Choosing the right microphones for your recordings is as important as composing and arranging. Having the best players but a poor choice of microphones can result in bad sounding recordings.
This article will guide you through the different kinds of microphones and their specific usage. I hope after reading this you will have a head start into the never-ending microphone world.
Types of Microphones
Different types of microphones introduce variable sonic texture to the sound. They color the sound and give it a new flavor. This can either enhance or ruin the sound.
Discussed below are different types of microphones and their sonic textures:
This is the most common type of microphone used in the industry. It has a moving coil inside it, which converts mechanical energy to energy. These microphones do not require any external power source and are often very cost effective too.
Commonly used dynamic microphones:
It has enhanced frequency response between 2 to 5 KHz, hence tends to sound mid-rangy. Tolerance to high SPL and transient signals makes it appropriate for recording electric guitars, Drums and aggressive vocals. Since high frequencies require very fine movement, the heaviness of the diaphragm and the moving coil system makes it less responsive to frequencies above 12 KHz.
Condenser microphones are an industry standard because they capture finest of details and give a flat frequency response. They consist of a very thin diaphragm, which is unattached. They require external power to work, known as phantom power (48V).
Commonly used condenser microphones:
Neumann U47, U67, U87
They have a flat frequency response and capture frequencies above 10KHz very well. Since the diaphragm is very thin and fragile, the tolerance to high SPL’s and transients is low. Due to their ability to capture fine details they are the to go for vocals, acoustic instruments, cymbals, drum-overheads etc.
Ribbon microphone is a special type of dynamic microphone, which has thin corrugated ribbon as the diaphragm. It does not have any moving coil and mostly do not require any external power. It is least sensitive to high SPL’s, transients or windblasts. Special care has to be taken to make sure that none of those things happen. The ribbon inside is so fragile that one should take special care to never turn on the phantom power or it can destroy the microphone forever.
Commonly used ribbon microphones:
Due to the fragile ribbon diaphragm, they capture the high frequencies very well but tend to sound less revealing, less brittle and warmer than the condenser microphones. They are used to record piercing sound sources like trumpets, pianos, strings etc.
Having said all that, I believe there is no right or wrong choice. Experimenting is always the way to go. Perceiving sound is very subjective and personal to each being. For some the aggressive sound of SM-57 might be the best vocal choice and others might prefer a high definition C414.
So go out, experiment and make amazing music.