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Microphone Guide : Tpes of Microphones

It doesn't matter how good your system, your voice, or your playing is. If you want to capture real world sounds, there's one thing all that digital magic can't make up for and that's a bad recording.

There are several different types of microphone availalbe, for a range of different applications. The two basic modela are Dynamic and Condenser...


Dynamic mics use a plastic diaphragm attached to a coil of wire suspended in a magnetic field. Sound pressure causes the entire assembly to move, producing a very small electric current. Dynamic mics are very rugged, making them ideal for live work, and relatively cheap. The drawback is that, because of the bulky diaphragm assembly, they aren’t as sensitive to high frequencies. They can still do a good job on vocals, though, and are the ideal choice for close miking drums and guitar amps. A classic dynamic mic is the
Shure SM58.. Every studio should have at least one.


Also known as a capacitor mic, this type has two very thin metal plates (often gold), one of which is fixed. Sound makes the other plate vibrate and thanks to a polarising charge, a very small current is produced. Because the vibrating assembly is very light, these mics are much more sensitive to higher frequencies, but
they're also more delicate. Large or small diaphragm versions are available, with the former great for warm sounding vocals and the latter great at capturing the highs. The classic pro condenser is the Neumann U87 and a new classic budget model is the Rode NT1A. This latter mic offers exceptional accuracy for the price and is therefore a great partner to plug-ins like Antares Mic Modeller.

There are also a number of different microphone pick-up patterns to consider. Here’s what they do:

Cardioid: Also known as unidirectional, this is the most common type. Here, the mic picks up sound from directly in front (the name comes from the heart shape of the pick-up pattern when plotted on a graph). Cardioid is ideal for less forgiving acoustic spaces. Hyper-cardioid mics are even more directional.

Omni-directional: These mics pick up sound from all around, and so are great ambience mics but not well-suited to any other type of work in untreated acoustic spaces (ie, most of our studios!).

Figure-eight: These pick up sound equally from in front and behind. There are various applications for this
(multiple backing singers sharing a mic, using a pair to stereo mic a piano, etc), but for most purposes
cardioid is a better choice.



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