A microphone, colloquially named mic or mike (/maɪk/), is a device – a transducer – that converts sound into an electrical signal. Microphones are used in many applications such as telephones, hearing aids, public address systems for concert halls and public events, motion picture production, live and recorded audio engineering, sound recording, two-way radios, megaphones, radio and television broadcasting, and in computers for recording voice, speech recognition, VoIP, and for non-acoustic purposes such as ultrasonic sensors or knock sensors.
Several types of microphone are in use, which employs different methods to convert the air pressure variations of a sound wave to an electrical signal. The most common are the dynamic microphone, which uses a coil of wire suspended in a magnetic field; the condenser microphone, which uses the vibrating diaphragm as a capacitor plate; and the piezoelectric microphone, which uses a crystal of piezoelectric material. Microphones typically need to be connected to a preamplifier before the signal can be recorded or reproduced.
"Figure 8" or bi-directional microphones receive sound equally from both the front and back of the element. Most ribbon microphones are of this pattern. In principle they do not respond to sound pressure at all, only to the change in pressure between front and back; since sound arriving from the side reaches front and back equally there is no difference in pressure and therefore no sensitivity to sound from that direction. In more mathematical terms, while omnidirectional microphones are scalar transducers responding to pressure from any direction, bi-directional microphones are vector transducers responding to the gradient along an axis normal to the plane of the diaphragm. This also has the effect of inverting the output polarity for sounds arriving from the backside.