So, you want to start recording and you want it to sound good, but you don’t know what is the best microphone for recording. I heard an instructor once say, “the best microphone for recording is the one you have in your hand.” If however, you do not have any microphones then perhaps we should start there.
There are a plethora of microphones to choose from and which one to choose will all depend upon what it is you’re going to be recording, right? To help you with your choice let us take a look at the kinds of microphones there are and what your project requirements might be.
They all do the same thing, don’t they?
There are many different types of microphones for many kinds of applications, but we will just look at a few of the basic types of microphones that are used by professionals and amateurs alike within the music industry.
The old adage, you get what you pay for, does apply to microphones to some extent. I have found, however, that some of the lesser priced microphones do a very adequate job. When you’re just getting started doing your own recordings, you will want to look to some of the workhorses that have contributed to the success of many of today’s professional and amateur performers.
It is not my intention here to promote any specific brand but it should be noted that the SM57, SM58, E835, and M1, (to name but a few), are very popular among performers across the spectrum. They are worthy workhorses that do a respectable job and are priced reasonably enough for the budding recording artist, sound engineer and/or producer, each coming in at about $100. Whether you have realized it or not, you have heard one or more of them at one time or another, especially where music is being performed.
Let’s take a quick peek
Here is a list of the most commonly used microphones types in the industry.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list. Each of these can crossover into each others niche if you will, which allows you to pick one if you have a wallet on a strict diet. Anyone of these could be used as a stand-alone microphone to do a project. Each, however, does have its own particular quality. Depending on what you will routinely be using the microphone for will help you determine which will be the best fit. It is important to
The Work Horses
Dynamic microphones have been an industry standard for quite some time, and we see them virtually everywhere. Regardless of whether you are watching your favorite band(s) on television, actually attending a live concert, participating in your local place of worship, at the fairgrounds, or your local nightclubs (that goes without saying), you will likely be hearing what these microphones can do. The dynamic microphone can be used in a variety of ways and are often seen used in substitution where the remaining types of microphones on our list are more typically suited.
Condenser microphones come in two basic formats, large diaphragm, and small diaphragm. Generally speaking, condenser microphones are specialty microphones used in specific applications. The large diaphragm microphone is commonly used in recording studios for vocals for example, but can also be used to record instruments such as pianos and acoustical guitars and the like.
It Gets Better
Ribbon microphones are fantastic for room recording, certain vocal applications, acoustical instruments, and drum overheads. These microphones tend to be a little bit more expensive and again are preferred for more specialty applications. A little more expertise is recommended before adding this type of microphone to your toolbox.
A stereo microphone is a little bit more eccentric and it too comes in various formats and configurations. A stereo microphone can come in handy to record a vocalist who is accompanying themselves with guitar for example. The set up would be to aim one part of the stereo microphone toward the vocalist while the other is directed toward the guitar.
Finally, we have the USB mic, that can be integrated into a computer software system, (Digital Audio Workstation or DAW), and in some cases eliminating the need for an external interface. These microphones vary in price and quality and do require some experimentation for familiarity to get the sound that you’re looking for.
It Is Essential…
When it comes to purchasing a microphone, I would encourage you to stay away from any microphone the cost less than the dynamic microphones listed above. While the various formats of a microphone can be used for very specific applications, you’ll want to move forward in acquiring the microphone type best suited for the job at hand. For example, the best microphones for recording guitar may not be a dynamic microphone but rather a configuration of a large or small diaphragm condenser microphone.
Different instruments have different needs with regard to how it emanates sound. When you consider the drum kit mic placement, for example, you will do it based on the number of microphones you have at your disposal. Typically at least three sounds pretty good, and of course six sounds great but I have seen as many as eight, (and more). So if you will be recording a drum kit, then you will want to consider making the necessary purchases to enhance your recording potential down the road. Don’t get me wrong, you can record a drum kit with one microphone, but the kind of microphone you use will certainly determine the quality of the sound you get. Experimentation here will be your friend.
That’s a Take
Do you have to have the best? Well doesn’t everybody want the best? But what you want and what you need right now may be two vastly different things. Fortunately, you do not have to be super wealthy to afford to be able to make some recordings and share your work. Between the free software, pawnshops, online shopping and tutorials, and a little research you can acquire a very inexpensive assortment of compatible components to produce something you’ll be proud of. The microphone is one very important element of that end product. Knowing and understanding how to use the one you choose, will make it the best!
Many music stores will let you try out some of their equipment, especially the equipment that they rent out. That’s a good way to get familiar with some of the quality that’s available and again, pay attention to what equipment they are renting out. There is also the off chance that you can purchase some of this equipment at a reduced price, It may not be pretty but it will more than likely get the job done.