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Microphones

The basics

The microphone is your primary tool in the sound chain from sound source to audio storage medium.

Factors when capturing a sound with a microphone:


microphones location in relation to the
sound source

the acoustic environment in which we


choose to record the sound source

Types of Microphones
There are three main types of
microphones:

1) Dynamic/Moving Coil 2) Ribbon 3) Condenser/Capacitor

1) Dynamic/Moving Coil microphones


Example: Shure SM 57

They operate on a
magnetic principle : movement of a copper coil around a magnet causes a changing flow of electrons that represent the sound wave

Dynamic/Moving Coil microphones Advantages:


durable and can withstand a lot of volume before
they distort (within their own circuitry).

they dont require phantom power to operate.

colours the sound in range between 5-10khz,


this adds clarity, presence and understandability to many vocal and instrument sounds.

doesnt feedback as easily as other mics

Dynamic/Moving Coil microphones typical uses:


mostly live situations, but they are also
used a lot in the studio.

close mic applications (1-12 inches) snare drums, guitar amplifiers, kick drum,
vocals and any instrument that can play loud.

Dynamic/Moving Coil microphones disadvantage:

These microphones often miss the many subtle nuances of sounds because it takes a lot of sound pressure to move the coil.

2) Ribbon microphones
Example: Beyer M 160 a metallic ribbon is
suspended between two poles of a magnet. Sound waves vibrate the metallic ribbon which causes a varying flow of electrons to the different poles of the magnet

Ribbon microphones advantages:


These microphones capture a warmer and
smoother sound than dynamic/moving coil microphones.

Dont feedback much in live situations.


Dont require phantom power to operate.

Ribbon microphones typical uses:


Typically used in the studio because they are
fragile

Used in close mic applications (1-12 inches) Often used for acoustic guitars. Also work well
for vocals.

Ribbon microphones disadvantages:


colours the sound by adding a high
frequency edge

fragile will only pick up sounds that are very


close.

3) Condenser/Capacitor microphones
Example: Audio Technica AT 4033 How do condenser microphones
work? A charged electrical current is applied to a metal-coated piece of plastic. the coating vibrates sympathetically in response to a sound wave because it is very thin. The metal-coated piece of plastic is positioned close to a piece of metallic alloy. The changes in the space between the surfaces create a changing discharge of electrical current. It makes an electrical version of acoustic energy from the sound source.

Condenser/Capacitor microphones advantages:


they respond to fast attacks and transients more
precisely than other mics and add little tonal colouration

they can be used to record sounds from a


greater distance and capture a broader range of frequencies

big advantage: these mics record a sound while


capturing natural ambience of a room.

Condenser/Capacitor microphones typical uses:


recording studios

can be used to record almost any soundexcept very


loud ones (ex. Kick drum)

extremely effective with quiet sounds the perfect choice for capturing room ambience.

almost always used for vocals , acoustic guitars and


drum ovreheads.

Condenser/Capacitor microphones disadvantages:


fairly fragile feedback too easily in a live environment
(although some have low frequency roll off switches to help alleviate feedback frequencies)

require phantom power to operate

Microphone polar patterns:


A polar pattern is the pickup pattern of the
microphone.

There are three main types of patterns: 1) Cardiod 2) Bi-directional 3) Omnidirectional

Frequency Response
Most microphones respond to frequencies within
and beyond the human range of hearing.

Our ears have the ability to hear frequencies


from 20-20 000 hertz .

All microphone manufacturers provide


specifications for the frequency range of their products.

Frequency response curve


The frequency response curve of a
microphone shows how the microphone responds to different frequencies across the audible spectrum.

A mic with a flat response adds little colouration


to the sound. Many mics drop off sharply in the frequencies below 300 hz. Yet boast frequencies in the area of 4000 hz.

Pre-amplifiers
Although a microphone can be plugged directly into a mixing
board, better results are often achieved by using a pre-amplifier.

Example: Universal Audio 2-610

Conclusion
Effective sound miking requires lots of
experimentation.

Most home studios should have at least


one good moving coil and one good condenser mic.