Weekly Music Thing No. 1 : Laser Microphone

Here is the first ‘Weekly Music Thing’! In the video I take a look at how a cheap laser pointer and a solar cell can be turned into a remarkable optical microphone. I say microphone, but I think that might not actually be the correct description as a microphone converts sound into electricity where as  the laser mic turns light into electricity via the solar cell. It’s more of a Phosophone! Watch the following video for what you’ll need to build it, and I show a few ways it can be used too. I particularly like the fact that you can create sound bouncing the laser off a vibrating or moving surface. Used like this patterns of light and dark create audible tones. It’s supremely simple, fun and cheap which makes it a winner in my book. Have fun and don’t point the laser in your (or anybody’s) eye holes!

Let me know if you find this at all interesting and I’ll do some more….

Some sound highlights from the video

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22 Comments to Weekly Music Thing No. 1 : Laser Microphone

[…] : http://leafcutterjohn.com/?p=1574Notez le : "Aimer" ceci :"J'aime"Soyez le premier à aimer ce post. […]

August 29, 2011

Awesome video! You never cease to amaze me. Continue posting em cause i’ll continue watching. I’ve even shared this with some friends of mine!

August 29, 2011

Brilliant. Keep it up.

[…] Weekly Music Thing No. 1 : Laser Microphone […]

[…] Weekly Music Thing No. 1 : Laser Microphone "Aimer" ceci :"J'aime"Soyez le premier à aimer ce post. […]

Anton Woldhek
August 30, 2011

Very inspiring.

Audio Pigeon
August 30, 2011

Hi, just wanted to let you know that we love this so much that we’ve added it to Audio Pigeon http://www.audiopigeon.com Keep up the good work! Thanks.

Tim Rochford
August 30, 2011

v interesting.

August 31, 2011

So great! So inspiring!

K. R. Seward
September 3, 2011

Thanks a lot for this very cool/simple/versatile idea. My very humble addition to the Laser Mic concept demonstrated here:


Or without video: overlay the solar cell with a bar code and sweep the laser beam across it to create a scratching sound.

September 9, 2011

Really cool!

[…] avons aussi reproduit les expériences de Leafcutterjohn. Grâce à l’effervescence d’un aspirine, nous nous sommes imaginés concevoir de la synthèse […]

#1 octobre11 | open ateliers
October 15, 2011

[…] avons aussi reproduit les expériences de Leafcutterjohn. Grâce à l’effervescence d’un aspirine, nous nous sommes imaginés concevoir de la synthèse […]

October 21, 2011

Appreciation for this inorfmtaoin is over 9000?thank you!

October 22, 2011

ZPDVlC hkhetdysmqcf

Kathy Hinde
November 7, 2011

Wow – great stuff – i really love this… please post more : )
light into sound, superb stuff… I recently went to the ‘seeing sound’ symposium at Bath Spa uni and heard the amazing Andrey Smirnov (asmir.info) from the Theremin centre in Moscow talk about early russian experiments with light and sound – check out Yevgeny scholpo’s – early sound synthesis using light…

December 3, 2011

This is a very interesting work. Any reason why you’re using a solar cell rather than a regular light dependant resistor (LDR) ?

Leafcutter John
December 3, 2011

Thanks amundsen, A solar cell converts the laser light directly into electricity, it’s this electricity that we hear when the cell is plugged into the amp. An LDR or Light Dependant Resistor on the other hand does not convert light into electricity. Its resistance changes based on how much light hits it. You could make a laser to sound circuit with an LDR but it would need a battery and a more complex circuit design. I chose the solar cell because it’s very simple and effective.

January 2, 2012

Salad Spinner Siren.
you, sir, are a genius.

[…] few weeks ago I happened to see Leafcutter John’s post on the “laser microphone“. Almost immediately, I was amazed at how simple the idea was and decided to try making a […]

[…] Our newest associated artist, the Yorkshire come London lad, John Burton (aka Leafcutter John) has graced the planet with his remarkable contributions to electronic, folk and experimental music and will be here on campus, in his inaugural event, for a members only (students) workshop in AA001 at 2pm on Wednesday 18/01, followed by a concert of his music at 7pm. There are only 20 places available for the workshop (you can find the signup list on the wall in the Gaskell), the concert is open to the public and free to all… and shouldn’t be missed! In this workshop session, Leafcutter John will be looking at ways of picking up and listening to different kinds of signals that are all around us.  Most people are familiar with the idea of radio waves but there are a whole host of other electromagnetic waves we can listen to with easily constructed pickups. We will make an inductive pickup in the workshop that will let us eavesdrop on the internal world of: laptops, hard drives, and mobile phones amongst other things.  John will give a 30 minute introduction followed by about an hour and half of workshop. Go here for fun -> http://leafcutterjohn.com/?p=1574 […]

April 30, 2012

my girlfriend and myself are bienging subjected to some type of laser transmission i dont know if its l.o.s. or what but this person is giving us a constant barage of death threats etc etc am asking for help as this has been going on for a long time please if anyone can help us we are 59 @65 years old just learning computer how can we make it stop thank you agian pleeese :( ;( WE R SAD HELP

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