Ubiquitous Microphone Feedback YKTTW Discussion

Ubiquitous Microphone Feedback
StockSoundEffect that indicates microphone use, inexperience, or evokes
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(permanent link) added: 2012-06-11 10:07:51 sponsor: awesome edited by: 69BookWorM69 (last reply: 2015-11-13 11:56:07)

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Formerly Inexplicable Microphone Feedback

Microphones have been around since the 1870s, so they have become a familiar piece of technology. Yet despite many technological developments since then, one problem plagues microphone users in Fictionland: feedback. This loud squeal or throbbing sound is so ubiquitous that Ebert's Glossary of Movie Terms has a "Feedback Rule". It seems inevitable that someone using a microphone will be interrupted by this sound, particularly when first speaking into it.

The sound can be used in different ways. Sometimes a savvy character will do something on purpose to create this sound in order to get attention, such as whistling into the mic, moving it near a speaker, or performing a Mic Drop. On a live recording of musicians or other performers, its presence lends credence to the notion that the performance is somehow raw or uncut and thus more realistic or natural. In radio plays and some early animation, the feedback is an audible cue that a microphone is in use, a kind of demonstrative sound effect that is helpful to the audience. Feedback can also serve to point up a speaker's inexperience with sound equipment (moving the mic too much and/or pointing it towards a nearby speaker being likely to result in this sound), and the audible faux pas is useful for indicating anxiety and prompting laughter. By extention, it may serve as an audible indicator of general inexperience with public speaking or performance.

This Stock Sound Effect may have some overlap with The Coconut Effect when the creators are trying to highlight microphone use and think this is what audiences expect a mic to sound like. It may also result from an instance of Is This Thing On?, when an inexperienced user thinks they have to test the mic before saying their piece.


  • A downplayed example in the beginning of Das Boot, where a German soldier comes on stage at a bar and tests the mic which produces a slight feedback.
  • During the climactic scene in Brian De Palma's Carrie, principal Morton and instructor Fromm tussle over the microphone about what to say during the crisis at the prom. The resulting microphone squeal brings them to Carrie's attention; she disposes of these goofballs by electrocuting them with the mic wiring.
  • On Toy Story, Woody gets feedback when he starts the meeting, so he tells the speaker for the toy microphone to step back.
  • Occurs in The Fugitive when Doctor Nichols takes the podium to announce his new anti-cholesterol drug. Subsequently averted when Doctor Kimble seizes the mic to declare The Reveal. In this case, the squealing mic can apparently Detect Evil.
  • The Cannonball Run has a delayed reaction. When Mr. Foyt takes the stand at the Friends of Nature meeting, the microphone behaves itself. Then it feeds back in the middle of his speech.
  • Happens in 1408 when a bookstore clerk grabs a mic to announce the hero's autograph session for that night.
  • In the Shaun the Sheep movie, the rooster crows through a megaphone and winces from the feedback.
  • In Begin Again, when Keira Knightley's character plays guitar and sings on stage, there is a noticeable mic feedback at one point. It's questionable why because that part wasn't louder than others, it was probably added as a reassurance that this was indeed a live performance.

  • In The Stand, Stu deals with this during his speech at the first public Free Zone meeting. He says they have to get used to technology again (most of Boulder still had no power but they had a generator set up for the meeting). Plus, Stu was also nervous.
  • Artemis Fowl: Commander Root does this once (either by accident or on purpose) when he needs to get a crowd of people out of the way to get their attention.

Live-Action TV
  • M*A*S*H. In, "Change of Command," Radar prepares to make an announcement for the senior officers to report to Potter's office. In response to the P.A. microphone's immensely loud feedback, he drops the mic as if it hurt his hand.
  • Saturday Night Live: Will Ferrell & Ana Gasteyer's recurring sketch about middle school music teachers Marty Culp & Bobbie Moyhan-Culp, who are there to do a gig by playing popular music in a classical style, always begins with mic feedback. "Ooh, we got a real hot mic here."
  • NYPD Blue: At Sipowicz's Bachelor Party, held at a bar with a Karaoke machine, when Maritnez steps up to the mic there's feedback as he says "Is This Thing On?" (even though someone else just got done singing) before launching an off-key rendition of "My Way."
  • Happens in the Doctor Who episode "The Empty Child" when the Doctor grabs the mic. There's a bit of comedy in a technologically advanced alien having this problem with a piece of technology.

  • During Bob Marley's rendition of No Woman, No Cry from Live! you can hear one of the microphones give some feedback after he sings: good friends we had or good friends we lost..., just during the pause before he continues ...along the way.
  • In a concert recorded in 1973 and first released in 1980 as the album Jim Croce Live: The Final Tour, Jim Croce reacts to an instance of feedback by imitating the sound and saying, "Sounds like a great big om."

Video Games

Web Originals
  • In the Team Fortress 2 short Expiration Date, Scout privately turns to Spy for help earning the heart of Ms. Pauling. However, since Scout made fun of Spy earlier, Spy responds by activating the intercom and blowing into it to create the feedback squeal that alerts everyone else, making it clear that Scout will have to really swallow his pride for Spy's help.

Western Animation
  • Daffy Duck did this in the 1938 short "Daffy Duck in Hollywood", but on purpose rather than by accident. On a movie soundstage, Daffy Duck whistles loudly into a microphone and causes ear-splitting pain to a headphone-wearing technician on the receiving end.
  • In the South Park episode Butt Out!, Mr. Garrison deliberately does this to get the kids to shut up and listen.
  • This happens in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Rainbow Rocks, when Snips drops the microphone at the end of his and Snails's rap.
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