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Good vibrations : Choosing the Best Mic for Your Voice

Updated: Sep 26, 2020

From going ‘#Live in Your Living Room’ to being ‘#Together at Home’ if there were some positives you could draw out from this lockdown - it would be the proliferation of virtual performances and online music events. Music lovers in India are being treated to a plethora of music by talented musicians who have reinvented the wheel with their online performances. Every evening, especially on weekends, musicians and music lovers get together on various platforms like Twitch, Facebook Live and YouTube, and actually ‘hop’ from one online gig to another.

For budding musicians who are eager to improve their performances online, the most important acquisition besides your talent as a singer or an instrumentalist is the right #microphone to suit your style!

Given our experience of being in the audio industry and bringing music closer to you since 1908, we know how important microphone selection is to ensure that the true essence of your source is captured without any colouration. Before delving into brands available and your budget, let's look at some factors that should be consider before narrowing down the options:

  • Sensitivity

  • Polar pattern

  • Frequency Response

  • Noise Floor

  • Dynamic Range

The most important factor is the microphone's sensitivity. This value determines how a microphone reacts to sound pressure level (SPL) arriving at its diaphragm. In a nutshell, mics with a high sensitivity can capture quiet, nuanced or distant sounds while those with a low sensitivity are preferred when recording high SPL / louder sources. To make it easier, we have listed a few details to help you understand the advantage of each type.

  • Dynamic microphones: Have a low sensitivity & capture high SPL sounds without distortion. These are rugged workhorse mics and you will usually see a handful of them at most live performances..

  • Condenser microphones: Have a high sensitivity and can capture great detail in sound by virtue of their thin and light diaphragms. Due to this, condensers have a relatively flat and extended frequency response.

  • Ribbon microphones: Depending on whether they are active or passive their sensitivity ranges from low to medium. Ribbon mics have an excellent frequency response and are prized for their warm natural sound.

A microphone's sensitivity is not a measure of the fragility of its diaphragm and is not adjustable (except that it changes by the laws of physics in some multi-pattern microphones)

The second factor is the microphone’s polar pattern which represents the directionality of the microphone. The most common polar patterns are - Omni directional, bi-directional, cardioid & supercardioid. As the names suggest, Omni directional mics are equally sensitive to sounds from all directions while Bidirectional mics (like the Figure 8) pick up sound from the front and rear while rejecting sounds from the sides. These are also called pressure gradient microphones. Cardioid mics on the other hand, have a pickup pattern shaped like a ‘heart' - they are more sensitive to sounds from the front, slightly sensitive to the sides while rejecting sound from the rear. Generally speaking, because cardioid mics tend to be less sensitive and pick up sound only in the direction they are being pointed at, they are great for home recordings where untreated rooms are your worst enemy.  So pointing your mic away from reflective surfaces or even paired with a baffle behind the mic, you could get quite good sound in the most problematic rooms. By virtue of their ability to reduce spill from other instruments, these mics are also used in live performances where multiple musicians and instruments share a stage. Supercardioid mics have highly increased directionality and a rear lobe of sensitivity. For example shotgun mics used in TV/Film production.

The next factor in narrowing down your choice of microphones is the frequency response. It is a measure of the magnitude of how a microphone responds to a given frequency range. In other words it determines how certain mics will pick up a bit more highs or lows as compared to another. Every mic based on construction and the above mentioned factors have a specific response. Knowing how a microphone responds to certain frequencies should absolutely influence your decision on purchasing that mic. The flatter a microphone’s frequency response, the more accurately it will capture a source. So choose wisely! You will save yourself a lot of valuable production time by picking the mic that best compliments your needs.

The term ‘noise floor’ refers to a device’s level of ‘self noise’. In other words, when you turn the mic up but don’t make any sound, you’ll hear a bit of noise in the background. This is a tricky concept, because much of the overall noise floor will be determined by the electricity/grounding in your studio, your choice of preamp, your choice of audio interface, and even the cables you use.

Think of dynamic range as the difference between the lowest level and the loudest level you can record at. Some microphones will respond really well across their entire dynamic range and others will not. A high-quality condenser will give you plenty of room to work with, and give you an even response all across its entire dynamic range.

Market options and prices

For vocalists and instrumentalists who are looking at a value for money workhorse within a price range of (INR 10,000 - 12,000+), the #SHURE and #AudioTechnica options available in the market give you quality sound capture at affordable prices. #SHURESM58LC and #SHURESM57 or Audio Technica #MB4K #Cardioid #Condenser Microphones are good options to look at!

The #SHUREPGA series are also excellent budget mics that cover the entire vocal and instrument range.

The #MidnightBluesSeries' MB4k cardioid condenser microphone is an introductory studio-quality microphone and is a price performance leader in its category.

SHURE mics are usually the industry standard, and are common at most live music venues in India and around the world. The legendary SHURE SM58 is one such industry standard and a first choice for vocal performers around the globe known for its ruggedness and clear vocal reproduction.

Before you zero in on a mic, one of the most useful things you could do is check around with your musician friends and pro audio engineers or look up some reviews. Another wise thing to do is to stick with reputed companies that make professional mics. All of them have budget options which deliver good sound without burning a hole in your pocket. For your recording needs, look for quality because that’s what you want to capture in your productions too! Mid-priced options here could seal the deal. Whatever you do, make sure you finally choose a mic based on what you need it for, and not vice versa.

So coming to the important question we asked at the beginning of this blog - Can microphones make my voice sound better? The correct microphone with proper mic placement, in the appropriate environment can certainly make your voice sound better. What you need to do is choose a mic with a polar pattern and sensitivity that suits your material and recording environment.

What’s in it for me?

For those looking at buying a quality vocal mic there’s more great news! Our online store has plenty of options that fits most requirements – and budgets! The free shipping and discount on your first order make the deal even sweeter. Should you require any more information on anything audio please feel free to drop a comment, reach out to us on our social media handles or website.

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