Record a podcast, participate in video chat, or create the next YouTube video, a high-quality microphone ensures clear sound.
- What is a microphone?
- What types of microphones are there and how do they work?
- What does directional characteristic mean in a microphone?
- Which microphone is suitable for recording a podcast?
- How can I connect my microphone to the PC.
- What other uses are there for microphones?
- What do I need to consider when buying a microphone?
- What requirements does my sound card need to operate a microphone?
- What accessories are available for microphones?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of different types of microphone connections?
When you decided to get a new microphone, you didn't have the start of an impressive singing career in mind, although it would certainly lend itself to that. You were just tired of having poor quality all the time when talking to friends or clients or giving a webinar. There was simply no way around a high-quality microphone. Now you're glad you finally have the new microphone and can now use it to record anything you want. Adding nice comments to the latest vacation video, recording a podcast or discussing the next steps with clients, everything is now possible in a very good quality. For those who are thinking about getting a microphone, we have compiled the most important information here.
Everyone knows microphones today. They are used by the big music stars on stage, but are also already built into many computers, smartphones and tablets. Microphones are equipped with very sensitive electronics that are able to capture sound waves and then pass them on to a corresponding capture device. Large microphones offer many advantages over the smaller variants that are processed in headsets and the like. They have a much better recording quality and ensure that the voice is always well understandable. They usually have a transducer with a wide frequency range, which enables a richer soundscape and lifelike dynamics. Microphones offer various connection options so that they can be used with different devices.
The USB port makes it possible to connect a microphone to a PC, while the jack plug provides a good connection to an amplifier or various digital or analog recording devices. It is also easily possible to connect the microphone to a small mixing console, which in turn is connected to the PC. The possible uses are also very versatile. The next karaoke evening is sure to be a real success with it. But a good microphone can also ensure the start of a successful singing career. Microphones can be used for all occasions that require a microphone. Voice chats, podcasts, video dubbing, gaming and much more is only made possible by a microphone.
There are really a lot of different types of microphones on the market. They differ mainly in the transducer technology that is used for them. This transducer technology ensures that sound can be converted into electrical signals. This results in the division into different variants:
A condenser microphone is characterized by a particularly good, natural and, above all, low-noise sound quality. Accordingly, these models are very popular. In a condenser microphone there are two electrodes, between which there is a membrane. This results in a capacitor that is under voltage. Such a microphone does not have a mains connection, it receives its power from the cable that connects it to the control unit. To function properly, a condenser microphone requires 48 volts.
The way a condenser microphone works is quite simple. The sounds cause the diaphragm to move. This process causes the voltage to change. Condenser microphones are very high-quality models that are used especially for professional use, for example, as a studio microphone for recording in the recording studio.
An electret microphone is a condenser microphone with a very special design, therefore the correct name of this model is also electret condenser microphone. These models are particularly characterized by their compact design. The low price also contributes to the fact that these microphones today occupy a market share of more than 90%. Thus, it is the microphone variant that is sold the most. In an electret microphone, there is a foil in front of and behind the diaphragm, which is under voltage. It captures the sound waves. Usually, there is also an amplifier inside the microphone capsule. The task of this amplifier is to boost the weak signal currents. To operate this type of microphone, only a low voltage of 1.5 volts is required. These models offer a compact design and require very little current.
The principle on which dynamic microphones work is electromagnetic induction. The principle is that an electrical conductor is energized. This conductor moves within a magnetic field. There are two possibilities. On the one hand, the conductor can act as a microphone diaphragm, in which case it is referred to as a ribbon microphone. On the other hand, the conductor can also be attached to the microphone diaphragm as a voice coil, in which case it is referred to as a plunger coil microphone. Whether a strong or weak signal is produced depends on the dynamics of the movement of the diaphragm. The great advantage of dynamic microphones is that they are very robust. They are able to handle even a particularly high sound pressure in such a way that no great distortion occurs.
A lavalier microphone is a particularly small and compact microphone. These models are very flexible in use. There are different models, both condenser microphones and electret models are possible. They are very sensitive and react quickly to sounds. They allow a clean recording of the sounds. They offer a special feature: lavalier microphones are usually attached to clothing. Therefore, these models are also called lapel microphones. The housing of such a microphone is kept as small as possible to keep the device as invisible as possible. Nevertheless, a lavalier microphone offers very good sound quality. These models are mostly used in video production, but they are also very often used as podcast microphones.
There is a large variety of different microphones on the market. If you want to buy a microphone, you should consider a few criteria when buying.
- Directional characteristic
The directional characteristic is important for the way in which the sound is captured in the spatial environment of the respective microphone. There are different characteristics, the omnidirectional characteristic, the cardioid characteristic and the lobe characteristic. With an omnidirectional characteristic, the sounds are captured very evenly around the microphone. Ambient noise is barely perceptible when the lips are very close to the head of the microphone. The cardioid characteristic ensures that, above all, the sound that arrives frontally is picked up. Microphones with this characteristic offer a proximity effect, which allows bass to be picked up more strongly when the lips are particularly close to the microphone. Cardioid microphones are flexible, they are good for recording distant sound sources, but recording close sound sources is not a problem either. The lobe characteristic is used with directional microphones. Since these microphones pick up sound in a frontal area that is very narrow, these models are particularly well suited for recording sound sources that are far away.
There are different ways to connect a microphone. XLR connections are considered to be particularly interference-proof and robust and are therefore used in the professional sector. The most common connection options are jack plugs. There are corresponding jacks for this on almost all devices for recording. There are usually two sizes of jack plugs on a microphone, 3.5 and 6.3 mm. These connection options are analog connections. But of course it is also possible to connect microphones digitally. In this case, the connection is simply made via a USB port. This makes it possible to connect the microphone directly to the PC or notebook, thus turning it into a real PC microphone. When a USB microphone is connected, it is usually recognized immediately and can be used without installing a driver. Many programs such as communication software, audio or video editing tools and voice chat programs are usually able to recognize these microphones directly. In most cases, each system has a corresponding converter to process the microphone signal. USB microphones have a converter directly in the device. Usually the sound card acts as a converter, but the quality often leaves much to be desired. A sound card with microphone input provides better microphone quality.
- Stereo or mono
With a stereo microphone, the sound is recorded via two channels. This means that the recording then offers a very realistic surround sound characteristic. What sounds very good now, however, can also have disadvantages. The sound is output on stereo speakers exactly as it was recorded. In the event that the right and left channels were used alternately during recording, a disturbing unsteadiness can occur. Most microphones available today are therefore mono microphones. They are capable of producing a very balanced sound pattern on a single channel.
With so much choice available today, it's not so easy to buy microphones. But then there is also a wide range of accessories that further expand the possibilities of such a microphone. Various stands and mounts provide a secure stand. Extension cables and adapters allow flexible connection. Pop shields and windscreens are necessary to enable recording without interference noise. Of course, a microphone case is always a good addition if the microphone has to be transported often. This additional equipment ensures that the microphone can be used at any time.