Microphones at Bad Racket Recording Studio Cleveland, Ohio
We have many microphones at Bad Racket including rare, vintage, and custom microphones check out our gear page
Microphones are the electric the ears of recording. They work by changing air pressure energy into electrical energy. Most work in a similar way to a human ear, in regard to the capsule being very similar to the eardrum. The capsule is the inner part of a microphone that actually does the listening is usually a thin membrane of some sort that vibrates from the sound traveling through the air.
Microphones are used to turn sound into electrical signals that can be recorded. There are many different types of microphones that work better for different applications, and knowing about how to use the right tool for the job can really make a difference in your recordings.
Microphones can be either side address, or front address. Side address means the microphone works best pointed perpendicular (90 degrees) to the source. Most large studio condenser microphones are side address. Front address microphones are pointed directly at the source (this would be like a regular vocal microphone you would see at a concert, or a pencil condenser mic pointed at a cymbal. When in doubt look at the manual, because you might be totally using a mic wrong.
Different microphones pick up the sound in a more directional, or less direction manner. How directional a microphone is can be graphed into a 360 degree circle called a polar pattern. The resulting shapes can be made into symbols and are universally used on the microphones themselves and are located on the side that is closest to the source. Usually the logo also goes towards the source.
Microphone Polar Patterns
Omni Directional is accepting sound from 360 degrees (represented by a circle.) Omni is useful for when you want to get the overall sound of a room, and not just one specific element. A room mic for drums might be cool in omni, or an acoustic guitar player might sound good in a room with an omni mic. There is no rejection from the back of the mic (360 degree pickup) so it might not be good if you’re trying to get different signals between different mic.
Cardioid or unidirectional is the most common, and is represented by a sort of upside down heart or butt shape. It represents one side picking up, and the most rejection on the back.
The area with the most rejection is where the curve dips inward (the crack of the butt shape in the cardioid. On figure eight, or bidirectional, there are two null points at 90 degrees and 270 degrees perpendicular to the microphone pickup points.
Super Cardioid and Hyper cardioid
Super Cardioid and Hypercardioid are pickup patterns which are somewhere in between figure 8 and cardioid. Their null points are set off axis between 90 and 180 degrees.
Some microphones have multiple pickup patterns which you can select. This is useful for using microphones for different applications. Different mics and different mic placements can change the sound drastically so it’s important to use the right tool for the job in the right manner. Since its all sort of subjective, the only way you like best is to experiment with different mics and see what works best. Use what you have, and use it well and you’ll get great results even with less expensive microphones… or come to the studio and try out our Neumann U87 to hear how a really expensive mic sounds in comparison. But does it sound 100 times better than a $100 condenser….no! it sounds a little better, but when you’re trying to give your vocals the best they can be you’re gonna want that extra 10% of quality!
Types of Microphones according to electro-mechanical principle
Most microphones fall into 4 categories.
The four basic types of microphones are:
1. Condenser microphones are based upon a metal capsule, resembling a small disk, typically the size of a quarter or smaller. Because these microphones work by applying electricity to the metal capsule, capturing the sound, condenser microphones require power. This power is called “phantom power” and travels along the microphone cable. A battery can be used, but phantom power supplied from the mixing board is highly recommended. Condenser microphones are detailed and well suited for recording.
2. Dynamic Microphones work based on a slightly different principle but similar to that of a speaker. A coil of wire is attached to an eardrum-like-membrane called a diaphragm. This coil of wire moves by magnetic force when the diaphragm is vibrated and creates an electrical voltage through the microphone cable. Dynamic microphones do not require phantom power because they generate their own power necessary for an audio signal.
3. Ribbon Microphones are very similar to dynamic microphones. They too typically do not require phantom power. They work on a similar principle, but instead the signal is generated through the vibrations of a small ribbon of crinkled foil or metal that hangs between a magnet. Some ribbon mics can be fatally damaged with phantom power so be careful if you’re using a really old mic and know what the heck you’re doing you turkey!
4. Electret condenser microphones work similar to condenser, but instead use a charged capsule. This tiny capsule works like the larger condenser microphone capsule but may not require phantom power. These are often used when a very small microphone is required, for example, a microphone inside a cell phone. Electret condensers are by far the least frequently used microphone in a recording studio.
Stay tuned for Microphone Placement techniques!