Studio microphones are one of the most important pieces of any home recording studio. When you use the right microphones for the right job, the improvement in sound quality is immediately noticeable. By making sure that the studio microphones you have are suited for your recording project, you'll spare yourself a big headache down the line and produce a much better recording as well.
Types of Studio Microphones
By using the right studio microphone for the occasion, you'll help ensure that your home recording sounds the way you intended it to. For some home recording projects you may only need one studio microphone to get the job done. Other recordings however, may require multiple studio microphones of varying types. Since different recording projects may require different studio microphones, it's always a good idea to do some research to ensure that the studio microphones you choose match your needs.
Dynamic microphone — By far the most popular type of microphone today is the dynamic microphone. Because of their ability to withstand loud volumes, dynamic studio microphones are great for recording amplified instruments, acoustic drums, and generally loud sound sources. Additionally, dynamic microphones don't need a power source to operate so they will work on nearly every board. The one downside of dynamic microphones is that they tend to be less accurate due to their limited frequency response.
The industry standard Shure SM57 is by far the most widely used dynamic microphone today when it comes to recording everything from amplified instruments to drums. Used in professional recording studios and live concerts alike, the SM57 makes an all around fantastic studio microphone for nearly every home recording project. The clean and robust sound you get at an affordable price from the SM57 has made it a main stay in nearly every studio, and is recommended for yours as well.
Condenser Microphone — Condenser microphones need a power supply called phantom power in order to function properly. By relying on a power source, condenser microphones are able to pick up a much more accurate sound than dynamic microphones, making them great studio microphones for recording vocals and acoustic instruments. The downside of condenser microphones is that they are less suited for loud instruments, and won't work without a power supply.
The Samson C01 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, for example, makes a great low cost option when looking for a condenser microphone capable of recording everything from vocals to acoustic instruments. In fact, the accurate and smooth sound you get with the Samson C01 even makes it a great overhead microphone for the drums.
Ribbon Microphone — Ribbon microphones have long been considered more accurate than both dynamic and condenser microphones. Often times considered to be the most natural sounding type of studio microphone, ribbon microphones can be used on nearly every instrument. However, they are also by far the most delicate of the bunch; using a thin metallic strip to vibrate in accordance with sound waves. Accordingly, care must be taken when using ribbon microphones.
Although ribbon microphones tend to carry a higher price tag, the quality gained is often viewed as worth the cost. And with new, low cost ribbon microphones hitting the shelves, like the CAD Trion 7000 Dual Element Ribbon Microphone, you can often have the best of both worlds. The CAD Trion 7000 brings you a whole new level of sonic clarity with the rich, full body sound it's known for; just be sure to read the instructions before using it, as ribbon microphones often require special care when using them.
USB Microphones — Over the past couple of years, professional quality studio microphones with USB connectors have begun to play an integral role in home recording studios. A USB studio microphone is not actually a new kind of microphone (you can find USB condenser, dynamic and ribbon studio microphones). Instead, for recording rigs that use a computer and software programs, USB microphones can give users the ability to record more tracks simultaneously by plugging directly into the USB port on a computer. The Blue Microphones Yeti has earned the distinction of being the first THX certified microphone because of its exceptional recording abilities.
What type of studio microphone should you use?
Vocals — When the time comes for recording vocal tracks, selecting the proper studio microphone is the first step to success. Typically, large diaphragm condenser microphones are preferred by sound engineers because of their ability to capture the natural warmth and depth of the human voice. However, condenser studio microphones require phantom power, so if that's not an option, the second best choice is typically a large diaphragm dynamic microphone.
Instruments — Depending upon what instrument you're recording, you may want to use a different type of studio microphone. For amplified instruments, a dynamic studio microphone is usually preferred, since these microphones are great at handling the loud volumes that come from amplification. On the other hand, if you're going to be recording a quieter instrument, such as an acoustic guitar or a violin, then a condenser microphone is usually in order.
Drums — Recording drums is no easy task, and without the proper studio microphones it only gets harder. With that being said, there are several different ways people tend to record drum sets. The most common way is to use a dynamic microphone on each of the different drums, and then to use small diaphragm condenser microphones for each cymbal as well as two others overhead to capture the whole set. This way is usually preferred for the control it gives you when mixing the drum set later.