Recording Microphones for Beginners

Recording Microphones for Beginners

If you type “the best recording microphone for beginners” into the search bar, you will find a myriad of choices. So how do you choose?

The answer is to first know understand what a microphone really is. So in this guide, you will learn more about microphones, their different kinds and what they are used for.

Understanding microphones better will help you choose not only the best but the right microphone for your purposes. The difference between a high quality recording or a mediocre one often comes down to what sort of mic you use.

Recording Microphones for Beginners: Why do you need one?

Recording your performance with just your phone’s camera or a DSLR is not enough if you want a professional sound. The microphone is an essential instrument for recording that captures the sound as well as the personality of your voice or musical instrument. It conveys clearer and better sound to the listener.

However, not all mics can capture the sound that you want to hear. The recording is affected by these three factors: type of mic, placement, and recording location. You will learn more about these factors later. First, let’s try to understand more about what makes a good recording microphone for beginners.

What is a microphone?

A microphone works like a speaker but in reverse. It is a transducer that converts the acoustic sound into electrical energy or an audio signal. The audio is then channeled through the wires of the amplifier and through the speaker, which converts the audio signal into electrical energy and then back to acoustic energy, which is the sound that you hear.

Three Main Types of Microphones

1. Dynamic Mics or Moving-Coil Mics


This type of microphones is recommended for its ability to capture and withstand loud sounds at high volume levels. They are rugged, reliable, and durable. Aside from this, they also tend to be inexpensive.

Their long life and cheap tag price have made the Shure SM57 and SM56 industry standards. Many production companies as well as recording studios own these mics that have been used for many years. They will last a long time and reproduce the same quality of sound as you when you first used them.

Finally, these dynamic mics work without batteries or an external power supply unlike the other two types of mic.

Best Application

A dynamic mic is ideal for recording close-mic as it only captures the sound source in front of it, rejecting any sounds from faraway sources. They are popular for onstage performances, specifically pop and rock. Aside from this, they are also used for voiceovers, recording loud instruments like guitar amps, bass amps, snare and kick drums, and more.

2. Condenser Microphones


Many recording studios use condenser mics because they reproduce a more natural, accurate, and clear sound. They can respond well, reproducing sound faster. Aside from this, they can also record at a distance and still capture the detail and personality of one or many musical instruments. Since they are sensitive to sounds, they can even record soft sounds with less noise.

Another characteristic of this mic that makes it different to the dynamic mic is its power source, which can be a battery. For this reason, they cost more and can be very expensive. However, this type of mic can take many forms (large diaphragm and small diaphragm) and sizes. You can find lapel condenser mics on the market too.

Best Application

For recording orchestral instruments or orchestra as a whole, the best mic to use would be the condenser as it will capture all the instruments in detail. It is also great for vocals, either singing or speaking. If you are playing an acoustic guitar or snare drum, you should record your performance with a small diaphragm microphone.

3. Ribbon Microphones


Ribbon mics have a thin aluminum foil that responds to the sound waves caused by the surrounding magnet. A typical studio recording might not have this kind of mic because they can be very expensive and fragile. However, the sound it can reproduce is uniquely silky, vintage, smooth and detailed. They can capture small changes in the harmonics while the singer or musician is performing.

Best Application

Studios that can afford this mic use it for loud sources such as guitar amps, trumpets and brass instruments. If you are a type of vocalist that likes to scream, this is the mic that you should invest in. Meanwhile, if you want to capture the room ambiance, this will be the best option. Another effective use of this mic is for drum overheads.