Microphones - choosing the right mic for your recording purposes
There are several types of microphones, but the
two most common types are
dynamic and condenser mics.
This page contains a guide for you on how to
choose one or several mics to suit your specific needs, and a brief explanation
of the different most common types.
What type of microphone should you choose?
This topic is huge and sometimes difficult, but
here I'll try to make your choice a little easier.
First you have to find out what type of recording
you are going to use it for.
Vocals? Guitar? Other instruments? Or maybe you're
on a budget and you would like an all-round mic that can do a decent job in all
areas mentioned above?
A general rule is to use dynamic microphones for
instrument miking ,preferably live guitar and drums, condenser mics for vocals
or other soft recordings where you want to capture all the details (By the way,
when recording drums you are likely to use a combination of both types).
But there is much more to it than that.
Condenser vs. dynamic mics
The condenser mic
generally has a flatter frequency response than the dynamic one. That is why you
should choose a condenser mic when high accuracy and clarity of the recording is
needed. For example vocals of almost any type, the acoustic guitar or any other
acoustic instrument will be most accurately recorded with a condenser mic.
Because of its construction the condenser mic is
more sensitive to sound and also more physically fragile than a dynamic one, so
it should be handled with care. Too hard handling ( a drop to the floor), too
high sound pressure (screaming into it close up) can cause this type of
microphone to stop functioning.
IMPORTANT!! If you choose a condenser mic you will need a preamp or a mixer that
will provide phantom power or "phantom feed" of usually 48 volts. This is
because the condenser mic needs electricity to operate. Most of the new preamps
and mixers provide this, but if you're going to use a condenser mic be sure to
check just in case.
The dynamic mic is usually more rugged . It can handle more rough
handling, moisture and high sound pressure levels than the condenser. This is
why live performers on stage and outdoors preferably use dynamic mics. It can
also be used in your recording studio, but it's not well suited for recording
soft vocals or acoustic instruments since its frequency response is much
narrower than the condenser's. For rough and loud vocals like heavy metal vocals
though, a dynamic mic might even be the only way to go since a condenser would
only distort under the high sound pressure. This type of mic does not need any
There are a few more types of microphones, but
these are the two most commonly used in recording.
Browse microphones at zZounds.com
Pick up pattern is also an essential element when choosing
the right mic.
Omni directional mics:
These mics pick up sounds evenly from all
directions. This mic "hears" everything, so it's not very well suited for a
recording studio environment. Unless you for example are recording a room
full of people talking (like a TV studio), this isn't the mic of choice.
These mics pick up sound from two directions
(front and back). They were most frequently used in "radio-interview" type
of situations, where people sat at the opposite sides of a table talking in
to the same microphone. This pattern is rare these days and is not what
you're looking for in your recording studio.
These mics pick up sound from mostly one
direction. This is maybe the most common type of pattern of microphones used
in a recording studio. It's easy to isolate the sounds you want to record
without worrying too much about the background noise. It includes the
cardioid microphone which has a "heart-shaped" pick up pattern, which is
probably the most commonly used direction pattern.
There are also a few more "specialty
patterns", for specific types of use that we won't go into here.
The mic legend
I can't be writing about mics without mentioning
the one that has been around for years and years and still going strong through
all kinds of weather and sound levels.
It's perhaps the most popular dynamic mic of all
time. I use this for rough vocals in my recording studio and it works great.
I'm talking about the Shure SM58 (Buy
the Shure SM58 mic from zZounds.com)
If you're just going to buy one mic mainly for vocals, you're on a budget, and
the slightly narrower frequency response isn't all that important to you, then
the Shure SM58 is highly recommended.
This has been a brief introduction to
microphones and the most common types and applications. This page will be
frequently added to and updated. I will write about how to record vocals and
different instruments in another section of this site which is currently under
If you want more technical information or want
to study mics further go
Also check out my page on