The microphone is the first device that picks up sound when recording. Microphones are a transducer, which means they convert one type of energy into another type of energy, more specifically, sound waves into electrical signals. You cannot just put a microphone anywhere and play; a microphones pick up, design, placement and acoustical environment play a role in a microphones sound quality. The information in this article is meant to get you thinking in an advanced way about the microphones you already use or are thinking of purchasing. Remember there is no rule book on recording so always try to experiment.
The first type of microphone we will talk about is the dynamic microphone. The dynamic microphone works on the theory of electromagnetic induction. This means that sound pressure hits the diaphragm causing the coil to to move in and out. The coil is situated between a magnet, and that movement creates an electrical output signal. An example of a a dynamic microphone would be the Shure Beta 58a. This type of microphone does not require phantom power when plugged into a mixer. An advantage of Dynamic microphones is they are built sturdy and are often used in live performances because they can take a beating.
Another type of microphone is the ribbon microphone. The ribbon microphone works on the same concept as a dynamic microphone. the main differences are that ribbon microphones have a very fragile design and can be expensive due to there "better" sound. The ribbon microphone does require phantom power because it has a very thin diaphragm that requires power to create an electrical signal that can be used by your recording equipment.
The most popular and common microphone used in recording is the condenser microphone. The condenser microphone works on the concept of electrostatic induction. In a condenser microphone there are two plates, one that is fixed and does not move and one that is charged with phantom power. When an audio signal is picked up the charged plate moves closer to the fixed plate creating an electrical signal. Condenser microphones have a warm tube sound and in my opinion even harmonic distortion.
Frequency response of any microphone is an important specification. Frequency response of a microphone is a measure of the microphones attributes and coloration of any given frequency that the microphone records. Some microphones frequency response make them a better choice for bass frequencies or higher frequencies. Every microphone has its very own frequency response depending on the model, type or manufacturer.
So armed with frequency response and different types of microphones you can apply microphones to specific recording situations or do different types of experimenting. Just remember, when you are utilizing your home music studio you need to remember that these specifications are guidelines and you should feel free to experiment any way you choose.
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