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Professional microphones for gigs or the studio

If you are going to record vocals or live audio of any kind, you'll need a good microphone. The mic as a whole is referred to as the ‘instrument', but it consists of several important components. Just what is inside depends on the mic's type.

Dynamic and condenser microphones

In the simplest type, a pro audio dynamic microphone, the diaphragm converts sound into mechanical motion. The capsule converts this motion to a weak electrical signal. Dynamic microphones are typically used when recording vocals in the studio, and brands such as Shure and Sennheiser set the industry standard.

Pro audio condenser microphones combine the diaphragm and element into a sound sensitive capacitor which generates the audio signal. Condenser microphones are typically a step up from your standard dynamic mic, and would typically be used in a more professional set-up.

Contact, wireless and USB microphones

Contact microphones detect sounds through physical objects rather than the air. They are most commonly attached to drums and percussion instruments.

Wireless microphones also contain a miniaturised transmitter, working either on the RF or Bluetooth bands. All of this is typically enclosed in a plastic or metal housing. In the same way, USB microphones connect to a computer's USB port directly, relying on the computer's software to detect and process the audio signal.

Microphone polarity and directional pattern

Microphones also have directionality, also called ‘polarity'. A mic might be omnidirectional, unidirectional, subcardioid, cardioid, or super/hyper cardioid, bidirectional, shotgun, or even parabolic. Each refers to the zone from which the mic receives sound most efficiently. Multi-pattern mics can operate with two or more polarities, depending on your needs.

Mono and stereo microphones

Stereo recordings are best taken using two separate microphones but integral stereo microphones do exist. This type of microphone essentially uses two microphones to record a more dynamic sound.

Microphone Accessories

Accessories like pop filters are often used to manipulate the sound before it is picked up by the mic, taking the burden off post-recording processing.

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