How To Choose The Right Microphone: A Mic Guide

Welcome to our guide at the Time Preservation Society! I’m Hal 9000, and today we’re diving into one of the most critical aspects for any sound recording enthusiast: selecting the right microphone.

Whether you’re tackling a new podcast, recording music, or capturing sound in any form, understanding microphone types and their suitable applications is essential.

We’re not delving into the technical nitty-gritty but rather offering you a quick and effective rundown on choosing the best mic for your project.

Knowing which microphone to reach for comes with experience, but for those just starting out, we’ll explore the different types suited to various environments and recording needs.

From dynamic mics perfect for noisy settings to the subtleties of condenser mics in a studio, we’ll help you get a grasp of the key qualities that could elevate your audio game.

Join us as we embark on this sonic journey that promises to arm you with the knowledge to make informed decisions next time you press record.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the essential microphone types for different recording settings.
  • Learn how to minimise unwanted noise with the right microphone selection.
  • Discover the importance of proper mic placement for optimal sound quality.

Key Factors in Choosing Microphones

When we’re discussing the art of audio and recording, selecting the right microphone is paramount. We’ll touch upon the most prevalent types of microphones and their applications without diving into technical operability.

Each microphone type brings something unique to the table, so let’s explore them.

Dynamic Microphones: These are robust and excel in picking up sounds that are directly in front of them, thanks to their cardioid pickup pattern.

They’re ideal if you’re working in untreated rooms or amidst ambient noise, such as at live sporting events or with background construction noise.

Their resilience to high sound pressure levels makes them perfect for capturing loud sources like drums or amplified instruments at concerts, reducing the chance of feedback issues.

They produce a warmer tone but might require more gain for quieter sources, which could introduce noise from less sophisticated preamps. Some well-regarded dynamic microphones include:

  • Shure SM57
  • Shure SM58
  • Shure SM7B
  • Electro-Voice RE20, RE320, RE50
  • Sennheiser MD-421

Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones: These are often spotted in professional recording studios and are famed for their sensitivity and breadth of sound detail, capable of capturing the subtlest nuances.

While cardioid is their standard polar pattern, many have switchable capabilities, offering patterns like supercardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-eight.

They require phantom power and are best utilized in sound-treated spaces due to their sensitivity to environmental noise. Common uses include vocal recording, acoustic instruments, and voice-over work. Notable examples are:

  • Neumann U87, U67
  • AKG C414
  • Rode NT1
  • Townsend Labs L22 (now UAD Sphere LX)

Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones: These are incredibly versatile and come in various forms such as pencil, shotgun, and lavalier microphones. They’re known for their precision and clarity, with cardioid being a typical pattern, although options like hypercardioid and omnidirectional are also available, offering a range of directivity. This type is favoured for applications where detail and fidelity are critical.

Remember, while we are introducing you to these microphone types, your ears and the specific requirements of your recording environment will guide you in making the best choice for your project.

Microphone Varieties

Handheld and Stage Microphones

Our performances often demand a reliable tool that captures our vibrant sounds amidst a sea of ambient noise, especially on stages. The handheld and stage microphones are our sturdy companion in such settings.

Recognised for their resilience against high sound pressure and rejection of off-axis sounds, these microphones make sure our voice pierces through a crowd’s roar or over the blaring speakers. When we’re seeking clarity without capturing the echo of our surroundings, this microphone suits us perfectly.

  • Cardioid Pattern: Favours sound directly in front, like a heart shape—ideal for focusing on the intended audio.
  • Durability: Handles loud environments with ease—perfect for drums, live events, or potent vocals.
  • High SPL Tolerance: Welcomes louder sources without compromising the integrity of the sound.

Studio Favourites with Large Diaphragms

Within the serenity of our acoustically perfected studios, we employ large diaphragm microphones to capture every nuance of our vocals and instruments.

Their grand stature isn’t just for show; these microphones are capable of picking up the subtleties of our performance, from the softest whisper to the strength of operatic power.

  • Polar Pattern Versatility: Offers various options like cardioid, hypercardioid, and more—adaptable to our needs.
  • Phantom Power Requirement: Needs an external power source to capture the full range of sounds.
  • Exceptional Sensitivity: Whether a daunting crescendo or the faint rustle of a script, no detail escapes its reach.

Compacts with Precision: Small Diaphragm Microphones

When our attention to detail demands a microphone that can articulate the delicate, we turn to small diaphragm microphones.

Their slender form is deceiving, as they can intricately capture the essence of acoustic guitars or the crispness of a string quartet.

  • Variety of Forms: From pencil to shotgun mics, each designed for specific acoustic tasks.
  • Focused Pickup Patterns: Available in cardioid, supercardioid, and Omni—tailored for precision recording.
  • Flexibility: Suitable for both nuanced studio sessions and robust field recordings.

Vintage Tone Textures: Ribbon Microphones

Our penchant for the classic sounds often leads us to the vintage warmth of ribbon microphones.

With their rich, smooth qualities, these mics add an old-world resonance to our modern recordings, subtly enhancing the texture and depth of our audio creations.

  • Warmth and Depth: Imparts a velvety quality to sound—perfect for a timeless audio aesthetic.
  • Design Heritage: A dynamic microphone variety with a distinct sonic character.
  • Figure-8 Pickup Pattern: Captures sound from both in front and behind, adding to its unique voice.

Well-liked Microphone Pickup Patterns

Heart-shaped Pattern

  • Definition: Captures sound primarily from the front, mildly from the sides, negligible from the back.
  • Usage: Ideal for sound sources directly in front; perfect for noisy environments.
  • Advantage: Helps contain ambient noise and avoid feedback on stage.
  • Popular Choice: Common in dynamic microphones for onstage and studio use.

Enhanced Heart-shaped Pattern

  • Definition: Tighter front focus than the standard heart-shaped; attenuates side and rear sound more.
  • Usage: Suited for more focused sound capture, with less side spill.
  • Accentuates: Offers a slight boost in directionality, maintains some rear rejection.

Intense Heart-shaped Pattern

  • Definition: Highly focused on the front sound, even more so than enhanced pattern.
  • Usage: Extremely precise capture, used when maximum isolation is necessary.
  • Characteristics: Offers a narrow pickup angle, strong rejection from sides and rear.

All-encompassing Pattern

  • Definition: Equally sensitive to sound from all directions.
  • Usage: Perfect for capturing ambient noise or a more natural room sound.
  • Sound Capture: Offers a balanced capture of the environment, lacks directionality.

Bi-directional Pattern

  • Definition: Captures sound from the front and rear, rejects from the sides.
  • Usage: Ideal for two people speaking across from each other, or for recording reflective surfaces.
  • Characteristics: Produces a unique spatial effect, useful for specific stereo recording techniques.

Application Examples

In Spaces with Acoustic Challenges

This scenario addresses recording in locations unsuitable for isolated sound capture, such as rooms with rich reverberations or amidst exterior construction noise.

We opt for microphones that focus on the immediate source and resist ambient interference, perfect for capturing clarity in less-than-ideal circumstances.


  • Focused pickup pattern
  • Reduced sensitivity to peripheral sounds
  • Ideal for non-acoustically treated environments

Suitable Gear:

  • Models preferred for their directional capture
  • Examples include Shure’s famed SM series and Sennheiser’s robust MD-421

During Live Events

When performing live, controlling audio feedback and background noise is crucial.

Therefore, we carefully select microphones that reject off-axis sound. This ensures our vocals and instruments cut through the mix and reach the audience with precision.


Equipment Choices:

With High-Volume Sources

For intense sound sources, our microphone choice withstands extreme pressure levels without compromising the audio quality.

So, whether it’s the sharp report of a snare drum or the revving engine of a motorbike, our mics are up to the task.

  • High SPL tolerance
  • Diminished distortion under loud conditions
  • Optimal for drums, amplified instruments, and other robust sound emitters

Microphone Selection:

  • Robust dynamic models that cater to high-decibel requirements
  • Among the preferred choices are the Shure SM7B and Electro-Voice RE20

Traits of Moving Coil Microphones

When we consider various microphones, moving coil microphones, commonly referred to as dynamic mics, stand out for certain scenarios due to their robustness and versatility.

Sound Pickup Pattern

Dynamic mics typically adopt a cardioid pickup pattern, which captures sound primarily from the front, reducing noise from other directions.

This heart-shaped pattern makes them ideal for environments where we need to isolate the sound source.

Suitability for Noisy Environments

In less than ideal acoustic conditions, such as untreated rooms, dynamic mics excel by focusing on the source sound.

Whether reporting at a bustling sporting event or capturing audio in a lively venue, these mics ensure clarity by minimising interference.

Gain Requirements

Given their nature, dynamic mics demand a substantial amount of gain, especially for softer sounds.

This can introduce noise if the preamp quality isn’t up to par. Therefore, these microphones are best paired with a strong sound source.

Handling High Sound Pressure

They are robust, capable of withstanding high sound pressure levels (SPL).

This makes them the go-to option for capturing loud sounds like musical instruments in a live performance or high-impact sound effects.

Proximity Effect

While using dynamic mics for voice, getting close to the mic creates a rich, full sound.

This is thanks to the proximity effect that boosts the bass frequencies in our voices.

Examples of Dynamic Microphones

Some of our top selections include the Shure SM57, Shure SM58, Shure SM7B, Electro-Voice RE20, Electro-Voice RE320, Sennheiser MD-421, and others.

Each has its own characteristic sound and a variety of applications, making them staples in audio recording.

We often reach for these robust microphones when precise audio capture is required amidst chaotic surroundings.

Their ability to home in on the sound directly in front without being easily influenced by disruptive external noise is a chief reason for their widespread use onstage and in studios.

Essentials for Dynamic Microphone Preamplification

When choosing microphones for various recording environments, we consider dynamic microphones an ideal option for less isolated spaces.

These microphones predominantly possess a cardioid pickup pattern, adept at capturing sound directly in front and greatly reducing ambient noise intrusion.

Dynamic microphones perform exceptionally when confronted with higher sound pressure levels.

For instances demanding the recording of loud sources, such as musical instruments or high-decibel events, they are our go-to choice due to their capacity to withstand significant volume without compromise.

However, one should note that dynamic microphones offer a more subdued high-frequency response and may not capture quieter sounds with high detail.

Consequently, they require a significant amount of gain, particularly for softer sounds, which can introduce noise if utilised with lower-quality preamplifiers.

To mitigate this, we speak closely into the microphone, leveraging the proximity effect to enhance vocal warmth and maintain manageable preamp levels.

Here’s a brief rundown of popular dynamic microphones that we often use:

  • Shure SM57, SM58, SM7B
  • Electro-Voice RE20, RE320, RE50
  • Sennheiser MD-421

For our dynamic microphone needs, especially in scenarios with potential acoustic challenges or where loud sounds dominate, these models serve us with reliability and performance efficacy.

Harnessing the Power of Dynamic Microphones for Vocal Recording

When we step into the world of audio recording, selecting the right microphone is crucial to achieving the desired sound.

Among various types, dynamic microphones stand out for certain recording scenarios, particularly when it comes to voice work. Here’s why we might choose them and how to use them effectively.

Advantages of Dynamic Microphones

  • Durability: These robust mics withstand high sound pressure levels, making them ideal for capturing loud sounds, from musical instruments like drums to outdoor noises.
  • Noise Rejection: Thanks to their cardioid pickup pattern, dynamic mics excel in noisy environments by focusing on the sound source in front of them and reducing background noise.
  • Minimal Feedback: Onstage, dynamic mics are superb as they help to prevent feedback by not picking up ambient noise from monitors and PA systems.

Tips for Using Dynamic Mics in Voice Work

  • Close Proximity: To achieve a rich, full sound, speak closely into the mic. This reduces the need for higher preamp gain, which can bring unwanted noise from lesser-quality equipment.
  • Proximity Effect: Speaking closely to the mic enhances the bass frequencies of your voice due to the proximity effect, adding warmth and presence.
  • Appropriate Settings: Utilise these microphones especially if you’re recording in less than ideal acoustic setups, like echoey rooms or places with background activities.

Popular Models

Dynamic microphones come in a variety of models, but some are particularly lauded for voice work:

  • Shure SM58: A ubiquitous presence on stages worldwide, known for its reliability and sound quality.
  • Sennheiser MD 421: Favoured for its versatility across different sound sources.
  • Electro-Voice RE20: Often seen in radio stations and studios for its smooth response and effective noise rejection.

Favourite Dynamic Microphones

When navigating the world of audio and recording, choosing the right microphone is crucial for achieving your desired sound.

In our experience, we find that the dynamic microphone serves various purposes excellently. These sturdy mics are ideal in scenarios where ambient noise might be an issue or when recording in untreated acoustic environments.

Dynamic microphones, typically possessing a cardioid pick-up pattern, excel at capturing sound directly in front of them, limiting audio from other directions.

Such a feature proves invaluable for instances like reporting at sports events amid the cacophony of the crowd, or while performing on stage, where it’s crucial to minimise feedback and isolate the sound source.

Due to their robust nature, dynamic mics are the go-to choice for capturing loud sources such as drum kits or amplified guitars without distorting.

They’re preferred for their durability and ability to handle high sound pressure levels. However, when it comes to quieter sounds, they may require a substantial gain boost, which could introduce noise if you’re using lower-quality preamps.

If you’re a content creator, a podcaster, or find yourself in noisy living conditions, dynamic mics are beneficial.

Speaking closely into the microphone capitalises on the proximity effect, enhancing the bass frequencies in your voice for a richer sound.

Here are some dynamic microphones we find ourselves reaching for frequently:

  • Shure SM57: A reliable and versatile microphone suited for both vocal and instrument miking.
  • Shure SM58: Known for its robustness and consistency, especially in live performance settings.
  • Shure SM7B: Favoured for its smooth response, it’s become a staple in broadcasts and studio recordings.
  • Electro-Voice RE20: A broadcast standard that offers a flat frequency response and is excellent for spoken word.
  • Electro-Voice RE320: A versatile mic with a unique dual-voicing switch, ideal for both voice and instruments.
  • Electro-Voice RE50: Popular among field reporters for its resistance to handling noise.
  • Sennheiser MD-421: Well-regarded for capturing drums and guitars, offering full-bodied sound reproduction.

Attributes of Vast Membrane Condenser Microphones

In our recording experiences, vast membrane condenser microphones stand out for their precise audio capture capabilities.

These mics, often larger in size than their counterparts, are a frequent sight in professional studios.

  • Polar Patterns:

While cardioid is the default, it’s common for these microphones to have versatile polar pattern selections, ranging from omnidirectional to figure-eight.

Here are notable points of interest:

  • Sensitivity:

  • Their ability to pick up subtle sounds is unparalleled. Whether it’s a faint whisper or the distant echo of a door closing, these microphones register the minutiae of the sound environment.

  • Sound Profile:

  • They produce a rich, full-bodied sound profile that’s preferred for capturing a range of tones; from the deep boom of a bass drum to the delicate timbre of a violin.

  • Phantom Power:

  • These microphones require phantom power, which is typically supplied by recording interfaces or mixers.

When employing these microphones, one must be mindful of their environment.

Their acute sensitivity means they can easily capture ambient noise, so recording in a sound-treated space is advisable.

  • Applications:

Ideal for vocalists, acoustic instruments, and studio voice work, their detailed audio rendering makes them a go-to for quality recording.

Necessities for Microphone Powering

In our exploration of optimal microphone use, it’s essential to understand that among the diverse types, certain microphones necessitate an external power source, commonly known as phantom power.

Primarily, this is a requirement for condenser microphones, including their large and small diaphragm variants.

For those of us working with large diaphragm condenser microphones, it’s common knowledge that they demand phantom power—this is a resource typically provided by most mixing desks, audio interfaces, or external preamp units.

As we navigate the selection of microphones suitable for a variety of recording scenarios, here’s a succinct breakdown:

Known for their hardiness and ability to withstand high sound pressure levels, they are ideal for capturing loud sources such as drum kits, amplified instruments, or robust vocal performances.

They excel without the need for external power, thriving on sheer volume from the source.

Perfect for environments where acoustic treatment is scarce or for stage use where isolation from extraneous sounds is necessary.

These are the stalwarts of studio environments where their sensitivity to nuanced sounds shines.

They require phantom power, typically at +48V, to capture the subtlety of vocals and acoustic instruments.

Bear in mind, given their sensitivity, they are best utilised in acoustically treated spaces to avoid unwanted ambient noise.

  • Small Diaphragm:

Also relying on phantom power, these mics present as pencil mics, shotgun mics, or lavalier mics, amongst other forms.

Their crisp, precise pickup is suited for both studio recording and accurate capture of sound in film and broadcasting scenarios.

Awareness of Ambient Sound Interference

When selecting an appropriate microphone, it’s crucial for us to consider the environment in which it will be used.

Different microphones are designed to suit different acoustic settings and purposes.

For instance, if we’re in a challenging recording environment with excessive noise, ambient sounds, or a lack of acoustic treatment, dynamic microphones are our goto choice.

They are particularly effective in isolating the sound source they’re aimed at due to their mostly cardioid pickup pattern—shaped like the pointy end of a heart.

Advantages of Dynamic Microphones:

  • Reduced Background Noise:

  • Capturing sound primarily from the front, they are less sensitive to side or back interference.

  • High Sound Pressure Level Handling:

  • These mics withstand loud noises well, making them suitable for capturing high-volume sources like musical instruments or a loud voice.

  • Minimised Feedback:

  • Ideal for live performances where monitors and audience noise could cause issues, dynamic mics can help us avoid this feedback.

Where we need our voice to cut through noise, such as reporting live from a sports event, a dynamic microphone is our best tool.

It’s also the preferred option if we have uncontrolled ambient noise like construction or household activities.

This is not just useful for reporters—the same principles apply if we’re creating content from a home studio or podcasting from an untreated space.

Simply put, the more noise we need to manage, the more likely we are to reach for a dynamic microphone.

How to Use Dynamic Microphones:

  • Proximity:

  • Speak closely to exploit the proximity effect for a richer sound and to control unwanted ambient noise.

  • Gain Setting:

  • They often require more gain, so we must ensure that our recording device provides sufficient volume without introducing noise.

Popular Options:

  • Shure SM57, SM58, SM7B
  • Electro-Voice RE20, RE320, RE50
  • Sennheiser MD-421

On the flip side, we’ve got our large diaphragm condenser microphones, which are extremely sensitive and capture sound with great detail and clarity.

However, these are a poor choice if we’re surrounded by environmental noise or without proper acoustic treatment.

Because of their nuanced sound capture, the openness of their pick-up pattern, and the need for phantom power, they’re best used in quiet and controlled settings — think studios or silent rooms.

We wouldn’t want to use them in lively environments as they’d likely pick up more crowd noise than our commentary.

Strengths of Large Diaphragm Condensers:

However, we often use large diaphragm condensers for capturing vocals, be it singing or voice-over work because of their rich, clear quality.

Such microphones are perfect for situations where the finer audio details are paramount, providing we can manage the recording environment to eliminate unwanted noise.

Use Cases for Large Diaphragm Condensers:

  • Vocals and voice-overs
  • Acoustic instruments
  • Studio work requiring intricate audio detail

The recording industry also frequents small diaphragm condensers, which offer versatility through various forms, including pencil and shotgun mics.

These come in various polar patterns, which makes them adaptable, but again they suit lower-noise environments better.

Optimal Applications for Broad Diaphragm Condenser Microphones

When considering microphones for various recording scenarios, broad diaphragm condenser microphones are often our go-to choice, particularly within the controlled environment of a studio.

These microphones excel due to their ability to capture sound with remarkable clarity and detail.

Here’s where we find them most effective:

Whether we’re laying down vocal tracks for music or capturing dialogue for voice-over work, these microphones provide the fidelity and nuance that allow the subtleties of the performance to shine through.

  • Acoustic Instruments:

For recording acoustic guitars, pianos, strings, or brass instruments, their sensitivity to the delicate sounds makes them ideal, capturing the rich, resonant tones with precision.

  • Controlled Environments:

Their propensity to pick up ambient noise means they perform best in acoustically treated spaces, where unwanted echoes or reverberations are minimised.

These microphones require phantom power, but thankfully this is commonly provided by most mixing boards, preamps, and interfaces.

Be aware, though, they are generally less tolerant to high sound pressure levels compared to dynamic microphones, which means they can distort with very loud sounds.

For everyday use where we demand high fidelity and are in a relatively quiet, controlled setting, broad diaphragm condenser microphones are our reliable choice.

Favourite Large Diaphragm Studio Microphones

When we discuss the realm of studio recording, large diaphragm condenser microphones are indispensable. Their superior sensitivity makes them ideal for capturing the subtle nuances of vocals and acoustic instruments.

These microphones come with various polar patterns, with cardioid being the most commonly used due to its effectiveness in isolating the sound source. However, many models offer the flexibility to switch to patterns like omnidirectional or figure-eight, catering to different recording scenarios.

These microphones need phantom power to operate, which is standard in most preamps or interfaces. Due to their delicate nature, they tend to distort under high sound pressure, which makes them less suited for extremely loud sources.

Large diaphragm condensers are known for their clarity and the ‘larger-than-life’ sound quality they impart, which can’t usually be matched by other microphones.

Our usage of these microphones is best in controlled environments, as they efficiently pick up background noise, which means a soundproof studio is their preferred home. They’re not just adept at capturing vocals but shine with a wide range of instruments, from pianos to string sections.

Here’s a brief rundown of some widely used large diaphragm condenser mics:

  • Neumann U87: Highly regarded for its warm, balanced sound and versatility.
  • AKG C414: Offers multiple pickup patterns and excels with accurate sound reproduction.
  • Rode NT1: Known for its clarity and warmth, and often praised for its value.
  • Townsend Labs Sphere L22: A modelling microphone that emulates various vintage models.
  • Shure KSM32: Delivers a full-bodied sound and is reliable for both studio and live settings.

Varieties of Compact Diaphragm Microphones

When choosing microphones for distinct recording situations, understanding the different kinds available is crucial. In our time preserving sound, we’ve encountered numerous microphone types suitable for an array of purposes. Today, we’re focusing on the smaller diaphragm condenser microphones, distinguished by their intricate design and suitability for a myriad of recording scenarios.

These microphones come in several configurations:

  • Pencil Condensers: Aptly named due to their slender, elongated shape, pencil condensers are typically unidirectional with a cardioid pattern. They excel in capturing sound with precision and are often the go-to for instruments.

  • Shotgun Mics: Recognisable by their narrow tube-like structure, shotgun mics are directional and excellent for focusing on sounds from a distance while ignoring peripheral noise.

  • Lavalier Mics: Also known as lapel mics, these small mics are discreet, making them perfect for television, theatre, and public speaking, where they can be easily concealed.

Polar Patterns:

  • Cardioid: The most common unidirectional pattern, where the microphone picks up sound primarily from the front and sides, minimising noise from the rear.

  • Supercardioid and Hypercardioid: These exhibit a narrower field of sensitivity compared to the cardioid, thus offering more side rejection and focused pickup.

  • Omnidirectional: Captures sound equally from all directions, useful in more controlled environments where sound from every angle is desired.

Given their design, these microphones are sensitive, able to detect subtleties in sound, and are best used in environments with controlled acoustics.

Their small diaphragm allows for precise audio capture, making them excellent for recording instruments like strings, woodwinds, and cymbals, where detail and clarity are paramount.

To ensure optimal performance from these microphones:

  1. Position them correctly depending on the polar pattern and the source of sound.

  2. Utilise them within acoustically treated spaces to avoid unwanted noise interference.

  3. Be mindful of their sensitivity to sound pressure levels—they capture quiet sounds beautifully but may distort under excessively loud conditions.

Acoustic Signal Capture and Cognitive Filtering Mechanisms

When considering recording technologies, selecting an appropriate microphone is pivotal for successful sound capture. We’re diving straight into an exploration of widely-used microphones without delving into the intricate technical details; this guide focuses on the application side of things.

There are primarily four types of microphones, and while there are others, the ones we’re focusing on are most commonly utilised for a variety of settings. These include dynamic microphones, large-diaphragm condensers (LDC), small-diaphragm condensers (SDC), and ribbon microphones — a unique subgroup of dynamic mics.

Understanding the capture patterns of microphones is essential. Predominant patterns include:

  • Cardioid
  • Super-Cardioid
  • Hyper-Cardioid
  • Omnidirectional
  • Figure-8

Dynamic microphones are excellent for isolating sounds in challenging environments. Their primary capture pattern is cardioid, which effectively picks up sound from the front while reducing noise from other directions.

Here’s why we favour dynamic mics in certain conditions:

  • Noisy or reverberant spaces
  • Recording loud sound sources (drums or amplified sound)
  • Live performances to reduce feedback

They particularly excel in managing high sound pressure and maintaining clarity across various volumes. However, they might require significant gain, which could introduce noise if the preamps are not high quality.

Some popular dynamic mics include:

  • Shure SM57
  • Shure SM58
  • Electro-Voice RE20

Large-diaphragm condensers are the quintessential studio microphones, known for their articulate sensitivity. While the cardioid pattern is standard, many LDCs offer switchable patterns for flexible recording scenarios.

They are incredibly sensitive to sound detail, but this also means they’re not suited for loud environments or untreated acoustic spaces due to their lower sound pressure threshold.

When using LDCs, it is important to record in sonically treated rooms to avoid capturing undesirable background noise.

They are commonly chosen for:

Notable LDCs include:

  • Neumann U87
  • AKG C414
  • Rode NT1

Small-diaphragm condensers come in various forms, such as pencil mics and shotgun mics. These are often selected for their precise unidirectional capture ability, with certain varieties offering hypercardioid or omni patterns.

One critical aspect of recording is understanding how our brains filter out sounds. In real-time, we do not notice many environmental sounds, but when played back through a recording, the presence of every little noise becomes evident.

Reflective surfaces can cause certain frequencies to spike, an occurrence known as comb filtering, which is something to be mindful of during recording.

The different microphone types complement diverse recording scenarios and capture sounds in distinct ways. Understanding how they work enables us to select the most suitable microphone for the task, ensuring clarity and quality in our recordings.

Well-Known Compact Condenser Microphones

As enthusiasts of sound recording, we appreciate the need for the right microphone for each task.

Among our preferred types for studio and field use are small diaphragm condenser microphones, known for their precision and versatile applications.

Our recommendations for such microphones include slender, pencil-like models that are exceptional for their cardioid pick-up patterns.

Though varieties with hypercardioid or even omnidirectional patterns are also part of our toolkit. These patterns define how sound is picked up from different directions, and the choice greatly depends on the specific needs of the recording environment.

Cardioid versions, for instance, gather sound with directionality in mind, making them unidirectional. This is beneficial when trying to capture a source directly while minimising side and rear noise intrusion.

It’s why you’ll often find us opting for them when recording instruments like acoustic guitars or violins, where detail and nuance are paramount.

However, when we need to capture the ambiance of a room or the natural reverberations of an instrument, we might turn to omnidirectional variants.

These pick up sound equally from all directions—ideal for ensuring the character of a space is truly represented in the recording.

In scenarios that demand a tight focus on a sound source, perhaps in a live setting, hypercardioid versions of small diaphragm condensers are our allies.

These have a narrower pick-up than standard cardioids, which helps us home in on the sound we’re after without much side interference.

To underline their proficiency, we routinely utilise these microphones for tasks such as capturing the sizzle of hi-hats in a drum kit, or the rich frequencies of a choir, where clarity is essential.

Brief summary of our preferences in small diaphragm condenser microphones:

  • For precision recording: Pencil Condensers
  • Wide pick-up pattern: Omnidirectional
  • Direct sound with minimal side noise: Cardioid
  • Tight focus on sound: Hypercardioid Versions

These compact microphones, when wielded correctly, can be formidable tools for capturing crisp, exact audio.

It’s our practice to select the microphone that best suits the sound source and environment, always aiming for the truest capture of the moment.

Whether we’re in the studio or on location, a small diaphragm condenser microphone is often our go-to choice for its ability to deliver clear, high-fidelity recordings.

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