MICROPHONES There’s a microphone for every application, and all mics are suitable for a range of uses.
Choosing the right microphone can be a daunting task. If you’re new to this feld of practice and feel a little confused don’t worry, that’s natural. Here’s a brief over-view of a few fundamentals and if you need more help / guidance - we have several studio engineers / producers amongst our ranks who would be more than happy to assist, just get in touch!
To boil it down, if the mic is for live application or for recording very loud sound sources such as guitar amps or drums, you need a dynamic microphone. A dynamic mic is essentially a magnet that can tolerate very high SPL’s (Sound Pressure Levels) without flinching. These mics are usually ruggedly built and designed to be hand held (and mis-handled)
You’ll often see the term pickup or ‘polar’ pattern being banded about. This is the direction that the microphone is responsive from. The majority of microphones are cardiod in nature in that they pick up from the front in loosely a heart shaped pattern (hence the name) but bi directional (from front and rear - perfect for recording multiple backing vocalists) and omnidirectional (from 360 degrees - great for recording whole ensembles or capturing room ambience) are also common. Often microphones have the ability to switch between and blend these pickup patterns, making them super versatile for a recording session that requires flexibility.
Condensor mics are tonally and dynamically more repsonsive Condensor microphones If you’re recording - the chances are you need a condensor mic, 95% of the mic’s that you find in a recording studio will be this type. They’re much more sensitive than their dynamic cousins and as such usually are not meant to be handled, but they are both tonally and dynamically more repsonsive and as such, are perfect for recording.
Other types Their are a few other types of microhone on the market, each with it’s own typical use. Ribbon mics give a great ‘vintage’ warmth (or rather, not overly bright sound) and valve mic’s can really add a lot of colour to your signal chain, filling in those cracks nicely. Boundary / electret mics are great for capturing low-end detail and a recent addition - USB mics, allow you to plug straight into your computer.
USB mics, allow you to plug straight into your computer what size do I need? Think of a microphone like a speaker with its wires switched round - the lower the frequencies the sound source picks up the larger the diaphragm of the mic you need to pick it up in full depth, hence why small pencil mics may be ill suited for recording upright bass but great for ukulele. Did you know to capture the full girth of the sound the BBC actually often impliment an old loudspeaker with the wires reversed to record kick drum.