audio out of it. So, on the hypothesis that it is
> indeed a carbon mic, I imagine I will hook it up to a 1mA constant DC
> current source. (Note that the AC impedance of a DC current source is
> infinite. The load and source are thus specified, just as they were in my
> earlier question.)
>
> 1. Roughly what AC voltage level might I reasonably expect to see developed
> across it, when I speak into it (at, say, 75dB SPL)? Are we talking tens of
> uV, or tens of mV, or ...?
>
> 2. Does the performance of this microphone technology depend on a particular
> current being passed through it? Would, for instance, 10mA be better than
> 1mA, in terms of the linearity and dynamic range of the mic?
>
> 3. Would it be better (in terms of linearity and dynamic range) to apply a
> constant DC voltage and measure AC current variation, or to apply a constant
> DC current and measure AC voltage variation?
>
> 4. What circuit conditions would this element have typically been used in,
> and in those conditions, what sort of AC signal would it typically develop?
>
>
>

First, figure out if the thing *IS* a carbon mike, then post your questions,
or better yet search google first.

I posted a reasonably straightforward reply to the original post, with
simple circuit information, and giving an estimated output signal amplitude
for a good grade of carbon mike. What's left to discuss before you do some
homework?

Don

Don Bowey, Mar 4, 2006
16. ### Rune D. JørgensenGuest

Det var smuk og solrig dag da Don Bowey skrev
news:C0286C20.284FA% i sci.electronics.basics:

> On 2/26/06 1:50 PM, in article
> Xns9776E8563A47Dblattersplatterlatte@130.225.247.90, "Rune D.
> Jørgensen" <RUNE_dahl@hotmailREMOVE_THIS.com> wrote:
>
>> Hi.
>>
>> I'm building a microphone amplifier and filter for a communication
>> system for my motorcycle. I'm filtering away frequencies below 1KHz
>> to suppress wind noise.
>>
>> I have a microphone that has a resistance of 1.8K ohm, so I guess
>> it's a carbon. I have read somewhere that I should have approximately
>> 1mA running through it. Is that correct and what kind of amplitude
>> should I expect out of the microphone?

>
> I don't believe that is a carbon mike. I may not be up-to-date on
> them, but in my experience carbon mikes tend to have a resistance of
> 200 Ohms or so. In practice the current could be 10 milliamps, more or
> less, and the resulting signal from a good quality unit might be as
> much as 0.5V with a circuit voltage of about 4 to 6V.

You're right. It isn't a carbon microphone. I have just cut it open(it was
incapsulated in foam) and a google search on "CZ034D" yielded a datacheet

http://akamai.globalsources.com.edgesuite.net/f/593/3445/5d/pdt.static.glob
alsources.com/IMAGES/PDT/SPEC/272/K1000674272.pdf

It seems that it is an electret microphone.

The reason is believed that it was a carbon microphone was the following. I
could measure a DC resistance of 1.8K ohm, and I thought a condenser
microphone would have infinite DC resistance, due to the capacitor.
Electret microphones is "dielectric material that has been permanently
electrically charged or polarised" according to wikipedia, which also
should have infinite DC resistance to the best of my knowledge.
Unfortunately my knowledge was wrong
In a dynamic microphone a small movable induction coil, induces a current.
I believe that the DC resistance measured would be the wire resistance, and
I found the 1.8K ohm too high for that.
This lead me to the carbon microphone, and not knowing that they weren't
used anymore, it seemed obvious.

--
Rune D. Jørgensen

Rune D. Jørgensen, Mar 6, 2006
17. ### Walter HarleyGuest

"Rune D. Jørgensen" <RUNE_dahl@hotmailREMOVE_THIS.com> wrote in message
news:Xns977E788916644blattersplatterlatte@130.225.247.90...
> [...]
> The reason is believed that it was a carbon microphone was the following.
> I
> could measure a DC resistance of 1.8K ohm, and I thought a condenser
> microphone would have infinite DC resistance, due to the capacitor.

True. But inside an electret mic element there is more than just the mic
itself. There is also a small JFET buffer amplifier. The electret itself
has a very high impedance, so it can't produce a useful amount of current;
without the buffer, it wouldn't be able to drive the capacitance of the
cable.

> In a dynamic microphone a small movable induction coil, induces a current.
> I believe that the DC resistance measured would be the wire resistance,
> and
> I found the 1.8K ohm too high for that.

1.8k would be unusually high, but not impossible. Inside a dynamic mic,
there is usually a transformer to change the output impedance; some mics,
intended for high-impedance loads, have rather high output impedance. High
output impedance from a transformer means lots and lots of turns of very
fine wire; the DC resistance can get pretty high.

The DC resistance of a guitar pickup, which is nothing more than a bunch of
wire wound around a magnet, can easily be more than 5k.

The take-home lesson here is that most modern mics have some additional
circuitry inside them; when you measure across the leads you're not looking
at the actual mic element, so you can't draw the sort of inference that
you're trying to.

Walter Harley, Mar 6, 2006