There are several different types of microphones for the studio environment.
The most common are Dynamic and Condenser microphones. So what are the differences?
Dynamic Microphones are less sensitive to sound pressure levels and higher frequencies compared with a condenser microphone.
They are quite robust, less expensive and generally can take a lot more punishment. You will usually find a dynamic microphone like the iconic share SM57 on drums and electric guitar cabinets.
Condenser Microphones are more sensitive to sound pressure levels and will pick up every nuance and detail. They’re generally more expensive and can be quite delicate. I usually reach for a condenser on vocals and acoustic guitars.
Here is a look at my all time favourite workhorse microphone.
The Neumann u87. This is my ‘go to’ for vocals and acoustic guitars. It has a -10 PAD for helping to stop the diaphragm from distorting if too much signal is sent to it. There’s a switch to high cut and my favourite polar pattern selector. This is handy for changing the way the microphone reads signals sent to it. For instance, if I switch this to O – Omni, it will pick up signals all around. This is great for recording a choir or capturing the way a drum room sounds. However if I want to just record a vocal, I can engage it in Cardioid. This will pick up signals straight in front and reject any coming from elsewhere.
Now, this obviously isn’t your cheapest condenser in the market. It’s definitely more on the higher end of any budget at around $3500. But you can find a condenser like a Rode NT1a for about $200 which will still provide professional results. This microphone has a -10 Pad to attenuate some signals sent to it so it doesn’t distort the diaphragm. It also has a polar pattern switch for changing the way in which the microphone picks up the signal. In most standard vocal recording practices, having the switch in Cardioid will pick up signals straight in front of the microphone and reject signals from the sides.