Many of us have a collection of broken headphones dating all the way back to the MP3 player days. You can’t help but wonder what would happen if you plugged one into the microphone jack. Can the speaker be used as a microphone, and if so, how?
You can use a speaker as a microphone by simply plugging the speaker into the microphone jack. If the speaker has a different connector, you can make it work by soldering the connector to the speaker wires. It’s surprisingly easy to do all of this.
Who would’ve guessed that speakers and microphones are so similar? This article will explain how you can use a speaker as a microphone, the difference between the two, and more. Let’s dive right into it!
Can a Speaker Be Used as a Microphone?
A speaker can be used as a microphone. If both the speaker and the microphone use a 3.5 mm (0.35 cm) jack, you can plug the speaker into the microphone port. It’ll work without the need for any modifications. Active speakers may need a few changes to work, though.
I was shocked at first when I realized that you can use a speaker as a microphone. One plays back music, the other records it.
It’s almost like saying that your ear and your vocal tract are the same. Except that they aren’t.
Even though we call humans speakers, we have little in common with loudspeakers.
On the other hand, speakers and microphones are kind of like fraternal twins.
You can use any passive speaker as a microphone. You can also use an active speaker as a microphone, but it’ll require some DIYing.
The easiest way to use a speaker as a microphone is to plug it into the microphone port. If it’s computer peripherals we’re talking about, that’s easy to do.
Any passive 3.5 mm (0.35 cm) speaker can be used as a microphone. Locate the input port on the PC I/O and plug it in. It’ll work right away.
The only issue is that most professional recording equipment uses an XLR port for the microphone.
Speakers haven’t been using XLR for decades. Unless your speaker is as old as Methuselah, you’ll have to solder an XLR plug to it.
How To Convert a Speaker Into a Microphone
If your speaker and microphone use different connectors, don’t worry. We’ll get it to work here.
You can use this method to turn an active speaker into a microphone as well.
Before we get started, I’d like to mention that this procedure will require soldering.
If you don’t own a soldering iron or know how to use it, don’t hesitate to ask an experienced friend to help you out.
It’s an easy project that you can complete in minutes if you know what you’re doing.
If you rather see a video on how to do it, you will find a great one after the instructions.
With all that out of the way, let’s get started.
1. Prepare Everything You’ll Need
Before we do anything, we must first determine what connector we need to turn our speaker into a microphone.
Most speakers use a 3.5 mm (0.35 cm) jack, banana plugs, pin, and spade connectors.
Microphones almost exclusively use the 3.5 mm (0.35 cm) connector and the XLR connector. They sometimes use a USB, but we can’t turn a speaker into a microphone using a USB cable. Not that we need to, anyway.
You probably want to use the speaker as a microphone by plugging it into a computer, preamp, or audio interface.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you want to connect your speaker to a standard 3-pin XLR port.
The procedure will be the same for any other cable, so you can tag along.
Here’s what you need:
- Soldering iron
- Any kind of regular or speaker wire
- Wire stripping tool (You can use a knife if you don’t have one)
- Electrical tape
- Male connector for the microphone port you want to connect the speaker to
If you want to plug it into an XLR connector, get the Neutrik NC3MXX 3-pin XLRM Cable from Amazon.com. It’s a durable, high-quality connector with silver-plated contacts.
2. Remove the Loudspeaker From the Speaker Assembly
The first thing we need to do is to get the driver out of the speaker assembly. We only need the loudspeaker itself.
While you can use multiple drivers from the same speaker as a single microphone, it won’t work very well. It’ll cut out some of the sound and create a ton of noise.
If you’re doing this with active speakers, you’ll notice that there’s a preamp assembly inside the speaker enclosure. You have to detach the speaker from it.
The easiest way to remove the speaker is to unscrew the screws holding it in place and cut the wires off.
Make sure to leave enough speaker wire so that you can use the speaker as a microphone comfortably.
3. Strip the Speaker Wires
Note that you need a ground wire for a 3-pin XLR connector.
It’s common that your speaker only comes with a positive and negative wire and nothing else.
In that case, you can cut off another speaker wire from somewhere else and use that. Or you can use any kind of wire that you find around the house. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that you strip about half an inch (12.7 mm) using your wire stripping tool or knife. What that means is that you remove the plastic insulation.
Only leave the bare wire part -because that’s what you’ll be soldering.
4. Solder the Ground Wire to the Speaker and the Connector
It’s now time to get your soldering iron hot and ready.
You’ll first connect the ground wire. Most speakers won’t have a ground wire, but it doesn’t really matter. You can use any wire you have.
Take a look at the XLR connector. You’ll notice that there are numbers next to the pins.
The ground pin is usually 1, but double-check it in the connector’s product description.
Solder the wire to the connector’s pin 1 by holding the wire against the pin. Put your soldering iron tip onto it and apply some solder.
You’ll know that you did a good job when the wire can’t be torn off the pin.
To connect it to the speaker, simply solder the wire to any piece of metal attached to the speaker’s body.
You can solder it directly onto the speaker’s body itself. Just make sure you’re soldering the wire to metal, not plastic.
5. Solder the Positive and Negative Speaker Wires
It’s now time to connect the speaker to the connector. You don’t have to solder the wires onto the speaker because they’re already attached right where they should be.
On most XLR connectors, pin 2 is positive, and pin 3 is negative.
Virtually all speakers follow the color code standard. The red wire is positive, and the black wire is negative.
Solder the wires onto the pins the same way you did with the ground wire.
6. Insulate the Speaker Wires
This is an important step because you don’t want the wires to touch each other.
That could cause a short circuit and even send out a spark that can become a fire hazard.
Simply take your electrical tape and put it along the length of the wire. Don’t apply it on the solder joint because there’s no point.
Remember to repeat this step on the connector as well as the ground wire attached to the speaker.
Once all three wires are insulated, you could apply electrical tape along the length of the cables. This will give the whole build a neat and tidy look.
It’ll also protect the wires from getting ripped out too easily.
7. Plug the Speaker Into the Microphone Port
It’s now time to test everything out. Plug the speaker into the XLR port on your audio interface or preamplifier.
It should work without any issues. If you do hear some buzzing, it’s probably the wiring.
Inspect all solder joints. Also, don’t expect studio-quality recordings from a speaker. The sound quality will be adequate at best.
Here is a video showing you how to do it and explaining every step:
The Difference Between a Microphone and a Speaker
Since you can use a speaker as a microphone, you must be wondering why we even have separate names for the two.
Both speaker and microphones are transducers, which means they convert electrical energy into a signal we can understand.
We call speakers and microphones the way we do because we use them for different purposes.
A microphone picks up sound waves and converts them into an electrical signal. A speaker does the opposite. It converts an electrical signal into audible sound waves.
Also, speakers are generally much larger than microphones. That’s because a microphone doesn’t need to be large to capture a lot of sound.
A smaller microphone picks up less noise, and you can bring it closer to your mouth. All those things combined make microphones effective at what they do.
When it comes to speakers, larger is usually better. More importantly, it’s louder.
Tiny speakers have their purpose in headphones and earbuds. But we must use large loudspeakers if we want to achieve an open sound stage.
Should You Use a Speaker as a Microphone?
You shouldn’t use a speaker as a microphone, even though you can. Speakers aren’t very good at being microphones. They pick up too much ambient noise, and the sound quality of the recording is always poor. Also, large speakers aren’t practical to be used as microphones.
This is one of those situations where just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
It’s all right to use a speaker as a microphone in a pinch. Sometimes, that’s all you got.
For example, if a detachable microphone on your headset stopped working, there’s no need to throw away the whole thing.
Order a new replacement microphone. While you’re waiting, use an old pair of smartphone earbuds as a microphone.
In most cases, plugging the earbuds into the 3.5 mm (0.35 cm) port on your headset will do the trick. Look at this Reddit post by gzintu to see what I’m talking about.
Can You Turn a Bluetooth Speaker Into a Microphone?
You can’t turn a Bluetooth speaker into a microphone without tearing it apart. A Bluetooth connection requires complicated electronics to work. The only way you can use a Bluetooth speaker as a microphone is to tear out the loudspeaker and solder it to a microphone plug.
Some Bluetooth speakers have built-in microphones. In that case, you can use it as a microphone.
Otherwise, there’s no easy way to turn a Bluetooth speaker into a Bluetooth microphone. At least not without creating a custom motherboard.
Is the Sound Quality of a Speaker Used as a Microphone Bad?
In general, the sound quality of a speaker used as a microphone is bad. Speakers aren’t designed to function as microphones. The large speaker cone requires powerful vibrations from sound waves to move. Also, the speaker can pick up a lot of background noise when used as a microphone.
As I already said, only use a speaker as a microphone if you must.
It’s fine if you want to talk with friends over Discord. But please don’t record any music with it.
Is a Speaker a Reversed Microphone?
A speaker is essentially a reversed microphone. Both speakers and microphones are transducers. Microphones pick up sound waves and convert them into electrical signals, whereas speakers do the exact opposite.
This trick allows you to use speakers as microphones. The most fascinating part is that you don’t need to make any modifications with passive speakers.
Also, you can use microphones as tiny speakers.
Simply plug a microphone into a headphone jack on your computer, and you’ll see (hear) what I’m talking about. You must get your ear extremely close to the microphone, though.
It’s More Practical To Buy a New Microphone Than To Make One
Using an enormous speaker as a microphone looks very cool. It’s a neat party trick that’s guaranteed to impress your friends.
You could create a DIY microphone with an old speaker and make a custom stand for it.
However, all of this isn’t very practical. It’s a fun project, but it’s very impractical and kind of pointless.
You can get a decent microphone for cheap nowadays. And your recordings will sound miles better than they would with a speaker.
Before you ask, using an expensive speaker as a microphone won’t improve the sound quality.
Use the smallest speaker you can find as a microphone instead. It’ll work best.
You Can Use Headphones as a Microphone Too
We only talked about using speakers as microphones so far. But headphones are basically a pair of small speakers that you attach to your head.
If your headphones don’t have a microphone, you can use its speakers as one instead. This makes more sense than using large speakers.
Simply plug the headphones into the microphone port on your computer. You can use your speakers as the output device and the headphones as a mic for Discord.
I tried this, and it works surprisingly well.
Of course, the sound quality isn’t very good, but your friends can make out what you’re saying.
Using speakers as a microphone is shockingly easy. If the speaker uses the same connector as your microphone port, it’s pretty much plug-and-play.
Otherwise, you can get it working by soldering a microphone connector to the speaker.
Both speakers and microphones are more or less one and the same, so they’re interchangeable. At least in theory.