Our Guide To Buying A Microphone

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Shopping for a new microphone? You'll find a wide range of types spanning a big price bracket. So here’s what you need to know – plus a guide to some key accessories you’ll need.

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What type of microphone should I go for?

With so many microphones on the market, it can be tricky to know where to start. The good news is that there are some great-quality, well-priced models out there, which means you can get something really good on a limited budget. But it’s worth doing your research, as your microphone is a crucial piece of kit that will make all the difference to your sound recording. 

Here’s a quick guide to some of the different types available.
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Dynamic microphone

Often the most affordable and hardwearing microphones, dynamic microphones are the rocker’s choice – they’re great for loud music, like drums and bass guitars.

This does mean, however, that some people find they’re not as good for quieter or higher-frequency sounds, like piano or acoustic guitar. But if you’re in a band and looking for a good dynamic mic, the Shure SM58 is the go-to choice for snare mics, while the AKG D112 is an excellent choice for a bass drum.
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Capacitor microphone

Capacitor mics are most commonly used for studio recordings, as they’re highly sensitive and deal well with high-frequency sounds. Even so, some singers – Mick Jagger and Phil Collins among them – still prefer to use a dynamic microphone, which goes to show there are no real rules. If you can, then check out how you sound on both before committing. 
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Ribbon microphone

Ribbon microphones are the kind you see 1950s radio announcers using in old film clips. They have bags of vintage appeal and give a pleasingly warm sound. 
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USB microphone

If you’re after more cutting-edge technology, try a USB microphone. These connect easily to a computer, which means you don’t need mic preamps, cables or other bits to record. If you’re recording a podcast or posting your work online, a USB mic could definitely be the best option.  

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How much should I spend?

If you’re building a home studio, your microphone will be one of your most important pieces of kit. Many experts reckon that it’s where you should spend 25% of your budget.
 
As a rule, the more you pay, the better the sound. That said, plenty of reasonably priced microphones produce as good a result as their expensive counterparts. So the trick is to shop wisely – look to the big-name manufacturers, but check out their cheaper models, such as the Shure SM58. It’s good enough for U2 and costs around £80 new.  

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What if I want an all-rounder?

You might be looking to use your microphone either on stage, or at home in a studio. Or perhaps you want something that works for both purposes. If so, there are plenty of models that will fit the bill. The Shure SM57 is one worth checking out. 

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What accessories will I need?

Pop filter (or pop shield)
This inexpensive piece of gadgetry – you can get a decent one for around £20 – will get rid of any pops and hisses, improving the quality of your recording no end. Recording studios all over the world use them as they make such a difference to the final result. Just attach one to your microphone stand and you’re away.
 
Microphone stand
Again, you’ll find many different microphone stands available. Take your pick from a table-top stand, a straight stand or a boom-mic stand. Others have music stands attached, which is handy for classical musicians.
 
Microphone cables
These come in a range of lengths, including 1m, 3m or 6m. They’re inexpensive to buy, so it can be helpful to have a range on hand.
 
Mic clip
You can buy a plastic mic clip for just a few pounds. It’s worth having one to keep your microphone firmly and securely in place. Most are standard size and will fit any microphone or stand.
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