Whether you’re singing live or addressing a large audience, the quality of your sound is a vital factor. While other people think that as long as they have a microphone, all will be well. An experienced vocalist must understand that microphones are not created the same. Some are made for specific functions, while others work well in different sound situations.
The quality of sound you get from a mic indeed has a lot to do with how much you’re willing to spend on it. Going for cheap will spell disaster on the quality of your vocals. Consequently, expensive ones do not always deliver the promised heaven. Still, you can find reasonably priced microphone at a low price. In fact, the line between getting a good microphone and you are just doing enough market research. You need to understand the functionality of different kinds of microphones to help you make an informed purchase decision.
Finding a vocal microphone involves interacting with a lot of technical jargon on your research and considering different personal factors in the process. That’s why we’ve come up with this guide to help you find the right mic.
Which type of microphone do you need for singing?
The line between you and getting the best suitable microphone is understanding exactly the type of mic that you need. Microphones come in different models, and characteristics all meant for different purposes. The best microphones fall into two categories, dynamic mics and condenser mics with noticeable differences. Let’s take a closer look at them and see which one suits your needs.
These vocal mics are made with an inductive coil that is connected to the diaphragm, which moves to move the coil. The movement of the coil in a dynamic microphone is converted into an electric signal, which is then recorded. This movement is caused by the sound waves produced when you talk or sing. Dynamic mics are the kind of microphones you interact with every day as they are mostly used by stage performers and work well in noisy environments. A dynamic microphone is a passive device and doesn’t require an external power supply.
Condenser microphones work a bit different from dynamic ones as they use capacitor plates instead of the inductive coil. A condenser mic is more sensitive to even the smallest vibrations and produce distorted sound in noisy environments. A condenser microphone is best used in recording studios and mostly preferred by public speakers and professional singers. Condenser microphones have active electronics within them that require a +48Volt phantom power supply for them to work. This can be supplied from most mixing consoles or from an external power unit. Condenser mics are also used for acoustic instruments such as guitars, flute, violin etc. Check out my post about condenser microphones for choirs.
Microphones Directional Capability
Ask yourself which from which direction you want your microphone to pick the sound. This is commonly referred to as polar patterns. In experts’ language, it is the microphone’s field sensitivity. It is the direction to which your mic accepts or ignores the incoming sound. The polar pattern and direction of the sound is a big factor that you should never overlook when considering different kinds of microphones.
These microphones have an even pick-up polar pattern and detect sound from any direction. These types of mics with a more general pickup pattern are, therefore, more exposed to background noise. However, they can be useful for recording a whole band performing together, with instruments such as piano, guitars and drums etc
These mics have a more directional pickup pattern and mainly pick up sound from the front and reduce any sound coming from other directions. With a more focused polar pattern, this type of mic can have small sound input from the sides but will not pick-up any coming from the bottom.
These microphones receive sound evenly from the front and back but not the sides. Their polar patterns are described as figure eight.
These microphones are the most versatile as they can switch up the direction more than once. They are mostly bought by those who need microphones for multiple uses. Some come with a switch to allow you to select from different polar patterns. There are a number of USB mics on the market now that have this functionality.
The Impedance Value
You must get to know the impedance value of your microphone to help you pick the right one for your vocals. The impedance of a microphone is best described as the AC resistance to signal voltages. This is what controls how audio signals flow. Mics come in either high or low impedance, which is measured in ohms.
The higher the impedance value of your microphone, the lower the quality and the less expensive they are. Low impedance microphones transmit clearer sound with high quality audio signals and are, therefore, more expensive.
Don’t Overlook The Frequency Response
When talking about the frequency response of a mic, you should understand that different microphones feature different frequency responses. This mainly refers to how different microphones produce the signals it picks up. Microphones pick up sound and convert into an electronic signal which they transfer to the recorder. During this process, sound vibrations are lost, and a lot of data gets lost before it gets to the recording stage. Other microphones record enhanced bass or treble frequencies. Other mics dampen the frequency response.
The frequencies of a microphone range from low to high and are measured in hertz. When choosing a good vocal mic, go for a good frequency response that ranges between 80 Hz to 15 kHz. Don’t buy your mic without testing its performance because some are suitable for certain vocal pitches only.
What is the Diaphragm size?
You might not pay attention to the diaphragm, but it’s an essential factor when choosing your vocal microphone. The diaphragm is tiny plates found inside the mic where the sound waves hit before anything else. They come in different sizes.
Large diaphragms have the ability to handle large volumes of sound before they can be distorted. Large diaphragms are very responsive but do not work well when exposed to too much noise. These diaphragms are great for recording sound and mostly used in recording studios for musical production.
Microphones with smaller diaphragms can handle more background noise but are not suitable for recordings that require high sensitivity. They do not react well to different frequencies.
Medium diaphragms carved into the market recently. Before their existence, you could only find small and large diaphragms. These diaphragms are accurate in catching high-frequency content with fuller and warmer sound quality. They mostly blend the characteristics of both small and medium diaphragms.
The Microphone Should Provide the Best Vocal Match
To find a mic that provides the best vocal match, you must consider your microphone need. If you intend to cover a wide range of frequencies, go for a mic that is different from the ones you see choir members using. If you’re operating in different situations, you still need to do your best to accommodate your needs. There are different models that are very versatile and can meet a variety of needs in different situations.
However, even if you were to get the most versatile model, there are still other limitations which you must understand beforehand. For instance, condenser mic models are suitable for recording studios. If you’re going to give a speech in a highly crowded environment, you can go for flat diaphragms.
The Cost of a Good Vocal Microphone
When you’re planning to buy a microphone, you must already have a pre-determined budget you wish to spend on it to find the right mic. The cost varies depending on the sound quality and other specific features you’re looking for. You must understand that you’ll always get what you pay for when it comes to these devices. You might need to spend hundreds of dollars if you’re looking for the highest quality microphones in the market. Check out my post on how to pick the best microphone for singing.
However, you can also get good deals for pretty good microphones. The amount you pay on it also depends on what you need to use it for. For instance, if you’re going to use it for professional purposes, then you should not be afraid to spend more. If you plan to use it frequently, you should also go for a good quality one that will serve you longer. Either way, you should not shy away from spending more on a good quality mic because you’ll get value for your money. IN general, dynamic microphones tend to be a bit more expensive than condenser microphones.
With ever-improving technology, many people now prefer using wireless microphones for churches and other venues thanks to their flexibility. However, other vocalists are still hesitant, wondering whether these kinds of microphones can affect the quality of audio. One thing to be sure of is whether a microphone is wired or wireless; it won’t affect the performance of a good quality one. New models of wireless microphones even provide the best quality sound hence perfect for a professional setup.
There are many reasons why a vocalist should go for a wireless mic. If you’re performing on a stage and you need to move from one point to another, you won’t be restricted by the length of the cord. You can move as you wish, turn in any direction, or dance if you have to. As long as you ensure the power source of your mic is reliable, you won’t have anything barring you from performing your all on stage.
Wireless microphones can also be categorized into two types, namely, lavalier and headset.
Lavalier microphones can either be dynamic mics or condenser mics and usually come with a body pack powered by batteries with a clip to attach to clothing. They provide perfect discreteness thanks to their tiny sizes. They are good for a theatre performance or in situations that require discreet PA, such as for preaching in church.
Headset microphones, on the other hand, offer a lot of freedom for the user. They sometimes are available in flesh colors which make them even more discrete than some lavaier mics. This type of mic can pick up sound from wherever you are and still remain as clear as possible.
If you’ve been doing your research on microphones for a while now, you must have met with the name USB Microphones. This type of mic are the latest developments as far as sound technology is concerned. The mic contains all the features a traditional microphone should have, including the diaphragm, capsule, etc. USB-powered mics give you the convenience of a simple plug and play. They can be plugged into a computer, and you can start recording your music using your preferred recording software. This type of mic is a popular choice among podcasters and Youtubers for speech and also those recording music or singing at home.
Frequently Asked Questions
How durable are microphones?
The durability of your microphone is an important consideration when buying any type of microphone. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on it. A good mic should provide value for your money. If you want a mic that you can use for a long time, you should consider spending more to get heavy-duty equipment. A good microphone will serve you for a long time as long as you also take good care of it.
Which features should you look for in a microphone?
Microphones come with a variety of features, but you should consider paying more to get more features. The features include sound quality, noise reduction, speaker, LED lights, voice changing, pre-programmed songs, etc. If you have a limited budget, you should forego some important features. You should find out if you need these features and consider them in your choice for your ideal vocal microphone.
What accessories should you look for?
Vocal microphones also come with different accessories that you should consider when buying. The accessories you choose to buy depends on what you intend to use it for. The essential accessories include mounts, cables, and mic stands. There are also accessories that you don’t need as much, but you can choose to have them anyway. These include windscreens, pop filters, shock mounts, isolation screens, etc. All these accessories depend on the purpose of the mic and where you intend to use it.
How to take care of a microphone?
A mic might look tough from the outside; however, they are very delicate. You don’t want to do anything that can destroy this expensive equipment. To ensure they serve you better, you must ensure regular maintenance. Microphones get in contact with a lot of things while in use. Saliva, lipstick, cigarette smells, and other things can clog them. You should learn how to clean them depending on the type you’re using. Also, avoid dropping your mics or banging them into objects. Avoid any physical damage and ensure regular cleaning if you want them to serve you longer.
How to connect a mic to a PC?
How to connect a microphone to a computer – there are various ways your can do this If you have a headphone mic or mic with a 3.5mm jack, it can connect directly to the sound card. XLR mics however will need an external audio interface in order to connect to a computer.
How to Pick Your Microphone Wisely
Even the lowest quality microphones do not come cheap. If you’re done your research on vocal microphones, you must agree that they don’t come cheap. This means you should take good care of your investment. It doesn’t matter how much time you’re going to spend doing your research; you should not leave any stone untouched when it comes to finding the best microphone for your vocal recording and singing needs. Look for online reviews, ask around, and go through different testimonials from previous users. You need all these to make an informed decision about buying the best microphone.