How To Use Speakers As A Microphone (Easy Guide)

Quick Guide to Using Speakers as a Microphone

  • Gather the necessary tools, including a soldering iron, wire strippers, and connectors.
  • Disassemble the speaker carefully, identifying and disconnecting the internal speaker wires.
  • Prepare and connect the wires using XLR or TRS cables.
  • Test the new microphone for proper functionality and make necessary adjustments if needed.

Imagine this: you’re all set for that important virtual meeting, or maybe you’re about to record that podcast episode you’ve meticulously planned. But then, your trusty microphone suddenly gives up. What do you do? Well, you might just have a solution sitting on your desk or in your living room — your speaker.

Yes, you read that right! Your speaker can moonlight as a microphone! Intrigued? Let’s dive into the world of sound and explore “how to use speakers as a microphone” and understand how this is possible.

Understanding the Basics: Speakers and Microphones

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Illustration of How to Use Speakers as a Microphone

Speakers and microphones, though seemingly different, are quite similar. They both are transducers, converting energy from one form to another. While speakers transform electrical signals into sound waves, microphones do the exact opposite, converting sound waves into electrical signals.

If both devices essentially perform the same function, is it possible to use a speaker as a microphone? The short answer is, yes! With some adjustments and modifications, a speaker can be transformed into a microphone.

Despite their similarities, it’s worth mentioning that speakers and microphones exhibit some significant differences. The main one lies in their design and purpose.

A speaker is designed to reproduce sound, while a microphone is tailored to capture sound. Having covered the basics, it’s time to further understand their mutual properties as transducers and their dissimilarities in design.

Transducers: The Common Ground

At the heart of speakers and microphones lies the concept of transduction. Transducers are devices that convert energy from one form to another. In the case of speakers and microphones, they convert electrical energy into sound waves, and vice versa.

The process is relatively straightforward. When you speak into a microphone, your voice creates sound waves that cause the diaphragm in the microphone to vibrate. These vibrations are then converted into electrical signals, which can be amplified, recorded, or broadcast.

On the other hand, both the speaker and microphone work in opposite ways. They take electrical signals and convert them back into sound waves. This is done by sending the electrical signal through a voice coil that vibrates the speaker diaphragm, creating sound waves that we can hear. These similar yet inverse operations underline the shared principles of speakers and microphones.

Design Differences

While speakers and microphones share the same basic functionality, their designs differ in significant ways. Each device is purpose-built to excel at its intended function. For instance, microphones have diaphragms designed to capture sound waves and convert them into electrical signals with high precision.

They are optimized for sensitivity and accuracy, to ensure that the captured sound is as close to the original source as possible.

Speakers, on the other hand, are designed to reproduce sound. They have a diaphragm or cone that vibrates to create sound waves. The design of speakers maximizes the quality of the audio output.

The structural differences between the two, therefore, contribute to their distinct performance. With an understanding of these basics, we’re now ready to unveil the process of transforming a speaker into a microphone.

Also read: How To Connect A Microphone To Home Theater

How to Use Speakers as a Microphone

Illustration of tools for turning a speaker into a microphone

Turning your speaker into a microphone might seem like a magical trick, but it’s grounded in the principles we just discussed. All it takes is a bit of patience, some basic tools, and a curiosity to explore the world of active speakers.

Now, let’s proceed through this process, one step at a time.

1. Gather the Necessary Tools

Before proceeding with the modification process, let’s confirm we have all the required tools available. The key tools you’ll need include a soldering iron, wire strippers, and connectors. The soldering iron is our magic wand in this process. It helps us to melt the old solder and make new connections, allowing the speaker to function as a microphone.

Next, we have the wire strippers. These handy tools allow us to prepare the speaker wires for connection by removing the insulation, and revealing the conductive strands.

Once the strands are exposed, you can use an electrical tape male connector to secure the connection, ensuring the negative wire is properly connected. Additionally, a mic cable is essential for connecting microphones to your audio setup. It’s important to take a speaker wires note to remember the proper connection process.

Lastly, we have the connectors, specifically a 3.5mm headphone jack, which will be used as a microphone connector to connect your new microphone to your audio device, such as an audio interface with a microphone input. With all these tools in place, we are ready to start the transformation and ensure a clear mic signal.

2. Disassemble the Speaker

Photo of disassembled speaker components

Now, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get our hands a little dirty. To start, we need to disassemble the speaker. This involves using a few tools like a metal spudger and a Phillips #1 screwdriver to remove the speaker from its assembly. Remember to do this gently and carefully to avoid damaging any internal components.

Once the speaker is disassembled, you’ll need to identify and disconnect the internal speaker wires. You can use a 1.5-volt battery to determine the polarity of the wires. With the speaker disassembled, it’s time to prepare and connect the wires.

3. Prepare and Connect the Wires

The next step in our speaker-to-microphone transformation involves preparing the wires. This is where our wire strippers come into play.

Cut the lead wires of the speaker, then use the wire strippers to remove the insulation from the cut ends of the wires, revealing the conductive strands. Once the wires are prepared, it’s time to connect them to the appropriate connectors.

For this, we’ll be using an XLR cable or TRS cable. The positive and negative wire of the cable should be connected as follows: the positive wire to the negative terminal of the speaker, and the negative speaker wires (or ground/shield) to the speaker’s positive terminal. With all wires connected, we’re moving on to the final step of our process.

4. Test Your New Microphone

Now that we’ve connected everything, it’s time to test our new microphone. This step is key to verifying that the speaker works properly as a microphone and to inspect for any possible problems. Remember, we’re dealing with electrical devices here, so safety is paramount.

Testing your DIY microphone might come with a few hiccups. You might experience distortion, sound errors, or inconsistencies in your equipment. Don’t be disheartened; these issues are common and often solvable. Running a few tests and making necessary adjustments can help you get your new microphone up and running.

Congratulations! You’ve now successfully turned your speaker enclosure into a microphone.

Sound Quality Considerations

Illustration of sound waves and speaker as a microphone

While the process of transforming a speaker into a microphone is undoubtedly fascinating, it’s important to keep in mind that sound quality might not be on par with a dedicated microphone, and simply using a speaker as a microphone is not the answer to achieving the best audio quality.

Let’s look into potential sound quality issues and practical applications of your newly created microphone.

Background Noise Issues

One of the main issues when using a speaker as a microphone is the potential for increased background noise. Due to their design and sensitivity, speakers turned into microphones tend to pick up more background noise than traditional microphones. This happens because speakers are not designed to capture sound waves and convert them into electrical signals with the same precision as microphones, leading to a lower signal-to-noise ratio and a higher chance of picking up ambient noise.

However, there are ways to mitigate this issue. One strategy is to position the microphone close to the sound source to minimize background noise pickup. Using noise-canceling microphones can also help reduce background noise and improve sound quality.

Practical Applications

Despite potential issues with sound quality, there are practical applications where using a speaker as a microphone can be beneficial. For instance, a speaker-microphone is particularly adept at capturing low-end frequencies, making it an excellent choice for recording kick drums and bass guitar cabinets.

However, these benefits are often limited to specific applications. Therefore, while a speaker-turned-speaker mic can be a fun and educational project, for professional applications, a dedicated microphone would likely deliver better results.

Alternative Methods: Using Headphones and Bluetooth Speakers

Photo of a headphone and a Bluetooth speaker

If you’re intrigued by the idea of using audio output devices as microphones, there are other alternatives you can explore. Let’s examine the possibilities of using headphones and Bluetooth speakers as microphones.

Headphones as Microphones

Using headphones as a microphone is another interesting trick you can try. Some headphones come with a built-in mic, making it easy to use them for both listening and capturing sound. However, even without a built-in mic, your regular headphones can be used as a microphone by simply plugging them into the microphone port on your computer.

The sound quality, however, can vary. While your friends might still understand what you’re saying during a casual chat, for professional applications, the audio quality might not be up to par. In such cases, it’s better to opt for headphones with built-in microphones or even dedicated microphones.

Bluetooth Speaker Limitations

Bluetooth speakers can also be transformed into microphones, but they come with their own set of limitations. One of the main drawbacks is the potential for lower audio performance compared to other devices. Plus, not all Bluetooth speakers come with built-in microphones, so you might need to get creative with some soldering work.

Furthermore, a Bluetooth speaker transformed into a microphone might not provide the same sound quality as a standard microphone. This is largely due to Bluetooth compression, which can cause a loss in audio quality. Despite these limitations, using a Bluetooth speaker as a microphone can still be a fun and educational project to tackle.

When to Invest in a Professional Microphone

Although transforming speakers, headphones, or Bluetooth speakers into microphones serves as interesting DIY projects, certain situations call for the investment in a professional microphone.

Professional microphones are designed specifically for capturing sound, offering superior sound quality, and practicality, especially for studio recordings and professional applications.

A professional microphone can capture every detail and nuance of your voice or instrument, offering improved audio quality. So, if you’re recording for a podcast, streaming, or any other professional application that demands high audio quality, a dedicated microphone is your best bet. In these cases, the investment in a professional microphone is well worth the improved sound quality and ease of use.

Summary

In this blog post, we’ve journeyed through the fascinating process of turning a speaker into a microphone. We’ve discovered that despite their differences, speakers and microphones share a common principle as transducers, and with a bit of tinkering, a speaker can indeed function as a microphone.

However, while it’s a fun and educational experiment, for top-notch audio quality and professional applications, a dedicated microphone still reigns supreme. So the next time your microphone gives up on you, remember, you might just have a backup in the form of your speaker!

Sources

  1. David Medairos, How to Turn a Speaker Into a Microphone, Tech Walla, https://www.techwalla.com/articles/how-to-turn-a-speaker-into-a-microphone 
  2. Raymond Ainyam, Can Microphones Be Used As Speakers? All You Need to Know! Geek Musician, https://geekmusician.com/can-microphones-be-used-as-speakers/ 
  3. John Papiewski, Differences in Microphones & Speakers, Is Still Works, https://itstillworks.com/differences-microphones-speakers-2168.html 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can speakers work as microphones?

Speakers can be used as microphones since they have the ability to function in reverse mode. If a speaker has a wire coming out of it, simply cutting and connecting it to an XLR will do the job, or if it doesn’t have one, unscrewing a few screws is necessary.

How to position mic with speakers?

To prevent feedback, place the speakers ahead of the microphone to point towards the audience. Additionally, placing the microphone behind the speaker eliminates the possibility of sound pickup and therefore reduces the risk of feedback.

Can we connect mic to aux in speaker?

Yes, connecting a mic to an Aux input is possible. You just need to ensure that the mic is powered first by using an audio mixer.

Is the sound quality of a speaker-turned-microphone as good as a regular microphone?

Generally speaking, a regular microphone will offer better sound quality than a speaker-turned-microphone due to its superior ability to cancel out background noise.

Can headphones and Bluetooth speakers also be used as microphones?

Yes, both headphones and Bluetooth speakers can be used as microphones with some adjustments.

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