Nothing will happen in a studio without a microphone, were at the hub of the operation now and choices here could affect your overall sound more than anything you buy. If you’re recording your own voice only then this really narrows down the plethora of choices you have available to you. If you aren’t likely to be recording acoustic guitars, Drums etc and you will your voice either for singing or voiceovers then a good condenser mic should be the number one aspiration for clarity and quality.
There are so many option in 2017 for a good condenser mic and plenty of places to buy them from. To narrow down this search, Budget, Character (some mics emphasise different frequencies for example) and quality are your main considerations.
The more expensive the mic, the better the quality?? Well this is slightly subjective, but generally build quality is better as you go up the ladder but sound quality? I don’t necessarily think this is a linear progression as to my ears the sound of a Neumann U87 is not Oktava 319 is not 10x better but it is nearly 10x the price. Some may even prefer the Oktava over the Neumann so it really is quite subjective. There is a good comparison here to show this,
One thing to watch out for here is the opposite of the diminishing returns philosophy described above and is that of marginal gains. The philosophy here is that the if you have a many well recorded parts all stacked up along with one another then the quality starts to become more noticeable than that of many sub par recording being stacked up. This is well worth considering when watching these comparison videos.
A condensor microphone requires a specific voltage (48v) in order to operate so it’s worth making sure your preamp or mixer has this facility before buying one. A dynamic microphone doesn’t need this but as result they are not as sensitive or detailed. Dynamic microphones are often used for percussion and stage vocals for their ability to reject distant sounds, they heavily favour sounds that are extremely close to the capsule and are much harder to overload.
A lot of condensor microphone might have switches on the body. These can be to adjust the sensitivity or lower the low end response to assist in reducing the proximity affect. The proximity effect is a phenomenon that leads to an increase in low frequency response as you move the mic closer to the source. The strength of the proximity effect depends on the microphone’s pickup pattern which could be another switch on the microphones body.
The three main pick up patterns are Cardioid, Figure of Eight and Omnidirectional.
The most commonly used pattern is the Cardioid as most of the time people are recording a source and want to record that sound with very little influence from the room. An omnidirectional pattern is all about picking up the sound of the source in the room as it pick up sound from all around including the reflections and general ambience. The figure of 8 pattern
Another type of microphone that has become more popular over the years is the ribbon mic. This particular variant was very popular many years ago as seen below being used by ol’ blue eyes Frank Sinatra in the 1940’s. The main part consists of a thin strip of corrugated aluminium, they can be very sensitive and brittle but over the years they have become a lot more robust. The character of this type of mic is very smooth generally with a rolled off high end. Also the way they respond to fast transients mean that they can be used for percussion, drums etc to give the recorded sound a slightly softer finish when this is required.
The term condenser is actually obsolete but has stuck as the name for this type of microphone, which uses a capacitor to convert acoustical energy into electrical energy. Condenser microphones require power from a battery or external source. The resulting audio signal is stronger signal than that from a dynamic.
In the case of a dynamic microphone, a very thin diaphragm of mylar or other material is attached to a coil of hair-thin copper wire. The coil is suspended in a magnetic field and, when sound vibrates the diaphragm, the coil moves up and down, creating a very small electrical current.
A ribbon microphone, also known as a ribbon velocity microphone, is a type of microphone that uses a thin aluminum, duraluminum or nanofilm of electrically conductive ribbon placed between the poles of a magnet to produce a voltage by electromagnetic induction. Ribbon microphones are typically bidirectional, meaning that they pick up sounds equally well from either side of the microphone.
A transient is a short-duration signal that represents a nonharmonic attack phase of a sound source.
It contains a high degree of nonperiodic components and a higher magnitude of high frequencies than the harmonic content of that sound.
Transients do not directly depend on the frequency of the tone they initiate