If you’re a budding independent artist, career milestones—like getting signed to a label, putting your music on Spotify, and entering the sync licensing industry—can be vital. To do so, Music Gateway executive Mary Woodcock explains you’ll need polished, finished tracks built on a foundation of clear audio for listeners to enjoy.
The recording studio is where you’ll create this foundation, and mics are the centerpiece of that studio. But how do you choose the right microphone for the job? Below we tackle the different microphones, polar patterns, and questions you need to consider to choose the best mic for your needs.
Types of microphones
Dynamic microphones can capture sound while resisting feedback and distortion. They do so through a diaphragm that vibrates when sound waves, moving a coil of wire within a magnetic field and creating an electric audio signal that can be recorded or amplified.
Condenser microphones are known for their precise sensitivity, capturing sound nuances and subtleties other microphones can’t encapsulate. This is thanks to a capacitor made of movable and fixed plates, which can pick up various sound waves and convert them into audio.
This mic’s diaphragm is a ribbon of metal, which moves back and forth after receiving sound waves to generate an audio signal. It can thus capture uncolored, natural sound, though the ribbon’s fragility requires the microphone to be handled carefully.
Types of polar patterns
Mics with cardioid patterns capture sounds directly in front of it while rejecting sound waves from other directions. This is useful for providing good sound isolation and eliminating ambient noise.
A bidirectional or figure-8 pattern allows microphones to capture sounds from the front and back. This makes it perfect for capturing duets.
Mics with omnidirectional patterns are equally sensitive to sounds coming from any direction. Its flat frequency response means it can record the original source of a sound without coloring or distorting it.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing the right studio microphone
What sounds are you recording?
When recording the vocals of your next track, it’s best to use a dynamic microphone with a cardioid pattern to isolate your voice with a smooth quality. A great model for this is the Shure SM7B. Shout4Music recommends the Shure SM7B in many of its microphone guides as it’s one of the best cardioid microphones in terms of versatility, bass roll-off, and mid-range emphasis. It produces clean and crisp vocal tracks—perfect for particularly lyrical songs.
For electric instruments like guitars, try bidirectional ribbon mics to produce a warm and rich sound with a touch of room ambiance. You can use Beyerdynamic’s M 160 Double Ribbon Microphone for its superior hyper-cardioid pattern that can tame and record even the most blaring music with ease.
Meanwhile, consider a cardioid condenser mic for recording percussions. Its wide frequency range will be able to record the distinct frequencies of the kick, snare, and tom drums. For this, author and drum expert Benjamin Pyke particularly recommends the Audio-Technica AT-4040. Its externally polarized true condenser design and precision-machined acoustic element baffle offer stability and sensitivity while minimizing unwanted sounds.
What genre are you recording?
If different instruments are best recorded with specific microphones, the same is true for genres. Take jazz: the ribbon mic’s unique design is best suited for capturing its complexities, while a bidirectional polar pattern is ideal for recording its call-and-response tradition between musicians. In this case, leading ribbon microphone brand Royer Labs delivers with its R-10 mic. With its maximum SPL of 160 dB at 1kHz, it’s perfect for recording brass instruments and both the bright and dark tones of jazz.
Meanwhile, recording the amplified instruments and intense rhythms of rock music calls for a dynamic cardioid mic: it’s durable and can isolate vivid sounds. The Sennheiser e945 Dynamic Super-Cardioid Microphone is an excellent choice, with its commendable crystal clear highs and lows, noise reduction, and resilient build.
Carefully choosing a recording studio microphone will help you create music that establishes your professional career. Keep the above information and questions in mind when selecting the best match for your music.
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