How to Choose a Microphone For Recording: A Brief Yet Helpful Guide

How to Choose a Microphone For Recording


Buying a microphone may seem easy. You may think that the only factors to consider are the price, aesthetics, or brands. But when you go to a store and are faced with a wide variety of microphones to choose from, you will realize that it is not as simple as you think. Good thing this guide will give you an idea on the different types of microphones and the different specifications that might answer the question “how to choose a microphone for recording?”’

Yes, there is a wide variety of microphones in the market and someone who does not have an idea of its different types would simply shrug his or her shoulders and buy the cheapest one or the one with the sleekest design that he or she sees in the store right there and then only to realize that he or she bought the wrong one.

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.

How to Choose a Microphone for Recording

Before buying a microphone, you need to be specific on what features do you want and for what specific purpose will it be used. There are three types of commonly used microphones: 1) the dynamic, 2) the condenser, and 3) the ribbon microphones.

All types of microphones perform the main function of converting air vibrations into electrical signals, but each one has a specific feature that will distinguish them from the others. It is important that you are aware of these distinguishing features before you can decide on which one to choose.

Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones are the most reliable and versatile among the three commonly used microphones. Its construction is simple and relatively sturdy and rugged. They have a moving coil magnetic diaphragm, which enables the microphones to reliably capture sound even at levels of high sound pressure.

Dynamic microphones convert sound to electrical signals through the principle of electromagnetism. This type of microphone is commonly preferred for on-stage use because of its sturdiness and minimal external power requirement.

Condenser Microphones

Contrary to the moving coil magnetic diaphragm feature of dynamic microphones, condenser microphones have a thin conductive microphone that is located near a metal backplate.

This functions as a capacitor wherein the diaphragm is vibrated by sound pressure and produces changes in the capacitance resulting in the production of audio signals. This feature of condenser microphones results in improved sound quality, making such microphone ideal for studio recordings.

Ribbon Microphones

Ribbon microphones are no longer popular but were once very well known for its undeniable usefulness in the radio industry. This type also works through the principle of electromagnetism and has a light metal ribbon that enables the microphone to pick-up the velocity of the air.

This feature makes the microphone sensitive to higher frequencies and thereby allowing it to capture higher notes. Ribbon microphones can also be used for recording and can be used in combination with a dynamic or condenser microphone.

Microphone Specifications

Aside from having the basic knowledge of the different types of microphones available in the market, it is also essential to know the primary specifications or features of a microphone to be able to decide when choosing one.

Diaphragm Sizes

A diaphragm is the most important part of a microphone as it is the part that picks up the sound. It is composed of a thin material, which vibrates when a sound comes in contact with it, and then converts the sonic energy into electrical energy. The different sizes of diaphragms are small, medium, and large, and this affects the performance of the microphone in terms of handling of sound pressure level, internal noise level, and sensitivity.

Polar Patterns

Polar patterns indicate how and where specifically microphones listen or pick up sound spatially and also indicate blocked positions. Having adequate knowledge of it is important in selecting the right microphone that will capture the sound that you need and minimize unwanted noises. The different Polar patterns are 1.) cardioid, 2.) supercardioid, and 3.) hypercardioid.

Cardioid – This means “heart-shaped” and is the most common unidirectional pattern. The sound is picked up mostly from the front and the sides but to a lesser extent.

Supercardioid – This has a tighter pickup angle than the cardioid, but offers more side rejection.

Hypercardioid – This has more rear sensitivity but rejects sound well from the sides and are exceptionally good at rejecting feedback, too. They also require precise placement to the source because they are very directional.

Multi-pattern microphones

Some microphones have a special feature that allows the polar patterns to be changed with a use of a switch or interchangeable capsules. This feature makes the microphone versatile for different settings and such microphones are called multi-pattern microphones.

Frequency response and response curves

The frequency response of a microphone, which varies from low to high and is measured in Hertz, is the range of frequencies that the microphone will pick up. While this gives you an idea of the range that a microphone can reproduce, the response curve indicates the performance of the microphone at different frequencies.

Sensitivity

A sensitive microphone will be able to capture even the slightest sound. It is an indication of how quiet the microphone can detect a sound.

Summary

It is always wise to remember that no matter how overwhelming the different types of microphones in the market are plus the various features they come with, knowing them would greatly help you understand how to choose a microphone for recording.

Though an expert-level of knowledge is not necessary, a familiarity of the things discussed above would come in handy in choosing the most appropriate microphone for your recording or for whatever purpose you have in buying one.