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A Quick Guide To Choosing the Right Microphone

So, you need to buy a microphone, you know what you need it for, you know where it's going to be used. But, the vast array and price range have you a little baffled. Here's a no nonsense guide in how to choose the right microphone for you.

Drumkit microphones

Image Credit: Drum Set Mics

The condenser

Studio Condenser Mics have large diaphragms with high sensitivity and a wide frequency range. Due to the pick-up patterns, the heart shaped cardioid mic blocks sound from the rear of the mic; this is particularly useful if you have sound bouncing off the walls in the room. Other pick up patterns are available so check before you purchase.

  • Vocals
  • Acoustics


This is less sensitive so it needs to be closer to the sound source.

  • Vocalists, handheld.
  • Individual drums in a drum kit.


A special type of condenser mic with even more of a tightly focused pick up pattern. Any sound from the side and back is almost entirely rejected, making it ideal to use in noisy situations. Click here to see our range of shotgun mics.

  • Used in nature recordings
  • Film sets
  • One to One interviews in conferences etc

Broadcast Mics

Similar to studio mics, designed to not to pick up too much sound from the room, it frames the source.

  • Ideal for Interviewing outside

Power source

Condenser mics are powered by batteries. This means they are attached by a lead to a battery powered by electricity. Some high quality models have what is called phantom power; these tend to be more expensive. Some modern microphones have USB connectors to power them through your PC.

  • Check you have the correct power connections for your microphone before purchasing it

Performance Specs

Most modern microphones are designed so well, that you should have no worries about low self-noise, frequency response, distortion or maximum sound pressure level.

Pre Amp or No Pre Amp

There are three basic levels of signal in audio systems; the lowest is the microphone, the middle is known as the line level and is sent to other equipment in the studio. The loudest drives the loudspeakers. You will always need to drive the lowest microphone level up to be heard in line with the middle level, the line level so they can be processed and recorded.

The circuit used to do this is the Microphone Pre amplifier. How the sound is amplified depends on your budget.

  • Some modern microphones can be amplified through a PC soundcard
  • These include tonal controls

What Size Do You Need?

The size of your microphone is important. The ideal size will often depend a lot on where it will be used. For instance:

  • If you're using it above a camera, you don't want it hanging in the shot
  • Public speaking mics need to be small enough to attach to the speaker's clothes
  • A group of backing vocalists all singing into one mic will have a different tonal quality than if they all had their own mic

Pads and Filters

Pads reduce the sensitivity of the mic when there are widely differing sound pressure levels. Filters can remove the rumble from a vocal where the stand holding the microphone vibrates. These are particularly useful if you find a good vocal has been spoilt.

Servicing and warranty

You get what you pay for when you buy a microphone. If it's going to be in use a lot of the time it's worth investing a bit more money in it. Professional microphones are designed to be used a lot.

  • Don't buy a cheap mic if you know it will be used 12 hours a day 7 days a week, it won't last
  • If you buy your microphone abroad you won't be offered the servicing locally that some companies offer, so consider whether this is important to you

What About Accessories?

Lots of companies offer extras in a bundle when you buy a microphone, such as cables, pop shields, shock mounts and protective pouches. Take advantage of the offers you see it could save you time and money.

Lastly read reviews by people who have purchased microphones. A good microphone should last you years, so it's worth putting in the time and the money to get the best mic for your needs.

Oh and if you are still struggling, why not give us a call and let us help you to make a decision? The world of audio can seem complicated, but we are the experts and we love helping people to untangle it all! Here is our complete range of microphones, so take a look and get in touch if you need any help.

Posted at 13:17

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