How to pick the best microphone

Which is the best microphone for you?

Passionate debates can frequently be seen on DJ and radio forums about which microphone people should buy for their home studio.

Some people recommend very expensive microphones, some costing thousands – all without knowing too much about the person’s needs or their studio set up.

I think it essential that nobody is put off following their passion to broadcast or record shows just because they may not have the gear some people say they need. I say, use what you have and do it anyway –  or buy modest equipment to get going.

In my view the environment plays a large part when it comes to deciding on the ideal microphone for you.

Now, back to the ‘heated debates’. When someone asks for advice on microphones, it is – on one level – an impossible question to answer. Partly because people’s voices can sound better with one microphone over another, and only by trying quite a few can you settle on the one that’s best for your voice.

Best microphone

The best microphone is also the one that suits the environment in which it is used. And let’s ace it – many people broadcast or record shows at home.

Unless you have a soundproofed room fitted with acoustic tiles, then using a very sensitive condenser microphone will cause you lot of problems.

In an un-soundproofed room, a good condenser mic will pick up the sound of birds tweeting outside, traffic, planes flying over, next door’s lawnmower and their barking dog – as well as all the reverb of your voice in the room.

One way to reduce room reverb is to hang heavy curtains to cover any hard surfaces and/or lay mattresses against walls.

People who have to record in less than ideal situations might consider using a dynamic microphone which is less likely to pick up unwanted noise.

Dynamic

Using a dynamic microphone may mean you need to speak louder than you’d like – which could lead to an unnatural sounding performance.

A noise gate / compressor may help keep unwanted noise at bay and enhance your voice, but they can sometimes introduce a whole set of other problems. They need to be set up correctly so they do just enough to help (less is more).

Recording environment

Apart from having the mic that’s best suited to your voice, the mic you buy will likely depend more on your studio environment than your voice or budget.

If you do have a soundproofed room that also has acoustic tiles to deaden room reverb, then you can buy your dream condenser microphone. Everything else is a compromise.

When it comes to selecting a microphone, your choice is simple. Use the mic that best suits your environment, and don’t place a Roll Royce engine in a Skoda.

Need to have, rather than nice to have.

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