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Choosing the right microphones for your recordings

In the vast world of studio recording, the choice of microphone is of crucial importance. Each microphone has unique characteristics that can dramatically transform the sound of a source.

Condenser microphones (static)

• Small-diaphragm condenser microphones

Small-diaphragm condenser microphones, known for their high sensitivity and wide frequency response, therefore play a vital role in vocal and instrumental recordings requiring accurate reproduction. Thanks to their diaphragms and preamplifiers, they offer excellent dynamics and detailed capture of sound nuances.

Micro condensateur petite membrane

In addition, their ability to pick up high frequencies and transients therefore makes them a preferred choice. For example, for vocals, guitars, pianos and strings. In addition, their specific design captures the intricacies of performance. This therefore makes them popular in studio recordings where precision is paramount. For recordings of expressive vocals or instruments that require faithful reproduction, small-diaphragm condenser microphones offer a solution of choice.

• Large-diaphragm condenser microphones

Large-diaphragm condenser microphones, famous for their ability to capture sound sources with great richness and depth, feature prominently in professional recordings. Their larger diaphragm gives them high sensitivity and extended frequency response. This therefore makes them ideal for recording complex sound sources.

Additionally, their ability to capture low frequencies accurately makes them suitable for low-pitched vocals, deep string instruments, and bass-heavy rhythmic elements. Plus, their naturalness and ability to handle high sound pressure levels make them popular choices for recordings of orchestras, choirs, and live performances. With their ability to add depth and dimension to recordings, large-diaphragm condenser microphones offer a powerful solution for productions demanding exceptional sound quality.

• Use and precautions with condenser microphones

Condenser microphones require careful handling to get the most out of their characteristics.

Here is the procedure for use and the precautions to take:

Use :

Manuel d'utilisation
  1. Phantom Power: Most condenser microphones require phantom power (48V): -Make sure the preamplifier or mixer is turned off or the gain is turned all the way down. – Plug the condenser microphone cable into the appropriate microphone output on the preamplifier or mixing console. -Next, turn on phantom power on the preamplifier or mixer. – It is recommended to turn off the phantom power before disconnecting the cable to avoid any risk of damage to the microphone or equipment.
  1. Optimal distance: Respect the recommended distance between the microphone and the sound source. To avoid distortion and saturation, adjust the microphone sensitivity or move the source back if necessary.
  1. Protection against plosives: Use a pop filter or place the microphone at an angle to the source. Plosives (p, b, t, etc.) could damage the capsule.

Precautions:

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  1. Gentle handling: Condenser microphones have sensitive diaphragms. Avoid shocks or sudden vibrations which could damage the capsule.
  1. High Sound Pressure: Some condenser microphones can be sensitive to high sound pressure levels. So use an attenuator if you’re recording loud sources to avoid distortion.
  1. Safe transport: Store the microphones in appropriate cases to avoid any damage during transport or storage.

Following these usage and precautionary guidelines will prolong the life of your microphone.

Dynamic microphones

• Features

Dynamic microphones are distinguished by their technical characteristics which therefore make them ideal for various recording situations. Their rugged construction allows for confident handling, especially in environments with high sound pressure levels. For example, for guitar amplifiers and drums.

Compared to condenser microphones, dynamic microphones generally show less sensitivity. However, this characteristic is offset by their ability to handle high sound levels without distortion. So that makes it a go-to choice for energetic live performances.

In addition, thanks to their solid construction, dynamic microphones are less susceptible to shock and vibration. This resilience therefore makes them suitable for outdoor events and situations where sound insulation is a challenge.

Additionally, although their frequency response may be more limited than that of condenser microphones, dynamic microphones excel at attenuating ambient noise and focused pickup of the sound source. Their flexibility extends to a variety of sound sources, from vocals to instruments. This makes them versatile tools for a wide range of audio applications.

• Usage, Advantages and Disadvantages

Dynamic microphones require proper use to ensure quality recordings while avoiding potential problems.

Here is the procedure for use as well as the weaknesses to take into account:

Use :

Manuel d'utilisation
  1. Proper positioning: Place the microphone at an optimal distance from the sound source to avoid clipping. Adapt the proximity according to the sound pressure level of the source.
  1. Handling noise reduction: Avoid excessive touching or handling of the microphone while recording, as dynamic microphones can pick up vibration and handling noise.
  1. Considerations for vocals: Aim the mic at an optimal angle to dampen plosives and sibilants. Proper placement will minimize the need for post-record editing.

Benefits :

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  1. Impressive Durability: Dynamic microphones are known for their resistance to high sound pressure levels. This makes them ideal allies for powerful sound sources, such as percussion instruments and amplifiers.
  1. Acoustic Isolation: Thanks to their robust design, dynamic microphones are less susceptible to handling noise and vibration, making them ideal for live and outdoor recordings where isolation is crucial.

Weaknesses:

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  1. Frequency response: The frequency response can be less extended than that of condenser microphones, which can influence the capture of subtle details in recordings. (The capsule being large, it will be less receptive to high frequencies)
  1. Less suitable for delicate sources: Due to their moderate sensitivity, dynamic microphones might not be the optimal choice for capturing sound sources that are very delicate or require extremely accurate reproduction.

By respecting these instructions for use and taking into account their fragility, dynamic microphones prove to be powerful tools for robust and varied recordings.

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Ribbon Microphones

• Features

Even though they are considered dynamic, ribbon microphones stand out for their distinctive technical attributes that differentiate them from the usual condenser and dynamic microphones, providing a sound that is both warm and full of nostalgia. Their design is based on a thin aluminum ribbon suspended in a magnetic field, which ensures precise capture of sound details.

Compared to condenser and dynamic microphones, ribbon microphones are generally characterized by a more moderate sensitivity. However, this particularity is compensated by their ability to generate soft and velvety recordings, particularly suitable for bright or excessively dynamic sound sources.

Microphones Ruban

Also, ribbon microphones tend to reproduce very high frequencies less faithfully. This often-melted frequency response in the high and low frequencies gives recordings an organic, timeless texture. Their uniqueness lies in their exceptional transient response, a characteristic they share with dynamic microphones.

Also, it is important to note that despite their similarities, ribbon microphones are more delicate than dynamic microphones. Their thin tape requires careful handling to prevent damage. Despite this fragility, ribbon microphones remain a preferred choice for recordings aimed at capturing vintage sound quality tinged with warmth and nostalgia.

• Use, Advantages and Weaknesses

Ribbon microphones require careful use to best exploit their unique characteristics, while taking into account their specific advantages and frailties.

Here is the procedure for use as well as the weaknesses to take into account:

Use :

Manuel d'utilisation
  1. Delicate Placement: Place the ribbon microphone the right distance from the sound source for a balanced pickup. Experiment with different angles to get the best sound.
  1. Care for Very High Frequencies: Since ribbon microphones tend to reproduce very high frequencies less faithfully, it may be necessary to adjust the equalization slightly when mixing.

Benefits :

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  1. Distinctive Warmth Tone: Ribbon microphones deliver a warm, vintage sound, making them ideal for capturing a timeless, nostalgic vibe.
  1. Performance Nuance: With their smooth frequency response, ribbon microphones pick up performances with a unique delicacy, making them suitable for intimate and authentic recordings.

Weaknesses:

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  1. Careful Handling: The thin ribbons of ribbon microphones require extremely gentle handling to avoid damage. Avoid sudden shocks or jolts.
  1. Less Suitable for Loud Sources: Due to their moderate sensitivity, ribbon microphones might not be suitable for very loud sound sources without risking unwanted distortion.

By understanding and respecting these usage practices while taking into account their advantages and weaknesses, ribbon microphones can enrich your recordings with a unique, subtle and warm sound texture.

Use case

• Application specific microphones

Application-specific microphones are invaluable tools for recording different sound sources with pinpoint accuracy, delivering a sound signature to suit every situation.

For electric guitars, dynamic microphones are often used to capture their punch and distinctive tone. Guitar amps benefit from dynamic or ribbon microphones to capture their unique character and harmonics.

Guitares éléctriques

Bass is well served by dynamic or condenser mics, to register its depth and power.

Basse

Snare drums are captured with dynamic and/or condenser microphones to capture their crisp attack and overtones.

Caisse claire

Kick drums and toms require dynamic mics to reproduce their powerful impact.

Grosse Caisse

The cymbal is usually picked up with a condenser microphone to capture its clarity and subtle nuances. Drums are often recorded with dynamic or ribbon mics to reproduce their unique textures.

Cymbale

Wind instruments are recorded with condenser mics to capture their wide sonic range and expressive nuances.

Saxophone

By using these specific microphones tailored to each source, audio professionals can create exceptional recordings that faithfully reflect the unique characteristics of each instrument or sound element.

Microphones in stereo configuration

Stereo configurations offer creative approaches to capturing depth and space in recordings. Each configuration requires specific microphone arrangements to achieve distinct results.

The A/B setup involves placing two separate microphones in the space, creating a wide, open sound image.

The X/Y pattern involves close placement of the microphones with specific angles, providing increased spatial accuracy and a well-defined sound image.

The ORTF technique involves precise spacing and angle of the microphones to reproduce a natural stereo image, with excellent depth perception. Each setup has its advantages and limitations, allowing sound engineers to choose the best fit for each recording.

Additionally, the creative use of these pairs can add an immersive dimension to the recording, allowing listeners to enjoy a richer, more realistic sonic experience.

Conclusion: The Quest for the Perfect Tone

By exploring the different categories of microphones and their specific applications, we’ve highlighted the unique characteristics that make each type a valuable tool for recordings. However, it is important to note that despite the recommendations, the art of recording is also fertile ground for experimentation.

In this field, there are no strict and immutable rules regarding the choice of microphones. Creative sound engineers know that testing, innovating, and creating out-of-the-box setups is key to finding the perfect tone for every project. The magic of recording often lies in finding unexpected combinations that result in unique and memorable recordings.

Ultimately, the versatility of microphones and the flexibility of recording allow artists and producers to push the boundaries and create exceptional sonic works that make their mark on the world of music and audio.

For more information, don't hesitate to contact us, we will be happy to answer you.