Types of Microphones

Types of Recording Microphones
Here are the various types of microphones that are used in recording studios (and its not just a couple). No wonder there are hundreds of microphones available to choose from, in case you decide to buy.

So which one to choose, because after all you just need one or two to get the job done? You can decide that only if you know what are the options available. So here we go – the various types of microphones that are used for recording purposes.

USB Microphones

USB microphones are probably the newest in the block; these were not around until a few years back.

However, with computers becoming widespread and most accessories being USB based, it was just a matter of time before these were available.

And today, they’re quite popular actually, obviously because of their ease-of-use. Just plug it in to a USB port on the computer, and you’re ready to use it. No need for preamps, digital converters, or any audio interface.

Want to setup a recording studio for cheap? Here’s how you do it!

  • Download a free DAW software (such as Audacity)
  • Get a USB mic (inexpensive)
  • Plug it into your computer and your recording studio is ready.

Do the pros use it yet? Not yet! These are not used in professional recording studios. But for a novice home recording studio, definitely yes!

Here are some excellent USB Microphones that will help you get started.

Dynamic Microphones

This is your general-purpose music recording mic and most musicians have one in their studio. Dynamic mics are typically used to record instruments in the low to mid frequency ranges (drums, percussion, bass, and electric guitar).

Here are some of their advantages/features:

  • Rugged & Durable: Preferred for live performances as these are built for rough use.
  • Heavy & robust Diaphragm: Can record at much higher sound levels (acoustic drums) without getting damaged
  • Passive Circuitry: Do not require an external power source.
  • Resistant to Moisture: Simple changes in humidity (resulting from traveling) won’t affect this mic.

It’s economical & no frills microphone; quite different from the Condenser mics.

Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones

Small diaphragm condenser microphones are typical used to record instruments that are rich in high frequency content. Those instruments commonly include cymbals, acoustic guitar, and acoustic piano.

Here are some of their advantages/features:

  • Delicate Design: These are very fragile, very likely will break if you drop them.
  • Light Diaphragm: Allows them to accurately record high frequency detail. It’s more sensitive to the lower energy levels of higher frequencies.
  • Active Circuitry: They require phantom power, which means they can achieve higher gain, and record quieter sounds. But then, they’re more sensitive to feedback. For live use, feedback could be a problem (in studios, it’s mostly irrelevant).
  • Condenser mics are Expensive

The next microphone is similar to this one, except that it comes with a larger diaphragm.

Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphones

Anybody recording his/her debut album in the studio for a major record label, is of-course going to use a large diaphragm condenser.

For recording smooth vocals, these are your go-to mics.

Large diaphragm condensers have a larger capsule because inside they house a larger, heavier diaphragm.

So it captures the fullness and warmth of the lower frequencies like a dynamic mic, but it still captures much of the highs like a small diaphragm condenser. Essentially, it sits somewhere in between these two!

Ribbon Microphones

While not essential in the recording studio, ribbon mics are a viable alternative to the usual dynamic and condenser mics.

Here’s how it compares to the other two:

  • Instead of a diaphragm, ribbon mics use a thin aluminum ‘ribbon’ to conduct sound.
  • They are passive (requires no external power).
  • Typically quite durable.
  • Good at capturing high frequency details (like condensers)
  • Because of their design, they have a bi directional polar pattern, which makes them ideal for use in stereo recording.

Talkback Microphones

This is not really for recording music, but something that is used in studios & onstage. Talkback mics allow you to talk to the musicians between takes. So unlike the other mics discussed here, the sound quality doesn’t really matter.

In high end systems such as older analog consoles, talkback systems usually come built in. But in the home recording studio, you’ll most likely have to design your own. It’s easy to design one; all you need is a simple talkback mic, and a separate aux channel in your DAW session.

To Conclude

That’s pretty much it, and I’m sure its good to know about the various types of recording studio microphones. You probably may start with a dynamic microphone, or even a USB one, which is perfectly alright because you have to go through a big learning curve. You can always upgrade as and when the need arises.

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