Take a look at any online music superstore, and what do you see?
Thousands upon thousands of microphones.
But you don’t want thousands of mics. You want one – or two – or however many it takes to get your home recording studio up to par.
To do that…it all begins by knowing your options.
And in today’s article, that’s exactly what you’ll get: A list of the 6 types of microphones you should expect to use in your studio.
Starting first off with…
1. Dynamic Microphones
Dynamic mics are typically used to record instruments in the low to mid frequency ranges. Those include drums, percussion, bass, and electric guitar.
Next are the features:
- Dynamic mics are built tough. Ever notice how stage mics are almost always dynamic mics? That’s because in live performances, accidents happen…a lot. Mics get dropped. Mics get smacked by drumsticks. Mics take a beating. And dynamic mics can handle a beating.
- The diaphragm of a dynamic mic is typically more robust. Therefore dynamics can record at much higher sound levels of acoustic drums without being damaged.
- Dynamic mics are passive, meaning they do not require an external power source.
- Dynamic microphones are resistant to moisture, meaning they can handle the constant environmental changes of life on the road.
- Dynamic mics have a higher gain before feedback. This feature is great for live use. But in the studio, it’s irrelevant, since the musicians wear headphones, and there is no feedback.
It’s a cheap, durable, no frills microphone. A sharp contrast to the next type of microphone on the list…
2. 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 the key features to know:
- Unlike dynamic mics, condenser mics contain many small parts and therefore very fragile. So don’t drop them, because they will break.
- Condenser mics have a small, light diaphragm which allows them to accurately record high frequency detail. With less mass to move, it’s more sensitive to the lower energy levels of higher frequencies.
- Condenser mics are active, meaning the require phantom power. This means they can achieve higher gain, and record quieter sounds. Unfortunately, that also means that they’re more sensitive to feedback. For live use, feedback could be a problem. In the studio, it’s mostly irrelevant.
- Condenser mics are typically more expensive, as all those small delicate parts are more difficult to build and assemble.
The next microphone on the list is has a design pretty similar to this one, with one notable difference: a larger diaphragm.
3. Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
They’ve been romanticized in movies and television.
The young beautiful pop star – recording her debut album in the studio for a major record label – singing into of course, a large diaphragm condenser.
For recording 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’s a compromise between the other two.
4. Ribbon Microphones
While not essential in the recording studio, ribbon mics offer a welcome change from usual dominance of 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.
- Like dynamic mics, ribbon mics are passive, meaning they require no external power.
- Like dynamic mics, they’re typically quite durable.
- Like condenser mics, they are typically good at capturing high frequency details.
- Because of their design, they have a bi directional polar pattern, which makes them ideal for use in stereo recording.
5. USB Microphones
USB microphones are the newest players on the recording studio scene. Until around 2005, they didn’t exist.
Today, they’re actually becoming quite popular. Are they ideal for studio recording? No. Rarely will you see a professional recording studio that even has one.
But can they be useful for a novice home recording studio? Absolutely. Here’s why:
They are insanely simple to use. They require no need for preamps, no digital converters, and no audio interfaces. You just plug it in to a USB port on your computer and that’s it.
Technically they can even be used without any DAW software (although you’ll want to have at least that).
If someone wanted to start recording today, for around 100 dollars, here’s how they’d do it: First, download a free DAW software such as Audacity. Next, get a USB mic and plug it into your computer. And Voila! Instant recording studio.
6. Talkback Microphones
Talkback mics serve a single purpose: to allow you to talk to the musicians between takes. So unlike the other with the other mics on this list, sound quality is inconsequential.
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.
Don’t worry, it’s not hard. All you really need is a simple talkback mic, and a separate aux channel in your DAW session.
That’s Pretty Much it…
So there you go…the complete guide to recording studio microphones types. Hope I didn’t miss anything.