Microphones and their characteristic.
Everyone of us knows what a microphone is, especially a musician or just a simple person that likes to record music for him self. We could talk about microphones for days because it is a big topic, so in this article we are going to explain the important characteristic of the microphone and give u a good solid base and a proper knowledge on it.
Let’s start with saying that we have microphones that are used to record voices, and microphone that are used to record drums, saxophone and many other instrument.
What is a microphone???
The microphone is a transducer which transform the sound energy in electric energy. Basically it transform the variations of air pressure which are the wave sound into variations of electric tension, to be even more clear about it and make you understand the concept, image a speaker……. well the microphone does exactly the opposite, while the speaker receives electric variation that transform to wave sound , the microphone receives wave sound which transform into electric variation.
There are many type of microphones, we will talk about the most important and you probably have already heard some of them, we will talk about DYNAMIC microphones, CONDENSER microphones and RIBBON microphones;
The dynamic microphones is probably the most known and used in live performance. its operation is based on the electromagnetic induction. Basically a membrane captures waves sound and makes a coil move, this coil spins into a magnetic environment thanks to a magnet and all this process generates a electric variation.
Characteristic: the dynamic microphone is pretty solid as they can resist to high and strong sounds pressure and also to a humid environment. They also don’t need of extern electric source and they are pretty affordable and low in price.
Condenser microphones works a bit differently and uses a metallic membrane which gets moved and shakes by the vibration present in the air, but to make the microphone works we have to get an external electric source which could be a mixer or even an internal battery.
Characteristic: condenser microphones is for sure if you talk about quality of sound, better then the dynamic, in fact it is used mostly for studio recording. Using the condenser microphone can offer a good sound quality when recording something, as it covers all of the frequency that can be heard by the humans, but keep in mind that this good characteristic can be a bit of a pain, in fact it is recommended to use good shock-mount stands and other filter, which will protect from the wind if you are recording outside for some reason or just an anti-pop filter for general vocal recording, because thanks to the good capture of sounds even a small movement or a wind wave is easy to be captured by the microphone and you don’t want that .
The ribbon microphones have a similar working concept of the dynamic one, the difference is that instead to have a membrane they have a ribbon which is folded on it self like an accordion. Ribbon microphones are particular instrument, they were mostly used in the past and been replaced by the dynamic microphones which have similar characteristics.
Characteristic: the ribbon microphones has a similar frequency reading of the human hear and also they are very good on high frequency sound that’s why they are used a lot for recording of guitars, drums crash and many other high pitch instruments because thanks to the low tolerance to high frequency, the ribbon microphone makes the sound of a guitar playing high notes or a drum crash or splash more softer and delicate without capturing all the high frequency.
Ok!!! so i am sure you got that, but there is more. A microphone other then being different by the looking and the way that we could use it for has more to be aware of. The head of the microphone can be different from one to an other and has hidden parameters that you can’t see which are really important for recording. So i am going to mention the most used and known parameters and characteristics hidden in the microphone head.
Microphones Polar Patterns
What are this polar patterns???
Well, basically a polar pattern is there to establish the way that the microphone “listen” to the sound waves. Don’t worry everything will be clear in one sec.
So we are going to mention the most common polar patterns, the first one is;
Cardioid Polar Pattern.
Let’s make it easy for you, take a look at the image. Now, the middle of the circle is the head of the microphone, instead the highlighted line is the polar pattern. In this case, if you were to have a microphone with a Cardioid pattern, the microphone will capture sounds from the front of the microphone, the back of it, won’t capture any sounds. Do you want to know why ??? no problem my friend. Recording or just simply using a microphone is more complex than you think.
For example this pattern will be really good for live performance because the microphone will capture only the voice coming from the singer which will sing from the front of it, this is because during a concert you will have many other sounds going around like the music coming out of the speakers or the sounds of the drum, trumpet, piano and so on and if any of the sound from the speakers was to come trough your microphone that will create interference and a high pitch sound which will be coming out of the speaker and ruin the performance and nobody wants that. This pattern is great for live performance but also pretty good for studio recording.
Keep in mind a cardioid pattern microphone can't be pointed towards speakers or studio monitors.
Bi-Directional Polar Pattern.
This pattern offers good capturing from front and back but barely can capture sounds from the sides. This is really good if you were to record instrument close to each other like a drum kit and wanting to record every single one of them but separately in different channels for producing purpose. An example is the hi-hat and the snare, so close to each other but thanks to this pattern we can position 2 Bi-Directional polar pattern microphones, one on the hi-hat and the other on the snare, in that way when playing the snare, the hi-hat microphone which will be positioned with the side facing the snare, will minimize sounds captured.
Hypercardioid Polar Pattern.
This pattern is very similar to the cardioid one, the only difference is that instead of capturing sounds only from the front, it does partially also from the back and this can be very useful for live performance when on the stage there are concert monitors sitting on the floor facing the singer positioned at a 45 degree angle. In that way the microphone will capture partial sounds from the monitors without producing any interference and unwanted sounds coming out from the speakers.
Omnidirectional Polar Pattern.
As you can clearly see in the picture the Omnidirectional pattern has a 360 capturing sounds modality. There isn’t really much to say about this pattern. It is mostly used for nature and ambient recording but not only, i’ll say that is preferable to use this pattern when we want to record and capture everything that is happening around the microphone.
Well this is it, and definitely not everything there is much more to talk about microphones but now you know the most common microphones and as well the most common Polar Diagrams.
Hope that was useful for you and you enjoyed !!!!