Whether you are recording a podcast or want to shoot a film, clear audio is essential. While you can create unique content using the built-in microphone in your smartphone, having great audio determines your project’s success.
The microphone you use for your project will determine the quality of the audio you will create. With that said, most people have a great challenge in figuring out which microphone is best for their project.
Generally, there are two main types of microphones—dynamic microphones and condenser microphones. In our case, a condenser microphone is the best option if you want to get quality and clear audio for your next project.
In this post, we shall give you the top tips to help you in choosing the right condenser microphone. Please read on for more information.
Table of Contents
Your intended use
When choosing a condenser microphone, it’s always important to consider how you plan to use the microphone. If you intend to use the mic as a stage microphone for your acoustic instrument or a vocal mic? Or do you want it for your home studio? Or are you looking for a condenser microphone that can work for both cases? What you should note is that it’s essential to match your microphone with the environment, as well as the gear you will use it with.
Consider the pickup pattern
According to Condenser Microphones manufacturer, DPA, most condenser mics have a selectable pickup pattern, meaning you can choose a pattern depending on the intended use or room. The pickup pattern of a microphone is the sound field that the mic will pick up sound from.
Here are the most common pickup patterns:
- Cardioid – a mic with a Cardioid Polar Pattern is best for capturing what’s in front of the mic while rejecting any sounds behind and on the sides of the microphone. These mics are ideal for areas where it’s hard to capture ambient sound. You can use cardioid condensers for live-on-stage or studio settings.
- Super- and hyper-cardioid – these two pickup patterns are more directional than the Cardioid patterns. Unlike in a Cardioid mic, the super- and hyper-cardioid have super sensitive rear lobes, making it hard to position the microphones.
- Omnidirectional – these microphones can capture sound from any direction. Condenser microphones with an omnidirectional pickup pattern are ideal for studio settings. Also, you can use the microphone to record anything.
- Figure-8 – a condenser microphone with a figure-8 pickup pattern means it can pick up sounds from the front and back and ignore those from the sides. This pickup pattern is also known as bi-directional.
Check the mic’s frequency response
A microphone’s frequency response is the range of the frequencies that the microphone can pick up. Typically, a frequency range is measured in hertz (Hz) and is represented by the highest and lowest frequencies.
If you want a condenser microphone to record vocals, a frequency response of 80 Hz – 15 kHz would be a perfect choice. If you want a microphone for miking snares or toms, however, choose a range starting from 50 Hz. A bass drum mic should have a frequency range of 30 Hz – 40 Hz.
The sensitivity of the microphone
A microphone’s sensitivity refers to how soft a sound the microphone can detect. The sensitivity can be expressed with different systems. The most common method of measuring the sensitivity of a microphone is by using a 1kHz sine wave, which can be either at 94 dB sound level or 1-pascal pressure. The frequency is measured by the magnitude of the analog or digital output signal generated by the mic from its input.
The microphone’s power supply
Because condenser microphones have active electronics, they require an external power supply. And, because of how they function, the microphones have a very high output impedance, meaning they need a powered circuit to help lower the impedance.
Phantom power has a positive voltage, which ranges from 12 V DC – 48 V DC. It runs on pins 2 and 3 of an XLR cable. The name Phantom is given to the power source of the microphone because it’s invisible and runs on the same cord as the audio signal. This is the most reliable power supply source for condenser microphones.
The dynamic range
A microphone’s dynamic range is the mic can handle between the highest and lowest levels. However, this isn’t a microphone function, and it’s also the preamplifier that’s used together with the microphone.
You should note that the dynamic range of a microphone is directly related to the microphone’s sensitivity. And, the dynamic range is the difference between the loudest and lowest levels that the microphone can record at.
Now, some condenser microphones respond positively over the whole dynamic range, while others don’t. Some tend to lose their response to bass or gain some unwanted frequencies at certain levels. Therefore, you must choose a good condenser microphone that will give a wide frequency range to work with. Besides, the microphone must give you a consistent response across that dynamic range.
The microphone’s self-noise
This is the noise produced by the microphone. Every microphone produces some self-noise. However, the degree of self-noise varies—some have insignificant self-noise, while others shouldn’t be used in quiet environments because they have high self-noise ratings. Therefore, when choosing a condenser microphone, make sure that you check the equivalent noise level (EIN) depending on the microphone’s intended use.