Various types of microphones exist for many different purposes, and each has its particular advantages and disadvantages depending on its intended use as well as the user's needs and peculiarities. Microphones absorb sound waves and convert them into electrical impulses, each of which has a distinctive pattern according to the sound absorbed. These electrical impulses are then amplified and outputted through speakers.
Voice command or speech recognition microphones are a valuable tool for the disabled. Each of the many types of microphone available for this purpose has its own pros and cons. For instance, using a headset microphone means the distance between the microphone and mouth remains constant, but the cables also restrict the user's movement. USB microphones enable the use of a microphone without the need for a sound card, but they require USB ports. Handheld microphones include performance-related buttons that allow the user to alter their settings easily, but they also occupy the user's hands.
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With microphones used for performances such as musical groups or stage shows and musicals, the main choice involves whether to go wireless or have a microphone with cable. Wireless microphones allow freedom of movement for performers, both around the stage area and with their hands. They sometimes have limited range, however, and can succumb to interference from other sources. They also reduce the likelihood of tripping on cables in a confined performance area but can have a limited battery life, thus prohibiting their suitability for longer performances.
With mobile phones, many people use microphones that sit on the lapel or come fitted to a headset. The obvious advantage lies in the freedom of movement for the hands and the ability to avoid the cramping effect of holding a phone's inbuilt microphone up to the mouth. This freedom of movement also allows more spatial awareness of happenings in the vicinity, such as traffic, while allowing the user to perform other useful tasks while talking, such as cooking.
Handheld telex wireless microphones are used extensively by news organizations and in places such as courtrooms broadcast to a large number of people. The telex wireless microphone is extremely secure, has a long battery life and can broadcast over multiple channels. These microphones are expensive, however, and they can interrupt other broadcasts or interfere with other communication devices.