Making Waves: Microphone Guide
Making Waves:
Microphone Guide
How Do Microphones Work?
A microphone is an acoustic-to-electric
transducer that converts sound (energy)
in air into another form of energy, an
electrical signal.
Dating back thousands of years, human
beings have attempted to amplify their
voices: in 600 BC, oratory masks were
invented with special mouths that
acoustically augmented the speaker’s
voice, and in 1665, Robert Hooke
experimented with the “lover’s telephone”
-- two cups attached by a wire.
Types of Microphones: Dynamic
In a DYNAMIC microphone, a thin membrane
(diaphragm) is vibrated by sound waves.
The membrane is attached to a small coil
surrounded by a magnet.
The small electro-magnetic current generated by
the vibrating membrane is sent out of the mic,
down the mic cable, into the preamp and through
the console.
Because dynamic mics have very few electronic
components, they are able to capture loud
sounds (like drums & amps) without the risk of
Dynamic mics have low sensitivity, meaning that
they won’t pick up extra sounds
(ex: deep breaths, lip smacks, etc)
Types of Mics: Condenser
Invented by Bell Labs in 1916, condenser mics
use internal electronics to increase sensitivity and
provide a smoother frequency response. The
result is a mic that can capture many more sonic
nuances than dynamic mics.
Condensers require phantom power, a static
voltage that travels from the preamp.
Because the electronics are more complicated,
they are prone to overload - therefore, one must
engage the pad switch (that decreases the input
signal level) when recording loud sounds so as
not to overdrive the mic.
Types of Mics: Ribbon
Two things set ribbon mics apart from other designs:
the method of electromagnetic induction & the
SOUND. Ribbons produce induction by placing a
conductive metal strip (the ribbon) between the
positive and negative poles of a magnet (similar to a
dynamic mic). Ribbons are heralded for their
“honest” and natural recordings, with a very
uncolored frequency response. Ribbon mics come
with a fixed figure-8 polar pattern and can be
damaged easily - NEVER USE PHANTOM POWER
!!! Passive ribbons have low output, so be sure to
crank of the gain on your preamp.
Polar Patterns
Polar Patterns are a way of describing how a microphones “hears” or captures sounds around
In the graphs below, the units of measurements are decibel (db) points, or how loud a sound is
perceived at a certain angle to the microphone.
Polar Patterns: Omni
OMNI-DIRECTIONAL: Microphones record all sound around them in
360 degree radius. These are ideal for natural, ambient recordings and
for tie clip microphones - as moving your head to one side will not
change the volume. They also make ideal headset microphones, as
they sound very natural when close to the mouth.
Omnidirectional microphones are pressure sensitive so they are not as
affected by wind noise or by the “proximity” effect (the bass boost
when you are close to a directional microphone). They are also less
susceptible to popping caused by “plosives” (when you say “P” or “B”
close to the microphone). The physical body of the microphone can
block some high frequencies, making sound ‘duller’ from the back.
Polar Patterns: Figure 8
FIGURE-8: Figure of Eight or bi-directional microphones pick up
sound from the front and rear while rejecting sound from the sides.
They are like omnidirectional microphones which are very neutral
All ribbon
are naturally
Figure of
Polar Patterns: Cardioid
CARDIOID: Named for it’s heart-like pattern,
Cardioid Mics help to reduce feedback and can
be used to capture a particular sound in a loud
Downsides: They are
affected by wind noise,
“proximity” effect and are
susceptible to popping
caused by “plosives” (esp.
popping p’s).
Polar Patterns: Hyper-Cardioid
HYPERCARDIOID: Refers to a tightly focused, directional pickup pattern. These work really well
in live sound situations, though they don’t reject sound from the rear of the mic as well as
cardioids. Hyper-cardioids are even better than cardioid microphones for reducing feedback and
therefore are the best choice for a quiet singer, or to capture a particular sound in a loud
Neumann U87ai [set z]
Type: Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
Polar Patterns: Omnidirectional, Cardioid & Figure-8
Connector: XLR cable
The U87 is the best known and most
widely used studio microphone in the
world. Being incredibly versatile, it is
well-known for its warm & well-balanced
characteristics and is a perfect choice as
a vocal microphone for all types of
music & speech, from an orchestra to a
spot mic for individual instruments.
It has a low cut filter which reduces low
frequency interference and a -10db pad
which accepts sound pressure levels up
to 127 dB without distortion.
Interactive Diagrams
Neumann KM184
Ideal Use: Announcer mic for broadcasting; overhead
spot mic; close miking of strings, wind instruments, The KM
percussion, piano, guitar amps
184 is a classic high-quality
cardioid microphone. It is great for
universal use, and can be used as an XY
stereo pair. This mic has a flexible, open
sound and responds well to all kinds of
changes. It is especially useful for overhead
miking, and yields great results for pianos,
acoustic guitars, & various percussion.
It has exceptionally low inherent self-noise
and exceptionally high overload capacity.
Type: Cardioid Condenser
Polar Patterns: omnidirectional, cardioid, hypercardioid
Connector: XLR
Interactive Diagrams
Neumann M-147 TUBE
Ideal Use: vocal mic; spot mic for all
instruments, especially strings & winds
Type: Vacuum Tube
Polar Pattern: supercardioid
Connector: supplied
10-metre cable with
screw-locking eightpin DIN connectors
The M147 Tube is a fixed-cardioid
valve microphone with a largediaphragm K47 capsule, that is
accompanied by a separate powersupply unit, the N149A. It has a high
dynamic range, and provides a warm
yet transparent sound, making it ideal
for voiceover work. The mic’s output
is transformerless, which helps keep
the mic’s self noise very low. At
higher frequencies, the pattern
becomes more directional. When
close miking, use a pop filter!!
Royer R-121
Ideal Use: electric & acoustic guitar, brass,
percussion overhead
Type: Ribbon
Polar Patterns:
XLR cable
The R-121 is an exceptionally sturdy
ribbon microphone with a realistic warm
sound and a flat frequency response.
Unlike most ribbon mics, it can handle
loud sounds very well!
At distances of 3 feet and closer, the back
of the R-121 records slightly brighter than
the front side, which is extremely useful
when recording acoustic guitars, vocals
and other sounds that could use a
brighter response. Use a pop filter when
recording vocals!
AKG D112 (aka “the egg”)
Ideal Use: bass
drum, bass guitar,
trombone, tuba
Type: Large
Diaphragm Dynamic
Polar Pattern:
Connector: XLR
The D112 is considered the best kick
drum microphone ever made! The
large diaphragm dynamic mic delivers
accurate ultradeep frequencies with a
unique, punchy sound. The mic has
been designed with a low resonance
frequency and can handle very high
unmeasurable distortion.
AKG C414B/XLS-Stereo
Type: Large Diaphragm
Condenser Microphone
Polar Patterns: 9
options: cardioid, figure8, hypercardioid,
omnidirectional, wide
Connector: balanced
This is an incredibly versatile
microphone, with 9 polar patterns,
three attenuation levels and three
filters. It also includes an LED light
that signals overload warning due
to audio peaks. This mic is great
for distant miking applications in
classical music settings and drum
ambiance. The stereo set-up
Type: Condenser Microphone
Polar Patterns: Omnidirectional, Cardioid
Phantom Power: Yes
This rugged microphone can withstand
extremely high sound pressure levels
(SPL), has low self-noise and an extended
frequency response, making it ideal for
recording musical instruments. It has three
switchable pad positions for handling high
SPLs and three switchable low-frequency
filters to reduce background noise. It yields
great responses when used on acoustic
string instruments, winds, as an overhead
mic for percussion, or for room ambiance.
Shure SM58
Ideal Use:
Live Vocals and
Type: Dynamic Guitar Microphone
Polar Patterns: Supercardioid
Connector: XLR cable
The SM58 is a live vocal
microphone known for its rugged
reliability on tour. The SM58's cuts
out low-end rumble and adds a
noticeable rise in the upper-mid
frequencies. It also lets you get the
most out of a wide range of sources,
including guitar cabinets, brass, and
many other instruments
Shure SM57
Ideal Use:
guitar, and
Type: Dynamic Microphone
Polar Patterns: Cardioid
Connector: XLR cable
The 57 and 58 microphones are based on the
same cartridge design. The main difference is in
the grille, or the top of the mic. The SM58 was
designed for vocals, and uses a ball grille with
built in pop filter to eliminate plosives (like
popping p’s). The SM57 is designed as an
instrument microphone, where a smaller grille
size is more practical and plosives are less of a
concern. So the SM57 does not use a ball grille
with pop filtering and instead uses an integral
resonator/grille assembly, where the grille is
actually part of the cartridge.
Shure SM81LC
Ideal Use: Choirs, acoustic
string instruments,
piano/organ & overhead
Type: Small-Diaphragm Condenser Mic
Polar Patterns: Cardioid
Connector: XLR
Phantom Power: YES
The Shure SM81 has a unidirectional
design which captures a precise and
detailed sound. It has a flat response
curve, meaning it is equally sensitive
to all frequencies. The SM81 has low
noise and high output clipping level,
low distortion, and provides maximum
rejection of off-axis sounds.
Shure BETA52A
Designed for the Kick Drum, the
Shure BETA52A is great for bass
tones, such as a the bass guitar.
Ideal Use:
Kick drum and
Bass guitar
Type: Dynamic Microphone
Polar Patterns: Supercardioid
Connector: ¼ Cable
Shure BETA57A
Ideal Use:
snare mic
Type: Dynamic Microphone
Polar Patterns: Supercardioid
Connector: XLR
The Shure BETA57A is based on the
Shure 57, like its predecessor it is
designed for recording instruments,
specifically miking drums (mainly
toms), amplifiers and brass/
Shure 520DX “Green Bullet”
Ideal Use: Harmonica
Type: Dynamic Microphone
Polar Patterns: Omnidirectional
Connector: ¼ Cable
This famous harmonica microphone
is the perfect tool for live performers.
The Shure 520 DX "Green Bullet" has
volume control knob at the base of
the microphone so it's easy to adjust
your levels mid-performance.
Shure SM7B
Ideal Use:
Type: Dynamic Microphone
Polar Patterns: Supercardioid
Connector: cable
The Shure SM7B is great for large
vocals and broadcasting. You've
heard the SM7 hundreds of times...
Aside from being a very widely-used
mic for broadcast, the SM7 was used
in Michael Jackson's, "Thriller." It’s
recommend that the SM7B be paired
with a pre-amp to turn up the gain
when recording.
No phantom power needed
Electro-Voice RE20
Ideal Use: recording vocals, podcasting.
Type: Dynamic Microphone
Polar Patterns: Cardioid
Connector: XLR cable
The electro-voice RE20 is a cardioid
moving-coil dynamic microphone with LF
rolloff. Its mostly known these days as
the "standard" microphone for radio
broadcast, though it is also a versatile
studio microphone - vocals, electric
bass, kick drum, guitar amps, snare, and
toms all benefit from its smooth sound
and flat frequency response. When the
RE20 is being used for recording vocals
it should be paired with a pre amp to
turn up the gain.
Sennheiser MD421-II
Ideal Use: EVERYTHING especially tom tom drums & horns
Type: Dynamic Microphone
Polar Patterns: cardioid
Connector: XLR cable
The MD421-II is an incredibly versatile mic:
Its ability to handle high pressure levels makes it a
natural for guitars and drums. The MD 421-II's
full-bodied cardioid pattern and five-position bass
control means it's an excellent choice for most
instruments, as well as group vocals, or radio
broadcast announcers. The cardioid pattern offers
outstanding feedback rejection in situations
where bleed from other instruments might be an
issue. It is great for close-miking because it
provides a clean, clear response with no unnatural
bass boost. It is very directional and has really
good dynamic range.
Sennheiser MD441U
Ideal Use: Vocals &
Type: Dynamic Microphone
Polar Patterns: Supercardioid
Connector: XLR cable
The MD 441 is acknowledged as the most
accurate and versatile mic available
because it combines the best qualities of
technologies. It boasts a textbook perfect
super-cardioid pattern and is equipped
with a 5-position low frequency contour
switch AND a two-position high frequency
switch [boosting the treble]. It has
excellent feedback/ noise rejection, has
amazing sound quality, and handles high
sound pressure levels exceptionally well.
Sennheiser E906
Ideal Use:
Lead guitar
The e 906 is custom-made for demanding
instrumental use. It has a very fast transient
response, which makes it ideal for guitar
leads and percussive sounds. In addition, the
e 906's frequency response of 40Hz-18kHz
can handle instruments from toms and
congas to triangles and cuicas.
Phantom Power Needed - Plug in with XLR cable THEN turn on Phantom Power
Type: Dynamic Guitar Microphone
Polar Patterns: Supercardioid
Connector: XLR cable
AKG C451
Type: Condenser,
Polar Patterns: Cardioid
Connector: XLR cable
One of the C 451 B's most common
applications is for drum overheads, and
many engineers say there's nothing quite
like it for miking cymbals. The C451B is
also an excellent tool for accurately
capturing signals rich in transients such as
instruments with a percussive sound,
acoustic guitar, or for overhead miking.
Ideal Use: Cymbals & Percussion
Blue Baby Bottle
Ideal Use:
Vocals & Instruments
Blue baby bottle is recommend for
recording vocals, room mixing for
drums, electric guitar amps, and
difficult brass instrument sources like
saxophones and horns.
Requires phantom power.
Type: Condenser, Pressure Gradient
Polar Patterns: Cardioid
Connector: XLR cable
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