The humble microphone. No other piece of equipment can have such an effect on the overall quality of your recordings. The one place you shouldn’t cut any corners is with your recording microphone.
High-end recording microphones can be seriously expensive. Try the Neumann U87 – a snip at 3 grand…
The good news is that you can get decent quality microphones these days at a reasonable price.
Ideally, you would want different microphones for different jobs – one each for recording vocals, guitars, bass, even the different parts of the drum kit. Unless you’re made of money, this is beyond the means of most home recording artists.
At the very least, you want a microphone for instruments and another for vocals. However, even buying 2 budget microphones might be too much for some, initially at least…
Let’s say you are just looking for one microphone that will do the job for you. What should you choose? There are literally thousands to choose from.
Well, there is no one-size-fits-all recording microphone out there. But let’s keep it simple and suppose you’re looking for a versatile first microphone.
You should be looking in the $100-$250/£100-£200 price range for a decent microphone. At that price, you’ll be getting high sound quality. The more you come down from this range, the more you’ll start to notice it in your recordings.
The recording microphones featured here are some of the best you can find in that range that are versatile enough to use on vocals and instruments.
(Note that when you’re buying a recording microphone, they don’t usually come with an XLR cable, microphone stand or pop filter as standard. You’ll only need the pop filter if you’re recording vocals but you need a cable and a stand. However, you can often find good deals that include these accessories for only a small amount on top of the microphone price.)
When recording you have to know what Mic to use or the recording could end up sounding crazy!
You have three different types of recording microphones and each one serves a totally different purpose. The three types are:
Condenser Microphones – Rap & R&B; Favorite
Best overall frequency response makes this the microphone of choice for many recording applications. If you are serious about getting the clearest sound with for your vocals though you want this mic. Condenser microphones have very high sensitivity and very low self noise. Most of these mics have switchable polar patterns for placement and application flexibility.
Especially preferred for recording backing vocals/choir, acoustic guitar, strings and almost all brass instruments. Requires a battery or external power supply to operate. To get a good condenser microphone you will spend a pretty penny they are not cheap. Prices $200 - $4,500
Ribbon Microphones – Instrument Favorites
I love ribbon microphones for live instrument recordings. They add warmth to the tone of music by accenting lows when close-miked. The mic can be used to discriminate against distant low frequency noise in its most common gradient form. Careful though…accenting lows sometimes produces boomy bass. Wait, that could be very good…lol.
Ribbon microphones are very susceptible to wind noise so don’t use them outside unless shielded well. You get a pure natural sound with quick, smooth transients, just as you hear it when you place this mic in the studio.
Conventional ribbon microphones average 15 to 20 dB lower sensitivity than condenser mics, necessitating the use of high-quality, high-gain microphone preamplifiers for recording softer sound sources like acoustic instruments, vocals and room ambiance. They are also not cheap Mics. Pricing range $500 - $5,000
Dynamic Microphones – The Work Horses
These microphones are fairly cheap and rugged. Don’t look for high ended gold sputter tips or vacuum tubes on these! You find most of these mics in churches or large events where there is going o be announcements made by several different people.
This is what you want to buy just for rehearsals or something like that. If you are going to be around people who will lay the mic down on floors or they will drop it practicing dance moves you are safe with these. Price range $79.00 - $499
People who have studios largely prefer condenser microphones for recording, as they are known to have greater ability to reproduce the pace of any instrument or vocal sounds. They also generate output of a higher decibel and happen to be more sensitive to higher sounds.
Condenser microphones normally cost higher than dynamic ones, though there are cheaper versions too. Many users of condenser microphones for recording are of the view that they invariably are of Chinese make and they hardly vary in performance. They normally need a power supply of 48 volts that can be obtained from much of mixing boards or even external power supply.
As mentioned above, most studios go for condenser microphones for recording jobs owing to their sensitivity and finer ability to regenerate sounds of higher decibels and may be because they happen to be more delicate as compared to dynamic microphones for recording works.
Having said that, condenser microphones are a common sight in live music concerts, suspended above the drummers and in chorus programs. They are mostly available with either small or large diaphragms. The former one is more suited for concerts, while the latter one is preferred in studio vocals.
In comparison with condenser microphones, dynamic microphones for recording works happen to be sturdier and tougher. Owing to their appreciable resistance to moisture and rough use, they are looked upon as ideal ones for onstage shows. They are preferred not for their withstanding ability against abuse of any kind, but also because their fine sound clarity.
If you visit any rock program, you will notice that there are probably not less than 5 of 6 of these microphones in strategic locations. They reproduce the same kind of quality and clarity no matter how long they have been used for. Unlike condenser microphones, dynamic microphones for recording works do not need a dedicated power supply.
Their sound quality too may not be as sharp as that of condenser microphones. Most them have low frequency output, and hence users of these microphones aver that they are excellent for high decibels, like in loud guitars, live vocal performances and apparently for drums.
Now that you have some inputs on both kinds of microphones for recording, you may choose the one which is suited for the kind of work that you do, whether for recording vocals at your home or for recording live performance outside home.
The Best Microphones for Home Recording Reviewed
That completes the list of 7 decent recording microphones for your home recording studio.
Some people might argue the case for other microphones to be included.Sure, there are other microphones that could be included on this list, and I’m sure that you can find other recommendations.
The fact of the matter is that these are quality microphones that deliver and sound like much more expensive microphones, and no-one can argue with that.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all recording microphone and you should eventually look to pick up the best microphones you can afford for each different instrument you want to record. However, when starting out, stick to one of these and you won’t go wrong.
Don’t forget to look out for what’s included. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting your new microphone delivered only to find that you can’t use it because you don’t have a cable or a stand…