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Author Topic: Steampunnk microphone...?  (Read 1061 times)
Da Funky Funnk
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« on: January 28, 2015, 02:03:31 pm »

Hey all! This is my first post on a forum ever, so please forgive me if I may have missed the section a little bit.

So I'm working on my first steampunk novel. Being new to the genre, I'm a bit confused. I am kind of bad at physics and all that stuff and I was wondering if it would be possible to make some sort of steampunk microphone? I've seen some designs online but I'm not sure that those would actually work without electricity.

Can someone please help me? Is there possible to make a microphone or is there any other way of amplyfing the sound of a voice or musical instrument without electricity?
Thanks Smiley
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Maets
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« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2015, 02:37:53 pm »

The original sound amplifiers are horns.  Put sound in at the small end and it is amplified at the large end.  Look at gramophones.  The original megaphones where just a horn.  It would be possible to build a very large system in this manner.
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« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2015, 02:44:27 pm »

Yes, look up old-fashioned megaphones. Though they directed the sound to a specific place, rather than amplifying it per se.
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« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2015, 03:06:17 pm »





Just put "vintage megaphone" into Google.
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« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2015, 06:41:39 pm »

In around 1876, Bell created a working 'mic' for his telephone. Regular speakers I'm not as up on the origins. Tho, truth be told, a speaker can function as a microphone, and vice versa...Wink
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« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2015, 07:27:34 pm »

In the strict sense of the word you can't really amplify sound unless you put in additional energy, what you can do however is make sure that you direct the sound so that you collect as much of the energy available as possible.

A lot of musical instruments make use of a similar principal, in essence you are changing the acoustic characteristics of teh space surrounding the thing whcih actually generates the vibration (be it a string, reed,vocal cords etc) and making the sound transmission more efficient.

There are some interesting examples of acoustic listening devices, especially in the first world war era these effectively do for sound what telescopes do for light, and although they don't amplify it in the strict sense they can collect and concentrate sounds which would otherwise be inaudible.


Obviously with purely acoustic systems there is a practical upper limit to what you can achieve. One thing which might be interesting for you to look at is the various examples of 'whispering galleries' of which there are a few examples, especially in large public buildings. Here the acoustics of the room allow faint sound to be heard at considerable distances, if you are standing in the right spot. Again this isn't true amplification but it might do what you want. Similarly buildings like theatres and concert halls are often carefully designed to ensure that sound is transmitted from the stage to the audience with the minimum of distortion and loss of energy. This achieved both by the overall geometry of the room and placement of sound absorbing and sound reflecting surfaces.

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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2015, 09:21:39 pm »

To follow through what Mr. Narsil wrote, the purpose of the horn is to "match impedance" which is a fancy way of saying minimize resistance of transmission of sound waves from source (string, human voice, speaker, etc), to air.

Specifically the horn takes energy from the lowest frequencies that are hard to hear with the human ear and pumps some of that energy into higher frequencies that you can actually hear.  So you have not amplified the sound, but recycled some of the energy into a more usable form, so the source sounds louder to your ears

As great as horns are, the do change the frequency profile of the sound.  Hence, years ago when I made my Victorian Boombox, I chose not to use actual horns but keep the satellite speakers intact (I'm a purist when it comes to sound), so I embedded the whole speaker enclosures in the horns instead.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2015, 09:28:22 pm by J. Wilhelm » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2015, 10:11:49 pm »

Another thing:  remember that if you do have a power amplifier (sound for speakers) connected to a pre-amplifier, say with a large voltage gain (the number of times you multiply the voltage (say multiply voltage between 100 and 1000 times),  then a small speaker can be used as a microphone!  The trick is matching the electrical impedance.  But generally smaller piezo electric microphone elements require a small voltage, and that is usually provided by the electronic circuitry, in the case that you have a dedicated "mic" input, like in a smartphone, hi fi amplifier or PA system. Otherwise the piezos are really cheap and available everywhere (scavenge a cheap headphone set with microphones).
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2015, 12:56:44 am »

Lest we scare Mr Funk off with these technical discussions, I would point out he's engaged in a work of fiction and therefore a degree of cheating is permissible.  An aetheric sound magnifier need not be described in detail.

Perhaps avoid using terms like 'microphone' in favour of the vaguely more Victorian 'vocal projection device' or similar.

But I do like those horn photos ...
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2015, 03:56:11 am »

Lest we scare Mr Funk off with these technical discussions, I would point out he's engaged in a work of fiction and therefore a degree of cheating is permissible.  An aetheric sound magnifier need not be described in detail.

Perhaps avoid using terms like 'microphone' in favour of the vaguely more Victorian 'vocal projection device' or similar.

But I do like those horn photos ...

Er.  Sorry.  This being not the Textual section, and the OP having mentioned "is there a way to MAKE a...". I assumed he was interested in making an aural capture and reproduction device...

Also it is unclear what is sought. The horn reproduces sound.  A microphone captures sound, but other devices need to process and reproduce the sound, which are completely different functions. A simple diaphragm in the style of Edison's machines requires no electricity, and uses a needle to record sound vibrations in the form of carved grooves on a wax cylinder or another material.  That's Steampunk enough.

Oh well.  Now you know !
« Last Edit: January 29, 2015, 04:07:39 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
jonb
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« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2015, 04:38:49 am »

Actually folks is not a microphone a sound receiving device rather than a transmuting device, if so you have the horn the wrong way round.


I add this picture to muddy the waters further.

pip pip!
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« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2015, 05:06:00 am »

As part of an experiment I did a couple of years ago, I wanted see how much of a modern radio receiver could be built using only Victorian era engineering and parts. Everything was possible, even the amplified output, using nothing more than wire, metal washers, wood and CARBON.  However technically the 'detector' in the radio circuit was not invented, but in theory *could* have been (a point contact diode made from a piece of washed fire coke and a pin)

The amplifier stage was simply a carbon microphone connected in series between a battery and a speaker. Weak audio from a high impedance earpiece (old telephone earpiece) connected to the radio output, was acoustically coupled to the microphone (basically both pushed together with a small space between, and the outer rims sealed together), much the same way the first telephone amplifier devices worked.

Now back to the topic:
If you simply take a carbon microphone (say from a 1960's telephone), a medium size speaker (standard 4 ohm) and a 6V battery, you can make a VERY simplistic amplifier - and indeed there were actual devices based on this concept such as low cost early PA systems used by police.

Electro-Mechanical amplifiers are very simple devices:




However, this may be outside of the OPs actual question - how to make a steampunk microphone.

Short answer is that the simplest device is nothing more than a bottle cap, two bits of metal foil and some carbon granules (crushed pencil lead works just fine)



This is similar to the carbon transmitters used for many decades in telephones, right from the Victorian era until at least the 1970's - and many are still working (even the Victorian ones!), crackling away during use.


However, this is not the ONLY way to build a working microphone Alexander Graham Bell used a liquid microphone in is first working telephone device, and a very sensitive microphone can be built using a balance-beam to vary the contact pressure between two carbon rods, thus modulating the battery voltage much the same as in a carbon granule microphone.

And Of course there are many non-electrical forms of amplification, even compressed air has been used as a power source for audio amplifiers...
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« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2015, 04:11:33 am »

Couldn't piezo electric devices have been used in an alternate Victorian universe?  The piezoelectric effect was understood almost 20 years before the end of the 19th.C, and oiezoelcteic transducers ate no more complicated than the carbon microphone.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piezoelectric
« Last Edit: January 31, 2015, 04:15:01 am by J. Wilhelm » Logged
Siliconous Skumins
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« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2015, 03:14:04 pm »

Piezoelectric microphones only supply a very weak electrical signal, and need to be amplified much more than a carbon microphone (which is technically battery powered). Given that the only known amplifier at the time was the carbon based telephone repeater, it would seem impractical to skip the much easier to use carbon Mic and use a Piezoelectric based one instead.

However if you prefer a little more 'FI' in Victorian 'SCI', then there is no reason why you couldn't have Valve based amplifiers - assuming that work by William Crookes on early vacuum tubes such as the  Maltese cross Crookes tube, lead to the development of simple valves / vacuum tubes based on ionization rather than thermionic emission. The tubes however would tend to be rather unreliable and temperamental - over time the gas will be absorbed by the walls of the tube, reducing the pressure until the tube can no longer work (no air left to ionize). Also as the tubes age, they would tend to produce X-rays.

The beauty of steampunk is that historical fact does not have to get in the way...  Grin
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« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2015, 03:20:29 pm »

Let us not forget the old "Two cans and a piece of string" method. It comes with both microphone and speaker built in.
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