Are You Finding The Best Mic For Your Home Recording Studio? Tips For Selecting A Microphone 2021: Tip 4


Once again we have a great post by Mike White in his 5 part series on how to choose the correct microphone. Be sure to check out Mike’s fantastic blog. It’s jam-packed with real-world engineering and production advice!

Flexibility

What will you be using your microphone for? Are you using it for recording or live performance? What instruments do you plan to use it for? What is the primary instrument on that list? These are all questions that must be answered before you lay down the plastic. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a mic that is less than what you hoped for.

If your mic is for a single purpose, then focus your research on microphones that are specifically designed for that instrument. Consider the practical application of the mic and how it fits into your studio or live performance situation. If you need a mic to serve more than one purpose, start by making a list of all the instruments you plan to use the mic for. Prioritize that list by placing the most important or most frequently recorded instruments higher on your list.

Example #1:

I need a general home recording mic.

  1. Vocals
  2. Acoustic Guitar
  3. Electric Guitar amp
  4. Shakers and Tambourine

Because of the wide range of dynamics in this setup, you will need to look at a mic that has some flexibility. In this case, I would recommend a large-diaphragm condenser mic that has switchable polar patterns and a pad. Although a small-diaphragm condenser would work better for the instruments, the vocal sound would suffer most. A large-diaphragm mic used at a 2-foot distance from the acoustic guitar will still sound great. The pad will allow the mic to used up close on a guitar amp or percussion instrument. Switchable polar patterns will allow you to record a group of vocals or instruments without having to crowd around in front of the mic.

Example #2:

I need a good mic for recording drums, bass and guitar amps.

  1. Kick Drum
  2. Bass
  3. Guitar Amp

In this case, I would go with a dynamic mic unless the setup was for jazz or a lighter more sophisticated sound. A good dynamic mic that handles low-end well will be a priority here. Especially if the style dictates power over finesse. Some dynamic mikes have a built-in low-frequency filter that will allow you to thin out sounds that may come across as muddy when recorded. In a jazz setup, a quality large-diaphragm condenser mic with a pad might serve better to capture the finer details of a performance. Switchable polar patterns will also give you some flexibility with multiple instruments.

Example #3:

I need a mic that will work well for vocals both recording and live.

  1. Live performance
  2. Studio recording

This is a tricky one and a lot depends on whether or not the live performance requires a handheld mic or one that is always on a stand. If the mic is on a stand then there are many great options that will work well for both situations. Hand-held mikes in the studio can bring extraneous noises when handling the mic, that are not perceived in a live performance setting. If this is your desired solution, find a mic that is internally shock-mounted to minimize this effect.

A good, non-handheld dynamic mic that is designed for radio broadcast will have the rejection characteristics to limit feedback for live performances and the presence necessary to work in a studio recording. If dynamic mikes do not match well with your natural vocal tone, there are many condenser mikes that are specifically designed for live performance that will work well in the studio. Look for condenser mikes that are designed to work well in both situations. Avoid buying wireless mikes for recording.

Mic packages

If you are having difficulty finding the right mic for all your recording needs, consider getting a package deal. Most mic packages are built specifically for instruments that require more than one mic to capture, such as a drum kit, but there is a growing number of home studio starter kits now available. Once you have set your price range, look for a good studio package that will cover your basic needs. Always look for quality over quantity. A smaller grouping of mikes for the same price will usually yield better results than a larger grouping.

Conclusion

Selecting the right mic for a group of instruments requires a bit more time and research. Because most manufacturers will not provide a complete list of instruments, you will have to analyze the data they provide more carefully. Start with mikes that are designed for your primary recording need and see which ones list other instruments that are closest to yours. If the mic is out of your price range, find a lower-priced one that best matches the same specifications and features. A perfect lead-in to the next tip, “There’s a Good Microphone at any Price”.

Check out the microphone tips collection here!
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