Microphones are an integral part of any recording studio, especially if you are making music that involves singing.
You've probably heard of well-renowned brands such as Sennheiser, Shure, and Rode microphones. Microphones from these brands are typically in top-notch condition.
The different kinds of microphones
When it comes to music, there are three main types of microphones. These include the condenser, the dynamic, and the ribbon microphone.
Here is a brief description of the three of them.
Condenser microphones are active microphones that are the go-to for recording in a studio. They are active microphones and require powering up via phantom power.
Dynamic Microphones have a lower sensitivity rating, which makes them ideal for recording loud sounds, such as a guitar amplifier.
Ribbon microphones are unique because they have a different polar pattern than condenser and dynamic microphones.
While different in design and features, they all function the same way. They receive audio signals and convert them into digital signals.
Now that you are familiar with them, here are some features you need to know about before buying a microphone.
The first thing to consider is a microphone's build quality. A well-built and durable microphone lasts longer and shows that everything else about it was made with quality in mind.
Metal parts are more durable than plastic, so as much as possible, buy microphones that are made with metal parts.
Microphones are costly, and cheap ones are usually made with subpar materials, making them more prone to breaking.
Rest assured that there are good, well-made microphones at an affordable price.
A polar pattern is the direction in which the signal can be picked up. There are many different patterns, but the three main ones are cardioid, bidirectional, and omnidirectional.
A cardioid has a heart-shaped pattern that only picks up the signal in one direction. Everywhere else in the area won't be picked up.
Bidirectional picks up the signal from the front and back while blocking off the sides.
An omnidirectional pattern picks up the signal in all directions.
Condenser microphones have a cardioid polar pattern, which makes them the ideal microphone for recording vocals and instruments.
Since you want to isolate the vocals and stop sound from the other parts of the room from being picked up, this makes it important that you get a miFrcrophone with a cardioid pattern.
Note: You will still need to treat your room or point your microphone to a place where it won't pick up excess sound from the direction you are pointing it.
For more atmospheric sounds like an orchestra, bidirectional and omnidirectional microphones work wonders in getting that surround sound.
Frequency response involves the number of frequencies a microphone can pick up.
However, it's more than just knowing its frequency range. You also need to be aware of how responsive a microphone is to certain frequencies.
This will be important as different instruments sit in different frequency ranges.
For example, instruments like drums and bass reside more toward lower frequencies. Vocals, on the other hand, are more prominent in the middle to slightly higher frequencies.
Dynamic microphones pick up lower frequencies and are softer compared to condenser microphones. This makes them perfect for recording guitar and bass amps.
They can also record drums. However, there are microphones dedicated to recording drums that do the job better.
Since condenser microphones pick up the middle frequencies better, they are suitable for recording vocals.
Maximum sound pressure level refers to how much loudness a microphone can handle. Exceeding this level often results in clipping and distortion.
When a microphone picks up clipping and distortion, it will carry over to the recording, which won't sound good.
Know the sound pressure level of the microphone you are buying before you buy it.
Note: You will also have to tweak the monitor and instrument level of the audio interface to avoid clipping and distortion.
Microphone impedance is the "AC resistance" of audio signal voltage.
Microphone signals are AC voltages, and impedance regulates the audio signal's flow so it can easily travel to the computer.
Two types of impedance are present and must match for the travel of the audio signal to run smoothly. These two types are output impedance and load impedance.
Output impedance is the microphone's impedance, while load impedance is the impedance of the microphone preamp found in the audio interface.
The microphone's impedance is recommended to be lower than the load impedance for the signal flow to run smoothly.
The reason behind this is that low impedance allows the signal to create a current good enough for traveling. A high impedance for a preamp allows it to amplify the signal without any distortion.
Note: For the specific measurement (measured in ohms), a good microphone has an impedance of 50 to 500 ohms.
Microphone sensitivity is another characteristic that varies depending on what microphone you have.
Active microphones, such as condensers, have a higher sensitivity. In contrast, passive microphones have a lower sensitivity rating.
The advantage of having a high-sensitivity microphone is that you don't need to increase the gain all that much. However, different sensitivity ratings have their advantages as well.
High-sensitivity microphones work wonders for getting clean and clear recordings. You will need a well-treated room to avoid unnecessary noise from being picked up in a recording.
USB microphones have been on the scene recently. They are easy to use and provide good-quality recordings.
However, it is more advisable to use them for recording podcasts or live streams and not so much for recording sessions.
Drums and other percussion instruments have their own designated microphones. They come in a set of different microphones that record each part of the kit.
Condenser microphones tend to be expensive because of the quality and the type of recording they are great for.
While using a cheap condenser microphone is not recommended, there are good quality ones with affordable price tags.
Check the brand first to see if they are reputable.
Choosing the right microphone for the right job is essential in getting great quality out of your recordings.
Hope this gives you a substantial idea on what to look for in a microphone. Happy recording!