What Microphone is Used in Recording Studios? : Setting Up a Recording Studio 101

What Microphone is Used in Recording Studios? : Setting Up a Recording Studio 101

Imagine having the ability to set up your own high-quality recording studio. No matter if you’re a professional or an amateur, you’ll finally have the capacity to lay down tracks without having to worry about using someone else’s equipment.

One of the most important parts of designing a studio is figuring out what microphone is used in recording studios?

There are plenty of factors to take into consideration ranging from the size of the diaphragm of your microphone to the differences between dynamic, ribbon, and condenser mics.

All About Diaphragm Size

The first thing you need to think about is how your mic is going to pick up sounds. A diaphragm is essentially a thin piece of material that will vibrate when it picks up a sound, and this vibration is then converted into energy.

There isn’t a particular way to measure a diaphragm aside from putting it into one of three categories that relate to its mass. Its size will vary depending on how it handles dynamic range, sensitivity, internal noise, and sound pressure levels.

Small Diaphragm Microphones

Commonly referred to as pencil microphones (due to their shape), small diaphragm models are thin, light, and easy to adjust to a particular position. They’re designed to handle higher levels of sound pressure and to have an incredible dynamic range.

Ideally, small diaphragm microphones should be used with guitars, cymbals, and hi-hats.

The two most common issues with their design are they offer low sensitivity and have an increased level of internal noise.

Medium Diaphragm Microphones

Medium diaphragm mics are also referred to as hybrid mics because they combine features of both small and large diaphragm designs. They offer a full and warm sound, which is similar to large models, but they still provide high-frequency handling like smaller diaphragms.

One of the most significant advantages of medium diaphragm mics is they can be used in both recording studios and live recording sessions.

It’s important to note that medium diaphragm mics aren’t necessary if you already have a large and small diaphragm mic at your disposal.

Large Diaphragm Microphones

Large diaphragm microphones are commonly used in recording studios because they can efficiently reproduce sonic details. They can move comfortably, in comparison to small diaphragm mics, which are generally stiffer.

They can also detect even the slightest changes in sound pressure levels that help to produce a far more natural sound.

In fact, due to their impeccable nature for reproducing high-quality sounds, they’re a staple in most recording studios. You’ll also find that the majority of modern USB microphones have a large diaphragm that gives you the ability to record relatively anything from podcasts to live performances.

When you’re using a large diaphragm microphone you have to keep an eye on your volume levels, as the higher the volume, the more distorted the sound will become.

What Microphone is Used in Recording Studios: 3 Mics Used in Music

Now that you have a clear understanding of the differences between diaphragms, the next step to figuring out what microphone is used in recording studios is to think about the 3 main designs, dynamic, condenser, and ribbon.

Dynamic

Dynamic mics are incredibly common because they’re not only versatile, but they’re also reliable. They can efficiently capture sound at high and low sound pressure levels, which makes them perfect for working with bass and guitar amps.

You also won’t have to worry about distortion or mic damage from louder instruments such as a drum kit. Not to mention they’re also ideal for working in quieter settings.

The construction of dynamic mics is also what sets them apart as they are typically designed to withstand an ample amount of use, regular transportation, and moisture from the surrounding environment.

Condenser

These designs use capacitance instead of moving coils to capture sound inside of a condenser microphone, as you would find in a dynamic mic. Capacitance allows the microphone to pick up the improved high-fidelity sound quality that is essential for precision recording.

One thing you’ll notice when looking at condenser microphones is they require something known as phantom power or an external source of energy. Meaning, you will be required to purchase a mixer or a box that offers phantom power.

Condenser microphones are perfect for recording relatively anything, as long as the sound pressure levels aren’t too high. They need to be handled with extreme care as they’re not as rugged as dynamic microphones.

Ribbon

The third and final microphone that you’ll typically find inside of a recording studio is a ribbon mic. They’re certainly not as popular as they once used to be, especially when you look into the radio industry, but they can still be useful for recording purposes.

Inside of a ribbon mic is a thin metal ribbon that picks up both air displacement and the velocity of the air that enters the unit. This gives it the ability to be more sensitive to higher frequency noises, such as high vocal notes, without worrying about harshness. You’ll also find that recording on a ribbon mic will give you that warm vintage sound.

Another great use for ribbon mics is in live performances where you can manage ambient noise levels. They can also be used along with condenser and dynamic mics to create a more open track.

How are Microphones Chosen to Record Different Types of Music?

Understanding what microphone is used in recording studios is one thing, but it’s also important to think about what microphones are used for specific purposes in a studio environment.

Vocals

When you’re recording vocals, you’re going to need a device that pays attention to the nuances of the singer. In this case, large diaphragm microphones can be your best bet. If you’re reaching for a more vintage sound, opt for a ribbon or dynamic microphone.

Recording a large group of singers, such as a choir, requires small diaphragm, omnidirectional, or shotgun microphones to help capture the voices of the entire group in an even distribution.

Drums and Bass

Drums and bass are both naturally punchy and loud, which means you’ll be looking at dynamic microphones for the deeper components such as toms, bass, and snares. Small diaphragm mics are excellent for the ride, cymbals, and hi-hats. Typically, drum kits require a few different microphones to capture its diverse sounds.

Electric Guitars and Acoustic Guitars

When it comes to recording electric guitars you’re going to need something that handles a high level of sound pressure such as a condenser mic or a ribbon mic. Though since they are incredibly sensitive, it’s advised that you place them far away from the amp speaker, as you won’t want to damage the inner components.

Acoustic guitars, on the other hand, require a softer sound and as such, you should opt for a large diaphragm condenser microphone. Again, depending on the frequencies and the noise level, you can also take a look at a ribbon microphone.

Depending on your personal preference, the sound you’re going for, and the instruments being used, there are plenty of different types of microphones you can choose from. To set up a recording studio, microphones are some of the most important tools to have at your disposal.

[…] Truth be told, the range of choices can be overwhelming and comparing their unique features only makes it more confusing. It is therefore important that you are clear as to what you want and need before going shopping for a microphone for your recording. […]

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