Are You Finding The Best Mic For Your Home Recording Studio? Tips For Selecting A Microphone 2022: Tip 3

This is the third instalment of a five-part series by our friend Mike White on how to choose the right microphone. Don’t forget to check out Mike’s fantastic blog. It’s jam-packed with practical engineering and manufacturing advice. And he’s a wonderful human being to boot!

Fits Like a Glove

Microphones are like gloves; the best ones don’t say “one size fits all” on the label. Your voice is as individual as your hand, and it requires a custom fit in the same way that a glove does. A glove that looks and feels great on my hand may feel constricting and tight on yours. The same is true for microphones.

Finding a Match

Take note of the microphone you used if you have ever recorded your voice. Was it a dynamic mic, a condenser mic, or a tube mic? To you, did it sound warm, muddy, bright and clear, or harsh? It is critical to note what characteristics you like and dislike in order to find a good fit. What you really want is a microphone that will enhance your voice’s strengths while compensating for its weaknesses.

If you find that your voice sounds too bright or brittle with your current mic, you’ll need to find a mic that compensates for the natural brightness in your voice. If your voice sounds indistinct, dull, muddy, or lifeless, you’ll need to find a mic that will capture and enhance whatever brightness and presence your voice naturally has.

If you’ve never recorded your voice before or aren’t sure what equipment you’ve used, find a friend or hire someone to record it in a small or home studio. Allow them to experiment with various microphones to see how they sound. There’s a chance you’ll find your perfect fit right there. Make a mental note of the make and model numbers. Determine whether the mic is a dynamic, condenser, or tube mic, but don’t rule out any category based on this small sample. Within each, there are various levels of quality.

It’s not always the microphone’s fault

There are numerous myths about the best way to record a voice. This is especially true in the home recording setting. Early reflections and the amount and quality of reverberant energy in the recording space are the main culprits. Essentially, if you are within 10 feet of any surface, reflections from that surface will blend with the direct sound of your voice and change its tonal characteristic.

This does not imply that you should try to eliminate reflections, but rather that you should be aware of their impact and how to best control it. To eliminate this effect, at least 10 feet of foam would be required in all directions, including up and down. Furthermore, the result would be even more unnatural sounding because there is almost no place you have ever been that is completely free of reflections. Reflections are required to make the voice sound natural, but they must be controlled to limit the negative impact of parallel walls and flat surfaces.

Get Out of the Closet Already

Closets may be the worst place in the world to record vocals. Due to constructive interference from the close walls, the small space will add far too many low mid frequencies. Add in some room modes as a result of the parallel surfaces, and you’ve got a recipe for indistinct, muddy recordings of your voice.

Most rooms in the home recording environment are smaller than 20 x 20. To compensate, the best strategy is to construct a semi-circular wall that extends to the left, right, and behind you. Never prevent the sound from projecting in the direction in which you are singing. A 1-foot-thick piece of foam that is at least as tall as you are is ideal, if not practical. In a pinch, heavy packing blankets suspended from the ceiling or a tall mic stand can achieve a similar effect.

So What Are My Options?

You should be much closer to your goal after experimenting with the acoustics of the recording space. Now it’s time to move on to the next step, which is to consider the following information about the various types of microphones and how they will affect the quality of your voice.

  • Dynamic Mikes: Dynamic mikes can be a great option if everything else you use leads to an overly bright or brittle sound. Look at radio broadcast mikes as a good starting place to add warmth and body while still preserving some presence.
  • Condenser Mikes: Condenser mikes, when used with USB-powered interfaces can be very brittle sounding. If you have a mic preamp or interface that plugs into a wall socket for power, you will be taking a major step in the right direction. Always look at large-diaphragm mikes when you consider a condenser mic as an option. The size of the capsule is necessary to add the body to your voice. Make sure you get a good pop filter to help prevent plosives. A plosive is a loud thud that occurs when a burst of air from your mouth hits the mic capsule.
  • Tube Mics: If you can afford it a tube mic will give you the best of both worlds between the dynamic and condenser. Because a Tube mic is essentially a condenser mic with a tube amplification stage, you will get all the clarity and presence of the high frequencies but also have the added warmth of the tubes to thicken up your voice. Keep in mind that tube mikes are sensitive to the environment and require delicate handling. They can be noisy at times and require a warm-up time of approximately 1 hour so the tube can stabilize to give you a consistent sound.

Final Thoughts

You will need to conduct extensive research if you do not have access to a large music store with a mic room where you can audition mikes. Book an hour at a local studio or find someone with a good home recording setup and experiment with a few different microphones. It’s well worth the money to get direct evidence of what works and what doesn’t. Once you’ve determined which type of microphone is best for you, you can concentrate on features and price range. Examine the reviews of the microphones you’ve chosen carefully, paying special attention to flaws that could work against you. The same approach can be applied to almost any instrument if the information provided here is modified.

In the following tip, I’ll discuss how to choose microphones that can serve multiple functions. If you cannot afford a dedicated vocal mic, you must find a mic that will provide you with everything you require.

Check out the microphone tips collection here!
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Tip 5

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