While there are many signal processing devices available to enhance your
sound, adding a good quality microphone may be the best way to improve the
sound of vocals and acoustic instruments in your recording or live performance.
Signal processing, amplifiers, mixers, and recording equipment can only enhance
what was captured by your microphones in the first place, so make sure to get
the best mics you can afford.
When deciding on which type of microphone to use for recording, remember
that there are no hard set rules regarding how they are used. They all
basically do the same thing, and that is to convert sound waves into electrical
voltage. But how each design makes that happen helps us determine which
applications are most suitable. Of all microphone designs the two most common,
dynamic and condenser, will handle a majority of your recording needs.
Dynamic Microphones vs. Condenser Microphones
Dynamic microphones are the versatile, rugged workhorse of a
musician's microphone tool box. Their tailored frequency response and
ability to handle high-volumes, allows them to be used for most recording
applications, from live handheld vocals and broadcast, to miked-up guitar amps
and percussion. Don’t worry about the previous performer
“eating” the mic or spilling a drink, dynamic mics are naturally
resistant to moisture and typically feature an internal shock mount and pop
filter for added durability.
Although more expensive than their dynamic counterpart, the most common
microphone found in studios are condenser microphones. These mics come in two
basic flavors, small and large-diaphragm. Common design elements include high
sensitivity, a greater frequency response, and additional voltage requirements
from either phantom power, batteries or USB ports on your computer. But this is
where the similarities end.
Large-diaphragm mics are the standard choice for studio vocals, reproducing
an overall deeper “warm” tone throughout the frequency spectrum.
Remember to pick up a pop-filter when recording with these mics as their
sensitive nature makes them prone to “Puh” and “Shh”
sounds, resulting in unwanted distortion.
Also known as “pencil condensers,”
small-diaphragm microphones consistently reproduce sound more evenly than their large-diaphragm brothers.
They benefit greatly from faster transient response times resulting in superior
detail and focus of direct and overhead recordings of instruments like pianos,
cymbals and even choirs. Additionally, there are more durable handheld versions
available for live use and “matched pairs,” which offer maximum
flexibility for stereo recordings of individual instruments or live performance
Live Microphones vs. Recording Microphones
Again, there are no hard rules regarding recording, only techniques. For
live sound applications too much sensitivity can be a problem. An overly
sensitive mic can pick up sound from your speakers, causing feedback. It can
also, pick up handling noise which is a problem for a handheld mic. Therefore,
a live sound
microphone, whether condenser or dynamic, needs to reject unwanted sounds
and handling noise and stand up to the punishment of performance.
Modern manufacturing has greatly improved microphone performance in recent
years, providing high-quality sound at a relatively low cost. There are great
condenser mics designed for live performance and great dynamic mics that can
enhance your recordings. Sam Ash has a large selection of both dynamic and
condenser microphones for most any application.