Best Vocal Microphones Home Page

BestVocalMicrophones.com is dedicated to giving you information on vocal microphones and helping you find a vocal microphone that will meet your needs. Let us first start with a quick overview of what exactly a vocal microphone is and what types of vocal microphones you will find on the market today.

Microphones are basically simple devices designed to do one thing: convert sound waves in the air to their electrical equivalent. Its basic component is a diaphragm that responds to the pressure or particle velocity of sound waves.  The recording engineer is interested in the accuracy of this transformation, a concept known as fidelity.

When selecting vocal microphones to use both live and in the studio, you'll commonly come across three different types of microphones: condenser, dynamic and ribbon. Let's look at these microphone types and what their advantages and disadvantages are recording the vocal medium.

Condenser Microphones

Condenser microphones are the most common types of vocal microphones you'll find in recording studios. Condenser microphones have a much greater frequency response and transient response - which is the ability to reproduce the "speed" of an instrument or voice. They also generally have a louder output, but are much more sensitive to loud sounds.

Condenser microphones are generally much more expensive than dynamic microphones, but keep in mind, many cheap condensers exist. They require the use of a power supply, generally 48 volt "phantom power", and that's supplied very easily by most mixing boards or external power supplies.

Condenser microphones are generally used only in studios because of their sensitivity to loud sounds and the fact that they're quite a bit more fragile than their dynamic counterparts. That being said, you'll find them onstage at live music venues for use as drum overheads or for use in orchestral or choral sound reinforcement.

With condenser microphones, you'll generally find two different types: large diaphragm and small diaphragm and either of the types may be in the form of a tube microphone.

Large Diaphragm Microphones

Large diaphragm microphones (LDMs) are generally the choice for studio vocals and any instrument recording where a more "deep" sound is desired. A large diaphragm microphone generally warms up the sound of what it's recording, which also leads to the myth that most LDMs reproduce low frequencies better than small diaphragm mics; this isn't true, in fact, small diaphragm mics are much better at reproducing everything evenly, including bass. You'll want a pop screen if using a condenser microphone for vocals; they're so sensitive to transient noises that the "P" and "SH" sounds you make will cause distortion.

Small Diaphragm Microphones

Small Diaphragm Microphones - Small diaphragm microphones (SDMs) are generally the best choice where you want a solid, wide frequency response and the best transient response, which as we mentioned before, is the ability for your microphone to reproduce fast sounds, such as stringed instruments. SDMs are also the preferred choice for concert taping. Although not typically used for vocal applications they are am important microphone to understand.


Tube Microphones

Tube Microphones - Just as tube amplifiers appeal to guitarists yearning for the warmly overdriven tones they hear on old analog recordings, tube microphones hold a special place in the hearts of many singers keen to add a little vintage warmth to their vocals. A tube microphone in the simpelist terms is a microphone in which the alsuio gigal is amplified by a tube.  The tube saturation produces harmonics that, in the case of high-quality tube microphones, sound very warm and musical.

Dynamic microphones

Dynamic microphones compared to condenser microphones dynamic microphones are much more rugged. They're also especially resistant to moisture and other forms of abuse, which makes them the perfect choice onstage. Dynamic microphones like the Shure SM57 and Shure SM58 are legendary for not only their good sound quality, but the amount of abuse they can withstand. Any good rock club probably has at least 5 of each of these microphones in various states of aesthetic ruin; however, they still turn on and more than likely sound just as they did the day they came out of the package.

Dynamic microphones don't require their own power supply like condenser microphones. Their sound quality is generally not as accurate, however. Most dynamic microphones have a limited frequency response, which makes them well-suited, along with their ability to withstand high sound pressure levels, for loud guitar amps, live vocals, and drums.

Ribbon microphones

Ribbon Microphones are a type of microphone that uses a thin ribbon placed between the poles of a magnet to generate voltages by electromagnetic induction. Ribbon microphones are typically bidirectional, meaning they pick up sounds equally well from either side of the microphone.

Ribbon microphones were once delicate, and expensive, but modern materials make certain present-day ribbon microphones very durable and may be used for loud rock music and stage use.

Ribbon microphones are prized for their ability to capture high-frequency detail, comparing very favorably with condenser microphones, which can often sound subjectively "aggressive" or "brittle" in the high end of the frequency spectrum. Due to their bidirectional pickup pattern, ribbon microphones are often used in pairs. In addition ribbon microphones can also be configured to have cardioid, hypercardioid, omnidirectional, and variable polar patterns.