Your mic is the most important part of the recording process. It even trumps your audio editing software and the instruments you use. There are many types of microphones on the market, such as condenser microphones, microphones with pop filters, USB microphones, mics that eliminate background noise, wireless microphones, and other specialized studio microphones.
So, which one is ideal for you when setting up your recording studio? Well, let’s take a look.
If the quality of your mic is poor, the sound quality will be poor, and your audience will be turned off your track, no matter how great it actually is. All the time and effort you put into your tune will be wasted.
A well-received performance comes from a high-quality mic. Here are some tips on how to pick the best one with great sound quality
Condenser vs. Dynamic Mics
Condenser and Dynamic mics are the main two microphones types you’ll see. However, the condensers are broken up into two further mic groups. The large-diaphragm microphones (LDMs) are mostly used for home-studio vocals and deep-sounding instruments. Keep in mind that LDMs will warm up the sound of what it has recorded, so it can add rich, warm tones to any recording.
Small Diaphragm Microphones (SDMs) excel at recording sounds with a lot of quick noises at wide frequencies. Concerts or other live performances sound great on this type of microphone and if you’re a string player, this mic is for you, according to Joe Shambro at ThoughtCo.
Both the LDM and SDM require their own power supply and have to be handled fairly gently. However, condenser mics typically offer much richer audio.
Dynamic mics represent the stereotypical microphone you think about when you imagine someone singing on a stage. They’re conical sides lead up to a spherical recording head.
Dynamic mics are much more versatile than condenser mics in terms of hardware. They can take a beating, usually unfazed by drops, and resist moisture pretty well (think saliva here), so they’re great for live band recordings.
While dynamic mics don’t always require their own power supply like condenser mics, dynamic mics do not have as accurate or crisp a sound as condensers.
What’s your budget?
You can spend anywhere from $50 to $1000 or more on your microphone, and each will offer different results. But it seems for most people, the real breaking point is around $250, at least that’s my super rough and fuzzy estimate based on numerous conversations.
If you get a mic cheaper than that, you’ll have to buy another one in a few years. However, if you save up and by a mid-range mic, you’ll be able to use it for many years.
For a good description of what difference the cost of mics can make, check out this video by YouTuber and audio engineer Andrew Huang. It’s a fun and informative watch.
Ultimately with mics, it’s a direct correlation between what you pay and what sound you get out of it. While you can make do with any mic you have, a good quality one is the way to go and will save you money in the long run by providing reliable consistent quality and a product that isn’t needing constant replacement.
Can you afford multiple mics?
Depending on how early you are in your studio recording career, you might only want to focus on buying one microphone. That’s totally fine.
But imagine it like a chef using only one knife in their cooking arsenal. While the chef can do a sizable number of things with their one knife, one knife can’t be used for all things–or certain tasks would be way easier to perform with the help of a different knife.
The same goes for your personal mics. One mic might sound good for your voice but terrible for your guitar or bass, or your friend’s voice or bass if you choose to start a band.
So this leaves you with a conundrum: spend your money on one really nice mic or, alternatively buy two or more cheaper mics? Only you can decide that one, but we’d recommend buying the one mic. When you get more serious about studio recording, you can pick up additional microphones.
Here are some good options for you to choose:
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio Microphone
Black is always stylish, so an all-black Audio-Technica AT2020 would not only look great in your studio but sound even better. You’ll get professional-quality sound at an average price. It’s a perfect condenser mic for your home studio.
Its light diaphragm is designed for extended frequency response and fantastic transient response. With its durable build, the AT2020 offers a large dynamic range and handles high SPLs with ease, setting the standard for home studio condensers.
You also get improved isolation of sound through the cardioid polar pattern–which is a heart-shaped region where sound is picked up the best–and an easy to secure mount.
Overall, the performance you get with the Audio-Technica AT2020 is well beyond the price you pay, making it a good budget mic.
Shure PGA58-XLR Cardioid Dynamic Vocal Microphone
A nice dynamic mic with a USB adapter will easily record, via audio interface or other device. You get crystal clear sound at an affordable price.
Sweetwater Sound describes these mics as less sensitive to the pressure of sound levels and high frequencies, meaning they can be used in loud environments just fine.
The unidirectional pickup pattern minimizes annoying background noise when you record, so it’s perfect to use in a non-soundproofed room. The built-in spherical filter reduces wind and that awful “pop” noise from breathing.
If you plan on recording on-location or just want a mic that will last more than five years, the Shure PGA58 fulfills all your recording needs with no problem.
AKG Pro Audio C214 Condenser Microphone, Cardioid
If you can afford to drop a few extra hundred dollars on a condenser mic, the AKG C214 is worth every extra penny. It’s a cheaper version of the higher end C414 condenser mic that doesn’t sacrifice price for performance.
The AKG C214 provides warm, rich tones for every recording. It’s sturdy enough that you could bring it on stage, but it would pick up more ambient noise than a dynamic mic. Still, it’s a workhorse capable of taking on amped-up guitars.
Many professional studio recording artists use this mic to get ultimate sound out of their vocals or instruments at a price that doesn’t break the bank. While it’s the most expensive mic on the list, the amount of use you’ll get out will be more than worth it.
People are raving about this microphone—and for good reason. You get the clearest sounding audio even if you record in a non-soundproofed room.
The mic offers a natural reproduction of music and speech with an emphasis on deeper tones and middle range sounds.
If you’re using it to record on a computer, the mic’s improved rejection of an electromagnetic hums shields against the broadband interference emitted by computer monitors. The highly effective pop filter removes any add-on additions to explosive breath sounds, saving you time and your sanity.
We could go on and on about how great this mic is, but the truth is that you just have to go look at a few examples of this baby in use and you’ll be sold in an instant. This mic, though expensive, is well worth the investment.
Mics make a difference
As you can see, there are hundreds of mics out there that will record, but only a few that will be perfect for your home studio booth. The condenser mic will allow more complex sound and more richness in tone, while the dynamic mic offers durable hardware that can go between the studio and the stage.
Pick a good quality mic and you can save yourself hours of tweaking away in the post. Choose one of the above mics and you’ll be ready to start recording high quality tracks in no time at all.
While a home studio mic can’t do everything to make your mix sound good, it sure helps.