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April Clare Welsh
13 December 2022, 13:32

This microphone lets you “listen to light” using a solar cell

Transform neon arcade signs and flashing lights into drum beats and synthesisers

Photon Smasher

A new microphone from UK-based company CLIP Sound and Music lets you “listen to light” using a solar cell.

The Photon Smasher uses a solar cell as a microphone sensitive to wavelengths in the infrared and visible light parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, which then uses those wavelengths to generate sounds.

The hexagonal microphone was originally created during a series of CLIP workshops with young people. This updated model includes a 3.5mm line level mono output, which can be inserted into a modular synth, for example.

"If you shine an LED at the Photon Smasher, you’ll likely hear a single constant pitch. This is due to Pulse Width Modulation (PWM),” explain CLIP on their website. “A technique LEDs use to vary the perceived power going to an LED by quickly turning the power on and off. LEDs reduce their brightness by varying the duty cycle, the time spent on versus off. The rate of the PWM is directly linked to the pitch frequency heard when listening to LEDs with the Photon Smasher."

“The Photon Smasher is an embodiment of our mission to encourage people to get curious with sound, and explore the world around through sound,” CLIP co-founder Frazer Merrick told Synthtopia.

The microphone is priced at £50, with all proceeds going to support CLIP's work as a social enterprise. Watch a demo video below and find out more on the CLIP site.