New "smart" MEMS microphones enable recording with a quality once reserved only for musicians and rich wannabes with their own private recording studios.
Remember what a big hit Guitar Hero was when it first came out? All of us air-guitar amateurs were able to justify and perfect our skills at playing in a rock band—all in the comfort of our family rooms. If you are a MEMS-nerd like I am, you may recall that MEMS played a significant role in the success of the Guitar Hero. (Without the tilt motion-sensing provided by the MEMS accelerometer inside, we might as well be playing "Kumbaya" instead of "Walk this Way.")
After hearing the beautiful sound achieved with the high-performance MEMS microphone that Rob O'Reilly of Analog Devices demonstrated at Sensors Expo 2012, I have the same kind of anticipation for what kind of rock star(s) this MEMS device might unleash. Because what makes this MEMS mic so different is that the quality of the sound is so clear and perfect that it can make anyone sound like a rock star, sans the million-dollar recording studio. What's more, my sources at Analog Devices tell me that this new "smart" MEMS is also lower cost.
[ARM TechCon 2012, the largest ARM design ecosystem under one roof, is Oct. 30 - Nov. 1 in Santa Clara. Click here to learn more]
What makes it smart? According to the folks at Analog Devices, their MEMS microphone technology provides a higher signal-to-noise ratio for better near and far-field performance, flatter frequency response and noise rejection, ultimately producing better quality sound. Throw beam forming, directionality and proximity response into the mix and you have a microphone for a wide range of applications.
With all deference to the Walt Disney Company, I asked Rob O'Reilly how ADI makes the magic. "With our MEMS microphone, we integrate more of the signal chain than any other MEMS mic by integrating a MEMS transducer with a proprietary audio ASIC that leverages our decades of audio signal-processing experience," he replied.
In this video clip, you can learn more about the MEMS mic from my interview with Jerad Lewis, microphone applications engineer at Analog Devices.
There are several MEMS manufacturers in the MEMS microphone space including Akustica (part of the Bosch Group), Knowles, STMicroelectronics (jointly developed with their partner OMRON), and a few other smaller players. I don't want to start a contest of whose MEMS mic is "better." I happened to hear Rob's demo, and was astounded by the sound quality. I am all ears if anyone else wants to demo the amazing qualities of their MEMS microphone. Or you can hire me to record a little something for the Grammys. That would be good, too!