Choosing a Microphone to Record Those Vocals
You’ve written a song. You’ve got the lyrics, exactly which notes each instrument is supposed to hit and when. Now the next step is to record that song and you’re on your way to super stardom. But wait, what if you can’t afford a studio fee? Are there any options for recording that song at home? Oh man, how much is that going to cost?
Don’t worry, we got your back.
Sure, some things can be easily found or made. Like using thick blankets, carpet and such to add soundproofing to that extra room. But what about that microphone? How do you choose which one to use for your instruments and which to use for your vocals? What type of microphone is best for recording vocals? Truth is, that question has a varied and complex answer.
For starters, there are three main types of microphones. Dynamic, like the Shure SM-58. Condensor or Capacitor like the Rode NT2. And the Ribbon, like the Coles 4038. Each of these types have upsides and downsides and can be used for different things.
Dynamic is mostly used for close up mic work, such as for the drums and the guitars. Being better for loud source material, they can handle higher sound pressure levels. Using a dynamic mic will work for recording that sick guitar solo you’ve been working on.
The Condensor or Capacitor mic is considered the de facto choice for vocalists. Its more sensitive to sound pressure levels, unlike the dynamic. It picks up more subtleties and nuances for genres like jazz. But, you may not be able to hold the mic in your hand due to loud noises from movement. Also, at times it can seem to have too great a range for frequency. However, it will handle being held, to a point. But try to keep the head banging to a minimum while you’re using it.
Now for the Ribbon type. These are also good for vocalists, having a richer sound. Good for more softer or subtle voices. Its even more sensitive than the dynamic mic to sound pressure levels. It, like the Condensor, will not tolerate a lot of movement of the mic or loud sources moving around it. So this mic could be the perfect one if you only plan to stand in one spot or sit on a stool and move the crowd with a tear jerker love song.
Importance of Pickup Patterns
There’s also another consideration for your microphone choices. The pick up pattern. Again, there are 3 pattern types. Omni-Directional, Cardioid and Bi-Directional. Each is pretty straightforward.
Omni-Directional patterns picks up sound equally from all around you. So if you have a problem with ambient sounds, this type of pickup pattern wouldn’t be ideal. With the correct sound-proofing, this pattern could be the ultimate setting, some argue.
Cardioid. Sounds weird, we know, and it actually is known as ‘heart-shaped’. Basically that means it picks up sound in front of it, whichever its directly pointing at, while rejecting the sounds from the sides and rear of the microphone. Most engineers actually prefer this pattern with a Condensor microphone.
And finally, Bi-Directional, the ‘figure-eight’ of the patterns. Picking up the sound from the front and rear only, while the sides are blocked. If you were to be recording each instrument and vocalist individually, this would most likely be your best bet.
Some questions to ask about the microphones frequency capabilities. Does it make your voice sound flat or natural? Is it boosting the right frequencies in your voice to make you sound amazing? Will it handle loud or more quiet noise levels well? Will it minimize or maximize the background noises? And finally, how loud can it get?
The only way to know is to try these microphones out yourself. One way to accomplish that is to go to a studio, and for hopefully a lot cheaper fee than actually recording, you can try out each microphone to see which ones suit you best.
But be wary, some, like the Coles 4038, can be priced upwards of $2,000.
While the Shure SM-58 can be anywhere from $50 to $100.
Even the Rode NT2 can mostly be found in packages of upwards of $100-$400.
The best Microphone type to record Vocals
So which is the best microphone type for vocal? It depends on what you are looking for. We have consulted two Microphone specialists from around the world what they would advise you.
Gerald from musicauthority.org
To be honest with you, there is not one best microphone for recording music and vocals. But for me personally the Shure SM7B takes home the cake. This microphone is perfect for male vocals as it seems to pick up the low frequencies extremely well. That said, the SM7B has its price. It is scratching on the $500 mark which is not cheap for a beginner. But if you plan to setup a professional homerecording studio the price is going to pay for itself.
You can read more about Gerald’s opinion on the SM7B and other vocal mics for tighter budgets in his Vocal Recording Microphone Guide.
Jonathan from hobbeasy.de
Here in Germany and Austria many people seem to chase only a small number of microphones for vocal recordings. We observe a rising demand for microphones and brands which offer the best bang for the buck. And over here there are only few brands which deliver a phenomenal sound quality for a reasonable price. The most sought after brands are: Rhode, Sennheiser, Shure and AKG. There is definitely a market for budget brands like Samson, too. After reviewing dozens of mics for vocal recording my favorites are the RODE NT1A and the Sennheiser E 865 S. Both offer an exceptional sound quality for under 250 bucks.
Jonathan has tested several Mics for vocal recording and other purposes. You can go and grasp his knowledge about this topic by taking a look at his microphone guide on https://hobbeasy.de/mikrofon-test/.
Alexandre from home-studio-pro.fr
If I had to choose one Microphone for Vocal recording it would be the Shure SM57 and it is not even close. You are looking at a perfect sound quality for under 100 Euros. This mic has been a staple in my home recording studio and I would never ever trade it for something else.
Alexandre has listed his opinion on the 10 best home recording microphones on his website http://www.home-studio-pro.fr/2014/05/28/les-10-meilleurs-micros-home-studio/.