We go to the microphone. Which model to choose?

A microphone is an essential tool for every broadcaster, podcaster, CD player, and many other web developers. Therefore, the purchase of this equipment should be well thought out. There are a number of other aspects to consider as well. So what should we be guided by?

Microphones have evolved significantly over the years. It’s no longer equipment just for professional studios or stage applications. These types of professional devices are increasingly used in our homes and offices, where they are used to record podcasts, host webinars, stream games, and more. I will not mention the artists who record their vocals or play instruments here. And this is not the end, because a good microphone can also be used just for karaoke at a meeting with friends.

We generally divide microphones into two categories: dynamic and condenser. However, this division should not be viewed in terms of better or worse, as both categories have their strengths and weaknesses.

Dynamic microphones are theoretically considered simpler and cheaper designs that do not require an additional power supply. They are also quite durable and resistant to adverse environmental conditions. In practice, they are mainly used for loud and lively sounds, as they are simply less sensitive than a condenser microphone. So they might not write as many details, which… has its advantages. Well, dynamic microphones are perfect for home environments where the computer hums in the background and cars drive by outside the window. Then putting such a microphone is definitely a better idea.

Condenser microphones are a much more complex design. In general, they need an additional power supply (so-called phantom if we use an XLR type connector) to work. They are characterized by a much higher sensitivity, which allows them to capture a much more detailed sound. Unfortunately, this becomes a disadvantage in a non-adaptive environment, which is why condenser mics are best suited to studio conditions where we don’t have to deal with ambient sounds.

Electret and ribbon microphones should also be mentioned here. The former are the cheapest to manufacture and are commonly used in headsets, phones, laptops and many, many other devices. Ribbon microphones are expensive and professional designs commonly used in studios; they are characterized by the highest level of sensitivity.

It is also worth paying attention to the directional characteristics of the microphone that we plan to buy. Most devices on the market are cardioid microphones that focus on capturing sounds coming from one direction. Then everything that happens behind the microphone is less audible and muffled. Bidirectional microphones work differently: they pick up sounds equally from the front and back, then anything that happens on the sides is dampened. The last type here are unidirectional microphones. as you can easily guess, they register the entire space, no matter which direction the sounds are coming from.

Microphones also differ in terms of connectors. Many models are equipped with a USB port that allows you to connect them directly to a computer. However, there are also microphones (mostly dynamic) equipped with traditional XLR connectors. Then, to connect them to the computer, we will need an additional audio interface that will convert the analog sound to digital. Less common are microphones with 3.5 mm or 6.3 mm jack connectors; in the latter case, you will not need a suitable adapter.

What do you want to record?

The main question we need to answer before buying a microphone is its use. We’ll be looking for different equipment for karaoke, and another for recording podcasts.

If we need a proper microphone for video calls, we usually just need a simple electronics built into something. At this level, we don’t need anything else. in the vast majority of cases, we will be heard well and clearly.

However, if we want to improve our sound quality, we can get one of the cheaper condenser microphones with a USB port. Just make sure they have a cardioid design. It should make a huge difference and also allow us to stream videos and games at a decent level.

In podcasting applications, a dynamic microphone will be invaluable (with the appropriate interface, or without if you choose the USB connector). Its low sensitivity can effectively isolate unnecessary sounds from the environment, which will be appreciated later when editing recordings. Dynamic microphones are perfect here.

For this reason, the best microphones for broadcasters are often dynamic, although there is evidence that a good microphone for recording vocals is a condenser microphone. Well, it often turns out that high sensitivity and detail become a drawback when we expect the microphone to simply pick up our voice clearly, whether we’re shouting, laughing or just talking to our viewers/listeners.

The recording location is just as important. If we are looking for a desk microphone, we need to think about how we will install it. If we put it on a stand, it may turn out that every, even light stroke of the hand on the table will be heard in the recordings. So maybe a dedicated mic arm would be better then. There are also special shock-absorbing microphones. There are relatively many possibilities in this area, and a lot depends on the space where we plan to use the microphone.

Is it worth looking at the settings?

Undoubtedly, elements such as microphone efficiency, impedance, and frequency response are important from a professional’s perspective. For the home recording broadcaster or podcasting novice, however, they will play a secondary role. It may turn out that a microphone with theoretically worse parameters is more suitable for our voice timbre. This is where things get complicated.

Each of us says it differently. Some voices are louder and some are lower. Not to mention obvious things like male and female voices. In a situation where someone has a strong bass voice, using a microphone that favors low tones can be a mistake; such a timbre will sound much more interesting with a microphone that offers a clear and detailed sound, while extracting more detail and nuance from such a sound.

Therefore, choosing a microphone can turn out to be a process of trial and error for many. Of course, this is where all the reviews and stuff recorded by youtubers and podcasters come in handy, where we can see for ourselves what a given microphone actually sounds like.

The material was created in cooperation with RTV EURO AGD

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