Picking out the best microphone that is ideal for you can be a tough task given that there’s a myriad of microphones available in the market today. However, that can be made a bit easier if you’re aware of the most common types of microphones and its uses.
Not all the microphones are suitable for you and you need to evaluate their features against your required ones to find the one suitable for you. Learning the application of each type will narrow down your search for the perfect microphone for your home studio or professional studio. Without further ado, let’s walk you through the different types of microphones that are available in the market.
You can also read: Your Guide To Singing Microphones
1. Dynamic Microphone
Dynamic microphones are the most reliable, versatile, and relatively more affordable type of microphone. Due to their response to transients and high Sound Pressure Level (SPL), they are ideal for loud sources of musical instruments such as electrical guitars, drums, metal/rock vocal, etc. These highly durable microphone will work just fine even you drop them multiple times.
Dynamic microphones use a moving coil magnetic diaphragm so they can easily capture sounds even at extreme sound levels. So when you’re using these microphones, you don’t have to worry about unwanted distortion.
There are multiple affordable options for dynamic microphones in the market but the most popular ones are Shure SM57, SM58 and SM7B, Sennheiser MD421, and Electrvoice RE20. The Shure SM57 is a popular industry-standard microphone is perfect for recording loud musical instruments including snare drums and guitar amplifiers. Due to their acceptance of high sound levels, you’ll most likely come across its use in any pop, rock, or metal song. The Shure SM58 is great as well and it’s quite popular among touring artists as it is extremely durable and they don’t have to worry about it breaking every time they drop it on stage!
- Suitable for loud musical instruments and powerful vocals
- Does not require a power supply
- Durable and reliable
2. Condenser Microphone
These are extremely sensitive microphones as their mechanism depends on a thin diaphragm that vibrates in correspondence to sound pressure. Consequently, they create audio signals even when there is heavy breathing. This type of microphone is suitable for vocals and soft sound output instruments such as acoustic guitars and pianos.
Condenser microphones are easy to recognize as the majority of them have a “pop” shield covering the actual mic to prevent excess pressure from heavy breathing creating noise. When you see pop singers recording a song in a studio in movies, they’re most likely using a condenser microphone. The plus point is of using a shield is that it allows the microphone to deliver the most natural type of sound output due to their sensitive mechanism.
Since they convert vibrations into electric current they need a power supply to function. You can choose from small diaphragm condenser microphones (also known as pencil microphone) and large diaphragm condenser microphones. While the former delivers consistent pickup patterns the latter is perfect for creating pro studio ambiance due to their crisp output.
The Shure SM81 is a great option for a small diaphragm condenser microphone. For the large type, you can go for Rode NT1A. Also, another professional grade condenser microphone that is quite popular among acoustic guitar players is the SE X1 S. It’s constructed with tough steel grille and features gold-spluttered capsule. So, it will be a great option if you’re in search of a studio-quality well-built condenser microphone.
- Suitable for acoustic guitars and vocals
- Requires a power supply
- Ideal for precision recording that includes subtle tonal differences in acoustic guitars or pianos
- Sensitive to heavy breathing
3. Ribbon Microphone
This type of microphone dates back to the earliest years of their existence. Designed like vintage musical tools, ribbon microphones are excellent at picking up audio from multiple instruments at a time. Not only do they pick up air but they also capture velocity thereby making them extremely sensitive. With ribbon microphones, you’ll be able to capture the highest pitches without any chance of distortion which is why they are quite expensive as well.
Although ribbon microphones are the types of microphones which is not as popular as they were when they came out, these versatile mics are making a comeback due to the manufacture of more sturdier and reliable ones. While their body is durable, they use thin aluminum ribbon as a replacement of diaphragm seen in condenser microphones. Also, they produce a figure 8 polar pattern without any unwanted damage which means that they are omni-directional. Ribbon microphones capture sound from both sides front and back, making them extremely sensitive while giving them the ability to grasp multiple sounds at the same time.
If multiple musical instruments are played at the same time in your home studio or a professional studio, the best idea would be to grab a ribbon microphone since they clearly fit for all-purpose recording. A classic example of a high quality ribbon microphone would be Royer 121. With that being said, ribbon microphones are the most fragile type of microphones you can find even with the incorporation of durable parts. So, you should be extra careful while handling them in comparison to dynamic or condenser microphones.
- Ideal for vocals, choirs, strings, piano, and woodwind
- Extremely sensitive
- Has a vintage appearance
- Suitable for recording multiple musical instruments played at the same time
- On the higher end of the price spectrum
Choosing the right microphone is crucial in recording. If you do not utilize the correct microphone for a particular musical instrument, the output will not be the best. So you must select the ideal one at first try in order to avoid repurchases. Now that you’re aware of the different types of microphones, you should be able to choose one for your instrument or of course go ahead and purchase different ones for multiple musical instruments in your studio.