What is a microphone?

Omnidirectional microphoneA microphone is a piece of audio equipment that converts sound into an electrical signal, slightly changing the recorded tone and creating almost imperceptible changes for the listener. You won’t get the same “real sound” that you’d hear live and in-person, but you can come very close with a high quality piece of equipment. It is very important for us to take this into account, because, although many microphones are close to perfection, you can’t expect the same clear sound that we hear at a concert.

What can you use a microphone for? Microphones come in a variety of price ranges and quality. Computer microphones and headsets are fine for playing video games or chatting with friends via Skype. For performing the aforementioned activities, you can rely on good value-for-money brands such as Logitech and Speedlink. Prices for for these types of microphones easily fall under £20.

For higher quality in home audio recording, such as podcasts, demos or musical instructional videos, you’ll want to stretch you budget a bit farther. While still affordable compared to professional recording mics, home recording microphones from manufacturers like Blue can offer omnidirectional recording for an affordable price. Many models sit affordably between the £50 - £100 price mark.

Dynamic or condenser

One of the biggest concerns when we buy a new microphone is the difficult choice between a dynamic mic and a condenser style. A dynamic microphone is very robust because it doesn’t have any fragile, moving parts. Best of all, condenser mics don’t require any external power source or battery. These microphones could be used for several years and require little maintenance. They are used by those who need a microphone for numerous events such as a live show to recording quietly at home. They’re also relatively cheap for the average consumer.

Condenser microphones, the type most used for professional recording, can record a wide range of tones and timbres. There are two basic types of condenser mics: those with an external power source and those with an electric condenser. Condenser mics have the advantage over their dynamic counterparts because background noise is minimized and the microphone’s mechanical noise is barely heard, resulting in a spectacular performance. Also, they weight less than other microphones and therefore are traditionally used as tie mics.

Other Types
While dynamic and condenser mics are not the only options on the market, they are the most used. Other microphones, usually cheap and with a very low quality, use very small carbon grains or pieces of glass or ceramic to transmit sound. While these mics would allow us to understand words, they shouldn’t be used professionally for voice audio recording or recording music. There are also tape microphones which are sometimes used in large studios to enhance the sound, but due to their excessive fragility, are hardly used today.

Directional recording

USB microphoneOmnidirectional
An omnidirectional microphone is able to pick up the sound equally from any direction, if the distances are the same. This microphone is perfect for people that want to sit around a table and talk or record nature and ambient sounds. This is also an omnidirectional mic’s biggest downfall as it can pick up unwanted noises like the hum of a computer or the sound of an air conditioning unit. Ultimately, the sound is more natural because it captures the light nuances sometimes lost with a less sensitive recording device.

The unidirectional (also known as cardioid) microphone has the advantage of recording only what is in front of the microphone, but not behind. This essentially eliminates or silences the background noises an omnidirectional mic will pick up. Obviously, it always depends on the quality of the recording location. Although we can only record from the front of the microphone, some sounds could reach the microphone and interfere with recording quality. There are different versions of unidirectional mics such as the supercardioid and  hypercardoid, which have a larger polar pattern and are used in live TV and sporting events.

Bidirectional microphones are perfect with only two people speaking, because it will capture the voices of both equally if one faces the other and speaks with the same intensity. Thus, these microphones can capture the sound perfectly for your front and back, but nothing that comes from the sides. Because of this, it’s perfect for interviews and musical duets, but has some one very important problem. While the voices are recorded together, they can’t be treated separately in the post-production, something that the omnidirectional microphone also suffers from.

Avoid noise

S / N ratio
This is one of the most important qualities if we want to talk in our microphone and be understood without problems, since it highlights the recording quality. So, if the number of this ratio is high, the sound quality will be better. It is usually said that a microphone is excellent if it exceeds 84 decibels, although 64 is considered normal and acceptable. Of course, the price also tends to be consistent with this number: The higher the quality, the larger the price.

It’s important to consider the impedance of the microphone that measures the audio quality. Regardless, the ohms that microphones mark do not matter very much if we are not going to record with special devices. We must also take into consideration other important values ​​for a perfect recording: the noise of the microphone when it is not used (you should escape from those who mark more than 30 dBA SPL), the hertz that can be captured or the microphone’s own sensitivity .From here, the only thing that matters to make a perfect recording is the talent.