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MEMS mic technology?

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MEMS mic technology?

Postby MarkOne » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:07 am

So last Christmas I had the ARC2.5 room correction system, which comes with a MEMS on-chip mic and the technology intrigued me.

As my day job involves smartphone certification for the mobile industry, I was aware that MEMS mics are now the de facto transducer for that application, but the ARC system was the first time I'd seen something using MEMS mics in the pro audio space.

This morning's Radio 4 Life Scientific was interviewing Ken Gabriel the father of all things MEMS, (well worth a listen, a truly inspirational character) and it was another reminder of this interesting technology, and I was wondering if there were any other more traditional mic companies looking at the technology, and the advantages of consistency, repeatability and manufacturability (and cost)?

And if not, why not? :)
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Re: MEMS mic technology?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:25 am

I caught that programme. He was, I thought, a little bit blasé about defence work (not that I have objections to defence work per se but I don't think you can just skip lightly over ethical concerns as he did) but otherwise, as you say, inspiring and intriguing and a good listen like most of this series. Lot of time for Jim Al-Khalili, he gets to the root of things without filling the foreground the way Brian Cox does.

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Re: MEMS mic technology?

Postby Ariosto » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:30 am

I too heard that programme and found it very interesting. And yes, I also thought the ethics were pushed to one side, but the audio side of things were intriguing.
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Re: MEMS mic technology?

Postby Brian M Rose » Tue Mar 12, 2019 12:38 pm

Well yes, much technology starts with the defense industry, and they is adopted more widely. It can be a case of 'beating swords into plowshares'. Like it or not, the fact is this is where the money is for R&D.
A couple of examples from the Broadcast industry. We used to supply image intensifiers to many wildlife cameramen (and women). These were not only used extensively for wildlife programmes, but were also used for gathering evidence against poachers etc. There is absolutely no way that the television industry could have paid for the development of the intensifier modules themselves.
A company who made camera bags started by manufacturing flack jackets in Israel.
Their designer decided that they could use their skills elsewhere. And of course GPS and more.
I'm sure that there are several examples in the audio industry as well.
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Re: MEMS mic technology?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Tue Mar 12, 2019 2:00 pm

Oops, looks like I've sent this thread off-topic. Sorry. For the record, I said

not that I have objections to defence work per se but I don't think you can just skip lightly over ethical concerns as he did

I'm not challenging the necessity for much defence work, nor am I disputing that good things in peaceful areas have arrived as a result of defence research. All I'm saying is that one needs to consider ethics in relation to defence work as one should in other areas like surveillance technology, AI or data mining and Ken Gabriel, it seemed to me, was overly keen on avoiding that discussion in a programme where that discussion, IMO, should have been had - it was "The Life Scientific", after all.

Now, perhaps we can return to MarkOne's question, because it's a good one I'd be interested in too.

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Re: MEMS mic technology?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Mar 12, 2019 4:14 pm

MarkOne wrote:I was wondering if there were any other more traditional mic companies looking at the technology, and the advantages of consistency, repeatability and manufacturability (and cost)?

And if not, why not? :)

I thought the current technology imposed a problem getting a decent low-end response from MEMS capsules... although I may well be out of date on that.

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Re: MEMS mic technology?

Postby forumuser840717 » Tue Mar 12, 2019 5:41 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I thought the current technology imposed a problem getting a decent low-end response from MEMS capsules... although I may well be out of date on that.
H
No, you're not out of date. It's gradually improving but there are limitations simply due to the size of the devices. There are ways to get around the LF response issues to some extent but they're not cheap to implement nore completly successful in comparison to more mature mic technologies used in "normal" recording mics.

Another issue is with building basic MEMS capsules with a wide enough dynamic range/bandwidth to cover the audio range evenly and with good phase response. The most accurate/linear devices currently tend to have a limited dynamic range and, particularly, bandwidth so for things like multi-mic arrays ('00's or '000s of elements) used in some types of industrial test equipment, for best accuracy, the required operational parameters have to be specified quite tightly and often multiple pickup arrays are required to cover the desired test range(s). Whilst devices with different operational parameters can be combined within a single sensor array to achieve a wider bandwidth or increased dynamic range, this compromises the resolution of the array and increases the processing required to make use of the output.

That said, give it a few weeks and someone on Alibaba will probably be selling the MEMS equivalent of those no-name LDC mics that come with a shockmount, cable and pop shield, all for £10 including shipping from China!
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