Types of Microphones Explained – Which one should You Choose?

When you are in the sound production business, a microphone is actually your bread and butter. This is why choosing the best microphone for your kid is absolutely essential.

The device used to pick high-quality audio to ensure that people who are listening have a well rounded audio experience. It is a very important and integral part of sound design and should be the very best technology-wise.

There are mainly three types of microphones-

1. Dynamic microphones

2. Condenser microphones

3. Ribbon microphones

What you must know is that all three of them possess different qualities and are hence used for different purposes in the business. What may suit a particular type of an event may not quite suit the other.

To tackle the problem properly, you must know the various properties of each type of microphone and then select the one according to your convenience and need.

So let’s start, shall we?

1. Dynamic Microphones

These are quite reliable and versatile. They are built to be durable so they can continue to work efficiently even when they are roughly handled. They can capture sounds from electric amplifier systems and drums with ease. This is why they are usually preferred in rock concerts and live music performances.

The microphone usually works by utilizing electromagnetic induction, and has a whole apparatus set up inside which consists of a coil, magnet and a thin diaphragm. When the sound wave hits the microphone, the coil that is inside the magnetic field vibrates.

This produces current, which converts the sound signals into electrical signals. It is the electrical signals that are transported later into other devices producing high-quality sound effects.

The receiver of the microphone is built such that it is less sensitive to all kinds of sounds that come in from the background. This turns out to be a problem sometimes because the sound that is captured tends to be flatter. Hence, to always get the best out of it, you should try to ensure that the sound actually hits the top surface of the microphone.

As mentioned before, the dynamic microphones are best for live sound and road shows because of their ability to take a beating. They are preferred by singers all around the globe. However they can capture sounds and deliver high-quality audio even in soundproofed rooms, so you can use them in a quiet environment as well. They are quite multifunctional, as you can see.

Shure SM 58 and Shure SM 57 are two of the most popular dynamic microphones that are out there.

2. Condenser Microphones

They look slightly different from dynamic microphones, and are quite a bit different because of their appearance and functionalities.

They have an intricate mechanism placed inside which makes them very sensitive to the sound pressure, thus making them the perfect apparatus for recording studios.

These microphones do not have a coil inside them like dynamic microphones, instead they have two thin plates (they are also the conductive diaphragms) placed opposite to each other which behave like a capacitor.

When the sound waves strike the microphone, the pressure leads to vibration of the front plate which makes the capacitance change, and electrical audio signals are produced from it. This method of transducing requires certain amount of power, so the microphone would require an external power source or a mixer that has power source built into it.

The condenser microphone comes in different forms and sizes, some are thick with a big diaphragm, while some are small with a thin pencil-like diaphragm. They have a very wide frequency response, and a heightened sensitivity to transient sounds. This makes it suitable for sound waves that are all around it and not just the ones around the top portion of it.

Some of the condenser microphones also have a cardioid polar pattern which enables them to have the same noise cancellation features of a dynamic microphone. Microphones with the omnidirectional cardioid pattern are more sensitive to sound effects of breathing and popping while talking. Hence users need to install a pop filter in front of the microphone to allow a smooth audio capture process.

As the condenser microphone has heightened sensitivity, it is not suitable for live performances because of being prone to distortion. However, in atmospheres where the overall sound pressure isn’t very high and there is not much background noise, it works like a charm. In fact they are perfect devices to pick up the details and nuances in any musical instrument like pianos and acoustic guitars.

They are perfect in small scale performances like that in a church choir, where many people have to share a common microphone. They are also suitable for soft spoken people who have trouble speaking in a high volume during a lecture, presentation or any other social event.

Ribbon microphones

These were among the first generation of microphones ever made and were very popular in the days of the radio during the 1930s. Although the more advanced dynamic and condenser microphones have stolen most of its thunder, ribbon microphones are still regarded by some as the best natural sounding microphones that are out there. These are most suitable for home recordings.

The microphone has a duralumin ribbon inside it that is placed between two magnetic poles to produce voltages. It also picks up on the air velocities to improve its sensitivities to higher frequencies while maintaining its vintage outtake.

These microphones are even more sensitive than the condenser microphones. The sound is often captured best when it is coming from a distance, containing all the details.

These mics are bidirectional and can pickup sound from both sides unlike dynamic and condenser microphones which are cardioid and omnidirectional respectively.

These microphones are perfect for vocals or acoustic performance, and work well for choirs, drum overheads, guitars, horns, woodwind and strings. You should consider a professional grade ribbon microphone combined with a dynamic or condenser microphone for an open sounding mix.

Choose the Best Microphone For You

So, these were the different kinds of microphones available in the market. Each one of them is different from the other and serves a different purpose. When choosing a microphone, always evaluate your needs wisely and then pick the one that is most suitable for you.