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Audio Toyes #13 - Microphones

Brian Toye
March 14, 2011


In this weeks article I will give a general overview of some popular microphones for recording studio use. I will suggest specific drum mics, vocal mics and guitar/bass cab mics. There are three categories of microphones in use today.

Dynamic microphones are known for their ability to handle large dB levels (spl - sound pressure levels) without damaging the microphone capsule. Dynamic microphone are a great choice for percussion instruments that have fast transients and high spl levels such as the snare drum, kick drum, tom-toms and floor tom as well as trumpets/trombones and other brass instruments. Some examples of widely used dynamic microphone include the Shure SM57 (snare/guitar cabs), AKG D112 (kick drum), Audix D4 (floor tom) and Sennheiser 421 (tom-toms, guitar cabs and Leslie cabs). Dynamic microphone are reasonably priced around the $100 - $300 dollar range.

Condenser microphones cannot handle intense spl and should not be used to close-mic percussion instruments. Condenser microphones do capture more detail from the sound source which makes them ideal for vocals and string instruments (piano, acoustic guitar, cello/violin). A stereo pair of condenser microphones are usually employed as overhead drum mics. At a distance of a few feet above the drum kit the spl levels will not damage the condenser microphone. There are some great sounding condensers on the market for under the $500 price point. The Audio Technica 40 series and the Shure SM7b are popular choices on vocals and acoustic guitars. The rode NT5's are popular choices for drum overheads. Lately I have been employing Neumann KM183 stereo pair as drum overheads and using a Neumann TLM 103 on vocals and acoustic guitars with great success.

Ribbon microphones are probably the most unknown of the three main types. Ribbons are known for capturing the “truest” sound. They are employed on vocals and guitar cabs but can be used on almost anything. They do however require a very clean mic pre with plenty of available gain due to their transmission of a very weak electrical signal. An affordable ribbon with great reviews is the Avantone CR-14. Some of the worlds best ribbon mics are produced by a company called Royer.

If you have any questions regarding microphones or have a question about purchasing the right one for your home recording feel free to contact me at