Author Topic: Microphones  (Read 3498 times)

Lane

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Microphones
« on: August 25, 2013, 12:08:35 pm »
There are a few common types of microphones used with voice. Dynamic, Condenser, Ribbon, Electret. Each of those types have particular performance characteristics that lend themselves to being more suitable for particular applications. For voice over and radio program hosting, we'll typically find Dynamic Microphones to be the most suitable, and most microphones listed here will be of that type. We'll stray out from there occasionally, with an explanation as to why.

Dynamic Microphones are usually the best choice for radio primarily due to the environment a typical Radio studio presents. It's noisy. We need a microphone that primarily hears only the person sitting in front of it, and that doesn't pass audio from behind and to the side. This pick up pattern is called Cardioid or Super Cardioid, or you'll also hear the term Unidirectional. Radio studios are not typically designed with superb audio acoustics in mind in the way a music recording studio is. And a radio studio will also have multiple people sharing the same space at the same time. Poor acoustics combined with multiple people created a need for microphones that could isolate audio to just the person in front of them. Dynamic microphones as a class of microphone do this job very well. Cardioid, Ribbon, and Electret microphones are typically much more sensitive to the other sounds in the room more readily. This can be great when you're in a well audio conditioned space.

Microphones are being used by more and more people today, with podcasts, internet radio, and even low power FM. Radiologik users often fall into this same class of 'new professional'. I don't think it's fair to call these people amateurs by the way. Better to call them a new class of professional who are often more budget sensitive. This new class of professional has a lot of other sound concerns due to often working from home. Computer cooling fans, traffic noises, barking dogs, and even the refrigerator kicking in. Combine this with studios being set up in spare bedrooms, basements, or even a walk in closet. We are doing this work in spaces that were never once considered for their audio acoustics while being built.  We need microphones up to this task.

This focus of this article will will be for specific microphones that assist us with isolating us from all the noise, primarily for voice work. We'll include information about them, and hopefully a link to where they can be purchased. We'll cover a range of prices, including a healthy amount of very low budget options. Most of the time, they will be dynamic microphones, but sometimes we'll stretch out from there. There is no such thing as the perfect microphone. Only perfect for you.

Over time, new microphones will be added, so be sure to check back whenever you're considering a new microphones purchase.



Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone


A long time standard microphone in broadcast radio studios. You don't go wrong owning this microphone, but it's on the higher cost end of mics we'll consider. Excellent rear rejection. It comes with two different wind screens. The larger one helps a little with popping. When compared with a Shure SM57, which has a similar capsule, it's fuller and brighter. Better low end, better high end, as the frequency response is flatter and wider. But probably more important, it's construction gives it better isolation from other sounds. An SM57 might be fine for you, or may even have a preferred tone, but it will probably hear a little more around you than the SM57. Your particular environment decides how important that is. The 7B also has an internal shockmount. You're expected to have this mic in stand, while with a SM57, you're expected to be holding it. It also has low cut and presence boost switches on the bottom of the mic. One caveat with this microphone is also it's strength. It's relatively low output volume. You need to use it with a *good* preamp for quiet sources. You'll have to gain it so much, the lower end preamps get pushed into a noisy zone. An alternative is to get an inline 'booster' preamp which gives you about a really 20dB boost, and make it useful with just about any preamp you'll find. More on these booster preamps later. When used with a loud audio source, you're not likely to over drive an SM7B, and will keep good clarity.

Some think this mic is a lot of hype, and not worth the money, but I own one, and think it's worth it. It's a solid performing mic that does really well in a radio studio, and also does well sitting in front of a screaming electric guitar amp.

$350 at Amazon US  - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002E4Z8M/



Shure SM57 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone


The 7B is like a big brother to the 57. It has a similar capsule, but different construction. You're expected to be holding the SM57, and that construction minimizes sounds from holding. Not sure if I'll bother doing a separate review of SM58. The 58 is very similar, clearly meant to be knocked around on stage in front of a singer. I consider the 57 everything the 58 is, with a little more versatility due to a smaller grille that lets you position it closer. For our purposes in a radio studio, I'd probably just stick with the 57.

Compared with a 7B, the 57 is more sensitive to proximity effect. A lot of that is because you can get closer, but the construction behind the mic capsule itself is also a factor. You need to know how to work the 57 a little more, and take more care in how you talk into it. A pop filter is important on this mic, or you can get an oversized windscreen. Studio mics come with either an internal or external shock mount, while a stage mic doesn't typically have any of that protection. The SM57 does have an internal piston mount that is a sort of pneumatic shockmount. It will reduce handling noise, and noise coming up from a mic stand. But still, for radio, I'd also recommend you use it on a boom, and resist having a desktop mic stand. It can still pick up table noise.

While not as wide and flat in frequency response as a 7B, you might not be able to tell a difference on just your voice. Of you might even prefer the 7B sound. While I consider it a duller sound, preference is subjective. Or maybe you prefer not spending over 3 times as much money. :) If you plan to also use the mic to record instruments, you'll likely hear more difference there, with richer higher end harmonics capture on a 7B than a 57. But even then, your preference may say you like a 57 better. And we can also do some extra EQing after all.

This is another solid well established microphone. It's never a mistake to purchase one. For use in a radio studio, keep it off the table without a shockmount or boom arm, and put on a pop filter or large windscreen.

About $99 at Amazon US  - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000CZ0R3S/



Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone


We're near the bottom of what you can spend on a microphone and not sound like a preschool speak and spell. This mic might be a good choice for someone brand new to podcasting, or to do voice tracks in Radiologik. It's your standard cardioid dynamic microphone, in an inexpensive package. It comes with a little mic stand, an xlr to 1/4" cable, and a usb cable. It doesn't come with any sort of pop filter, and you'll need one. Use this mic in the same way you'd use a standard stage mic. The built in usb cable and circuitry will save you money if all you want to do is record song intros for Radiologik. You won't need a sound input device at all. If you want to go to a mixer, you can still do that, although you'd probably want to get an xlr to xlr cable into that mixer. And about that little mic stand included. Go ahead and try it, but at least put it on a thick foam mouse pad to try to reduce table noise. Better though to forget that and just put it on a separate mic boom.  Sound tests I've heard from this mic impressed me, and for the money, it's an easy purchase.  It does a respectable job isolating you from a noisy environment, and has a pleasant tone and full enough response. If you are on a budget, this is a good place to go for a first mic.

About $35 at Amazon US  - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004QJOZS4/



Behringer XM8500 Cardioid Dynamic Microphone


This one is also near the bottom for cost (hard to believe it's not actually the bottom huh). The industry standard microphone for stage use, and often in music recording studios too, is the Shure SM58. It's a mic, it's a hammer, it's a solid performer and everyone knows exactly what it sounds like. They sell for a little over a hundred bucks, and you don't go wrong owning one. You hand a professional singer one of those, and they'll always accept it and know what to do with it. But hey, a hundred bucks is a hundred bucks. If I need to lend someone a mic, or let them loose into circumstances I can't easily control, I think I'd like to spend a lot less and get a similar result. This is exactly where the Behringer XM8500 comes in.

The Behringer XM8500 is basically a clone of the Shure SM58. There are others, but of the ones that I've personally used, I consider this to be about the closest match. It's probably slightly brighter sounding, if you're even able to tell that. You'll have to blindfold that pro singer to fool them, as it doesn't look exactly the same. But if they can't see it, they'll likely believe it's the old familiar SM58. The Behringer clone is also about as rugged, where many of the other clones out there aren't. I'm not hot on behringer for mixers, as I find their preamps to be a little noisy, and the longevity of the pots etc. isn't great. But this mic suffers neither of those. Rock solid product. I first purchased this mic to have a cheap one to lend folks. Once I got it, I found it to be fantastic, and ordered a few more.

For use in a radio studio, it will do as well as the Shure original. You need this type of mic on a boom, and not directly in a stand on a desk due to the lack of a shock mount (as it true for all handheld stage style mics). I do my voice overs and such on the Shure SM7B, but I also have an on air mic with a big red pop filter. That mic is an XM8500. I have that mic in a desktop mic stand, blowing that advice earlier, but I actually pick it up near the weighted base when I talk on it, or am careful to not touch the desk while talking. Because I only occasionally go 'live' on the air, that arrangement is acceptable. In practice, I also have to be slightly careful with how I aim the mic, because behind me is a large pizza box with a wind tunnel in it. That's my Bext transmitter, and it's cooling fans are quite loud. If I aim towards it, I'll hear that on mic. If I aim away properly, I won't. This is not the fault of the mic at all. That noise source is quite loud. Where any condenser mic is completely unusable in that environment, a dynamic cardioid can do very well.

If you're on a budget, this mic would be a great place to start for a first microphone. It's rugged, it's clear and bright. Not as warm as a SM7B, but neither is the SM58 it's a clone of. It comes with a nicer plastic case lined with custom fitting black foam you can put that back into storage with, and a mic clip for use on a mic stand. It's XLR out the bottom, so if you don't have a mixer, look for an XLR to USB cable (which I'll probably review and link to lower down). With such a cable, you'll be able to do voice over to drop into Radiologik. For live, get a mixer.

About $25 at Amazon US  - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0002KZAKS/



More to come ...
« Last Edit: February 19, 2016, 06:26:22 pm by Lane »