So many makes and models…it can all be a bit confusing if you are not certain which mic is best used for which application. Whilst there are more than the 4 identified below, these mic types will be the most common used in recording (either studio or location) or in performance.
A dynamic microphone uses the motion of a conductor within the magnetic field to generate an audio signal. In most dynamic microphones a thin diaphragm moves in response to the pressure from the sound source. This movement causes a voice coil suspended in a magnetic field to generate an electric current.
This type of microphone is less sensitive to sound pressure and high frequencies than condenser mics, and can therefore generally take more of a beating (both musically and physically). For this reason they are popular for performance, and they generally less expensive.
Dynamic microphones are often used on drum kits and guitar amps due to the loud sounds produced by both, though they are also often used as vocal mics onstage as well.
The two most common dynamic microphones are the Shure SM58 (vocal) and SM57 (instrument), but there are plenty of other options.
Condenser microphones are far more responsive to the sounds they are capturing, and reproduce the source with far great fidelity than dynamic mics due to their construction. A thin conductive diaphragm is placed in close proximity to a metal disk, or backplate. Condenser microphones require an electric charge from an external source, be it a battery, dedicated power supply, or phantom power supplied from the mixing desk.
Condenser microphones are very common in the studio, and are excellent for vocals, string instruments, acoustic guitars, brass and woodwind, acoustic pianos..but can also be used for drum overheads, guitar amplifiers (when not in close proximity to the grille of the amp), and ambient room microphones.
Ribbon microphones were prominent in the early days of recording and broadcast, before giving way to dynamic and condenser types. Over the last decade ribbon mics have made a resurgence, and new construction techniques have seen some models be able to handle far greater sound levels than their predecessors.
Ribbon mics tend to be ‘warmer’ or ‘darker’ while condenser types tend to be brighter. Ribbon mics do not capture the higher frequencies that other types do.
However, they are excellent for capturing certain vocal performance types, especially jazz, old school blues, and folk, and also for on the acoustic guitar. They can also produce excellent results on the electric guitar, but as with condenser mics, care must be taken with placement in relation to the grille of the amp.
A recent development, USB mics contain the tradition elements of a capsule, diaphragm, etc, but also an onboard preamp and A/D converter. This allows the mic to be plugged directly into the USB port on a computer and used by recording software. This makes mobile recording with a laptop very easy!
Looking for a USB Mic? Email James!
TYPICAL MICROPHONE APPLICATIONS.
Mic’ing a drum kit is an art in itself and there are so many options…
Dedicated drum mic kits can make it easier to select the relevant mic for each part of the kit. Drum kits have been mic’d with everything from 1 large diaphragm overhead mic to 14,15,16 or more individual mics on the kit and in the room.
A good place to start is with a mic on the snare, the hi-hats, the toms, and in the kick. Dynamic microphones are a reliable choice with all of these parts of the kit.
Large diaphragm condenser microphones are excellent for overhead and room mics.
The classic mic for this is the SM57 on the cabinet. If you have a large condenser they can be set away from the amp or somewhere in the room as a second source.
There are several options for mic’ing this instrument, and like the drums, they can range from 1 to many mics.
A small-diaphragm condenser mic placed at the 12th fret and back 15-20cm is a good starting point here, but large-diaphragm condenser can also work well, as can ribbon mics.
A large-diaphragm condenser mic is a great choice for most vocalists, though a ribbon mic is very well suited to a warmer or ‘old school’ sound. And for some rock stylings, a dynamic mic might be the trick, especially if the singer is a ‘screamer’.
Often recorded in stereo to capture the range of the instrument, a pair of large-diaphragm condenser microphones are ideal for this application.
A condenser mic is ideal, though a ribbon mic (especially for a soloist) might give you the sound you prefer.
BRASS & WIND
Ribbon mics can sound great, but care needs to be taken with placing the mic in front of something like the bell of a trumpet, which can unleash all manner if sonic fury and damage the mic. Condenser mics are also a very good option.