About Our Microphones:
When considering microphones for your next gig or recording project, the choices can be overwhelming. Condenser or dynamic? USB, or XLR through an interface? Shure, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Blue, or any of the dozens of other makes available? Well, the good news is that with today's technology, as long as you match the mic to the job at hand, you should be able to get the results you want at a price that won't break the bank.
Microphones have come a long way since the first ones were produced in the 1870s for use in telephones. Today, there are several basic designs, but they all do basically the same thing: transduce, or convert sound waves into an electrical signal. That signal is then amplified and sent to a speaker, which reverses the process and converts the electric signal back to glorious sound waves. While there is a wide variety of specialty designs for scientific, underwater or other uses, most musicians and vocalists use a combination of dynamic and condenser mics to fill the majority of their needs.
Dynamic microphones, such as the Shure SM58, work by electromagnetic induction, where a small diaphragm vibrates with the sound waves it receives. That diaphragm is coupled to a wire coil in the magnetic field of a permanent magnet. When the diaphragm vibrates, the moving coil generates an electrical signal. This design is fairly robust and reliable, and usually has a wide frequency response, and so is often used for live vocals or recording instruments. Along with the SM58, which is perhaps the world's best-selling mic, other examples include the Shure SM57, used for vocals or miking an instrument cabinet for recording, or to feed to a PA system
. There are also specially-designed dynamic mics for other purposes, such as recording the high SPLs, or sound pressure levels, generated by a drum set
Condenser microphones, on the other hand, are generally much more sensitive, both to sound and to physical damage, so they are more widely used for studio recording of vocals and acoustic instruments, though there are some now designed for stage use. They work by employing the diaphragm as part of an electrical capacitor circuit, so only the diaphragm moves, rather than the entire assembly, as in a dynamic mic. This is what provides the increased sensitivity. They require a power source, called phantom power, which can be supplied by the mixing console, a battery, or a dedicated power supply. These mics tend to produce a much higher-fidelity audio signal, especially for capturing quieter or more subtle passages. While you can easily spend thousands on a classic Neumann condenser
, the home studio engineer can produce some stellar recordings with an MXL 990 for under a hundred dollars. There are also very affordable condenser microphones with USB cables, and even USB adapters for dynamic mics, for direct connection to your computer. These are common for home studios and podcasting. If that's not enough to get you started, you can certainly dig deeper - check out some ribbon mics for your studio, PZM (boundary) mics for theater or conference use, wireless and lavalier mics
for live performance, or contact mics for acoustic instruments. The world of sound awaits! Start transducing!