The number of microphones you will find in the market is outright overwhelming. The sheer amount makes it difficult to settle on the best microphone for your needs. You will find yourself sitting on the fence wondering which mic to buy and which to forego.
It is paramount to understand the different types of microphones before you go shopping for one. This will help you narrow down the choices, and you will quickly understand the right tool for your needs. This article will teach you the types of microphones, including dynamic, ribbon, and condenser microphones. You will also learn which microphone is best suited for your requirements.
Types of Microphones
There are three major types of microphones in the market. They include condenser, dynamic, and ribbon microphones.
The three major types of microphones are ideally made to work similarly, but they capture different elements. Each microphone has a different application and is best suited for a specific task.
Different microphones have different types of transducers. Professional condenser microphones have varying systems, from the dynamic mic, polar patterns, and diaphragm sizes. These differences are what affect the way microphones take sound.
There are instances where you might need more than one microphone. If you are in a studio, an array of mics will aid you in settling for the best pick-up for different sounds. For example, the microphone you use to record an acoustic guitar will differ from the one that records the base. Field recording and vocal recording will also have different microphone types.
A condenser microphone is a mic type that uses a capacitor to convert acoustic energy into an electric signal. These microphone types are mostly used in studio recordings because they offer a higher sound quality than dynamic microphones. They are the most preferred for higher frequency and vocals.
Condenser microphones are not only best suited for vocals. They can also be used in recording pianos, acoustic guitars, and orchestral instruments. These mics are of two main types: large diaphragm and small diaphragm.
Small diaphragm microphones are more common than large diaphragm mics. They are primarily used in recording instruments and are great at capturing the sound of acoustic guitars and vocals. Then again, large diaphragm microphones are most suited for studio recordings. They offer better sound quality than condenser microphones with small diaphragms. Some standard condenser mics in the market include MXL 990, RODE NT1, MXL 770, Blue Yeti, Samson C01, Tascam TM-80, Audio-Technica AT2035, AT2021, and AT2010, among others.
A dynamic microphone is the second type of microphone. These are rugged mics that can handle higher volumes. They are most suitable for live performances.
The dynamic mic has less sensitivity than condenser microphones. They can take more sound without altering or distorting the audio. Dynamic microphones can be used in various scenarios, such as live streaming, general recording, interviews, and voice chat.
The most common types of dynamic mics are Shure SM7B, Shure SM58, Audix i5, and the Sennheiser e935. Other types of dynamic microphones include Electro-Voice RE20, Samson Q2U, and Heil PR 40.
The third type of microphone is the ribbon mic. It is a less common microphone type, offering unique sound suited for specific music genres. These mics use a metal ribbon to convert vibrations into an electrical signal, and they have a pattern that resembles figure 8.
There are a few varieties of ribbon microphones on the market. They are less common than condenser and dynamic mics, yet they have a mellower sound. These mics are used in studios to record bands or choirs, sounds of vocals, and acoustic guitars. You can consider some of the ribbon microphones in the market are MXL R144, AEA R84, RODE NTR, AEA RPQ2, Royer SF-12 Stereo Ribbon Microphone, and Beyerdynamic M160.
How to Select the Right Microphone for Your Needs
It is worth noting there is no superior type of microphone. You need to understand what type of microphone best suits your needs. Below are factors you can consider when picking the right microphone type for your needs.
Consider the genre of music you are capturing with your microphone when you are planning to capture instrument and voice sounds. For example, rap and rock music have punchier vocals. These genres, such as dynamic microphones, can be charged with less sensitive mics.
Conversely, genres such as folk and pop that are lyrically focused have a smoother sound. These genres are best recorded with a condenser microphone. Furthermore, ribbon microphones are excellent for taking vocals of natural lower tones.
Another factor to keep in mind is the use case of your microphone. The rules are not cast in stone, but there are common categories that will affect your mic choice:
- Vocal microphones – Theoretically, you can use any mic to capture vocals. Nevertheless, most vocal recordings are done using condenser microphones.
- Instrument microphones – Instruments may have aggressive percussive sounds for large diaphragm condenser microphones or ribbon mics. You can settle for a small condenser mic if you are recording mid-range frequency sounds.
- Lower-end instruments – Instruments on the lower end of the sound spectrum can be challenging to capture. In such a case, you can use a low-end dynamic mic as bass and kick microphone.
Test Out Different Models
There is no right type of mic for recording purposes. Multiple mics can be used to reproduce sound. It is a matter of determining the type of sound you want to capture. If you can access multiple types of mics, test them out on your desired sound.
Your microphone choice will determine the overall quality of your content, whether you are recording vocals, creating podcasts, or making live videos. Each mic comes with a different level of sensitivity and tonal characteristics due to various diaphragms. Therefore, each has a different type of sound.
Before settling for a particular type of mic, it would be best to test them out to see how they sound. Now that you understand the different types of microphones and their use cases, you can pick the right one for your sound requirements. This may mean acquiring different types of microphones.