1916 The Condenser Microphone

Sep 1, 2006 3:53 PM


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EC Wente

Edward Christopher “EC” Wente had a fruitful career during his tenure at Western Electric/Bell Labs from 1914 to 1954. Working to improve telephone audio, in 1916 he patented a “telephone transmitter”—better known now as the condenser microphone. This first design was fairly crude, but provided remarkably flat performance compared to the carbon mics used at the time. His design featured a 1.9-inch diameter and 22-micron diaphragm with a 15kHz bandwidth—astonishing in the days when 78 rpm acoustic recordings topped out around 3 kHz.

Over the years, Wente’s condenser designs fueled the impending revolutions in the electrical recording process and motion picture sound. Western Electric’s condenser lineup expanded with models such as the 7A/8A/9A/10A/47A/53A offering tabletop, floor stand and hanging variations.

EC Wente's original 1916 design for the condenser microphone

Wente’s other innovations were many, including the compression driver, the dynamic mic, the multicell horn, a “light valve” for translating audio into variable-density patterns for film soundtracks, and contributions in auditory perspective, anechoic room design and acoustical wall materials.

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