To learn how to choose a microphone, you first need to understand why you need it — record videos, sing on stage or host podcasts. Here we will talk about what types of microphones can be found and how they differ.
What are microphones
- Studio — these microphones are designed for recording sound in the studio or at home. They are both large and small. The latter include the AKG P220. It is on such microphones that audio tracks for films and music albums are written. Similarly, they are used by bloggers and streamers. Most often they are connected via a USB cable or a 3.5 mm jack.
- Concert — This type of microphone is used during live performances. Microphones are both wired and wireless, are included in the amplifier and often have a handle. These microphones are also often mounted on a stand.
- Reporter — this type includes both small lavalier microphones and boom microphones that are attached to a recording device. A good example of such a microphone is the Raylab Rec. DH LavMic, which is also built for blogging and outdoor work.
- Headsets are built-in microphones that are combined with headphones, such as Apple AirPods.
There are several ways in which microphones work:
But only the first two are common, since the rest are of poor recording quality.
Dynamic microphones include a small electric generator, which consists of a diaphragm — a special plate, a voice coil and magnets. Sound causes the diaphragm and coil to oscillate, and the oscillation causes an alternating current. This type of microphones are reliable, and the design allows them to work in different conditions. For example, the Audio-Technica ATR-2100-USB dynamic microphone can be used for outdoor press conferences.
Dynamic microphones pick up loud and strong sounds and it is almost impossible to overload them. Choose them for live performances and concerts.
Condenser microphones work with a plate that vibrates with sound. It causes the charge on the capacitor to fluctuate, which leads to sound recording. Such microphones are smaller in weight and size, and their sound is more accurate than that of a dynamic one. Condenser microphones require greenhouse conditions to operate, and the range of processed frequencies is lower than that of dynamic ones. Also, the electronics built into the microphone adds noise when recording, which is especially noticeable in cheap models.
Choose them for use in studios, concert halls and theaters.
Another important point is the directionality of the microphone. It displays the sensitivity of the microphone, depending on the location of the sound source.
— Unidirectional microphones are most sensitive to sound from one direction. They most often have a cardioid radiation pattern, shaped like a heart. The angle of operation of such a microphone is about 130 °.
- Microphone with cardioid directivity, this is Raylab Rec. MiniMic, it records sound from the front, drowning out ambient noise as much as possible. This gives a clear voice without distracting sounds and is suitable for reportage blogs.
- The AKG D7 S is a super-cardioid microphone that picks up sound well from the front and part of the back, but not from the sides. Suitable for recording comments and interviews in segments where the voice of the presenter is not important.
- The hypercardioid pattern in the Audio Technica PRO25AX microphone functions exactly the opposite: the sound captures weaker in front, stronger in the back. Suitable for those who shoot vlogs.
- Bi-directional microphones pick up sound equally well from the front and back and do not pick up sound from the sides. Their diagram is called “eight”. A microphone such as the Audio-Technica PRO24CMF is a good choice for interviews.
- The omnidirectional microphone picks up the sound around in the same way according to the spherical diagram. Suitable for recording nature videos and video tours. For example, lavalier omnidirectional Boya BY-F8OD.
Sensitivity and frequencies
Microphone sensitivity is reported in decibels (dB) or millivolts per Pascal (mV/Pa). Negative and low decibel readings mean less sensitivity. The low mV/Pa also means that the sensitivity is low.
But the sensitivity is not equal to the quality of the recording, it all depends on what and where you plan to record. For example, at a chamber concert or in a studio interview, it is better to use high sensitivity, and on a noisy street — low.
Sound pressure levels, or SPL, are also measured in decibels and reflect the maximum sound intensity that a microphone can pick up. The average value is 100 dB, the high value is 130 dB.
From the range of reproducible frequencies depends on how natural the sound will be on the recording. Vocals and musical instruments require a range of 40–50 Hz to 15,000 Hz, although 20–30 Hz is recommended for bass instruments. 80–10,000 Hz is enough to record speech. And for these purposes, the Raylab RecMic SH LavMic lavalier wired microphone, whose range is 20–20,000 Hz, is perfect. This is more than the average recommended, and means that the microphone will not be overloaded with loud sounds. The voice will remain clear even if a car passes by or a helicopter flies in the sky.
To connect a microphone to an amplifier or recording device, several types of connectors are used.
- Jack (jack) is of several types: standard 6.3 mm, mini-jack 3.5 mm and micro-jack 2.5 mm. The standard one is used in some types of professional musical equipment, the mini-jack is used for computers and user devices (speakers, players, smartphones), and the micro one is used for portable equipment (labels and some types of headphones).
- XLR is a professional connector found on live microphones and is used to connect to an amplifier.
- The USB connector is used for home appliances and connection to a computer.
- Adapters can be used with connectors, which are often included in the kit.
- Signal/noise is a measure of distortion, the higher the value, the less the sound is distorted. The standard value is 65 dB, in professional technology the value can exceed 70 dB. But modern microphones sometimes offer extended performance, such as the Raylab Rec. MiniMic is 76 dB, which is rare in compact microphones. This means that there will be less distortion when recording from such a device.
- Range or cable length is important depending on the purpose of the microphones. For example, the Shure SM57-LCE can operate wirelessly up to 100 meters, while the budget Thomson M135 is limited to 3.5 meters of wire.
- The body material is usually metal or plastic. Metal is heavier, but more reliable. Plastic is lighter, but can break if dropped or bumped.
- Accessories may be included or sold separately. For reporter models, this is a wind protection, which can be foam and fur. Fur protection is designed for strong gusts of wind and loud external noise. Foam rubber is effective when recording indoors. It is best if the kit includes both types of tips, like Raylab Rec. D.H. LavMic. Thanks to this, you can record different segments by simply changing the windshield.
Lavalier microphones often also come with a clip for attachment. For studio and live devices, you can additionally purchase table filters that do not let in extraneous noise, wireless power supplies, amplifiers and racks.
Always choose a microphone that suits your purpose.
For vlogging and interviews in fine weather or in the studio, a lavalier cardioid condenser microphone such as the Raylab Rec. D.H. LavMic.
If you are recording outdoors in bad weather, a dynamic lavalier microphone such as the Ulanzi AriMic is a better choice.
For recording solo podcasts and streams, get a unidirectional desktop microphone such as the RODE NTUSB.
And if you record vocals, then you should get a cardioid studio microphone with a filter, like the BOYA BY-M800.
And of course, never forget that price is not an indicator of quality.