Best Studio Recording Microphones for 2017 [Guide]

Best Studio Recording Microphones

So what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?

When you think of a ‘Recording Studio’.

Indeed…

… Microphones.

And rightly so:

Without such a big, magnificent piece of gear in the middle of the room the whole thing seems incomplete.

So how to choose from a huge selection of mics?

To purchase a microphone you will have plenty of time to poke around on the Internet or in music stores, among the most extravagant ones larded with all kinds of marketing slogans and specification lists.

You must look for a mic that fits your needs!!!


10 Quality Studio Mics

The AKG C414

AKG C414 XLS

AKG C414 XLS

AKG is a brand synonymous with audio equipment including DJ decks, synthesizers, software emulators and more.Read more...


The Shure SM58

Shure SM58

Shure SM58

The echoes of musicians and vocalists raving about the pure sound of a Shure SM58 could be heard just as soon as you step out of the studio.Read more...


If you’ve got more money for more premium stuff, then read on!

Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone

Shure SM7B

Shure SM7B

Shure sure loves their dynamic microphones (you saw what I did there). But the world only loves the SM58 and not many people know about the SM7.Read more...


The SM7B is a great microphone for its price. That is, if you’re willing to find the right spot for singing vocals. If not well, there’s…

The Rode NTK

Rode NTK

Rode NTK

Any vocalist will tell you the way to go is through tube condenser microphones.Read more...


But if you’re not looking for an eternal-life microphone, you probably need this!

The Neumann U87

Neumann U87

Neumann U87

Neumann won’t make you feel like a new man (punny) but it’ll make your vocal recording sound like a brand-new you.Read more...


Didn’t mean to scare you right there. Maybe the U87’s predecessor isn’t as strict as it is? Maybe? Let’s see!

The Neumann U47

Neumann U47

Neumann U47

The ‘Flea 47’ does not intend to make you flee and fear it just like its successor. The moniker with the number 47 was the original Neumann U47 launched in 1948.Read more...


But maybe there’s a cheaper, much more stable and portable alternative.

The Audio-Technica AT2035

Audio-Technica AT2035

Audio-Technica AT2035

Audio-Technica uses cutting-edge technology, tried-and-tested machine and equipment knowledge and years of experience to create:Read more...


Don’t like a budget microphone like this one? Then let’s get back to more expensive toys!

The Neumann TLM 103

Neumann TLM 103

Neumann TLM 103

If you say expensive, you’ve got to say it’s Neumann. Those rare tube parts, that vintage sound, that sophisticated-sounding grille, that’s all signature Neumann from the golden days of jazz singing, radio announcements and rock and roll.Read more...


For more vintage vibes, you’ll need…

The Blue Baby Bottle Microphone

Blue Baby Bottle Microphone

Blue Baby Bottle Microphone

Vintage means handmade. Handmade means more expensive.Read more...


Or maybe you’d like something that didn’t come from Europe.

The Avantone CV12

Avantone CV12

Avantone CV12

I’m pretty sure none of you ever heard the brand Avantone before. Well, yes you may have. It’s 2015 and most people have found out about Avantone’s audio gear since.Read more...


Introducing: 9 Mic Essentials to know Before Recording

Jump to section by clicking on any link


1. What is a Mic | 2. Dynamic | 3. Condenser | 4. Ribbon | 5. Polar Patterns
6. Proximity Effect | 7. SPL | 8. Choosing | 9. Pros & Cons
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1. What is a microphone exactly?

That’s the next question you might ask yourself:

The primary function of a mic is…

…to convert acoustic energy (sound pressure) into electric energy.

This is a simple process…

…but it needs the right tone color, for the sound pressure and character of the specific source you want to record.

If you make a wrong microphone choice it will lead to an unnatural sound with too much or not enough high or low frequencies.

A basic knowledge of microphones and recording with them is a must for the serious producer, musician or recording artist.

This guide is specifically tailored to provide you precisely what you need to know.


2. Dynamic Microphones

This is how a dynamic microphone works

This Is How a Dynamic Mic Works

The process of a dynamic mic (image right) is actually simple to explain:

  1. The diaphragm (2) functions as the core
  2. The inductor made of copper wire (3) is attached to the core
  3. Within the inductor there is a magnet (4)
  4. When the diaphragm moves current (1) is generated
  5. This current translates to sound by a preamplifier

It’s actually the opposite of a sound speaker (DJ’s used to MC through their headphones back in the days).

The biggest advantage of this type of mic is that it can handle any variation of sound pressure.

Because of this…

…it can be placed close to the source you want to record.

The dynamic process we explained earlier is less suited for sources that are further away.


3. Condenser Microphones

This is how a condenser microphone worksThese so called condensers (image right) work very differently than the dynamic type.

The process of a condenser explained:

  1. The diaphragm (2) is where it all starts
  2. Closely build to a hard back plate (3)
  3. These two combined are called condenser
  4. Current is created by high electric resistance (5)
  5. Phantom power (48+ Volt) is needed for the resistance
  6. When there is air displacement (1) within the condenser, the diaphragm bends and causes changes in current.
  7. The charge remains the same while the capacity changes (thus current)

Because there is no cupper wire involved to move this microphone is more sensitive to air pressure displacement.

The advantage of recording with condensers is that you can place it further away from the source.


4. Ribbon Microphones

The Ribbon MicrophoneRibbons (image right) are almost identical to the dynamic type…

…but with only one big difference:

Instead of a diaphragm with an inductor a ribbon captures vibrations.

There are a number of disadvantages:

  • Very sensitive to air pressure and even to whiffles, blows and puffs
  • The thin metal ribbon is very fragile
  • The mic has a low output (you will need a very good preamp)

Despite of these disadvantages ribbons are known for their “full character” and that’s why they are beloved


5. Polar Patterns

Microphones are designed with certain directional characteristics.

So pay attention to the details if you want to buy one.

It can be annoying if a microphone does not only pick up the sound of the amp…

…but also absorbs a large part of the reflections in your room through the back of your microphone.

Microphones are basically omnidirectional but by adjusting (changing) the capsule, it creates several different options (polar patterns).

The different polar patterns:

  1. Thecardioid, which is only sensitive from the front.
  2. The hyper cardioid, mainly used for recording from the front but it also picks up a bit of signal from behind (from a narrow angle).
  3. The bidirectional or figure-of-eight pattern, which is equally sensitive on both sides.
  4. The Omnidirectional picks up signals from a 360 degree angle (all sides)

There are a couple of variations to the four basic polar patterns I mentioned above.

For example: Super cardioid Pattern which is used on “shot gun” microphones (which is largely insensitive to the rear).

Most commonly used is the cardioid.

(graphic representation of several directional characteristics) plaatje


6. Proximity effect

The phenomenon proximity effect, comes down to the fact that if your sound source is closer to the microphone – especially the last 10 to 15 centimeters – the amount of bass in the recorded
sound considerably increases.

You can also notice this the other way around: the farther you are from the microphone, the less low you going to get.

Especially condenser microphones are very sensitive. But it’s not a bad thing

Because by experimenting with the placement of your microphones, you can significantly influence the sound character without…

…having all kinds of buttons to rotate the recorded signal.

Especially low vocals and heavy guitars can greatly benefit from this proximity effect, with the right placement of course.


7. Sound Pressure Level

In the manual of your microphone you will find information about characteristics…

…but also about the SPL (Sound Pressure Level).

This indicates how much sound pressure the microphone can handle and…

…is highly variable for each type of microphone.

And that’s definitely a good thing.

A bass drum can already produce about 135 decibels of sound pressure and that’s too much for an inexpensive microphone.

Many quality microphones often have a much higher tolerance, but it’s better to buy a microphone specifically designed for the bass drum and his substantial pressure.


8. Mic Choices
Different Microphones

FLTR dynamic (shure SM58), condenser (Rode NT1-a), & ribbon (AEA KU4)

Anyway, when you finally going to purchase a microphone, it is important to make a conscious choice.

Start with a list of answers to the following questions:

  • For what purpose do you need a microphone?
  • What “directional characteristic” do you need?
  • Are you looking for a specific sound (more highs or a flat frequency response)
  • What do you want to record (instruments or voice) and can it handle the sound pressure?
  • Are you only going to use it in your studio or do you also need it for life performances?

Even the acoustics of your recording room may be a factor in choosing the right microphone.

An area with hard materials (wooden floors, smooth walls) would increase the reflections, so you will be less tempted to put a condenser at a distance.

Close miking with a dynamic microphone will be appropriate to above mentioned circumstances.


9. PROS AND CONS

Condenser

  • wide frequency range
  • A”linear, realisticshooting
  • excellent transient response (the peaks in your sound)
  • High output
  • often expensive to buy
  • vulnerable
  • a separate power supply or battery needed

Dynamic

  • relatively inexpensive
  • reasonable to very good performance
  • round, full sound
  • sturdy
  • no power supply needed
  • low output

Ribbon

  • relatively expensive
  • sensitive to interference
  • may also pick up very low frequencies
  • good preamp needed

Final Words

There is a big variety of microphones you can find on the market…

…and you will have to pay attention to a lot of factors to make the right decision.

Tip: Go to your local music store and make an appointment to test a range of mics.

You will be astonished about the diversity, sound (color) and price range of different types and brands.

Have fun.

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