Home

 › 

Articles

 › 

5 Different Types of Microphones for Events, Podcasts, and More

types of microphones

5 Different Types of Microphones for Events, Podcasts, and More

There are many types of microphones today, each with its own assigned task. Microphones have a wide range of uses, from recording music to podcasts and gaming. Before picking the right one for a task, it is essential to understand the different types that are available. 

If you are a filmmaker, choosing the right microphone is as essential as choosing suitable cameras. Are you stuck between several microphone options? We have done all the heavy lifting to come up with five different types of microphones and their uses to help you make an informed decision. Let us take a look.

#1: Dynamic Microphones

Dynamic microphones are the cheapest and most durable option to go for. They use electromagnetic induction to convert sound waves to electric signals. The microphone consists of a Mylar diaphragm and a conductive coil. 

Great for Streaming
Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone
$398.00
  • Studio vocal recording
  • SM7B cardioid pattern designed to Reject off-axis audio
  •  XLR connection with an audio interface
  • Eliminates mechanical noise and breathiness
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/23/2024 05:37 pm GMT

Sound waves vibrate the diaphragm causing the coil to move in a magnetic field, thus creating an AC signal. Dynamic microphones, being more versatile and durable, are well-suited for live performance. They are less likely to overload and distort when capturing loud sources and use an omnidirectional pick-up pattern. 

Since they have a lower sensitivity, dynamic microphones require higher SPL (Sound Pressure Levels) to record the sound waves. You can get them wired and wireless for podcast and handheld uses.  

When to Use Dynamic Microphones 

Dynamic microphones are used in many live performances and vocals owing to their low sensitivity and high gain threshold. Additionally, they are used as studio microphones, mostly with brass instruments, drums, guitar amplifiers, and any other loud instruments. 

Advantages of Dynamic Microphones

  • They use an omnidirectional pickup pattern. 
  • They have a rugged construction capable of handling high levels of pressure.
  • Their frequency response range is between 5 to 10 KHz adding clarity, presence, and understandability to the sounds it picks up.
  • They are affordable.

Disadvantages of Dynamic Microphones

  • They respond poorly to high frequency due to inertia within the components and the force needed to overcome coil and magnet interaction. Dynamic microphones don’t work well with high-frequency instruments.
  • The microphone misses out on most sounds since it requires a higher sound pressure level (SPL) to pick up the sound waves. 
  • It has lower accuracy and sensitivity, making it unsuitable for studio applications.

#2: Ribbon Microphones

Ribbon microphones also use electromagnetic induction in operation. However, they have a different design compared to dynamic mics, and they also sound different. They feature a thin aluminum rectangular diaphragm with magnets on the end.

Our Pick
MXL R144 HE Heritage Ribbon Microphone
$139.95
  • 1.8-micron aluminum ribbon element
  • Figure-8 polar pattern
  • 20Hz -17 kHz frequency response
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/24/2024 02:38 am GMT

When sound waves hit the diaphragm, it vibrates, creating electric signals. Ribbon mics have impressive vocals and instrument sounds but lose out in audio compared to condenser and dynamic mics. They mostly use a bidirectional pickup pattern. 

When to Use Ribbon Microphones

You can use a ribbon microphone for vocals, woodwinds, and strings. Since ribbon mics are delicate, they are primarily used in studios where they can be well positioned.

The microphone provides warm and dark sounds that make electric and acoustic guitars sound better. It tames the high frequency and returns the low-end weight making the acoustic guitar sound better. 

Advantages of Ribbon Microphones

  • They have high sensitivity and low-end frequency, making them perfect for recording vocals and acoustic guitars.
  • The bidirectional polar pattern favors podcasts since you only need one ribbon microphone to capture an interview.

Disadvantages of Ribbon Microphones

  • The high sensitivity makes the microphone fragile since higher sound pressure levels can distort the microphone. Most singers use a pop shield with this mic.
  • Ribbon microphones are not good for high-end presence.
  • They need to be well-mounted since they are fragile.

#3: Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones deliver high-quality audio for both studio and podcast use. They use electrostatic technology in operation. The microphone features charged, movable metal diaphragm and a fixed metal plate attached to electrodes. 

Sound waves hit the diaphragm, changing its position from the fixed plate, thus resulting in capacitance. The capacitance brings about voltage changes, which are similar to the sound wave.

Our Pick
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser
$99.00
  • High SPL handling
  • Wide dynamic range
  • Custom engineered low mass diaphragm
  • The cardioid polar pattern reduces the pickup of sounds from the sides and rear
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/24/2024 02:38 am GMT

Condenser microphones usually use external power sources to pull their phantom power. They may use an audio interface or mixer. They also offer the best high-frequency audio outputs, transients, and peaks at the beginning of sound waves. 

Depending on the intended use, you can choose between unidirectional, bidirectional, and omnidirectional shapes. While condenser microphones have a higher price tag, their sound quality and studio versatility are noteworthy. 

When to Use Condenser Microphones 

Condenser microphones have accurate transient reproductions, making them perfect for acoustic guitars. They are also great studio mics because of their clear single-source audio reproduction. Their details, accuracy, and fast transients play a major role in the studio. 

Advantages of Condenser Microphones

  • They are small in size and lightweight.
  • They have a good flat-frequency response.
  • The fast-moving diaphragm enables it to work with a high range of frequencies.
  • It offers high sensitivity suitable for capturing both vocals and audio instruments.

 Disadvantages of Condenser Microphones

  • They require a power connection to operate. 
  • The microphones can have a maximum input signal level. 
  • They have a more complex build than dynamic microphones. 
  • The microphone is affected by extreme temperatures and humidity. 
  • They are more expensive compared to other types of microphones.
  • If you go for cheaper condenser microphones, they will generate some magnitude of noise.

#4: Shotgun Microphones

Shotgun microphones have a unidirectional pickup pattern allowing the user to pick sound from whichever direction the mic is pointed. They work under the same principle as dynamic mics, with the diaphragm at the end of a long, hollow, slotted interference tube. 

Our Pick
Rode VideoMic Shotgun Microphone
$259.00
  • Integrated Rycote Lyre shock mount system
  • Digital switching
  • USB connectivity
  • Compatible with cameras
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/24/2024 02:38 am GMT

The tube captures sound waves from a specific direction. This vibrates the capsule diaphragm at the end of the tube, generating electric signals. Shotgun mics should be placed eight to sixteen inches from the subject to capture the best sound.

When to Use Shotgun Microphones 

Shotgun microphones are mainly used for interviews, film sets, dialogues, and vlogs. In some instances, they are used when you need to record a subject who is in a busy environment. 

Using a shotgun microphone, you can focus on the person without picking up background noise. News anchors use these mics since they mostly work in uncontrolled environments with ambient noise.  

Advantages of Shotgun Microphones

  • Shotgun microphones have a wide frequency response range making them good for capturing different sounds. 
  • They can handle high sound pressure levels, making them ideal for loud and dynamic sounds.
  • The pick-up is clear since the microphone eliminates some level of ambient noise.
  • The long and narrow shotgun microphone design helps it isolate and record sound from a further distance.

Disadvantages of Shotgun Microphones 

  • Shotgun microphones require extra equipment when shooting. You need a special shock mount and a boom pole to hold the microphone.
  • The operator must know how to keep the microphone out of the shot but still in range for the best results. 
  • The microphone isn’t the best for small rooms since it works best in rooms with balanced acoustics.
  • The microphone is highly directional and, therefore, not the best for capturing ambient noise.

#5: Lapel/ Lavalier Microphones

Lavalier microphones, also known as lav mics, are small condenser microphones that you can attach to a subject during a shoot. Since they are wireless, the mics are good for sets that involve moving around and vigorous activities.

They capture sound waves using electrostatic technology, just like condenser microphones. While most Lavalier microphones use omnidirectional pickup patterns, they must be placed close to the subject for the best results.

Our Pick
PGDLOF Wireless Lavalier Lapel Microphone
$19.99
  • 1 receiver with 2 transmitters
  • Clip-on microphone
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Compatible with iOS devices
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
01/24/2024 02:38 am GMT

However, they may pick up unwanted noise, making them ideal for quiet settings. Regarding sound quality, lavalier microphones aren’t the best since the quality of the sound they record greatly depends on the recording environment.

When to Use Lavalier Microphones

Lavalier microphones are small and wireless, making them uniquely great for interviews, short films, and vlogs. Their hands-free operation also makes it easier for their users in sets involving movements. The small size makes it possible to hide the mic within clothing during a TV interview.

Advantages of Lavalier Microphones 

  • Their small size makes it easy to clip them on shirts when interviewing.
  • They follow your subject all through since they are wireless.
  • The microphone captures clear sound since it is positioned close to the user’s mouth.  
  • They are designed for a rugged environment, which makes them more durable. 

Disadvantages of Lavalier Microphones

  • Since the microphone is wireless, it may have connectivity problems due to limited range. The microphone’s signal may also encounter interference from other electronic devices. 
  • The microphone might pick up rustling noise from clothes if not placed well. 
  • It is easy to get the microphone tangled in clothing if the scene involves a lot of movement. 
  • When recording video, it is difficult to cut lavalier microphones out of the scene since they are easily visible and they may distract the viewers.
  • They can be uncomfortable if worn for a long time. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Ideal Microphone

Now that we have covered the different types of microphones, let us look at the factors you need to consider before choosing the ideal mic. 

Pickup Pattern

The microphone’s pickup pattern is the direction from which it captures sound waves. Microphones may have unidirectional, bidirectional, or omnidirectional pickup/polar patterns.  

Unidirectional mics, or cardioids, capture sound waves directly in front of the mic. You should go for these mics if you are looking to avoid ambient sounds in your recordings.

On the other hand, bidirectional microphones capture sound waves from the front and back of the camera, making them perfect for interviews. Omnidirectional mics are good for live performances and films since they capture both primary and ambient sounds. They capture sound from all directions.

Sensitivity and SPL Limits

Depending on a mic’s sensitivity, it can pick low and high-volume sounds. A mic with less sensitivity delivers low-quality output unless the output is pre-amplified.

A higher sensitivity microphone can pick up quiet sounds and deliver satisfactory outputs without needing pre-amplification. On the other hand, the sound pressure level limit is the maximum volume a microphone can deal with.

SPL is measured in decibels, and the ideal limit depends on where you intend to use the microphone. For studio use, consider a microphone with more than 100 dB.

Budget

Your budget ultimately matters when buying a microphone. Amongst the above five mics, ribbon and condenser microphones are the most expensive.

Dynamic microphones are the cheapest in the group. Although expensive and affordable microphones cost differently, they can produce good-quality sounds.

The specs of the mics are responsible for their performance and not the price. However, your budget stipulates the type of microphone you can get and, thus, the sound quality. 

Frequency Response Range

A microphone’s frequency response range determines how it responds to changes in frequency. The range is measured in hertz, which determines how the mic captures low, medium, and high frequencies.

As you choose your microphone, its frequency range will determine how it performs in different settings. For instance, a good studio microphone should have a 50Hz-15kHz frequency range. 

Notable Microphone Brands to Consider

With numerous microphone brands in the market today, choosing the right one can be difficult. To simplify the process, we shall mention a few brands you can consider across the microphone categories. 

Dynamic Microphones

If you are looking for a dynamic microphone, the Shure SM7B is a good option, especially for broadcasting, podcasting, and vocals. The Telefunken M80 is a superb option for stage use despite its slightly high price. If you are looking for a stage microphone on a budget, the Shure SM57, Shure SM58, and SE Electronics V7 will suit you best. 

Condenser Microphones

Regarding condenser microphones, there are several noteworthy options you can choose from. Consider the Shure SM27 if you are on a budget. The Slate Digital VMS is an impressive option that ticks all the boxes at a higher cost. Finally, the Audio-Technica AT5040 is a superb-quality condenser microphone with great value for money. 

Ribbon Microphones 

With ribbon microphones, the Royer R-121 is a great option that packs versatility and durability. You can also go for the Shure KSM313/NE, which is double-sided, with each side delivering different frequency responses and sounds. Finally, the Rode NTR is a superb option if you need a ribbon microphone for your vocals or acoustic guitar. 

Shotgun Microphones

In the shotgun microphone category, the Sennheiser MKH416 is an excellent option for video production and voice-overs. On the other hand, the Sennheiser MKH 8050 shines best in indoor dialogue settings. Finally, the Rode NTG3 is a notable professional shotgun microphone boasting excellent sound quality and low self-noise. 

Lavalier Microphones

Lavalier microphones also have a few notable brands you can consider. The Shure is a great option for filmmakers, while the Rode smartLav+ is a great option if you are looking for a small lav mic. Finally, the Audio-Technica is a good budget option, while the Sennheiser MKE 40 is the best lavalier microphone overall. 

  1. Shure SM7B Vocal Dynamic Microphone
    $398.00
    • Studio vocal recording
    • SM7B cardioid pattern designed to Reject off-axis audio
    •  XLR connection with an audio interface
    • Eliminates mechanical noise and breathiness
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/23/2024 05:37 pm GMT
  2. MXL R144 HE Heritage Ribbon Microphone
    $139.95
    • 1.8-micron aluminum ribbon element
    • Figure-8 polar pattern
    • 20Hz -17 kHz frequency response
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/24/2024 02:38 am GMT
  3. Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser
    $99.00
    • High SPL handling
    • Wide dynamic range
    • Custom engineered low mass diaphragm
    • The cardioid polar pattern reduces the pickup of sounds from the sides and rear
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/24/2024 02:38 am GMT
  4. Rode VideoMic Shotgun Microphone
    $259.00
    • Integrated Rycote Lyre shock mount system
    • Digital switching
    • USB connectivity
    • Compatible with cameras
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/24/2024 02:38 am GMT
  5. PGDLOF Wireless Lavalier Lapel Microphone
    $19.99
    • 1 receiver with 2 transmitters
    • Clip-on microphone
    • Bluetooth connectivity
    • Compatible with iOS devices
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    01/24/2024 02:38 am GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Which type of microphone will be the most durable and portable?

Dynamic mics are the most durable microphones. The wireless versions are also quite portable, and since they are cheap, they offer the best value for money.

What determines the quality of a microphone?

A good quality microphone should strike a balance between its noise level, clipping point, distortion, and sensitivity.

Which microphone should I choose for my specific needs?

The choice of microphone depends on various factors such as the intended use, environment, budget, and personal preference. It’s best to consider the specific requirements of your audio recording or performance to determine the most suitable microphone for your needs.

Can I use different types of microphones interchangeably?

While some microphones are more versatile than others, it’s generally recommended to use the appropriate microphone for each specific application. Different microphones have unique characteristics and are designed for specific purposes to achieve the best audio quality and performance.

What accessories do I need for microphones?

Depending on the microphone type, you may need accessories such as microphone stands, pop filters, windshields, shock mounts, XLR cables, and audio interfaces. These accessories can enhance the functionality, stability, and sound quality of the microphone setup.

To top