Recording Microphones

The Ultimate Buying Guide for your recording studio microphone.

Studio Microphones

What’s a Recording Microphone? 🧐

If you are a musician in training, you have no doubt aspired to high ambitions. The closed circle of your acquaintances and your family is a way to train yourself. But, you probably see yourself recording your compositions and promoting them in concerts.

To make this dream come true, you first plan to acquire your own music equipment. However, you quickly get lost. You realize that the market offers a multitude of microphone choices. Some microphones are much more efficient than others, depending on their use.

You don’t strum an acoustic guitar like an electric guitar, and it’s exactly the same with microphones. They are essential tools in the studio and of course in the home studio. In this article, we’ll take a look at the different types of microphones to guide you in your choices.

 

The Microphone an essential part 🛠

In practice, a studio microphone is a tool for recording sound. It’ s based on the transduction principle. In other words, a sound source will cause an acoustic wave to activate a mechanical system. The latter will in turn create an electrical signal.

The studio microphone will transform an acoustic vibration into an electrical signal. The electrical signal produced will then be a function of the intensity of the acoustic vibration.

The Microphone: a Sound Creation Tool 🦻

To help us to understand, let’s take the example of a cameraman. His camera will be the equivalent of a studio microphone for the musician. It’ s the tool that will allow him to retranscribe his environment in pictures.

At the same time, the microphone is the essential tool for translating the sounds of a musical instrument or a voice. The quality of a video depends on the functions that the camera can offer. There are also different types of cameras, suitable for different shots. With microphones, it’s exactly the same. There are as many microphones for different sound sources and situations.

Characteristics of a Microphone ✅

Regardless of the type of studio microphone and their uses, they share a set of characteristics. When considering the purchase of a microphone, its features may be taken into consideration.

👉 Directivity:

The directivity of a studio microphone corresponds to its sensitivity to the direction of sound. There is no ideal pickup pattern. The shape should be chosen according to the type of application.

  • Omnidirectional directivity: This is the simplest form. The sensitivity of the microphone remains the same in all directions.
  • Unidirectional directivity: In this mode, the studio microphone picks up only the sound source in front of it. In this situation, a distinction is made between cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid directivity.
  • Bi-directional directivity: Usually referred to as figure-of-eight directivity, it picks up sound from both the front and the back. However, with this type of directivity, the microphone doesn’t pick up sound from the sides.

👉 Bandwidth or response curve:

This is the capacity of a studio microphone to pick up and reproduce frequencies. The frequency range of the microphone should be as linear and wide as possible. However, as with some microphones, a well-placed hump can improve the sound quality.

👉 Sensitivity:

It corresponds to the electrical level provided by the microphone as a function of the acoustic pressure received by the diaphragm. The higher the sensitivity, the more favorable the useful signal to noise ratio.

👉The diaphragm:

The size of the diaphragm plays an important part in the frequency response of the microphone. A larger diaphragm will pick up more low frequencies.

👉 The maximum pressure level:

This is the maximum sound pressure level that the microphone is able to pick up and reproduce without distortion. When this level is reached on a regular basis, damage to the capsule and diaphragm can be caused.

👉Power supply:

Usually, dynamic microphones don’t need a power supply. Ribbon microphones and condenser microphones need phantom power ( which was pioneered by Neumann).

In other words, it’ s a technology that allows the studio microphone to be supplied with electrical current through a cable. Currently, most audio interfaces and mixers incorporate this type of power supply, which is set to provide a voltage of +48 volts.

Different Types of Microphones 🙌

There are a multitude of microphones on the market. And each studio microphone has its own specificity. It can be said that a studio microphone corresponds to a specific sound source. However, it is possible to categorize microphones into four families:

 

Dynamic microphones

These are the most popular microphones. They can be found on the concert stage as well as in various recording studios. The main components of a dynamic microphone are: a capsule, a diaphragm, a moving coil and a magnet.

The Dynamic Microphone 🎤

In short, the sound source will cause a sound wave. This will be picked up by the capsule of the studio microphone. Behind this capsule is a diaphragm which will vibrate and move to the rhythm of the sound waves. Its vibrations will make the coil move. The coil will disturb the magnetic field, thus generating an electrical signal.

What are its characteristics ?

Dynamic microphones have a reputation for being very strong. This applies both in the “physical” sense and in the “use” sense. Indeed, during your manipulations, if you accidentally drop it, there will not be much negative impact on it. The same applies to sound recording.

They can be subjected to very high volume levels (decibels SPL) without showing any shame. They are suitable for this purpose. However, this type of studio microphone offers a much less accurate sound quality than its counterparts, especially in the high frequency range.

Because of the heavy weight of the coil, at high frequencies, the sound pressure is less. The coil will then move less, which will produce less electricity.

For which applications were they designed?

Dynamic microphones are usually intended to be stage microphones. Their strength is particularly suitable for live performance. But a dynamic microphone can record any instrument.

To improve the sound quality, we often recommend using a pop filter or a windscreen. As a vocal microphone or for studio recording, the dynamic microphone offers good value for money.

Our selection of dynamic microphones:

As studio microphones, dynamic microphones produce excellent audio quality. Our selection includes :

  • Shure SM57, The classic: it has become the basic microphone on stage and in the studio. Very robust, it is designed to withstand just about anything.
  • Shure SM7B : the most famous studio microphone in the world.
  • Shure SM58 : the legendary studio stage microphone.

The Condenser Microphone 🎤

A condenser or static microphone is an essential part of any professional studio recording equipment. It can be an omnidirectional microphone as well as a microphone with other types of directivity.

How does a condenser microphone work?

To operate, this type of microphone uses a capacitor. It consists of a diaphragm, a fixed electrode and a battery. To charge the two ends of the capacitor, an electric current is needed. The latter will be provided by a phantom power supply, itself provided by an external sound card.

What are its characteristics ?

The condenser microphone is highly sensitive and has excellent sound reproduction. Unlike dynamic microphones, it has no coil. The moving part that will produce the electricity is therefore much lighter. They are very precise, but much more delicate than a dynamic microphone. They are also less resistant to high sound pressure.

For which applications were they designed?

They are the studio microphones by excellence. Engineers appreciate it for the faithful sound reproduction of the recorded instrument. It’ s also used to capture the voice and the sounds of acoustic instruments.

 

On the market, two types of condenser microphones can be identified:

  • those with a large diaphragm, more common and more complete;
  • those with a small diaphragm, much more effective in reproducing high frequencies.

Our selection of condenser microphones:

Our current selection of condenser microphones with an unbeatable quality/price ratio:

  • Neumann TLM 102, the entry-level reference from the giant Neumann.
  • Neumann TLM 103 : for those who want the best for their home studio (the studio microphone used by Billie Eilish).
  • AKG C214 : an excellent studio microphone for professional recording of voices and acoustic instruments.
  • Rode NT1A : it is no longer presented, as it”s so well known in Home-Studio today. It is the first studio microphone to have in its arsenal.

 

It’ s also possible to build your own condenser microphone with a good quality buildguide and of course the good components, in this domain, a site offers a set of kit of condenser microphone ready to use or in DIY, we invite you to have a look on the site: www.micandmod.com

Le Microphone à Ruban 🎤

Ribbon microphones are the most delicate. This technology dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. The diaphragm is made of a thin metal ribbon folded like an accordion. 

How does a ribbon microphone work?

Here again, it is a question of vibration and magnetic field variation. Indeed, a metal ribbon is placed within the magnetic field of the magnet. It also acts as a diaphragm and will then move according to the sound waves. It is the movement of the ribbon that will cause a variation of the magnetic field which, in turn, will produce an electric current.

The signal level obtained will be very low, hence the use of an external power supply: a very good quality microphone preamp.

What are its characteristics?

The ribbon microphone produces exceptional sound. It combines the best in itself, as it is also a dynamic microphone. It can therefore be used to record powerful instruments as well as acoustic instruments.

Another feature of ribbon microphones is their ability to produce a warm sound. However, it is a big investment. In addition to its price (very high compared to its competitors), it is necessary to invest in an amplifier.

For which applications were they designed?

It’s a versatile studio microphone that produces a very desirable sound. As an added bonus, the sound produced by this type of microphone has a warm, vintage feel. It picks up the high notes in a very soft way. Usually a two-way microphone works wonders on acoustic guitars, overheads and guitar amps.

Our selection of ribbon microphones :

For your recordings, here is our selection of the best ribbon microphones:

The USB Microphone, a new era 🎤

USB microphones are a family of microphones in their own right. They have developed with the rise of computers and allow digital recording. The general functioning principle of a USB microphone is the same as that of a conventional microphone. Indeed, it captures the sound and translates it into an electrical signal. It can also be used for voice broadcasting or recording.

The big difference is in the connectivity. This is an external microphone. In general, microphones are connected to XLR. There is no need for a phantom power supply. This type of studio microphone uses a USB cable (USB port) that is directly connected to a laptop, desktop and iPad.

USB microphones are compatible with Windows and Mac OS operating systems and with any audio interface. Some models require the use of a sound card, others already integrate it. Very easy to use, it is plug and play. With a USB microphone, you don’t have to worry about drivers when installing it. Once connected, the microphone will install a driver by itself.

The device will be recognized automatically by your laptop. For more versatility, some models are equipped with a stereo headphone input (a jack). This allows you to have immediate feedback on the quality of your recording. It can be used to record voice, to communicate in video call or audio call, and also for music.

Our selection of USB microphones:

For a unique experience, we offer the following USB microphones:

General Recommendations 🖐

To ensure that your studio microphone will give you outstanding sound, it is recommended that you follow some basic instructions.

Before a performance or recording, you should do some sound tests with your studio microphone. The purpose is to check everything related to the sound system.

As much as possible, it is important to limit handling of the microphone. To avoid handling noise, you can use a microphone with shock protection, a tripod or a microphone stand.

We recommend choosing the polar pattern carefully to control any background noise.

Conclusion ❤️

Want to install your own studio? Choosing a studio microphone remains one of the most important questions. Apart from a mixing board and a computer, the microphone remains an indispensable piece of recording studio equipment. If you are a beginner, our site offers various microphone tests. These tests can help you choose the right studio microphone to help you capture great sounds. This will allow you to showcase outstanding talent and let the magic happen!

Recording Microphones

The Ultimate Buying Guide for your recording studio microphone.

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