In the modern 21st century, there is a large variety of microphones as well as their purposes. Different types of microphones are used in different situations for optimized recording experiences.
Microphones have a variety of use in the modern world. From home to office to professional concerts, all places use a variety of microphones which differ from one another in many features and aspects.
These days microphones are being used for gaming, podcasting, Vlogging, YouTubing, streaming, singing, recording, live performances, broadcasting, interviewing, and lots of other purposes.
Microphones can be categorized in many ways. You can classify them in terms of their usage, their polar patterning, or their make type.
Generally, the microphones used in recording are classified into three main types:
Three Different Types of Microphones:
On a rather general note, microphones can be divided into 3 different types which can be used in different sorts of indoor and outdoor recording. We will try to elaborate on each category one by one.
1. Dynamic Microphones
These are traditional all-purpose microphones that can be used for live performances and a variety of functions. These microphones have a basic design and are widely used almost all over the world.
These Microphones used to come in XLR connectivity and today also come with wireless and Bluetooth connectivity. They usually don’t need a power supply. They are either supplied through XLR cable which goes into the amplifier or with a battery (Wireless ones).
These microphones can be used for vocals and live performances. Moreover, they can also be used with musical instruments like drums, guitars, flute, etc. The most basic models have a large ball-shaped steel grill which acts as a built-in pop filter.
Shure has the largest claim in terms of these microphones. They have been producing these for decades and their microphones have been used from top to bottom all over the world. The durability of these microphones is unmatchable.
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2. Condenser Microphones
These microphones are more upgraded and enhanced as compared to dynamic microphones. Because of their large number of features and variety of usages, these microphones are also expensive than dynamic microphones.
The condenser microphones can be seen in studios and other recording places. You must have observed them if you have ever visited a studio or maybe in a movie. These are highly sensitive microphones that are considered ideal for vocal recording and acoustic guitars.
Moreover, these microphones also have a better and variety of polar patterning which allows them to cancel noise and capture accurate audio. However, they do need a phantom power supply for their effective functioning.
These microphones also can be further divided into sub-categories which can specify them more for the users. They can be divided into three different microphone categories:
Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
These microphones come in a small, cylindrical, and compact design and have low sensitivity. These microphones are mostly unidirectional and used for capturing sound from one person or musical instrument.
Their unique design also gives the name of pencil microphones and makes them easy to place. They are considered ideal to use with musical instruments like acoustic guitars, cymbals, etc. One of their flaws is that they have high handling and internal noise.
Because of this reason, these microphones can’t be used while walking and have a need to be placed. But one doesn’t need to worry, because once these microphones are fixed in front of an instrument, they capture and transmit the best sound quality.
Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
These microphones have a large design and are used in most studios for vocal and instrumental recordings. They are highly sensitive and can capture even the faint differences in air pressure.
Due to their high sensitivity, you have to keep a check on volume to avoid distortion while recording. Moreover, due to their high sensitivity, you also have to use pop and air filters when recording vocals or songs.
Medium Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
These are modern microphones also considered hybrid because they contain characteristics of both large and small diaphragm microphones. They can record high frequency while also being highly sensitive. They are being used in both live performances and also in recordings.
Generally, the condenser microphones also enhance your sound. The resultant sound is better than the original sound because these microphones capture every detail while rejecting even the smallest of surrounding noise.
Condenser microphones in general are an advanced option. They are not as expensive as they used to be and hence nowadays you can afford them easily for your home studio. They can perform all of the functions which are required of a microphone.
3. Ribbon Microphones
In the age of Radio, these were one of the most expensive microphones because of their multi-purpose highly sensitive nature. They are ideal to be used on softer sounds like vocals or strings, making them warmer and giving them a vintage vibe.
These microphones are claimed to be used by those who are extravagant because they are fragile and expensive. However, they can be used in a studio and provide you with the best audio of the whole room.
These microphones were used mostly in the 1950s and 1960s. You can also buy them today, but you will hardly need them since condenser and dynamic microphones will satisfy your needs. However, they can be a good attractive addition to your vintage collection.
Different Types of Microphones Based on Polar Patterns
Polar Patterns define the directionality of a microphone. It tells the user whether the microphone is unidirectional, multi-directional, or picks a specific pattern. This can help you specify the microphone your need.
When you are shopping for a microphone, you must be needing it for a specific purpose. The Polar Patterning can help you identify the best microphone according to that purpose and help you select the best one according to your need.
Before going shopping, you must know different sorts of polar patterns:
1. Cardioid Polar Pattern
These microphones are unidirectional and capture only what’s in front of them. Adding to this, these microphones also reject the side and back noises for maximum efficiency, hence isolate the front sound source for better audio capture.
These microphones can be used for Vlogging, YouTubing, video recording, and live interviews. Moreover, they are also used in live performances as there is lots of side and back noise in those places.
2. Super-Cardioid Polar Pattern
These are also called Hyper-Cardioid microphones. They have higher sensitivity as compared to the Cardioid microphones. Moreover, their rejection of surrounding noises is also better which provides you with better sound quality.
These abilities help this specific microphone to isolate the sound source in a better manner. Hence, this kind of microphones can be considered ideal for live concerts and also for film or video recording. Shotgun microphones are also Super-Cardioid.
3. Figure-8 Polar Pattern
These microphones are also known as bi-directional microphones because of their polar pattern. They capture sound from not only the front but also the backside, hence making them bidirectional. They can be used for recording two instruments at the same time.
These microphones can also be used for stereo recording. They are considered Omni-directional sometimes but they do reject background noises. These kinds of microphones are most common in ribbon and large-diaphragm microphones.
4. Omnidirectional Polar Pattern
These microphones have a wide polar pattern and can capture audio from all directions. The sound captured from this microphone has more of a natural feeling because it captures sounds from all directions.
One of the major flaws of this microphone is that it doesn’t reduce background noise hence can result in distortions. However, if placed in a controlled environment it can result in the most beautiful of sounds.
5. Multi-pattern Microphones
These microphones are also known as switchable or multi-purpose microphones. These microphones have more than one polar pattern and allow the users to switch between the patterns by a simple flip of a button.
This function allows these microphones to be used for a variety of purposes. These microphones are advanced and modern and allow the user to use different polar patterns in different conditions.
Special Microphones—For Specific Purposes
Just as I said earlier, microphones can be categorized into different types on basis of different aspects. However, in term of use, there are some microphones which serve specific purposes and make their category.
1. Lapel or Lavalier Microphones
These microphones are extremely small in size and easy to use. You can attach them with your T-Shirt or Jacket. You must have observed these microphones with multiple Vloggers and YouTubers.
Related: Top 10 Best Wireless Lavalier Microphones 2021
These microphones also come at an affordable price and come in both wired and wireless versions. The wireless version is portable to the extreme. Besides Vlogging, they can also be used in interviews and hosting live shows.
2. Shotgun Microphones
These microphones are specially designed to be used for video or film making. These microphones have Super-Cardioid Polar Patterning. This unidirectional pattern allows this microphone to directly capture the dialogue and reject any surrounding noise.
Related: 10 Best Shotgun Mic for Indie Filmmakers and DSLRs in 2021
Shotgun microphones range from cheap to expensive ones each varying in terms of its features. The best of them allow for both long-distance and close distance optimized recordings. They are designed in a way that they only capture sound from the front.
Shotgun microphones are also condensers and hence have high sensitivity. Because of this reason, these microphones need windscreen and deadcat furry in case of outdoor shooting and foam screen in case of indoor shooting to effectively reduce noise and distortion.
3. Microphones for Gaming and Podcasting
In terms of features as well as ease of use, the best microphone for gaming and podcasting would be condenser microphones. The best part about these microphones is that they capture sound perfectly while also removing even the slightest hint of background noise.
Another feature that makes these microphones best for podcasting and gaming is their setup and appearance. Modern condenser microphones come with table-mount, metal-arm-mount, filters, and other accessories in the box which makes them very appealing.
Hence, when you have set up such a microphone on your desk, it will certainly change the vibe of your desk. Moreover, modern microphones are also extremely easy to setup. Hence, you will have a mini studio on your table or desk.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What are the four types of microphones?
Generally speaking, the four different types of microphones can be named; Dynamic Microphones, Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, and Ribbon Microphones.
2. What are the 3 types of microphones for video?
The three different types of microphones for video recording can be considered dynamic microphones, condenser microphones, and shotgun microphones. Shotgun microphones provide the best directionality in video or short film recording.
3. Is a condenser mic better for vocals?
Condenser microphones are considered best for recording vocals. Modernly, they are the most used microphones in both home and professional studios. They have become much affordable as compared to the past and provide enhanced sound with reduced noise.
4. What type of microphone is best for gaming?
The modern condenser microphones can be considered the best choice for gaming. There are also ones that come specifically for gaming with a complete kit like table mount, arm-mount, and pop-filter making them ready to be used out of the box.
5. What type of microphone is best for streaming?
For streaming and podcasting, condenser microphones are considered best. They reduce background noise while also enhancing your sound. They are highly sensitive and provide the listeners with the best sound experience.
6. What are polar patterns while discussing microphone types?
Polar Patterns define the directionality of different microphones. They tell us that from how many and which directions the sound will be captured. Microphones come in different types of polar patterning like Cardioid, Super-Cardioid, Omni-Directional, and Figure 8.
Some Last Words:
We have compiled this guide after researching all kinds of microphones. We hope that it will answer the query in your mind regarding different types of microphones.