written by: KareemR•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 10/31/2011
There are microphones available for every purpose in your studio. Here are some details to help you know your microphone and it's abilities before you purchase it.
slide 1 of 12
To know your microphone is to know if it is a condensor or dynamic mic. Dynamic microphones are, as the name implies, designed for live performance. They tend to be the less expensive of the two types. This is possibly due the fact that musicians can be pretty rough on them on-stage. However, that doesn't mean that dynamic mics can't function in a studio environment. In fact, there are a couple of dynamic mics that have been in use in studios for over three decades now. The Shure SM57 and SM58 have been used in-studio by artists as diverse as Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Phil Collins. The Shure SM57 is probably the most commonly used mic in the world. Every stage and studio you will ever set foot on will have at least a couple of these laying around. Durable, cheap, and surprisingly effective, the SM57 is an excellent choice if you are on a budget, and need ofan all-purpose mic.
slide 2 of 12
The Shure SM58 is pretty much the exact same microphone internally as the SM57. The only difference? The mesh grill covering the top. It is not as sensitive as the SM57. This means it's better suited for the stage, though many still find use for it in studios - particularly as an overhead room mic.
slide 3 of 12
Designed expressly for use with lower frequency instruments, the Sennheiser E602 is great for recording toms, kick drums and bass. It is also good for overhead recordings. This is especially true if a darker, richer tone is desired.
slide 4 of 12
Designed expressly to capture vocals, the Shure SM7B is great for any type of vocal - particularly voice-overs. Compared to other dynamic mics, this one is exceptionally sensitive to nuanced performances. The increased sensitivity comes at a slightly higher cost, however: the SM7B has a street price of around $300 USD. Yet, the SM7B is also prone to feedback issues with high volume sources - more so than most other dynamic mics.
slide 5 of 12
Another great all-purpose dynamic microphone, the Sennheiser E835 is a direct competitor of the Shure SM57 - both in price point and functionality. Consequently, you will find this microphone in use at many live arenas, as well. It's slightly heavier than the SM57, so it provides a slightly different feel in hand for those used to the Shure microphone.
slide 6 of 12
Condensor mics are designed expressly for studio use. Unlike dynamic mics, condensor mics are usually not durable enough to be used on stage. If you know your microphone, you know the architecture of most condensor microphones requires the use of a mic pre-amp to boost your audio signal to high enough levels for recording. On the other hand, condensor mics are great for capturing nuanced recordings. Condensor mics can be a great deal more expensive than a dynamic mic, and some of the higher-end mics can easily cost thousands of dollars. Thankfully, there are quite a few quality options for users on a slightly more frugal budget. A very popular mic in high-end studios, the U87 is widely considered the top-of-the-line condensor microphone. Used to record everything from hip-hop to classical, the mic is versatile, sensitive and sounds terrific. The quality doesn't come cheap, however: the U87 will cost you roughly $3500, retail. If you know your microphones, the cost is more than worth it, though.
slide 7 of 12
The NT1-A is another widely used condensor microphone, found in studios across the globe. This microphone is known for having an extremely quiet signal, and for its ability to capture sound up to 137dB without distortion or feedback. It's relatively affordable for a condensor mic, with a street price of roughly $200.
slide 8 of 12
Widely in use since its initial appearance in 1971, the AKG C414 is a popular choice for all around studio use. Priced at around $800 USD, it performs well across the frequency spectrum. It could, however, use a bit of a bass bump when recording female vocals.
slide 9 of 12
Audio Technica AT4050
Yet another all-purpose condensor mic, the AT 4050 is a welcome addition to any mic collection. It's sound is full and warm. Oddly enough, however, it isn't very flattering to vocals due to its brighter high end.
slide 10 of 12
Samson's C01U condensor microphone was the first USB-powered condenser mic on the market. It eliminates the need for a pre-amp by having a built-in analog to digital converter. It's ideally used for basic multimedia recording functions – pod-casting, voice overs, etc – but can be used to capture basic musical performances. It can be somewhat noisy, however, and it can only capture audio at 16-bit sample depth.
slide 11 of 12
Blue Yeti Pro USB Microphone
Microphone manufacturer Blue's top of the line USB mic is the oddly named Yeti. Fantastic sound quality and functionality makes it a terrific value at $250 USD. The Yeti Pro features a headphone output that allows vocalists the ability to monitor their performance while recording. It also serves as an audio output for your computer. Finally, the Yeti also features XLR connections, which make it possible to connect the mic to a pre-amp and record traditionally. It also records at 24-bit resolution, which makes it a stand-out in the world of USB mics.
slide 12 of 12
Have you personally used any of these microphones? Have another favorite that didn't make the list? We'd love to hear from you. If you are willing to share your experience, be sure to visit the comments section below.