We have worked with a great number of amazing creators over the years, many of them having little to no knowledge about audio equipment. Microphones can come in many shapes and sizes, however, there is a time and place for each of them. This article is here to help you pick the right type of mic for your project.
Classic Studio Condenser
Providing a full-bodied sound with a lot of detail, you would typically find a condenser microphone in a recording studio. Ideally, you would use it in a treated room to record vocals and instruments. To achieve this iconic studio sound. We’re seeing more and more streamers and podcast hosts record their audio with condenser microphones. However, they often find that they have to watch themselves with ambient sound being picked up.
These mics are known for their sensitivity, which is great in a professional setting but needs to be considered when you think of using them in your office or bedroom. You can soundproof your room in many ways – and some of them are relatively cheap (thick curtains, carpets, comfy lounges, mattress against the wall, etc.).
Some condenser microphones, like the AT2020USB+, come plug-and-play ready with a built-in DAC and USB output so you can be recording or streaming in no time.
Alternatively, you can use a dynamic microphone, which will block out a lot of sound coming from the off-axis. However, when it comes to upgrading, the condenser offers usually more options than its dynamic counterparts.
Dynamic microphones are easy to transport, set up and use, delivering quality sound in every environment. The reason for this lies in the rugged build and the smaller pick-up pattern. Most of the sound coming from further away or off-axis will be blocked out or appear only very faint. So, If you want to record an interview outside or in an untreated room, dynamic microphones are the ideal choice.
Large-diaphragm dynamic microphones like the AT-BP40 allow you to achieve a clean ‘radio like’ sound from the comfort of your own home without having to worry about your surroundings. For the best results, hold the mic close to the sound source (ca. 5-7.5cm). However, make sure you do a test recording beforehand with different mic positions. Every location yields a different result, which means what works for your living room might not work for your office or an outdoor recording. It’s basically the ‘measure twice cut once’-rule for audio professionals.
The shotgun mic has a great many applications. It can be used mounted on a camera, fixed to a mic stand, held by someone or hanging on a boom pole. This is an excellent solution if you don’t want any mics in your shot. The lobar pick-up pattern is extremely narrow and blocks the sound from the off-axis. Also, many productions that use other mics for the main task keep shotgun mics active as a backup in case anything goes wrong with the main recording. As mentioned before, if you don’t want any tech in frame, a shotgun mic mounted on top of your camera might be the right way to go.
Also known as Lavalier, these mics are great for sit-down interviews. The Lapel is a small, omnidirectional mic fixed to your clothes or taped to your skin (close to the neck or hairline). It is the number one choice if you want something small and unobtrusive. However, too much movement will result in rustling noise from your clothes. The sound can also be affected when people speak in a different direction than initially planned (e.g. turn around or to the side).
A valid alternative is the omnidirectional headset mic, which is often used at seminars or in churches. The headset stays in place when the speaker moves about the room and is only slightly more visible.
There are many more microphones we haven’t mentioned here. However, the four types we talked about will work great for many different setups.
If you want to delve deeper into the matter of content creation, you can check out our PAX 2020 video below. Audio-Technica’s Matt and Gary teamed up with Brendan from the podcast collective Atebit to talk about all the things to consider before you go live.