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Pro Audio Microphones

A microphone (mic) changes sound waves into an electrical signal. This signal can then be amplified, recorded or transmitted.

Things to consider

  • Sound source - select a microphone capable of picking up the frequency range of what you want to record, and cope with the loudness of the source.
  • Equipment the microphone will connect to - ensure compatibility of both electrical characteristics and physical connections to other audio equipment you intend to use.

Common types of professional microphone

  • Condenser
  • Dynamic 
  • Ribbon 
  • Lavalier

Condenser microphones

  • Pros - better for high-frequency detail, more distance or quieter sounds sources. Suited to percussion, piano, strings or vocals within a studio setting
  • Cons - can be overloaded by loud sounds

Condenser mics use internal circuitry that requires power to operate. Termed ‘phantom power,’ this is supplied through the microphone cable from the audio mixer or recorder. Some utilise an internal battery.

If a microphone is identified as a valve or tube mic, it utilises a valve as a pre-amplifier. Sometimes popular for a more pleasing tonal quality, valve mics need time to warm up before use.

Dynamic microphones

  • Pros - can cope with loud sounds without distortion, therefore suitable for guitar amps, drums and vocals in a live environment
  • Cons - not good for weak or distant sounds

Ribbon microphones

Similar to condenser mics but containing a delicate ribbon of aluminium as a key component of the internal workings

Reputation as being delicate and unsuitable for exposure to loud sounds

Check the specifications to see exactly what a ribbon model can handle

Lavalier microphones

Sometimes called tie, body or lapel mics

Small microphones used in television, theatre and public speaking

Frequency response

This graph shows the range of sound a mic can reproduce as well as how sensitive it is within that range. 

Polar patterns

Sometimes called pickup patterns, polar patterns show where a microphone ‘looks’ for sound and areas it will ignore. 

Different patterns are useful for different applications, depending on what you want to capture. There are three main types:

  • Bidirectional - records sound within a figure of eight pattern and is ideal if recording two sources either side of the mic
  • Cardioid - focussed on what is in front of them, you may also see the terms hyper cardioid and super cardioid. The difference lies in how much they reject and where.
  • Omnidirectional - picks up sound evenly in all directions

Refer to the technical specifications of a microphone to view a visual representation of the polar pattern of your chosen mic.

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