Are Microphones Waterproof. How Does Humidity Affect Them

Capturing an accurate representation of your voice or the sound from an instrument is the sole job of a microphone – but what happens when this provider of creativity is damaged by something as insignificant as a splash of water?

So, are microphones waterproof? The microphones that we generally use are not waterproof and exposure to prolonged humidity or water may damage or render them useless depending upon the amount of moisture/water that has seeped into the internal parts (i.e. diaphragm, moving coil ets.) of the microphone.

That being said, there are microphones available in the market that can be used underwater – known as “Hydrophones”, and there are ways to make a typical non-waterproof microphone at least water & rain-resistant to some extent. We will discuss both hydrophones and how to make your mic waterproof later in the article.

Can water damage a microphone?

There are three ways water and humidity can cause damage to your microphone.

  • Electrical shorting
  • Corrosion
  • Capsule damage

Electrical shorting

If there is electricity flowing through a microphone that has water or moisture present in it, the water (being a good conductor) will cause a short circuit damaging the electrical components of the microphone.

A short circuit happens when electricity strays outside the established pathway of an electrical circuit and generates an excess of voltage streaming and causes excessive flow of current between electrical components.

In case of an active microphone, a short circuit happens when electrical flow completes its circuit journey via a shorter distance (water/moisture) than is present in the original internal circuitry of the mic.

There is no risk of electrical shorting if the wet microphone is not active and has no electricity flowing through it. However, make sure that there is no moisture left inside and all of the microphone’s electrical components are completely dry before you plug it in to use.

Corrosion

A microphone is made up of many metallic parts and they are all at risk of being corroded if the microphone is exposed to prolonged humidity or moisture.

Microphone parts such as windscreen, diaphragm, coil, magnetic core, capsule and body are all made of metal and very sensitive to atmospheric elements such as moisture in the air or hot/cold temperatures.

Make sure that your microphone is always in a cool and dry environment to prevent it or it’s parts from being corroded.

The ideal storage microphone has a humidity of 40-60%, however, extended exposure to humidity levels of 70% and above can be detrimental to the proper functioning of the microphone.

Capsule damage 

This is an issue mostly with condenser microphone capsules. If exposed to moisture and humidity for an extended period of time the capsules might start malfunctioning. The sound of the microphone suddenly diminished considerably, you might een hear a whirring, buzzing or a crackling sound from the microphone.

Can water damage a microphone

How to get water out of your microphone

If you spilled water on your microphone or worse – dropped it in water, you can follow these steps to dry and salvage your microphone.

Step 1: If you spilled water on an active microphone, immediately unplug it before the water causes a short circuit inside the mic.

Step 2: Assess the internal damage to its electronic components by removing the grille and windscreen.

Step 3: If there is no damage to its electronics and if they have not short circuited, then you can simply pat dry the inside of the microphone with a microfiber cloth and let it naturally air dry for at least 72 hours.

We do not recommend using a hair dryer, not even on cool setting as the wind speed may damage the electronic circuitry. 

Step 4: Perform a sound check of your microphone to assess if it sounds the same as before coming in contact with water. If the microphone sounds different, it may be caused by water damage and should be professionally repaired. 

How to fix water damaged microphone

If you find that your microphone has experienced water damage – remove the grille, windscreen and the electronics within pat them dry with a microfiber cloth and dry them under a fan.

If this doesn’t work, you may want to bury your microphone in a bag of rice for a day. Make sure the electronics are all accessible by the rice so the moisture can be easily absorbed by the rice.

If the above two options don’t fix your microphone, then your next step is to replace the damaged components. Find out which components are damaged and look for them online and fix them on your own.

If like most of us, you are not adept at soldering tiny electronic components then we recommend taking your microphone to a local music store to be repaired by a professional rather than doing it yourself.

Related:

How do you waterproof a microphone?

If you are planning to record sounds underwater, then we recommend that you get a hydrophone. We will discuss more on them in the next section.

Alternatively you can also make your own makeshift waterproof microphone by covering it with a balloon.

You should use balloons that are typically used for bending into animal shapes, as they’re pretty durable and shaped well for things like shotgun mics. Typically these “animal shape balloons” are more “form fitting”, have a tighter seal and do not leave a weird smell on your microphone.

After making your underwater recordings, don’t forget to clean your microphone thoroughly with wet wipes to get rid of any rubbery residue or smell.

How to protect your microphone from the rain?

It can be quite a challenge to protect your microphone from rain. You may attach your microphone to a small stand and place yourself over it holding a thick plastic drop cloth with your arms stretched out. It’s not a very comfortable position to hold and your arms will tire out in a few minutes and you might experience some back pain. Alternatively, you can wait for the rain to subside and begin recording in better weather.

How do you get water out of your iPhone microphone?

If your iPhone has been exposed to water:

Step 1: Switch it off immediately. Once the iPhone falls into the water or gets into the water, please disconnect the power immediately. Because the damage of the mobile phone is often not caused by the water itself, but because of the short circuit of the internal components caused by the water, and even further cause the components to burn out or the battery to explode.

Step 2: Remove as much as possible all the removable parts of the iPhone, such as the SIM card, and the back cover so that the moisture in the iPhone has outlets to evaporate.

Step 3: Pat dry the iPhone with a cloth, you can wipe the screen, sides and back. Pay special attention to the power button, volume button, mute switch, speaker, microphone, and audio output jack, and try to wipe off all visible moisture.

Step 4: Place the iPhone in a bag of rice for at least 24 hours. 

Step 5: Reassemble the phone and switch it on. If the problem persists, and you don’t want to buy a new phone, you can always have the microphone replaced by a professional.

What are hydrophones?

A hydrophone is an underwater listening device. Just as a microphone is used to detect sound in the air, a hydrophone detects sounds in the water and converts the acoustic energy into electrical energy. 

Most hydrophones are based on a special property of certain ceramics that produces a small electrical current when subjected to changes in underwater pressure. When submerged in the ocean, a ceramic hydrophone produces small-voltage signals over a wide range of frequencies as it is exposed to underwater sounds emanating from any direction.

Written by:
Amit Gupta
Amit Gupta

Hi, my name is Amit Gupta, and I am the owner and contributor at Radaudio. My passions include guitar, bass, and piano, as well as a range of classical instruments that I have been playing since school.

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