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Dynamic Condenser and Ribbon Microphones: Choices for Your Home Studio

Microphones were among the list of equipments listed in my recent post on setting up your own home studio. Although it was way down on the list, microphones are in fact one of the most important equipments, because it is the gateway to a great mix.

But how do you decide which microphone to get? This is a tricky question for me to answer and it maybe wrong of me to just point out one particular microphone and say get this one.

Only you have the answer because when planning on getting a microphone you have to consider things such as budget, the type of microphone, your genre and what you intend to use it on. But before you run off, let me give you some information that will make your decision easier.

Dynamic Condenser and Ribbon Microphones

There are three popular make to choose from, the dynamic, condenser and the ribbon microphone. All of which will produce different tonal quality and price range.

Condenser

The condenser microphone is one of the most commonly used mics within the recording studio environment, especially for vocal recordings. The reason for this is that condenser microphones are better at picking up a cleaner more define sound. They are much more sensitive even to the quietest sound signal and provide a much greater detail of frequency response even when micing very loud sound sources.

There are two types of condenser microphones- the large diaphragm and the small diaphragm. I recommend the former for your home studio and I will tell u why.

The large diaphragm microphone is much more versatile than small diaphragms. These condensers are design to handle high volumes such as guitar amps. With this you can micing a variety of instruments with the large diaphragm microphone.

Because of its nice, warm sound and its sensitivity to higher frequencies the condenser microphone is largely used to record instruments such as vocals, acoustic guitars and pianos. Note that this microphone type uses phantom power and is not a robust as the dynamic microphone.

Dynamic

When I was in college, for a long time I thought dynamic microphones were design only for recording vocals during live performance and was not used in the studio for this purpose, because of its robustness and its ability to withstand loud volume sound signal. But my experiment with the shure SM58 led me to believe other wise.

Dynamic microphones are becoming more and more popular for vocal recording, especially in the home studio environment, because you can get very good quality dynamic microphones at a cheaper price.

With the dynamic microphone, you get less high end than with the condenser microphone but the mid range is predominant, which may suit some vocals. So you will find that your recording won’t be as bright as if you had record the same source with a condenser mic.

Ribbon

I don’t own one of these microphones yet, but I have used the ribbon microphone on vocals and as a room mic when recording a drum kit.

The ribbon has a distinct sound, it’s not as bright as the condenser but it is much warmer sounding than the dynamic. My first impression of the ribbon when I started using it, was that, it locks characteristic, but once I got use to the microphone and found a vocal that it match perfectly, it capture one of the best sound.

Traditionally ribbon microphones are normally very expensive but over the years, there have been cheaper and cheaper ones out in the market.

Microphone for you

According to the pro engineers, the main thing you want to do with your microphone is to get to know it. Though I mention the three most popular types, it doesn’t mean you should go out and get all three, even if you can afford it – at least not straight away.

As a home studio owner, get a microphone, one that produces the sound you like or suit your budget. If you already own a few microphone, take the one that you like the sound of best and get intimate. Learn the frequency response, not just by looking at the spec, but also by listening. Take note of when, how, and where it captures the best sounding audio. During the process of getting to know your microphone you are also training your ears – win win!

None of the microphone types mentioned above are better than the other and it certainly don’t depend on the price range. In my opinion, one of the microphones that compliment my vocal is the Shure SM58. Each of these microphones will have a sound that it matches perfectly. What you need to find is a microphone that compliments your style and sound.

Photo by: dana marostega

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