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Studio Microphone

The Buying Guide for your recording studio microphone.

Studio Microphones

What is a Studio Microphone? 🧐

As an aspiring musician, you have undoubtedly aspired to high ambitions. The closed circle of your acquaintances and your family is a way to train yourself. But, you surely see yourself recording your compositions and promoting it from concerts.

To make this dream come true, you first plan to acquire your music equipment. However, you get lost very quickly. You realize that the market offers a multitude of microphone choices. Some microphones are much more effective than others depending on the chosen use.

You don't strum an acoustic guitar like an electric guitar, and it's exactly the same with microphones. They are one of the essential tools in the studio and of course in the home studio. In this article, we will take a look at the different types of microphones to guide you in your choices.

The Microphone, an essential part 🛠

In practice, a studio microphone is a tool that allows you to record sound. It is based on the principle of transduction. In other words, a sound source will cause an acoustic wave to activate a mechanical system. The latter will in turn create an electrical signal.

The studio microphone will transform an acoustic vibration into an electrical signal. The electrical signal produced will then depend on the intensity of the acoustic vibration.

The Microphone, a Sound Creation tool 🦻

To make it easier to understand, let's take the case of a cameraman. Its camera will be the equivalent of a studio microphone for the musician. This is the tool that will allow him to transcribe his environment into picture .

At the same time, the microphone is the essential tool for translating the sounds of a musical instrument or a voice. The quality of a video depends on the functions that the camera can offer. There are also different types of cameras, suitable for different shots. With microphones, it's exactly the same thing. There are so many mics for different sound sources and situations.

The Characteristics of a Microphone ✅

Regardless of the type of studio microphone and their uses, they share a set of characteristics. When you plan to buy a microphone, its characteristics can be taken into account.

Polar pattern:

The directivity of a studio microphone corresponds to its sensitivity depending on the direction of sound they are coming from. For sound recording, there is no ideal directivity. The shape must be chosen according to the type of application.

  • Omnidirectional directivity: this is the simplest form. The microphone sensitivity remains the same in all directions.
  • Unidirectional directivity: this time, the studio microphone only captures the sound source placed in front of it. In this case, we distinguish between cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid directivity.
  • Bidirectional directivity: commonly called directivity with a figure of 8, it captures sound coming from the front and back equally well. However, with this type of polar pattern, the microphone does not pick up sounds coming from the sides.

The bandwidth or response curve:

It constitutes the ability of a studio microphone to capture and reproduce frequencies. The frequency range of the microphone must be as linear and wide as possible. However, as with some mics, a well-placed bump can improve sound quality.

The sensibility :

It corresponds to the electrical level provided by the microphone according to the acoustic pressure received by the membrane. The higher the sensitivity, the more favorable the useful signal ratio between ambient noise.

The Diaphragm:

The size of the diaphragm plays an important role in the frequency response of the microphone. The larger the membrane, the more it will capture low frequencies.

The maximum pressure level:

This is the maximum sound pressure value that the microphone is capable of capturing and reproducing without distortion. When this level is reached on a regular basis, it can damage the capsule and the membrane.

Power:

Generally, dynamic microphones do not need a power supply. Ribbon microphones and condenser microphones need phantom power (which Neumann pioneered).

In other words, it is a technology that allows the studio microphone to be powered with an electric current via a cable. Currently, most audio interfaces and mixing desks incorporate this type of power supply which is set to provide a voltage of +48 Volts.

The Different Types of Microphones 🙌

There are a whole multitude of microphones on the market. And each studio microphone has its own specificity. We can then say that a studio microphone corresponds to a specific sound source. However, it is possible to categorize microphones into three families:

  • Dynamic microphones
  • Condenser microphones
  • USB microphones,
  • Ribbon microphones.

Dynamic microphones

These are the most common microphones. They can be found on stages as well as in different recording studios. The main components of a dynamic microphone are: a capsule, a diaphragm, a voice coil and a magnet.

The Dynamic Microphone 🎤

In short, the sound source will cause a sound wave. This will be captured by the studio microphone capsule. Behind this capsule is a membrane which will vibrate and move to the rhythm of the sound waves. Its vibrations will cause the coil to move. And the latter will disrupt the magnetic field, thus generating an electrical signal.

What are its characteristics ?

Dynamic microphones have a reputation for being very robust. This applies in both the “physical” sense and the “use” sense. Indeed, during your manipulations, if you accidentally drop it, there will not be too much negative impact on it. The same goes for sound recording.

They can be subjected to very high levels of sound volume ( decibels SPL ) without showing damage. They are suitable in this scenario. However, this type of studio microphone offers much less precise sound quality than its counterparts, especially in the treble range.

Given the heavy weight of the coil, at high frequencies, the sound pressure is lower. The coil will then move less, which will produce less electricity.

What applications were they designed for?

Dynamic microphones are generally intended to be stage mics. Their resistance is particularly suited to live performance. But a dynamic mic can record any instrument.

To improve sound quality, we generally recommend using a pop filter or a windshield. As a vocal microphone or for studio recording, the dynamic microphone offers good value for money.

Our selection of dynamic microphones:

As a studio microphone, dynamic microphones produce impeccable audio quality. Among our selection we find:

  • Shure SM57 , the timeless one: it has established itself as a basic microphone whether on stage or in the studio. Very sturdy, it is designed to withstand just about anything.
  • Shure SM7B : the most famous studio microphone in the world.
  • Shure SM58 : the legendary stage studio microphone.

The Static Microphone 🎤

A static or condenser microphone is essential recording equipment for a professional studio. It can be an omnidirectional microphone just as it can have other types of directivity.

How does a condenser microphone work?

To function, this type of microphone will use a capacitor. It consists of a membrane, a fixed electrode, a battery. To charge both ends of the capacitor requires an electric current. The latter will be supplied by phantom power, itself supplied by an external sound card.

What are its characteristics ?

The condenser microphone is very sensitive and has excellent sound reproduction. Unlike dynamic microphones, it does not have a coil. The moving part which will produce the electricity is therefore much lighter. They are very precise, but much more fragile than a dynamic microphone. They are also less resistant to high sound pressures.

What applications were they designed for?

They are the ultimate studio microphones. Engineers appreciate it for the sound reproduction faithful to the recorded instrument. It is also used to capture voice and acoustic instrument sounds.

On the market, we can identify two types of condenser microphones:

  • those with a large membrane, more common and more complete;
  • those which have a small membrane, much more effective in reproducing the high notes.

Our selection of condenser microphones:

Our current selection of condenser microphones with unmissable value for money:

 
It is also possible to build your own condenser microphone with a good quality construction guide and of course the right components, in this area, one site offers a set of condenser microphone kits ready to use or to build yourself We invite you to take a look at the site www.micandmod.com

The Ribbon Microphone 🎤

Ribbon microphones are the most fragile. This is technology that has been around for years. As a membrane, we find a very thin metal ribbon folded like an accordion.

How does a ribbon microphone work?

Here again, it is a question of vibration and variation of magnetic field. In fact, a metal ribbon is placed within the magnetic field of the magnet. It also acts as a membrane and will then move according to the sound waves. It is the movement of the ribbon which will cause a variation in the magnetic field which, in turn, will produce an electric current.

The signal level obtained will be very low, hence the use of an external power supply: a very good quality preamp.

What are its characteristics ?

The ribbon microphone produces exceptional sound. It combines the best in it, because it is also a dynamic microphone. It can therefore be used to record loud instruments, as well as acoustic instruments.

Another particularity of ribbon microphones is its ability to reproduce a warm sound. However, it is a big investment. Indeed, in addition to its price (very high compared to its competitors), you have to invest in an amplifier.

What applications were they designed for?

It is a versatile studio microphone that produces a highly sought-after sound. The icing on the cake is that the sound produced by this type of microphone has a warm, vintage feel. It captures the highs in a very smooth way. Generally we have a bidirectional microphone which produces wonders on acoustic guitars, in overheads, on guitar amps.

Our selection of ribbon microphones:

For your recordings, here is our selection of the best ribbon microphones:

The USB Microphone, a new era 🎤

USB microphones constitute a family of microphones in their own right. They developed with the rise of computing and allow digital recording. The general principle of operation of a USB microphone is the same as that of a conventional microphone. In fact, it captures sound and translates it into an electrical signal. It also allows voice audio broadcasting or recording.

The big difference is in connectivity. It's an external microphone. Normally, microphones are connected via XLR. We no longer need a phantom power supply. This type of studio microphone uses a USB cable (USB port) which will be directly linked to a laptop, desktop and iPad.

USB microphones are compatible with Windows and Mac OS operating systems and with any audio interface. Some models require the use of a sound card, others already integrate it. Very easy to use, it's plug and play. With a USB microphone, you don't have to worry about drivers when installing it. Once connected, the microphone will install a driver by itself.

The device will be automatically recognized by your laptop. For added versatility, some models feature a stereo headphone input (one jack). Allowing you to have immediate feedback on the quality of your recording. It can be used to record voice, to communicate via video call or audio call, and also for music.

Our selection of USB microphones:

For a unique experience, we offer the following USB microphones:

General Recommendations 🖐

To ensure that your studio microphone gives you great sound, it is recommended that you follow some basic instructions.

  • Before a performance or recording, you should do sound tests with your studio microphone. The goal is to check everything related to the sound system.
  • As much as possible, it is important to limit manipulation of the microphone. To avoid handling noise, you can use a microphone with shock absorber, a tripod or a microphone stand.
  • We recommend choosing the polar diagram carefully in order to control all background noise.

Conclusion ❤️

Do you want to set up your own studio? Choosing a studio microphone remains one of the most important questions. Apart from a mixing desk and a computer, the microphone remains an essential recording studio equipment. If you are a beginner, our site offers different microphone tests. These tests can guide you in choosing the studio microphone that will help you capture exceptional sounds. You will be able to highlight extraordinary talents and let the magic happen.  

French