Recording Microphones - A General Overview

There are many different types of recording microphone available from the reasonably priced all the way up to the very expensive, this site will help you to decide which microphones are the ones most applicable to your needs.

The purpose of this web site is to enable you to make best use of any microphones you may already own and to act as a guide when you're buying or renting microphones for a particular purpose.

Although this site is called recording microphones it also covers microphones used in public address and music amplification since they can be used simultaneously for amplification and recording by using a 'splitter box'.

Follow the links on the left hand side of each page to take you to the relevant pages and articles. This page is the best page to start for absolute novices to the subject and the links within this page will take you to the relevant pages about the different types of microphones.

Types of Recording Microphones

Initially it would appear that a microphone has much the same function when it comes to recording sound as a lens does when you want to take pictures. However, unlike the lens, a microphone is not as selective in what it records, indeed pictures can be further cropped afterwards to exclude unwanted sections while recorded sound can't be treated in a similar way.

There are many different types of affordable microphones available today, but that wasn't always the case. In the past only dynamic microphones such as the Shure SM58 were sold at anything approaching 'reasonable' prices, whereas the Condenser and Ribbon microphones for professional recording studio use, were very expensive and made by only a few manufacturers such as Neumann and AKG.

beyer mc470 recording microphone
Beyer MC470 Mic

Now days prices have dropped significantly, mainly because of competition from new companies like Rode Microphones, this has allowed home & project studios to start using professional quality condenser mics. Today even wireless microphone systems are available at a sensible prices making them an option for many more gigging musicians, unimaginable even ten years ago.

bass microphone
AKGD11 Bass Mic

What you intend to record and what your budget is will determine which microphone or microphones you should buy first. It's often better to get one good, high quality microphone that uses all your budget than several that don't have the necessary sound quality which will be hard to sell or exchange when you come to upgrade later.

Good quality stereo microphones carefully positioned can produce an excellent recording, in fact using too many microphones, on a band for instance, can end up sounding lifeless since all the mics ‘hear’ all the instruments at slightly different times and various frequencies cancel out.

What Do You Want to Record?

Are you recording small groups or large groups of musicians (website builders for musicians) and will they be amplified through a loud P.A. system, or are they in a studio? Instrument microphones can be used in both cases but it's better to select microphones that are capable of withstanding the hard knocks that Live sound usually entails and that are tailored to reject feedback from the P.A. system.

In the studio you will tend to use the more expensive but less hardy microphones, though the robust Live mic's can be utilized here, particularly on the individual parts of a drum kit.

lapel microphones
Lapel Microphone

Maybe video microphones in various guises are what you need. Are you filming just one presenter? This will require either a lapel microphone or a handheld microphone plugged directly into the camera or alternatively wireless microphone versions of those types to give you more flexibility as to where you put the presenter.

Are you doing interviews, and how many interviewees are there? If there are many you will need either lots of lapel microphones and a mixer with sufficient channels or a boom microphone to point at who's talking.

If it's general 'atmosphere' sound that you want but there's too much camera noise being picked up on the built in microphone you'll need a separate stereo microphone plugged into the camera on an extension lead or via a mixer.

headsets microphones
Headsets Mics

Microphones can now be made ever smaller and are used in greater numbers of applications such as computer microphones for internet chatting, headset microphones for telephone switchboard operators even spy microphones and those used in mobile telephones, all with incredible fidelity given their size.

Our Guitar Recording Microphones page contains tips on optimum microphone positioning for recording various types of guitars.

We've just added two new pages - The History of Neumann Microphones and Microphone Pre-Amplifiers.