ECM Mic Preamplifier

Posted in Preamplifiers, on 2015-10-25


A microphone amplifier that may be used with either Electret Condenser Microphone (ECM) inserts or dynamic inserts, made with discrete components.

ECM Mic Preamplifier


Both transistors should be low noise types. In the original circuit, I used BC650C which is an ultra low noise device. These transistors are now hard to find but BC549C or BC109C are a good replacement. The circuit is self stabilizing and will set its quiescent point at roughly half the supply voltage at the emitter of Q2. This allows maximum output voltage swing and also the highest dynamic range.

The electret condenser microphone (ECM) contains a very sensitive microphone element and an internal FET preamp, a power supply in the range 2 to 10 volts DC is therefore necessary. Suitable ECM's may be obtained from Maplin Electronics. Although the schematic is drawn showing a three terminal ECM, two terminal ECM's may be used.

The 1k resistor limits the current to the mic. This resistor should be increased to 2k2 if a supply voltage above 12 Volts DC is used and is not needed if the Mic insert is dynamic. The first stage amplifier built around Q1 is run at a very low collector current. This factor contributes to a very high overall signal to noise ratio and low overall noise output. The emitter resistor of Q1 is decoupled by the 100u realizing a maximum gain for this stage. The noise response of the amplifier measured across the 10k load is shown below. Please note that this plot was made with the mic insert replaced by a signal generator.

ECM Mic Preamplifier

The second stage, built around Q2 is direct coupled, this minimizes phase shift effects (introduced with capacitive and inductive coupling methods) and achieves a flat output response from 20Hz to over 100kHz. The frequency response measured across a 10k load resistor is plotted below simulated using a 12V power source:

ECM Mic Preamplifier

The emitter voltage of Q2 is also fed back to the base of Q1 via resistive coupling. This also ensures bias stabilization against temperature effects. Q2 operates in emitter follower mode, the voltage gain of this stage is less than unity, however, the overall voltage gain of the preamplifier is about 100x or 20dB as shown in the bode plot above. The output impedance is very low and well suited to driving cables over distances up to 50 meters. Screened cable therefore is not necessary.

This preamplifier has excellent dynamic range and can cope with anything from a whisper to a loud shout, however care should be taken to make sure that the auxiliary equipment i.e. amplifier or tape deck does not overload.

The following single sided PCB layout was created with Kicad, a free open source schematic and PCB drafting program. Its available for both windows and linux, the image below is a 3D (enlarged) view of the component side. The copper layer (solder side) is the dark green layer on the bottom of the board.

ECM Mic Preamplifier

The top view (component side) of the PCB board is shown below. This is without the 3D components, the silk screen (drawings on the component side) allow for size of physical components. The pin nearest R1 is the power for 3 terminal ECM's. If a 2 terminal ECM is used then this pin also needs to connect to the centre pin on C1.

ECM Mic Preamplifier

The image below is an actual size (1:1) copy of the copper layer. Note that this is reverse so the veropins appear now on the left hand side at the top. Remember that this is the lower (solder) side, by viewing the top image you should be able to match up the positions of all components.

ECM Mic Preamplifier

Finally you may not like my layout and prefer to create your own. The follwing ecm file, contains the schematic, component list and pcbnew diagram in one convenient zip file.

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Source , Author: Andy Collinson