When it comes to home recording equipment, one of the most important and difficult decisions is buying microphones. There are many different types of microphones for many different budgets and the amount of options is sometimes overwhelming. Unfortunately, the abundance of microphone options sometimes leads people to buy the wrong microphone for the wrong occasion. To shed some light on this decision, I’d like to offer some tips to help guide you towards the right one.
Before we get into the different types of microphones that are available, my biggest suggestion is to test out the microphone you like before you buy it, to make sure you like the results. Ultimately, you should always make your final decision based on what you hear. There are microphones with similar qualities and similar price range to different range of tastes and styles, so our ears are always the greatest judge.
Here are the different types of microphones and some potential situations that you might use them:
Condenser microphones are widely known as the most common microphone type for recording vocals. In fact, if you are serious and you want to make commercial quality vocal recordings, you definitely should look into buying a condenser microphone.
Amongst all the microphone types, condenser microphones offer the widest frequency response from extreme low, bassy sounds to high pitched sounds. Especially, if you are recording high quality vocals or instruments, condensers are your go-to option for professional quality sound. They also offer higher sensitivity and lower noise than dynamic microphones, which is why they are more preferred for recording vocals.
In terms of price range, condensers tend to be the most expensive microphones among their peers. So, you probably won’t need a condenser microphone if you just need a microphone for tutorial videos or podcasts.
Dynamic microphones are great for live performances. They are typically built rugged and they have internal shock mounting, which allows them to be held. Some dynamic microphones are also regularly used for recording rock vocals, electric guitars, or drums since they respond nicely to loud situations. They are much more affordable compared to condenser microphones.
Ribbons typically have a vintage and soft sound. They are bidirectional, which means that the microphone responds to sound arriving from the front or back of the mic, and does not pick up sound arriving on its sides. For this reason, they are regularly used for stereo recording, especially in specific cases where you want to eliminate unwanted noise between two sources, like in broadcast. It is also possible to record quiet instruments with ribbon microphones, such as acoustic guitars or violin, as they pick up sound in a more direct manner. Of course, ultimately it depends on your taste and how you like your recordings done. For a more ambient atmosphere, using condenser microphones for quieter instruments might be a better fit.
USB Microphones are simple, to the point, and an affordable option for making online videos, podcasts, or audiobooks. You certainly don’t get the extremely high level of quality you would get from condenser and dynamic microphones. But USB microphones are easier to use and more affordable compared to condenser and dynamic. USB microphones are also getting better in quality everyday. There are even some music producers and engineers who argue that it is possible to make hits with USB microphones these days, that is if you know how to use it right! While this is a radical claim even for today, ultimately, the outcome of your recording depends on your methodology and purpose.
Shotgun microphones are most regularly used in movies and on live TV, because they have a unique ability to isolate sound. In noisy environments, shotgun microphones make it possible to hear the person talking to the microphone. For this reason, you can often find them being used in situations such as news reporting or wildlife documentation. If you are doing something outside of music, such as the scenarios above, you can definitely use a shotgun microphone to obtain the best results.
There are many types of microphones available to our disposal, but these five options are the most common ones that are being used today. Like I said in the beginning of this article, it is imperative that you test out different microphones before you buy them, and try to get the one that fits your purpose and taste the best. The best way to learn more about microphones is to record with more microphones. You can rent out a studio, or you can borrow microphones from friends and colleagues to see which options work best for you. I hope that this post provides you a nice introduction in your microphone search. Good luck and have fun finding the best microphone for you!