What Type of Microphone You Should GetDec 16, 2022
It’s time! You’ve decided to set up a home studio to start recording your own songs, and the centerpiece of said studio is the microphone! So let’s talk about the different types of mics you can use for recording audio at home.
Factors to consider based on the type of recording you’re doing when choosing your microphone are:
- Microphone Type: Condenser, Dynamic, or Ribbon
- Diaphragm Size: Small or Large
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Supercardioid, Omnidirectional, Shotgun, Bidirectional
There are microphone types that are more ideal if you’re recording vocals vs. singing on stage, recording different instruments, recording podcasts, etc.
If you're looking into recording vocals and instruments, condenser microphones are always a great choice. These mics are sensitive enough to capture subtle nuances of the voice, however, they can also pick up unwanted room sound, so definitely be sure to record in either an acoustically treated room, or somewhere with minimal sound and lots of cloth-like materials to dampen sound (closets are the best!).
If you chose a condenser mic, you must make sure phantom power is engaged on your interface. Often it is a button that says “48v” or “phantom.” Other mic types do not require phantom power, so you’d make sure it is off if you use a non-condenser, or a condenser that has it’s own power source like a tube condenser.
Diaphragm size is important to consider depending on what instrument you’re recording. For vocals, go with a large diaphragm! They capture a wide frequency spectrum for a rich, full, detailed sound. Small diaphragm condenser microphones are usually chosen for capturing fast, transient sound sources like drums and percussion.
Dynamic mics are typically a go-to for live shows. They are duper durable, they can handle a lot more sound without distorting, which is important if you’re a dynamic singer like me! They’re a little less sensitive than condensers, so loud sound sources are more manageable. Many people use dynamic mics in their drum mic setups for recording. Even though vocalists tend to use them in live performances, they’re not as common to record vocals.
In my experience, ribbon mics are the least commonly used microphone in general these days. They are very fragile and delicate, and expensive. If you’re a serious hobbyist who plans to record your album onto 2 inch tape, you might be interested in ribbon mics for their warmth and vintage nuances. If you’re reading this article, likely you’re not a mic aficionado and can skip over the ribbon mic ;)
Image courtesy of The Podcast Host
Microphone polar pattern is basically what area around the mic is sound going to be captured from. With recording vocals we tend to choose a Cardioid pattern because we just want to record mostly what’s directly in front of the diaphragm, and maybe a little bit of width.
Shotgun patterns are often used when recording podcasts or radio shows, and you’d have to speak directly into the mic without moving your head too much. If you move your head to the side of the mic, you’ll lose some of that audio in the recording.
Omnidirectional mics are great for capturing room sound of live band or drum set recordings. They’re also great for recording choirs or gang vocals with people standing all around the room. Many body mics can be omnidirectional (lavaliers) to be able to capture the voice when you’re moving your head around a lot.
Consider your budget. Recording microphones can run from $99-thousands! Check out my recommendations of my favorite vocal recording mics depending on your budget.
When it comes to recording- whether it’s to make money in music or for fun, for sync placement or a podcast- choosing the right microphone can make all the difference! What is almost just as important as choosing the microphone itself is how to use it properly! Check out this quick read on proper microphone placement and mic technique before you start to record your own vocals.
Interested in learning about ways to make money with your music? Download my free Masterlist of Music Revenue Streams here!
Special thank you to Kira Ruth Condey for co-writing this article!
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