Studio Microphones – Beginner’s Guide to Recording 2022

Highlights: Podcasters and video creators benefit greatly from the use of studio microphones. 

We’ve covered shotgun and lavalier microphones, but we’ve yet to cover one of the most important—the studio microphone. 

What exactly is a studio microphone? That’s an excellent question. A studio microphone, as the name implies, is a microphone that is used in a studio setting. The key point to remember here is that studios come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from music recording and television studios to those used in radio broadcasting, podcasting, and foley sound.

For our specific purpose, we will concentrate on studio microphones for video producers and podcasters. These are microphones that can be used in conjunction with both portable audio recorders and video cameras

Before we get into how to use a studio microphone and some mic recommendations, let’s first discuss the different types of studio microphones.

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Studio microphone types 

Microphones are classified into three types: dynamic, condenser, and ribbon. Others have existed throughout the history of audio recording, but these are the most common. In a home studio, you’ll most likely find Dynamic or Condenser microphones.


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Dynamic

Get to know the different types of studio microphones

Before the advent of Condenser microphones, Dynamic microphones (including the related Ribbon) could be found in almost every professional studio. A dynamic microphone contains a diaphragm, a coil, and a magnet. As sound waves vibrate the diaphragm, the coil vibrates as well, which the magnet’s force converts into electrical signals.

Dynamic microphones are known for their durability and are commonly used in music recording studios, but they are also used in television broadcasts. Because of their use in television studios, they are a good option for podcasters and video creators, particularly those who use voice-over, whether for documentaries, news reporting, or other content that prominently features the voice.

Condenser Microphone

Get to know the different types of studio microphones

Condenser microphones record audio by using a lightweight diaphragm attached to a case and suspended over a backplate. When sound hits the diaphragm, it vibrates in both directions, toward and away from the backplate. This vibration then converts the soundwaves into electrical signals, which are picked up by the electrical field of the microphone.

The low mass of the diaphragm allows the Condenser mic to “follow sound waves more accurately than a dynamic microphone with a (relatively) heavy moving coil attached.” As a result, condenser microphones provide superior sound quality.” Condensers have an extremely broad frequency response as well as a high transient response (they can pick up drum hits or string instrument plucking).

Condensers are also frequently used to capture highly detailed and accurate vocals and high-frequency sounds. So, if you’re a podcaster or video creator who wants to capture the voice in great detail, use a Condenser rather than a Dynamic.

Before we continue, let’s review the differences between dynamic and condenser microphones. Dynamic microphones are less affected by the room/space in which they are used, but they provide excellent vocal sound.

Condenser microphones, on the other hand, capture a more accurate sound because they are more detailed in the high end. Another thing to keep in mind about condensers is that they may sound harsh or reflective in an untreated room like a bedroom.

Ribbon Microphone

Get to know the different types of studio microphones

A Ribbon microphone is composed of a very strong magnetic field in which a very thin strip of metal is suspended. This ribbon’s metal, which serves as both a diaphragm and a transducer, is typically aluminum; however, duralumin or nanofilm material may also be used.

While Ribbon microphone technology has been around since the 1920s (predating Dynamic microphones), it can capture some high-frequency sounds, though they will be smoothed out or rounded off when compared to Condenser microphones. They were previously fragile and noisy, but a newer Ribbon mic design has helped to alleviate these issues.


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How to Use a Studio Microphone

The type of studio mic, from its specifications such as frequency response to pick-up pattern, will determine how to use it best.

Dynamic Microphone

As previously stated, dynamic microphones are commonly used in studio settings to capture musical instruments and loud vocals. This is frequently done at close range (“close miking”) with a cardioid pickup pattern. (All cardioid or hypercardioid dynamic microphones are cardioid or hypercardioid.)

Best Vlogger, Podcaster, and Filmmaker Microphones

Although it is commonly used to capture loud instruments and vocals, podcasters and video creators can do some great recording with good mic placement and tinkering with gain (boosting signal strength via PreAmp Gain).

Because Dynamic mics are tough, they perform well in harsh outdoor environments, making them an option for location shoots and recordings unless you’re filming wide shots and trying to record sound from a distance.

Condenser Microphone

Furthermore, condenser microphones have a much wider frequency response than dynamic microphones. As a result, they are ideal for recording voices for podcasts and videos. Some condenser microphones have only one pickup pattern (polar pattern), whereas others have multiple switchable ones.

Best Vlogger, Podcaster, and Filmmaker Microphones

When recording your voice, use a cardioid pattern, which picks up sound directly in front of the microphone. Because the Condenser will pick up all of the subtleties of speech, experiment with gain while also using a pop filter to reduce or eliminate pops and clicks.

Keep in mind that condensers are less durable than dynamics. So, if you intend to use your Condenser outside of the studio, keep in mind that factors such as extreme temperatures and humidity (including humidity from the mouth) can cause the Condenser to fail.

Ribbon

Ribbon microphones typically have a bi-directional pickup pattern (figure 8). This means it can pick up sound from both the front and back, making it ideal for face-to-face interviews. As you might expect, this makes the Ribbon mic a cool, albeit unusual, choice for podcasters. Most likely, you’ll go with a Condenser or Dynamic mic, but if you’re curious about a Ribbon mic, rent one to try it out.

Best Vlogger, Podcaster, and Filmmaker Microphones

One thing to keep in mind about Ribbon microphones is that newer models are more durable and less noisy than those manufactured in the first half of the twentieth century. Ribbon microphones produce a smoother, warmer, and darker sound than condenser microphones.


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Studio microphone recommendations

We now have a basic understanding of the different types of microphones. Let’s take a look at some Dynamic, Condenser, and Ribbon microphone options.

Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list; it is simply intended to give you an idea of studio mic options at various price points for various budgets.

Dynamic studio microphones 

If you’re just getting started with podcasting, consider the Shure SM58 ($99 at Amazon) and the RØDE Procaster ($229 at B&H). 

The SM58 has long been known as a low-cost, high-quality option for voice recording. While more expensive, the Procaster is designed for broadcasting and includes an internal shock mount and an internal pop-filter to reduce plosives.

Get to know the different types of studio microphones
RODE Podcaster Photo Courtesy Of B&H Photo/Video

The Shure SM7B ($399 at B&H) is a step up in price and was designed for broadcasting, making it a great option for podcasters and video creators, but it’s also popular with musicians. If you have a larger budget, consider the Electro-Voice RE-20, which is the industry standard for dynamic microphones for television and radio.

Get to know the different types of studio microphones
Shure SM7B Photo Courtesy Of B&H Photo/Video

Studio condenser microphones 

Check out the Audio-Technica AT2035 ($149 at B&H) and AT2020 ($99 at B&H) for entry-level condenser studio mics. Many of the features of these two microphones are similar, with the exception that the AT2035 has switchable pickup patterns (Bidirectional, Omnidirectional, and Unidirectional), whereas the AT2020 is only Unidirectional. 

Another option in the same price range is the Hyper X QuadCast S ($159.99 at Amazon), a microphone designed for streamers and gamers but also suitable for podcasters and YouTubers.

Studio Microphones
Audio Technica AT 2035 Photo Courtesy Of B&H Photo/Video

The RØDE NT1A ($229 at B&H) is a step up in price, providing RDE engineering for a little more money than its main competitor, the AT2035. If 

Consider the Neumann TLM 102 ($799 at B&H Photo/Video) if you’re willing to spend a little more. You’ll get Neumann’s iconic sound quality for that price, but it won’t come with a shock mount, so keep that in mind. The BCM 705, a microphone designed for broadcast voice recording, is another Neumann option.

RODE NT1A
RØDE NT1A Photo Courtesy Of B&H Photo/Video

Ribbon studio microphones 

While most podcasters and video creators will likely use Condenser and Dynamic microphones, a Ribbon microphone may be appropriate for your project. Ribbon microphones, as you may recall, produce a smooth, warm, and what some describe as a “darker” sound.

The sE Electronics X1 R Ribbon Microphone ($229 at B&H Photo/Video) is an entry-level Ribbon microphone. It’s tough and inexpensive, and it’ll give you that Ribbon mic sound without breaking the bank.

Studio Microphones
SE X1R Photo Courtesy Of B&H Photo/Video

If you like the sound of Ribbon microphones and want to spend more money on a higher-end model, consider the RØDE NTR ($799 at B&H Photo/Video) and the AEA KU5A ($1,199 at B&H Photo/Video). The RØDE NTR is new, rugged, and feature-rich, and it’s a very appealing option at that price point. 

Although more expensive than the NTR, podcasters have praised the KU5A for its super-cardioid pattern rather than the traditional bidirectional configuration.

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AEA Ribbon Mics KU5A Photo Courtesy Of B&H Photo/Video

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Conclusion

A studio microphone should be kept in your studio. While many podcasters and video creators prefer Condenser microphones due to their high-frequency response and ability to capture subtle vocal sounds, Dynamic microphones can also be used for voice recording. 

Ribbon microphones, as previously discussed, will give your voice recordings more smoothness, warmth, and darkness than condensers.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

Get to know the different types of studio microphones

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