How To Choose A Microphone For Your Specific Needs

Most of us will have to deal with various audio projects at some point in life. So, you must know how to choose a microphone that grants you the ability to record a perfect sound. However, there is no perfect microphone, compromises will have to be made. Here are a few tips from the Techolala team that will help you choose a perfect microphone for your project.

Choosing a microphone
Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

Determine Your Application

You probably already know that every microphone sounds different. Therefore, you must decide what do you want to record to choose a microphone for your needs. There is a good chance, that you need to record voice for your new soon-to-be-viral video, so here are the most common types of vocal microphones:

  • Handheld – they offer a great sound whether in the studio or on a live show. They are durable, so nothing happens if you accidentally drop one of them. However, they might seem as bulky and impractical in some applications like a presentation, or any other situation where you will have to move a lot or will need both hands free.
  • Headset – this mic will stay in the same position on your head no matter what. It results in both your hands being free and lack of restriction of movement. And, because it stays in the same position, the audio will always be at the same level.
  • Lavalier – similar to the headset, but it has the advantage of being quite discreet. It is usually fixed to the area around the speaker’s chest. It can be attached to a suit or shirt. A great choice for applications where discreteness is desired. Also very popular among the YouTubers these days

Choose a microphone for a specific environment

Okay, but what about choosing a microphone for other applications? Well, you have to decide what environment are you going to use it in. For example will it be a studio or a live concert? Here comes the importance of the direction of the microphone. So, let me explain:

  • Omni-Directional – this kind of microphone picks up sounds evenly from every direction. It would be a good idea to use this mic in the studio. However, in a live concert environment it would be a disaster – you would pick up sounds from musicians and the audience at the same level.
  • Cardioid – This microphone, sometimes called Uni-Directional is a much better fit for concerts, as it picks up the majority of the sound from the front for example a singer, but very little of the sound in the back and other directions.  
  • Bi-Directional – as you probably guessed, this one picks up sounds from front and behind, while blocking sounds from sides. This microphone might be useful where you in the front want to communicate with your audience in the back, for example in a lecture.

What is the sound you desire?

So now, let’s take a look at the general tonality that you desire. This will have a huge impact on your tone in general. The key element here is the type of the microphone capsule and it breaks down into three principal categories:

  • Dynamic – A high-quality full sound with a sensible warmth in it. Because of their rigid mechanical construction microphones of this type tend to be very durable and they handle extremely loud sounds really well. Live applications and noisy environments are the best places for this kind. So if you are planning on playing live and loud, this type of microphone capsule is your best bet.
  • Condenser – Bright and detailed would be the keywords for condenser microphone capsule, as they have much wider and more even frequency response. However, because of their fragile mechanical construction, you should be careful about choosing them for extremely loud applications. But condenser microphones capture sound almost the same as it is emitted by instrument, so they are your best bet for studio work.
  • Ribbon – The king of high-frequency details.  They manage to do it without adding any unwanted harshness to the sound. Perfect for high pitched vocals and drum cymbals, extremely valued by record studios. However, their delicate construction and the high price tag is a big no-no for live performances.

Choose a microphone by listening to it

So here was a quick intro to the world of microphones and basic guidelines on how to choose a microphone. However, not all microphone configurations are possible. For example, you are not likely to find a dynamic lavalier microphone, but the good news is that you probably won’t need one anyway.

Also, remember that microphone captures sound, not a video, so to choose a microphone that fits your needs you will still have to go to the microphone shop and try to listen to several of them before deciding what would be the best match for your project. Even the same style microphone made by two different companies could sound extremely different.

singing to a microphone
Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

An exception would be only if you are buying the exact same microphone as you own right now.

Conclusion

I know, you need to know a lot of stuff before choosing a microphone. But don’t worry, it gets better after several purchases.

Also, most of the people will need to record only their own voice at the acceptable quality. And in this case the best microphone would be condenser headset for a gamer or lavalier microphone for a vlogger.

Musicians and studio technicians will have to try out a few different styles.

Stay creative and curious. And good luck with your projects.

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