Get to know the different microphone types and where you should use them

The microphones available on the market now are quite sophisticated and high-tech devices. The role of microphones these days is difficult to overestimate – they are used everywhere and it will be difficult to imagine our everyday life without them. Learn more at microphonetopgear.

Today, the industrial production of microphones reaches tens of millions of digits per year. And many major brands are developing and selling them.

Scope of the microphone

The very first thing to decide on when choosing a microphone is its area of application. The optimal choice will depend on it. For example, you will hardly need a vocal microphone to communicate over a network. There are four types by area of application.

  1. Vocal microphones. Most often they have a familiar design – a handle with a windproof mesh. This is due to the need to unify products – these microphones must be fixed in standard racks, and you can easily choose a removable windshield for them. It can be divided into wired and wireless, as well as by type of performance into manual and lavalier. The most versatile and popular version is a hand-held microphone, which is perfect for karaoke.
  2. Microphones for conferences. They have a convenient desktop type for conferences. Mics have a stand, or they are completely made in the form of a plate.
  3. Network communication. Communication microphones are usually cheaper because they do not require maximum sound quality. Represented mainly by the desktop type of performance and the type of clothespin for easy attachment to clothes. Such a microphone will be quite enough for communication on Skype or Zoom.
  4. Studio microphones. They are used for recording sound in studio conditions. Have the highest quality recording and high sensitivity, and therefore the highest prices. Buying for home use is also possible if you record tracks or voice.

Which type of microphone is better?

Condenser microphones

Condenser microphones consist, in fact, of a condenser, one of the plates of which is made of an elastic metalized material. So that it is mobile and is exposed to sound waves. Thus, when it oscillates, the capacitance of the capacitor changes, alternating currents occur, and acoustic waves are converted into an electrical signal.

These microphones are perfect for the studio, thanks to the cleanest and highest quality sound capture. But they also have a number of disadvantages – they are very sensitive to the environment, respond to humidity, temperature, distance to the sound source, and the overall noise of the space. So in the studio, if used for stationary recording, you can reveal the positive qualities of the microphone and avoid negative ones. If you do want a microphone for home use, you will need a good sound card and an amplifier with a phantom 48 Volt.

Advantages of condenser microphones:

  • wider frequency range and directivity pattern;
  • sound quality and clarity (due to high sensitivity)
  • there are very small models.

Shortcomings:

  • requires an additional power supply – usually requires 48V phantom power, which is not available on all mixing consoles. This imposes a restriction on areas of use;
  • fragile design;
  • catch all reflected noises, echoes. The downside of high sensitivity;
  • high cost.

Electret microphones

An electret microphone is similar to a condenser microphone. There is also a miniature capacitor with a movable cover, signal pre-amplification is carried out using a field-effect transistor. These microphones also require 3 V phantom power, which is no longer a problem for any built-in sound card. They can be very compact.

Electret microphones have the miniaturization of condenser microphones, but they are easy to use and cheap. Unfortunately, they do not boast good sound transmission and sensitivity, but they are ideal for the average user for the purpose of voice communication (via Skype, for example).

Disadvantages:

  • low-quality sound capture;
  • less sensitivity.

Advantages

  • no additional power supply required;
  • tricky to use, low sensitivity to conditions of use;
  • compact size.

Dynamic microphones

Dynamic microphones are very different from the previously considered types. They use the principle of electromagnetic induction – sound waves are transformed by currents arising in the inductance coil, placed in a magnetic field, and attached to an elastic membrane, whose vibrations move the coil.

As a result of this design, dynamic microphones do not require any additional power, giving them an advantage over capacitors. These microphones are also less sensitive to noise and can work well at high sound pressure, making them suitable for vocals with loud, rough timbre. For example, in rock genres or alternative music. They are also often used as a concert microphone.

Disadvantages:

  • concedes the quality of sound capture to the capacitor;
  • smallest frequency range;
  • can distort the timbre of voice.

Advantages:

  • can record loud sounds tolerate “overloads”;
  • less sensitive to noise;
  • does not catch echoes;
  • low cost;
  • does not require an additional power supply.

Diagram of direction

One of the main characteristics is the microphone’s directional pattern. It depends on how the microphone reacts to sound. There are 5 main types of charts.

  1. The cardioid diagram. Reminds you of the shape of your heart. The sound is the best shot right in front of the microphone, a little worse on the side, and not at all removed from behind the microphone. The sound from the sides of the microphone will be less loud, making this diagram convenient for recording multiple instruments if you only want to highlight one. The cardioid diagram has a proximity effect – bass amplifies as the microphone gets closer to the source of the sound.
  2. Super-Cardioid Diagram. It has a narrower capture area at the front, dead spots at the sides, and a small capture area at the back.
  3. Hypercardioid diagram. These microphones are also called narrowband microphones. The coverage area in front of them is narrower than that of the super cardioids. There are also blind spots on the side. It differs in that it captures deleted sounds well, while ignoring the background noise. The location of the sensor plane to the sound is important – the microphone should be perfectly directed at the source. This microphone is used by reporters to record a source that is impossible to get close to.
  4. The “eight” diagram. The diagram is the number eight, the microphone is equally sensitive to sound from the back and front, and has blind spots on the sides. It is used for specialized stereo recording of large ensembles of instruments, orchestras.
  5. Omnidirectional diagrams. The most universal for a wide range of tasks. Perceives sound equally from all sides, without amplifying or distorting any frequencies. Best suited to take the sound from instruments with a wide bandwidth.
  6. Unidirectional microphones. Have a sound capture area right in front of the microphone. Convenient for recording in a room not sufficiently isolated from outside sounds, or for eliminating acoustic effects. Suitable, for example, for outdoor interviews.

Other characteristics that you should pay attention to

Sound pressure level

This parameter shows the volume level of sounds the microphone is designed for. The higher it is, the more correctly and with less distortion, the microphone will transmit sound.

High values of the sound pressure level are indicators of more than 90 dB. And almost the same noise, for example, produces Niagara falls. Or a rock concert.

Thus, microphones with a high level of sound pressure should be chosen for concert activities, or in any other area where the sound source will be very powerful.

Frequency range

The wider the frequency range of the microphone, the better the microphone will capture sound. For communication, coverage of 100 to 10,000 Hz will be sufficient. For the high-quality recording of instruments or vocals, you may need a wider frequency coverage.

Connection type

The microphone can either be connected by wire or be wireless. The second option can be convenient for karaoke without confusion with the wires, especially when a set of two microphones is connected. But the batteries may suddenly run out. To avoid this, you can choose a universal microphone model that can be wired and can simultaneously run on battery power.

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