The different types of microphones and their uses
Microphones are as integral to media and entertainment as our heartbeat is to our health. Picking the right microphone is vital for best sound reproduction. Here in this article we will see which microphone or mic to use for what application.
Broad classifications of microphones
There are two ways to classify microphones used in music. One is according to the way we design them and the second is according the way we use them in the music recording. Let us see how we use them in the music recording first.
According to use
For vocal sound reproduction: This is the most common usage where a microphone helps amplify the sound of a voice of a person speaking or singing. Here feedback suppression is important and so you can choose ribbon microphones or a dynamic mic. Sometimes, you might find people using a shotgun mic or omnidirectional mics.
For percussion instruments: The sound of the drums is already loud so you can choose the dynamic cardioid mics. Small diaphragm mics find use with cymbals and hi-hat.
Guitar mics: Hyper-cardioid dynamic mics find use with electric guitars in front of the amp speaker. You can use a second condenser mic or ribbon mic if you are using many amps. For acoustic guitars, Figure 8 mics are the best. You could also use a small diaphragm microphone for capturing high-frequency sounds.
According to design
The second way of classification is according to design. The following classification deals with XLR or USB connectivity. You will not need external power for those with USB connectivity.
Dynamic type: This is a versatile type of microphone that is very reliable. It has a moving coil magnetic diaphragm that operates well at high sound pressure levels. You can use them for drums, electric guitar, and all other loud stage sounds as they handle the Sound Pressure Levels (SPL) very well. They also operate well in quieter levels well.
Ribbon mics: Ribbon mics were a hit once in the radio industry. They had improved sensitivity because they had a movable ribbon that picked up the velocity of the sound as well as the vibration of the air molecules. This gives warmth to the voice while capturing the high frequencies well. So, when the voice level is manageable this mic finds a use for multi-instrument recording.
Condenser mic: In this, the conductive diaphragm is thin and sits near the metal backplate. It works like a capacitor with the sound activating the diaphragm. This changes the capacitance and this change turns into an audio signal. The quality is high because there is no moving coil. Due to these qualities, we use the condenser mic for high fidelity recording.
According to size
We may also classify the mics according to the size of the diaphragm. This diaphragm is the thin material that vibrates when the sound energy is incident on it. We do not have any standard measure to quantify the diaphragm. We call the small diaphragm mics as pencil mics. They are easy to handle and can tolerate high sound pressure well.
The hybrid diaphragms or the medium diaphragm mics have a fuller sound compared to the small diaphragm mics. In the typical case, one uses them for the home studio. The large diaphragm microphones have high fidelity and can detect even minute sounds.